Rabbi's thoughts for the week
I would like to use my message this week to introduce you to the 70 for 70 project. I believe that this worldwide project, spearheaded by the United Synagogue, is one of the most worthwhile endeavors I have ever participated in and I really hope that you and your family will also take part.
The idea in a nutshell:
It is now 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. To mark this anniversary, all participants will read daily for 70 days one of the 70 inspirational essays in the 70 Days for 70 Years book. These essays have been written exclusively for the project by internationally renowned educators, historians and scholars.
This learning will be done in the memory of a named victim of the holocaust. David Berger זצ"ל in his last letter before he was murdered by the Nazis wrote, “I should like someone to remember that there once lived a person named David Berger”. This project aims to fulfil this wish by actively remembering as many as possible of the victims of the holocaust. Each of the six million was an individual and by each of us focusing on one person, remembering them and learning in their memory, we keep their memory alive and remind ourselves of the individual lives and personalities that horrifically enormous number represents.
Every participant family will be learning in the memory of a different person.
Every member family of our shul will receive a book and a memorial card. The individualized memorial card contains the personal details of the person in whose memory we ask you to learn. You can find out more the person in whose memory you are learning by visiting Yad Vashem’s website. www.yadvashem.org.
The project begins on Sunday so please come to the shul office as soon as possible to pick up your book and card. We will be mailing the books to those who cannot pick them up in person.
I really hope that you will choose to participate please do let me know if you will.
During these 70 Days and beyond there will be also a number of online and live events designed to complement the project. We hope that you will participate in them as well.
May this learning bring you and your families much blessing.
At the end of seven years you will make a release. And this is the manner of the release: to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because the time of the release for Hashem has arrived. (Devarim 15:1–2)
The year 5775, whose end we are fast approaching, is a Shemitta or Sabbatical year which gives me the opportunity to highlight a rather rare and special mitzvah.
The law of the Shemitta year has two components “release of the land” and “release of money [debts].”
“Release of the land” means that throughout the year residents of the Land of Israel are required to completely desist from cultivating their fields. They also relinquish personal ownership of their fields and whatever produce grown is been considered communal property, free for anyone to take.
For those living in Israel this has had far reaching ramifications in their daily lives but for us in the Diaspora these effects have been confined to restrictions on the consumption of produce imported from Israel. It is important to note that due to the technicalities of food production and export schedules, much Israeli produce will remain subject to these restrictions well into next year.
“Release of money” is of much greater significance for many of us particularly those involved in business. This is because “release of money” means that from the onset of Rosh Hashana all outstanding debts between Jewish debtors and creditors are automatically cancelled. At the same time, the Torah forbids us to refrain from lending money for fear of Shemitta cancelling the loan, and commands us to lend happily, despite the possibility that we may not be paid back.
For obvious reasons the observance of this mitzvah however proved challenging and in the first century BCE, Hillel the Elder saw that people were avoiding giving loans as the Shemitta year neared. This posed two problems: Potential lenders were transgressing the Torah prohibition against withholding loans out of fear of Shemitta and those who desperately needed loans had no way to procure them. He therefore designed a halachic solution to this problem.
He noted that the Torah tells us that only private debts are cancelled by Shemitta. If, however, one owes the court money, Shemitta does not affect the loan. Based on this rule, he instituted the pruzbul: a mechanism by which debts are transferred to a beit din (religious court). By making a pruzbul, you make your private debts public—and therefore redeemable.
As the problems identified by Hillel 2000 years ago have only increased as we have become a credit based society the practice of Pruzbul is all the more practical and important nowadays. Anyone who wants to be able to claim debts owed to them after Rosh Hashana this this year must make a Pruzbul before Rosh Hashana.
For this reason the Manchester Beth Din have made available to the community a Pruzbul Authorisation Form that we have included in this mail out. Please complete this form and return it to the Beth Din at the address on the form by Sunday 6th September 2015. The Beth Din will then convene a special sitting on Thursday 10th September at which point the Pruzbul will come into effect. This very important and rare mitzvah and should be treated with great seriousness. If you have any questions regarding this procedure please contact me to discuss it.
May the fulfilment of this great mitzvah usher in the era when no person will need to lend another as all will have their needs met with ease with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
May you and yours be written and sealed in the Book of Life and may you be blessed with a good and sweet coming year.
With blessings for a Kesiva VeChasima Tova,
Good Yom Tov and see you in Shul,
Rabbi Daniel & Esther