Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Self Imposed Lunacy

That is what I would call the Orthodox Jewish requirement that farmland in Israel be fallow every seventh year (shmita) in accordance with Torah law. Food grown and harvested on Israeli soil during the shmita is not considered kosher, which means that orthodox Jews will not purchase it.

This article in The Independent reports on the plight of an Israeli farmer named Moshe Amar. During the last shmita, Mr. Amar and other Israeli farmers resorted to a variety of contrivances to take advantage of loopholes in the law. One tactic is to nominally sell their farms to Arabs and hire foreign workers so that no Israeli will be involved in planting and harvesting crops during the shmita. Amar takes it further than that, by planting his seeds in mounted trays filled with foreign soil so that he can certify that his crops are not grown in Israeli soil.

This year, Amar thought he had sufficiently complied with the law so that his produce could be considered kosher. He even had a certificate attesting to this from the Chief Rabbinate. Unfortunately for Amar, the Rabbinate had given permission to local rabbis to ignore the certificate and insist on a strict literal interpretation of the law. This hurts Israeli farmers like Amar because orthodox Jews are an important market in Israel, and a significant amount of the produce sold to orthodox Jews must be imported from outside Israel during the shmita.

I have mentioned it before on this blog and I will say it again. As much as I abhor fundamentalist Christianity and Islam because of the threat they pose to secular liberal democracy, orthodox Judaism is probably the most frustrating of all the major religions for the sheer mind boggling scope of the onerous rules and regulations that religiously observant Jews impose on themselves.

I am very thankful to have been raised Catholic rather than orthodox Jewish. Yeah, my dad had us comply with meatless Fridays during Lent when I was growing up, but that only meant that we got to eat pizza instead!

1 comment:

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Yes. But what good is pizza without pepperoni or sausage? Huh?