Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Raising Sheep in Israel in Our Days - Part II - From Amud Hay’mini, siman 23
[We saw last time that although there was a rabbinical institution not to raise beheimotdakot (thin animals, such as sheep and goats) in Eretz Yisrael, this institution went out of practice when Eretz Yisrael was desolate (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 409:40). Rav Tzvi P. Frank claimed, based on one understanding of the Yerushalmi, that such institutions, which were nullified based on a changed situation, do not get renewed when the original situation returns unless done explicitly.]
Although Rav Frank’s principle is true (and can also be proved from Ketubot 3b), we must see if it applies to our specific rabbinic institution not to raise sheep in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer III, CM.7) asks on the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling that the institution did not apply in his time based on the rule that in order to uproot a rabbinic law, one requires a rabbinical assembly which is at least as great as the one which instituted it, even if the law’s original reasoning no longer applies. He brings an answer based on Teshuvot Harosh (2:8) that when the reasoning for the original institution was well known, the law ceases to exist when the reason no longer applies. However, it is difficult to apply the Rosh’s rule and try to determine when a reason is well known and when it is not.
In truth, upon analyzing the institution’s original formulation, it seems unnecessary to say that it was ever cancelled. It was always permitted to raise sheep in Eretz Yisrael, as long as this was done in an area without significant, Jewish inhabitation. Thus, as settlements rose up or waned, the geographical boundaries of the institution were naturally adjusted accordingly. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch’s lenient ruling is not a sign of the undoing of the institution but of its natural application according to the “map” of his times. In fact, there never was even a specific institution for Eretz Yisrael but a rule that applied to any area of concentrated, Jewish, agricultural settlement (see Tosafot, Bava Kama 80a). This dependence on the present, actual situation in each time and place works both to extend the prohibition and to limit it geographically, as appropriate. The Shulchan Aruch’s leniency is thus easy to understand.
However, it should follow logically that nowadays, when we have merited, with Hashem’s mercy, to have an abundance of Jewish, agricultural settlement in Eretz Yisrael, the institution should apply here. However, there is a different approach to justify leniency. The institution was not an objective one applying to Eretz Yisrael, but a practical one to curtail damages (see formulation of Rambam, Nizkei Mamone 5:1-2). Therefore, it seems clear that if the potential victims of damage relinquish their rights to the safeguards, it becomes permitted to raise the sheep.
In our days, when the Jewish community as a whole (as opposed to isolated individuals) gets benefit from the raising of the sheep and where they are kept penned in by fences, it is permitted to raise the sheep. This is preferable for the community that we are trying to protect than to require the expensive practice of importing meat from distant places. Under the circumstances of general agreement, no rabbinical lifting of the institution is necessary.
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