FYI: Shemitta "economics"

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FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 am

We had discussed some of these issues in the past. I raise it now because I just received the Torah journal HaMa'ayan (in Hebrew), published by Yeshivat Sha'alvim, and there is a short discussion on the issue there. I thought people might be interested in following the developments of the matter. The editor's English summary states:

"Finally, Moshe Oren, member of Kibbutz Shaalvim and a veteran activist in the cause of observing Shemittah according to the halakhah, tells us about the most recent Shemittah (of 2008), characterized by a great expansion in distributing fruit within the framework of various otzar bet din [court storehouses] --- and this was an excellent development --- however, surpluses remained in warehouses due to lack of demand on the part of potential customers from the haredi [pietist] community, who do not see in the 'otzar bet din' a sufficiently 'elegant' halakhic solution, a situation which gave rise to great losses among farmers. He suggests, with the approach of Shemittah 2015, expansion of activities and of distribution of otzar bet din produce through the advance cooperation between rabbis, farmers, and the Israeli government (which assists those who observe Shemittah and potential consumers), and he cautions that if the concern arises that within the entire chain --- from the farmers to the consumers --- there will not be enough cooperation such that there will be again unwarranted surpluses, production of non-heter mechira [sale to ameliorate restrictions on working the Land] produce will diminish in Shemittah 5775 [2015], and this would be a bad thing for the Land of Israel and the observance of the commandments therein."

That's the editor's summary. I would add --- to accomodate our interests --- that surpluses in wine are specifically referred to in the article.The phrase

"a sufficiently 'elegant' halakhic solution"

really caught my eye. It was the editor's delicate way of saying (I am now summarizing the author) that a particular leniency followed by Po'ale Agudat Israel settlements issued by the Hazon Ish z"tl to help farmers not relying on the heter mechirah was no longer accepted by BaDaTZ. So in 2008, farmers abandoned this leniency and were nonetheless stuck with large surpluses --- including wine, which ironically was not involved in this leniency at all. The author also refers to the fact that the halakhically fastidious consumers do not wish to purchase such wine because Shemittah laws require that they have to treat the wine with greater care than usual (the details are not important here).
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Mike BG » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:15 am

An interesting piece. However, I can vouch for one major problem which arose in the most recent shmitta year. It is the rise of 'non-genuine' otsar beit din produce. In a genuine otsar beit din, the farmer who generally owns the title to the land becomes an agent of the beit din, who are responsible for ensuring the fair distribution of the shmitta produce which the Torah rules must be available for all. However, seeing as most people cannot go themselves to the out of town orchards to collect fruit, the beit din organises it for them. They also take responsibility for irrigation and any other necessary treatments which the trees may need, and hire workers to do this, and other duties (picking the fruit and transporting it). The beit din usually hires the farmer himself to do this, but he is not permitted to do anything without their explicit permission, and he is paid for his work, rather than for the fruit he produces. The farmer will obviously not be permitted to act in ways not permitted in shmitta (for example pruning trees in order to improve crop yields rather than to prevent long term damage to the trees themselves). The fruit will be distributed either directly by the otsar beit din or by shops they have nominated as their agents - with strict price control, as regular commercial sale of shmitta produce is not permitted.

Unfortunately, in recent years, certain rabbis have been encouraging farmers to join various 'otsar beit din' arrangements, which do not fit into this description, and for whom it is really 'business as usual', but with a little 'otsar beit din' stamp. Don't think for one moment that high class wineries whose wine was supposedly from an 'otsar beit din' and others didn't prune their vines in the 2008 shmitta year. Don't think for one moment that they have insisted on nominating shops as agents to distribute 2008 wines at strictly controlled prices. During the last shmitta this spread to fruits and grape juice which were widely 'sold' as 'otsar beit din' but in regular shops, and with no control by the supposed beit din.

What has happened as a result is that many people regard the term 'otsar beit din' as a sort of con trick. A 'magic make believe solution' which instantly wipes out the 'stigma' of 'hetter mechira' (a legal fiction which 'sells' the land to a non Jew for the duration of the shmitta year, which many people do not rely on). Although there are many genuine 'otsar beit din's around, there are now far more of these types of 'otsar beit din'. The result s that many families who would previously used otsar beit din produce have stopped doing so (ourselves included). The exceptions will be a number of well organised 'otsar beit din's whose reliability is without question (like the well established otsar beit din run for Carmel Wines by Rabbis Karelitz and Efrati). However, even here lies a problem, because the wines will generally be of very poor quality (as a result of the limitations on treatment of the vines during shmitta) so demand will be low, thus reducing the economic viability of the arrangement. I would suggest to all those involved to resist the temptation to make any dry table wines from 'otsar beit din' grapes, and restrict themselves to 'kiddush type wines' (whatever that means ...) and grape juice.

I agree that there is a problem with people within the hareidi community preferring their own convenience and avoiding the use of shmitta produce altogether, but I know from experience that people have become very sceptical of produce labelled as 'otsar beit din' and it is difficult to overcome this obstacle.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:40 pm

Mike, just to clarify.

You seemed to have tarred the whole agra industry and their certifying rabbis with one brush. The certifying names on the wine bottles in the shmitta year are the same as every other year. So we are talking about quite a few rabbis. And we are not just talking about wine, although that is the focus of our interest here.

I don't think describing the matter as "certain rabbis" suffices. In fact, you also say, "Although there are many genuine 'otsar beit din's around." So if you say "certain rabbis" it sounds as though they are a distinct minority; and if you say, "Although there are many genuine 'otsar beit din's around" it sounds as they the "good guys" are the minority. Which is it? Which characterizes the industry?

Also, does your knowledge of these practices come from first-hand involvement in the industries --- wine, or any other produce? You realize, that if you propose "I would suggest to all those involved to resist the temptation to make any dry table wines from 'otsar beit din' grapes, and restrict themselves to 'kiddush type wines' (whatever that means ...) and grape juice," I suppose that you have requisite halakhic and direct real-world expertise --- which may very well be the case (I'm just asking) --- to make such a suggestion.

Also, I do not recall 2008 Carmel wines of being inferior quality. Does Carmel's "well-established otzar bet din" not cover the dry table wines? In addition, why are you better off with "restrict themselves to 'kiddush type wines' (whatever that means ...) and grape juice?" Don't they have the same problems? Or are you confident that in this case there is no pruning of leaves. But you would agree, that even there one must know the quality of the certifying bet din.

Thanks,

Isaac
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby David Raccah » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:42 pm

Ok - you started this so lets get into this madness. There are TWO main issues here: Israel and the Diaspora. I STRESS that the article that Isaac brought here is about ISRAEL ONLY!!!! No one will allow you to take ANY shmitta wine of ANY SORT out of Israel, unless you are Yarden and Galil - more on that soon. I blogged about all of this on my blog about Kosher 1010, but will repeat here as well:

http://kosherwinemusings.com/2011/04/16 ... sher-wine/

So, of the two options - otzar beit din and heter mechira, MOST "black hat" folks will only use OBD when visiting Israel during a shmitta year. Please remember that what we take for granted here in America is very much NOT THE CASE in Israel during shmitta years. For normal agriculture interests, people roll into a store, here in America, buy stuff and leave - simple. No hechsher, no laws of masser, etc. In Israel, even the most basic of foods are a ROYAL PAIN in the butt! Visiting guests, yeshiva boys, seminary girls, call my Rabbi non-stop during the shmitta years - because they have no idea where they can eat. Gone are the normal - it is a BAadtaz store -s o all is good. It needs even more supervision and even more scrutiny by the visitor, or resident of course. Like Isaac wrote, the only way IT IS ALLOWED to work - for the black hats, is that if you are a REAL OBD system, all the food stuff is sold at cost + labor, no markup, and no profits. This is really just to keep the plants, vines, and agra system alive. This is NOT MEANT to circumvent the system - it is meant to allow for farmers to keep working the vines and land and to be paid cost.

Now, take this madness to the next level, grape growers and the outcome product - wine. Wine is no different, if it is 2008, it must be sold from shops that are OBD, just like the produce and it must not be a game.

So far, I think I have not yet gotten myself into too much trouble :lol: - but that changes here, unfortunately. Look at the back of a bottle of any Baddatz wine from 2010, say Teperberg or Or Haganuz, you will se the Baddatz, OU/OK (if exported) and others on the bottle, including the local Rabbi and Rabbanut. Do the same on a 2008 bottle and it looks VERY different. There is of course no OU/OK (as this wine - even if OK cannot be exported according to the OU/OK), and there is no Baadatz.

So - let us recap, Baadtaz is happy to have OBD fruit used and sold within the community - no issue there. They sell the food in the shuk and they sell it in stores. Whether it is because they worked with the farmers, or bought from Arabs, either way, they sell OBD or non-jewish fruit and vegetables in the store. Yet, when it comes to wine - NO WHERE TO BE FOUND!!! They do help out and make special runs for the sweet sacramental wines, simply because the older stuff is dead, undrinkable, or sold out and need more. But for the main lines of wines - there stamp of approval is gone.

That is the main issue - I know man y people who have told me many things about supervisions. This is not a question on any winery, on any supervision. What I am getting across, is that the very high level, black hat supervisions that I use and others, do not handle 2008 wines. Why? To be honest, if the winery wanted to make that much wine - of that quality - and run it through the 100% absolute OBD Baadatz rules - they would not be very happy.

Further, MANY kosher wineries are TERRIFIED of the shmitta that is coming. When you get a chance talk to wine makers and owners, and ask them - what they think about HM versus OBD and the such. I have given my word to not talk of it, but go ahead and ask them. This shmitta ahead of us - will be a mess my friends - more than in previous years.

In the end - the real fact is that Shmitta wines will never be accepted my mainline black hat communities in Israel - because the wineries would be held over the barrel (no pun intended) when it comes to the economics and madness of the laws of true OBD. This is NOT THE FAULT of the wineries or the supervision - PLEASE. I am sure this post will get me nothing but grief, but from what I see from my black hat friends, they will not touch the stuff - and the proof is not in the bottle - BUT ON THE BOTTLE.

So, what can be done:

1) Do not make wine at all MANY wineries have taken this stance! I love them for it! It takes balls and money and cannot be done on a large scale
2) Make wine in its truest OBD form and essentially barely break-even if maybe lose a bit. Very few do this.
3) Make a wine using the non-black hat (BAddatz) OBD. I have no comments on it, I have ZERO IDEA of what is done there. What I do know is that no one with a black hat drinks it (or me - because my Rabbi has a black hat black hat transference- AHH!!!) - I have NO MORE to say on it than that.
4) Use good old HM and be done with it - this has been done for years and many use it - again no black hat will drink it.

In the end, if 2008 was a mess because of what one can and cannot drink - just wait for 2015 - with the age of the internet now in absolute full swing here and in Israel and with the knowledge of it and with MAJOR bucks being poured into companies in Israel from abroad - in both real investment and in terms of import/export - it will be VERY interesting to see who allows what in 2015....

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Pinchas L » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:43 pm

This topic really doesn't belong here, but what the heck, now that it is here, so I'll let off some steam.

Anyone who translates the theoretical concept of Otzar Beit Din into reality is childish. There exists a whole economy of Charedim who live from shmitta to shmitta off of the proceeds, spending the six years in between stirring trouble wherever they can, having plenty of free time on their hands. The real difference between Otzar Beit Din and Heter Mechira lies in the party making the profit: with heter mechira it is the hard working farmer and winemaker, with the Otzar Beit Din it is the operatives of the certifying agencies.

The Charedim give Heter Mechira a bad name, but they have never shied away from Heter Iska, a similar arrangement that allows them to charge interest on loans made to others, that would otherwise be prohibited. I guess the difference is that Charedim have a tradition for being loan sharks, but not for working the land.

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:07 pm

This topic really doesn't belong here ...

On one hand, true. I just thought we had discussed it in the past, and I saw discussion by one directly involved --- the farmer in Israel --- so it certainly seemed appropriate for others to see his thoughts.
The real difference between Otzar Beit Din and Heter Mechira lies in the party making the profit: with heter mechira it is the hard working farmer and winemaker, with the Otzar Beit Din it is the operatives of the certifying agencies.

Tough words, and my sense is that they are correct; but I share only some of the cynical edge.
I guess the difference is that Charedim have a tradition for being loan sharks, but not for working the land.

You are clearly letting off steam, but maybe a bit too much. I hope I don't come to regret having started the thread. :(

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Pinchas L » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:41 am

Isaac,

This topic is a hot potato that most of our polite forumites will not touch. My post should not come home to haunt you, as I'm a grown man, responsible for my own actions and words. In fact my actions speak larger than my words, since I've gone on the record with my support for Asif/Midbar winery, whose wines are denied formal rabbinic certification, even drinking wines the winery produces under Heter Mechira. And for those to whom it makes a difference, I would like to add that I am a "black hatter" who wears a "shtreimel" in the same style of Harav Kuk, the rabbi who strongly advocated for Heter Mechira.

Best,
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Isaac Chavel » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:34 am

Pinchas,

I am not worried that anything will come to haunt me; I was just hoping for something at a lower temperature. I guess I was too unrealistic.

Best regards,

isaac
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:36 am

Pinchas L wrote:This topic really doesn't belong here, but what the heck, now that it is here, so I'll let off some steam.

Anyone who translates the theoretical concept of Otzar Beit Din into reality is childish. There exists a whole economy of Charedim who live from shmitta to shmitta off of the proceeds, spending the six years in between stirring trouble wherever they can, having plenty of free time on their hands. The real difference between Otzar Beit Din and Heter Mechira lies in the party making the profit: with heter mechira it is the hard working farmer and winemaker, with the Otzar Beit Din it is the operatives of the certifying agencies.

The Charedim give Heter Mechira a bad name, but they have never shied away from Heter Iska, a similar arrangement that allows them to charge interest on loans made to others, that would otherwise be prohibited. I guess the difference is that Charedim have a tradition for being loan sharks, but not for working the land.

-> Pinchas


Pinchas:
Firstly, I don't see why the topic doesn't belong here. It's of great interest to all of us as kosher wine consumers. Why shouldn't we discuss it?
Secondly, your post is offensive. If you substitute "Jewish" for "Charedi," it would clearly be anti-semitic. In order to engage in civil discourse, you need to learn to express your opinions without resorting to ad hominem attacks.
Thirdly, your comparison of heter iska with heter mechira only reveals your ignorance on the subject. In any event, that certainly is beyond the scope of this forum.
I suggest we focus on the various issues and how they practically affect us as wine lovers and leave the ideological wars for other venues.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:52 am

Now that I got that out of the way, I can address the topic at hand. :twisted:
1. There is no question that the Otzar Beis Din system has gone off the rails and serious changes will need to be made or the system will self destruct as consumers lose confidence in it. In past shmitas the Otzar Beis Din wines--including the most prestigious from GHW--were sold at greatly reduced prices in OBD stores. I remember purchasing '94 shmitta wines dirt cheap when I lived in Israel in the late '90s. In '01 and even more so in '08, the OBD wines were basically the same price as regular wines, with a very loose system of authorized OBD resellers including every supermarket and bodega, thereby making a mockery of OBD. In the old days, the strictest charedim purchased OBD without hesitancy. Today many rabbis discourage it as a result of this development.
2. There are two distinct issues with shmitta wines: purchasing and consuming. The reason why charedim generally won't purchase OBD outside of Israel or for that matter from anyone but a true OBD seller--i.e., a shliach beis din selling at cost price, is the prohibition on commerce in shmitta fruit. (There is an additional issue with exporting shmitta fruit and specific leniencies applying to GHW due to their location in the Golan, but that's more of an issue for the exporter than for the consumer.) By contrast, charedim won't consumer Heter Mechira fruit under any circumstances as consumption of fruit impermissibly grown during shmita is forbidden and charedim reject the HM leniency. So the issues are very different--with the practical implication that I don't think anyone would forbid consumption of wine grown under OBD--the problems arise in their distribution, which in turn creates an issue in purchasing them.
Personally, I enjoy tasting the shmita wines (particularly in light of G-d's sense of humor in making '01 and '08 the best vintages of the decade) at tastings and lament my inability to obtain any for home consumption. Donations are welcome. :lol:
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Mike BG » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:30 am

To reply to a number of issues in one posting:

Firstly, when I referred to the 'Carmel wines Otsar Beit Din' I was not referring to wines made in the regular manner at Carmel. There is a special Otsar Beit Din which has been in existence for the past 3 shmitta years, and which produces wines made from grapes which have been grown 100% in accordance with the halachot of shmitta. It is organised by Rabbis Karelitz (Bnei Berak) and Efrati (Jerusalem). It is not available in regular stores, but only in special 'distribution centres'. I would term this a genuine otsar beit din. It involves a large number of grape growers and is very large. Pinchas: the operatives of the certifying agency here DO NOT MAKE MONEY (in fact last shmitta they lost money). It is these grapes which, in my opinion should not be used for table wines. Whenever I have tasted them they have been quite awful. Each shmitta I have taken enough grape juice from them to last me over a year. As far as the type of wines made are concerned, it is pretty obvious that far more care needs to be given to vines if they are to produce high class table wines than if they are to produce what may loosely be called 'kiddush=style wines'. I think everyone knows what I have in mind, but if not, think of Carmel Concord, Carmel 100, Yein Hanitzachon, etc.

The wines made in the regular manner by Carmel used to be called 'hetter mechira'. That has now changed to 'otsar beit din'. However, things are essentially the same. Take a note that Rav Rubin, whose hechsher is usually on the Carmel bottles, is NOT on these (but it is on the stricter otsar beit din bottles) so it is not true to say that the same certifying rabbis are involved. To be quite honest, there may be good grounds to claim that hetter mechira is halachically preferable to this type of distortion of the otsar beit din concept. Assuming the land sale is valid in itself, at least the work done to the vines will be a degree less serious than otherwise.

As far as the Golan wines are concerned, there is indeed much room for leniency appropos the Golan Heights. However, what is suspect is that the same 'otsar beit din' nomenclature is applied to Harei Galil wines which are not grown in the Golan, but in the Galil.

It is very upsetting when you have relatives who live off farming, support a large family, do not work in shmitta, and have a difficult time managing to work with a properly run otsar beit din, and others come along, essentially permit everything to be done 'business as usual' and then also call it 'otsar beit din'. I think that Elie hit the nail on the head here: the more that otsar beit din gets used as a sort of 'alternative hetter mechira' the less people who used to rely on it will do so. Yes, I do know this trend is true, based on what my brother in law (the said farmer) has told me.

Although I may not drink their shmitta wines, I feel that places like Castel who openly declare they keep hetter mechira, are being far more honest in their approach than the types of 'otar beit din' who have given the whole concept a bad name.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yakov F » Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:25 am

May I respectfully suggest that THIS THREAD CEASE, and if possible be deleted.

A great deal of ignorance has been spewing forth here albeit with innocent intentions. But also those that are calling others ignorant seem to be the ignorant ones.

1. Anyone is free to choose a personal mode of practice or stringency as best they understand but one OUGHT NOT call into question the efforts and successes of highly respected and revered rabbis of large sections of the orthodox community whose halachic integrity is impeccable as is their fear of heaven. They are completely aware of the issues correctly raised here but incorrectly assessed by some who posted here. The issues were and continue to be addressed.

2. When quoting articles or reciting other facts one must be aware of where they come from.

3. A great deal of information quoted by parties from different approaches on this thread was wrong.

All solutions to the issues raised here are imperfect including those that are most stringent.

Let the reader beware.

Respectfully,

Yakov
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Pinchas L » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:52 pm

For clarity sake, lets separate the challenges posed by the laws of Shemitta into two: those facing the consumer and those facing the producer. For the consumer the challenge during Shemitta is to have an ample supply of kosher agricultural staples at a reasonable price. In this regards, the word kosher is meant to denote produce that meets the standards of Shemitta. To the producer, Shemitta poses an entire different set of challenges, one of financial survival, and one that will not adversely impact the well being of their fields.

Simply put, the Charedi public and leadership: rabbinical and political, are overwhelmingly concerned with the problems facing the consumer. The reason for that is that the Charedi public by and large does not participate in the agricultural production process, be it wine or be it tomatoes, but they consume agricultural products in large quantities. Hence, for the Charedim the preferred solution, and one that fully addresses the problems facing the consumer, even if it exacerbates the problems faced by the producer, is appealing. Namely, their solution is to flood the country with imported produce. This solution delivers produce that is free of any halachic issues, and can potentially be delivered at low cost. Prior to the intifada, importation meant sourcing the produce from a shadowy network of Arab suppliers in the West Bank and Gaza, and in many instances the produce was literally smuggled into the country. With time, that approach became unpractical for multiple reasons, not the least bit was the danger involved, and Charedi politicians turned to seeking legislation that would simplify the importation of agricultural produce during Shemitta. This approach clearly favors the Charedi consumers over the producers, whose interests are diametrically opposed to the flooding of the market with cheap foreign produce. The Charedi leadership, like any politician, is primarily concerned with the needs of their constituents. In Shemittas past, as far as I remember, the stores and distribution centers run by Otzar Beit Din, did not limit themselves to selling and distributing produce that halachically required the oversight of Beit Din, such as produce grown in Israel, but were selling imported produce, too. The reality is that the various Otzar Beit Din's were stores were one can buy produce that was certified as being kosher during Shemitta. This reality in which the boundaries between certifying agency and entrepreneur becomes murky, is very much to blame for the current situation.

The above doesn't address issues facing wine drinkers in particular, but the long shelf life of wines means that wine from non Shemitta years will be available for Charedi consumption during Shemitta, so that Shemitta does not pose a real problem to the Charedi consumer in this regard, except for the select few Charedi wine connoisseurs who don't want to sacrifice their enjoyment of a single vintage on the alter of their religious convictions. Hence to the wine industry, the major challenges during Shemitta are those facing the producers. To that end, the simplest solution and the one that should be most beneficial to those producers who are not Charedi themselves, is to produce wine under Heter Mechira during Shemitta years, removing the stamp of approval of the strict certifying kashrut agencies. What I've found quite surprising is that many Lemahdrin kashrut certifying agencies are comfortable with this arrangement.

Best,
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby David Raccah » Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:59 pm

Wow - this is getting fun!!! The sad fact is - everyone has baggage - period. So stick with the facts - the bottle! In every year since good wine exits - the mainstream bottles produced by any winery in a shmitta year - lack the OU/OK/Baadtaz. Period.

What fascinates me, is that the wine is not sold in the US, so where is ALL that wine being sold? Israel is not the place, it can barely consume 60% of its wine. Where at the least is the other 40% going? I hope not at restaurants where unwitting visitors are drinking it!

Would like to know...
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:18 pm

Yakov F wrote:May I respectfully suggest that THIS THREAD CEASE, and if possible be deleted.

A great deal of ignorance has been spewing forth here albeit with innocent intentions. But also those that are calling others ignorant seem to be the ignorant ones.

1. Anyone is free to choose a personal mode of practice or stringency as best they understand but one OUGHT NOT call into question the efforts and successes of highly respected and revered rabbis of large sections of the orthodox community whose halachic integrity is impeccable as is their fear of heaven. They are completely aware of the issues correctly raised here but incorrectly assessed by some who posted here. The issues were and continue to be addressed.

2. When quoting articles or reciting other facts one must be aware of where they come from.

3. A great deal of information quoted by parties from different approaches on this thread was wrong.

All solutions to the issues raised here are imperfect including those that are most stringent.

Let the reader beware.

Yakov:
Why should this thread cease? Isn't the purpose of a forum to discuss issues--even if they cause disagreement? I'm sure a high percentage of forumites finds this thread very interesting. Those who aren't interested can simply skip it!
As for your post, you speak entirely in generalities, making it impossible to address your comments. You would add much more to the discussion if you were more specific.

Respectfully,

Yakov
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:19 pm

Pinchas L wrote:For clarity sake, lets separate the challenges posed by the laws of Shemitta into two: those facing the consumer and those facing the producer. For the consumer the challenge during Shemitta is to have an ample supply of kosher agricultural staples at a reasonable price. In this regards, the word kosher is meant to denote produce that meets the standards of Shemitta. To the producer, Shemitta poses an entire different set of challenges, one of financial survival, and one that will not adversely impact the well being of their fields.

Simply put, the Charedi public and leadership: rabbinical and political, are overwhelmingly concerned with the problems facing the consumer. The reason for that is that the Charedi public by and large does not participate in the agricultural production process, be it wine or be it tomatoes, but they consume agricultural products in large quantities. Hence, for the Charedim the preferred solution, and one that fully addresses the problems facing the consumer, even if it exacerbates the problems faced by the producer, is appealing. Namely, their solution is to flood the country with imported produce. This solution delivers produce that is free of any halachic issues, and can potentially be delivered at low cost. Prior to the intifada, importation meant sourcing the produce from a shadowy network of Arab suppliers in the West Bank and Gaza, and in many instances the produce was literally smuggled into the country. With time, that approach became unpractical for multiple reasons, not the least bit was the danger involved, and Charedi politicians turned to seeking legislation that would simplify the importation of agricultural produce during Shemitta. This approach clearly favors the Charedi consumers over the producers, whose interests are diametrically opposed to the flooding of the market with cheap foreign produce. The Charedi leadership, like any politician, is primarily concerned with the needs of their constituents. In Shemittas past, as far as I remember, the stores and distribution centers run by Otzar Beit Din, did not limit themselves to selling and distributing produce that halachically required the oversight of Beit Din, such as produce grown in Israel, but were selling imported produce, too. The reality is that the various Otzar Beit Din's were stores were one can buy produce that was certified as being kosher during Shemitta. This reality in which the boundaries between certifying agency and entrepreneur becomes murky, is very much to blame for the current situation.

The above doesn't address issues facing wine drinkers in particular, but the long shelf life of wines means that wine from non Shemitta years will be available for Charedi consumption during Shemitta, so that Shemitta does not pose a real problem to the Charedi consumer in this regard, except for the select few Charedi wine connoisseurs who don't want to sacrifice their enjoyment of a single vintage on the alter of their religious convictions. Hence to the wine industry, the major challenges during Shemitta are those facing the producers. To that end, the simplest solution and the one that should be most beneficial to those producers who are not Charedi themselves, is to produce wine under Heter Mechira during Shemitta years, removing the stamp of approval of the strict certifying kashrut agencies. What I've found quite surprising is that many Lemahdrin kashrut certifying agencies are comfortable with this arrangement.

Best,
-> Pinchas


That may be the simplest solution, but where and to whom will all that wine be sold??
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Pinchas L » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:42 pm

Elie Poltorak wrote:That may be the simplest solution, but where and to whom will all that wine be sold??


It is simple from the perspective of the kashrut issue, so long as the certifying agencies don't use their clout to snuff out the Heter Mechira arrangment, withholding their certification during the six non-Shemitta years as long as the winery uses Heter Mechira on the seventh. However as far as building a diversified distribution network and clientele, that might not be simple, but is the smart approach for any business regardless of Shemitta issues. One idea would be to have Israeli restaurants, those that do not carry a Mehadrin certification, stock up on Shemitta wines. I don't think that the proportion of high-end wines consumed by the Charedi public is that large relative to the overall production to pose a huge problem.

Best,
-> Pinchas
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Gabriel Geller » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:43 pm

David Raccah wrote:Wow - this is getting fun!!!

:lol: :lol: :lol: this it, you got the David started!

Now on a more serious note, Dave to answer your question all that wine may well be sold in restaurants (for instance, Yiron 08 that is OBD was for many months the main wine poured by the glass at the Mamilla Hotel's Mirror Bar) and abroad for HM wines (heter mechira wine has no kedushat shvi'it thus can be exported, one may find wines from Recanti or Tzora of the 08 vintage also in the US, check out wine-searcher). For example, while long gone from all the shops in Israel the 08 Petit Castel is easily found in quite a few countries for a reasonable price ($42 and about $60 for the 08 GV).

BesT,

GG
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yakov F » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:51 pm

Why should this thread cease? Isn't the purpose of a forum to discuss issues--even if they cause disagreement?


Elie,

Unfortunately the majority of those participating in the thread have demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the subject. The disagreements on either side of the any of these issues are not based on correct information. Since you responded to my post I take the liberty to use one of your statements as an example:

There is no question that the Otzar Beis Din system has gone off the rails and serious changes will need to be made or the system will self destruct as consumers lose confidence in it.

THAT IS FACTUALLY WRONG AND THEREFORE MISLEADING. You seem to be someone who has information on many matters yet you libel a fantastic and successful effort that had tremendous participation including from small elements of the haredi community. Masses of people had great coinfidence in it. You seem more than capable to research the subject on your own. Until then I think the decent approach and halachic approach would be to retract your statements or back them up.

As for your post, you speak entirely in generalities, making it impossible to address your comments. You would add much more to the discussion if you were more specific.


On the contrary, I do not want to contribute to the discussion.It cannot be worthwhile. As I suggested, it should be deleted.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:01 pm

Yakov F wrote:
Why should this thread cease? Isn't the purpose of a forum to discuss issues--even if they cause disagreement?


Elie,

Unfortunately the majority of those participating in the thread have demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the subject. The disagreements on either side of the any of these issues are not based on correct information. Since you responded to my post I take the liberty to use one of your statements as an example:

There is no question that the Otzar Beis Din system has gone off the rails and serious changes will need to be made or the system will self destruct as consumers lose confidence in it.

THAT IS FACTUALLY WRONG AND THEREFORE MISLEADING. You seem to be someone who has information on many matters yet you libel a fantastic and successful effort. You seem more than capable to research the subject on your own. Until then I think the decent approach and halachic approach would be to retract your statements or back them up.

As for your post, you speak entirely in generalities, making it impossible to address your comments. You would add much more to the discussion if you were more specific.


On the contrary, I do not want to contribute to the discussion.It cannot be worthwhile. As I suggested, it should be deleted.


Yakov:
How can an opinion be "factually wrong"? I'm stating my opinion based on the buzz I've heard among Israeli friends and acquaintances who used to look forward to shmitta for cheap, top-notch OBD wines, but now won't go near them. What's "factually wrong" about that? Do you disagree with my factual premise--that OBD wines are no longer sold at cost price? A visit to any Israeli wine shop/supermarket will prove the premise.
Why can't a discussion be worthwhile? Like I said, if you're not interested, don't participate and leave it to those who are interested.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yakov F » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:27 pm

Elie,

I won't be dragged into this. You seem to be trying to bait me into a halachic discusion on the merits of various ways of observance - yours. You continue to misleed as your are making statements and not framing things as your opinion- which is still factually wrong. You ought to retract and give the respect to the revered halachic authorities who have brought the Otzar Beit Din to tremendous participation and success that it was. You are of course free to choose how you personally observe but please do not cast doubt on the halachic veracity of those who observe differently and their rabbinic leadership.

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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Yossie Horwitz » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:49 pm

David - there are a number of answers to your question as to what happens to the 2008 wine. First, only Israeli wineries imported by Royal are not imported to the US across the board (they are exported to other countries). Second, many wineries reduce thier production for Shmittah vintages and also limit the amount of "premium" wines produced in such years. More Shmittah wine is consumed domestically than is typical and plenty of it finds its way to restaurants, where some of it is consumed by unsuspecting consumers. As with the "Royal" Israeli wineries, more wine is exported to countries other than the US, where there is more acceptance of these vintages (by virtue of any of being not Jewish, non-observant or simply ignorant of the facts) and the target consumer is less Shmittah-phobic.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Elie Poltorak » Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:33 pm

Yakov F wrote:Elie,

I won't be dragged into this. You seem to be trying to bait me into a halachic discusion on the merits of various ways of observance - yours. You continue to misleed as your are making statements and not framing things as your opinion- which is still factually wrong. You ought to retract and give the respect to the revered halachic authorities who have brought the Otzar Beit Din to tremendous participation and success that it was. You are of course free to choose how you personally observe but please do not cast doubt on the halachic veracity of those who observe differently and their rabbinic leadership.

Yakov


1. I'm not trying to bait you into anything. I'm interested in discussing the topic in a reasoned manner but all you seem to be interested in is bashing me.
2. You have not identified anything I said as factually misleading.
3. I did not disrespect any rabbinic authority ch"v. In fact, I didn't even mention any particular hechsher or OBD system. My comments were very general. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know enough about the specifics to comment on any particular OBD arrangement.
4. I didn't cast doubt on the "halachic veracity" of anyone! In fact, I didn't mention anything at all about my observance, other than that (as per my rov's instructions) I don't purchase (but do consume at tastings or if offered gratis) shmitta wines in chutz la'aretz (outside of Israel). Everyone is of course obligated to follow the psak of his personal rov.
5. I reiterate my opinion that despite the great benefits of the OBD system (not the least of which is minimizing Heter Mechira, which even according to its proponents is not an ideal solution), which has grown tremendously in recent shmitas, the way shmita wine is not being sold at normal retail prices seriously undermines the system.

I will not waste any more times responding to your posts unless you have something substantive to say, rather than just attacking me with generalities.
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Re: FYI: Shemitta "economics"

Postby Craig Winchell » Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:06 pm

Of course, there are those of us who do not purchase Israeli wine in the first place. I don't need to do so, for instance, therefore, as I make kosher wine myself. Therefore, the shviis issue is moot. But even if I did, I'd just avoid shmitta year wine, and that would be that. Chutz laAretz has some very good wineries, certainly enough to make up for ant shortfall in Israeli nonshmitta production when shmitta wine would normally be sold. I don't hold by heter mechira, which is no reflection on Rav Kook. In Israel, I'd hold by OBD if it reliably did what it was supposed to do. Since I'm not in Israel, it's all moot. I don't purchase shmitta produce outside of Israel, with the exception of esrogim, which become a pain in the neck anyway.
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