Shabbat Parashat Balak| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Interview with “Hatzofeh” on the Occasion of 50th Anniversary of Kfar Haroeh - Part II - From Gaon Batorah U’vamidot pp. 285-288
Kfar Haroeh was one of the first religious agricultural settlements (moshavim). Rav Yisraeli was the founding rabbi and served there for some three decades. Below are his thoughts on some of the challenges of what was a new type of rabbinate.
Question: Didn’t working the land in and of itself demand special attention from the rabbi?
What a question! Form the first day, I was flooded by agricultural [halachic] questions. How do we arrange milking on Shabbat? What about taking trumot and maasrot (tithing)? How does one solve problems of kilayim (cross-breeding) in grafting and when sowing. These were all questions that rabbis of the Diaspora and of the city were not demanded to deal with. In Kfar Haroeh, they required discussion with conclusions, a daily, halachic give and take. I instituted special shiurim on agricultural topics, and most of the men of the kfar (village) took part with great interest.
Then there was the matter of the holidays and times of rejoicing. They also required a unique type of molding, one appropriate for people of the land. How does one ensure a traditional Jewish atmosphere on Shabbat? How do you celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut? In Kfar Haroeh we innovated new customs for the prayers and holiday meals of Yom Ha’atzmaut, which drew hundreds and thousands to the kfar from all over the country. Those who came were affected by the atmosphere and spread it elsewhere. One can say that the character of Yom Ha’atzmaut throughout the religious Zionist community is taken from the kfar.
We had an impact on the immediate surroundings, as well. If Kfar Haroeh is surrounded today by settlements of traditional Jews, like Chibat Zion or the Yemenite settlements, it is by virtue of the personal example that the kfar gave, which helped them not get caught up in the tides of the time.
Let us address the second generation, as well. Religious activists arose, who formed other villages in the spirit of Kfar Haroeh. Grandchildren grew up and went to settlements in Yehuda and Shomron and started branches of the Yeshiva of Kfar Haroeh, which set the standard of the new Israeli yeshiva. One can say that the whole lifestyle that was developed in the place served as a guide and prototype for the Eretz Yisrael community.
Let us give two examples. The close contact with the workers’ movement and the socialist ideology caused me to educate our community in the distinctively Jewish approach to work. We developed he concept of the workplace complying with halacha and the ability to prove that the scope of Judaism, with its world-wide grasp, provides a theoretical basis that is well ahead of the modern social theories.
Shabbat in the kfar was simply a beautiful thing. Our children were able to soak in the full experience of Shabbat without external influences. I remember how my daughter would see cars travelling on the main road outside the kfar and say how there must be many sick people in the neighboring settlements. It was unimaginable that anyone would travel on Shabbat if not for saving lives.
In Kfar Haroeh we proved that there is no contradiction between a Torah life and an agricultural one. On the contrary, the Torah encourages a life of hard work of the hands. We also proved that Torah and avoda create a pure social model and that such creativity has longevity, as it has reached 50 years, three generations, and other settlements modeled after it.
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