(The Institute for the Mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael)
The Hamacon Lemitzvot Hatlutot Ba’aretz, was founded in 5754 (1994) and its activities are aimed at introducing the mitzvot that are specific to Eretz Yisrael on a halachic and professional level to all the sectors of the Israeli Jewish public, from preschool children to adults; from a study of the basic fundamentals to the in-depth knowledge required by kashrut supervisors and rabbis who are involved with kashrut issues.
The Hamacon was founded by Rabbi Shneur Z. Revach shlit”a, and was presided over by MR”N the Rishon Letzion HRH”G Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l. The institute’s activities are conducted in consultation with HRH”G Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar shlit”a, the Rishon Letzion and the chief rabbi of Jerusalem.
The institute is unique in the level of halachic and professional knowledge that it has accumulated in the fields of botany and entomology in the context of kashrut and Halacha.
The Institute’s Activities
The Torani Research department publishes the writings of the Talmudic sages and Rishonim concerning the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael and produces and publishes books and booklets to assist the general public in the complicated issues of the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael and insects in foodstuffs.
The institute’s publication department produces books and Torani publications for the general public, written by the institute’s rabbis. Dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics stemming from the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael have been published so far. The institute also produces other materials for the general public, in clear simple language, such as the chart of orla fruits, the shmitta calendar for fruits and vegetables, the shmitta guide for consumers, the shmitta guide for farmers, and booklets on trumot and maasrot. The Hasadeh series, for example, by Rabbi Shneur Z. Revach shlit”a, includes Ketzirat Hasadeh, on the halachot of trumot and maasrot; Tevuat Hasedah, on the halachot of challah; Shevitat Hasadeh, on the halachot of shevi’it; Etz Hasadeh, on the halachot of orla; and Gevulot Hasadeh – a work that took many years to prepare – on the borders of Eretz Yisrael for halachic purposes, which includes a multi-colored map. Other publications including the monumental four-volume set Tolaat Shani, which addresses all the halachic aspects of insects in foodstuffs and how to remove them.
In addition, the institute has produced several DVDs on various mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael, to illustrate them for viewers and make it easier for them to learn about these mitzvot.
Lab for checking leafy vegetables
The institute has a special lab for checking insect-free leafy vegetables. The lab is operated by experts in this field, who are trained at the institute and examine leafy vegetables that are grown on farms all over the country and using various cultivation methods, and ensure that the public is buying vegetables that are truly insect-free.
The lab also conducts regular checks on fish from various sources, in order to ascertain the types of parasites and the extent of infestation, and to alert the public as necessary. Other products examined by the lab include flour, seaweed and commercially canned vine leaves. In addition to checking these foodstuffs for insects, the lab also checks kosher for Pesach products for the presence of grains that could be considered chametz.
Over the years the lab and its technicians have earned a reputation for their knowledge, meticulousness, efficiency and consumer-friendliness and are highly esteemed by those who use the lab’s services.
Kashrut supervisors, rabbis, teachers and Torah scholars from Israel and around the world come to the institute: to see, to learn and to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
Beit Hamaaser is a special maasrot foundation for the benefit of the general public. The institute handles the separation of trumot and maasrot and enables subscribers to its services to observe these mitzvot on the highest level. Beit Hamaaser has thousands of subscriber households who use its services for transferring the kedusha of the fruit during the separation of trumot and maasrot and kedushat reva’i, the distribution of maaser ani via loan contracts and agreements with poor people, and the distribution of maaser rishon to a Levite via loan contracts and agreements with a Levite.
Beit Hamaaser also set up a branch in the U.S., jointly with the kashrut division of the OU, in order to provide services to anyone wishing to separate trumot and maasrot from produce grown in Israel and marketed abroad.
Applied research in the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael
The purpose of this research is to find solutions to halachic problems that arise and to bring the research and solutions to the attention of the relevant bodies. For example, finding a rootstock tree for pear orchards, within the restrictions of Halacha; special, creative solutions at plant nurseries to save farmers from counting an additional year for orla. During a shmitta year, the institute is one of the major advisors to farmers – helping them to grow produce and earn a livelihood during that year too, in accordance with Halacha. The two main solutions are the separation of the growing surface from the ground (metza’im menutakim) and the marketing of produce via the rabbinical court (otzar beit din).
Many of the largest kashrut projects in the past decade were initiated by the institute and successfully completed with the advice of the institute’s rabbis and professional experts. These projects include:
- Nurseries that are supervised for orla.
- The identifying of permissible rootstock for fruit trees, in order to avoid the prohibition of creating hybrid fruits (kilayim).
- Long-term research for the botanic-halachic classification of sub-tropical trees.
- Research into the permissible and forbidden agricultural work during a shmitta year.
- Methods for growing insect-free mushrooms.
- Methods for raising parasite-free fish in fishponds in Israel and abroad.
- Methods for processing parasite-free fish in various countries around the world.
- Research into the marketing of the rotbarsch fish (rose fish) in Iceland, with respect to parasite-free marketing.
- Insect-free vine leaves from Turkey.
- Insect-free seaweed.
- Insect-free whole grain flour that does not need sifting.
Kashrut supervision and consultation
The institute’s activities include the work of world-class experts regarding insects in foodstuffs, and over the years the institute’s applied research has led to the implementation of various solutions. The institute’s experts visit fields to advise farmers on growing insect-free crops, including large-scale crops for the frozen vegetables industry, in Israel and in various foreign countries. The institute’s experts also provide advice on many other issues concerning vegetable-based foods.
In the fish production industry, the institute sends experts to fish farms and processing plants. Teams from the institute’s lab have conducted research over the past several years and have developed special methods for almost every type of fish that is imported to Israel, in order to remove the parasites during the processing of the fish abroad. Another subject in the same field is the fish roe industry, for which the institute has also developed special methods for removing anisakis worms that stick to the roe. After many years of research the institute also developed a way to remove seahorses and tiny crabs from between leaves of seaweed for the sushi industry and was very successful in introducing this method to seaweed exporters so that kosher food importers could offer the public seaweed with a hechsher.
Otzar Beit Din
The institute is involved in large-scale Otzar Beit Din activities and supervises and inspects the farmers’ fields and orchards. The institute employs the most knowledgeable rabbis and experts in this field. The rabbis and halachic decisors guide the farmers in accordance with all the halachot, for the benefit of the general public, to provide the public with Otzar Beit Din fruit during the shmitta year. In the 5761 (2001) and 5768 (2008) shmitta years more farmers registered their fields and orchards with the institute’s Otzar Beit Din, which adheres to the strictest halachic standards, than with any other rabbinical organization. In 5775 (2015) there was similarly large registration from farmers, and we anticipate that with Hashem’s help even more farmers will register with us in the upcoming shmitta years.
One-day seminars and special lectures
The institute holds one-day seminars and special lectures all over Israel, for all sectors of the Jewish population and for all age groups, including workshops and activities designed for preschool and grade school pupils, with interactive displays and presentations. The workshops cover a wide range of topics, from kashrut in general to shmitta and insects in fish and vegetables. The one-day seminars and special lectures for farmers address the operation of a farm in accordance with Halacha.
A bi-monthly magazine of articles on current issues, written by the institute’s rabbis and external experts, covering the whole range of topics connected with the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael, kashrut and more.
Beit Midrash for studying the laws of Zera’im
Beside the institute is a beit Midrash for the study of the halachot of the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael. This beit midrash was designed for the in-depth study of the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael and for increasing the public’s interest in and knowledge of these mitzvot. The rabbis and students of the beit midrash have delved into many halachic issues whose study has led to the publication of hundreds of articles and several well-received books on the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael. The beit midrash also includes a kollel, located in Elad, at which the students study the various tractates in Seder Zera’im. There is also a large group of Torah scholars who attend regular shiurim on Shabbat and in the evenings; a beit din and a beit hora’ah.