Thursday, December 22, 2005

History of City Eruvin: An Ongoing Historical Analysis Regarding City Eruvin


Prior to WWII, there were many struggles in European cities regarding eruvin. The resistance towards eruvin started in the beginning of the 1800’s, when most cities began to disassemble their ramparts. In order to erect tzuras hapesachim, permission was now needed from the civil authorities, and this was not always easy to obtain. This caused great hardships on the rabbanim of the towns, and they needed to formulate novel approaches in order to establish these eruvin.

As the goal of this series is to present the political underpinnings of the conflicts, I will only provide on overview of the halachic issues, since a full halachic treatment would necessitate numerous posts causing us to digress. The first accounts presented in this series will be about conflicts between religious Jews; however, most of the confrontations facing the religious Jews were between them and the Maskilim or the non-Jews. At first we will deal with the disagreements regarding eruvin in large cities where the machlokes was an internal power struggle between the supporters of the different rabbis of the town (see Why is Eruvin Different From Any Other Issue that it Elicits Such a Visceral Response?). We will see that even though the confrontations manifested themselves in halachah, their underpinnings were usually of a political nature (which has parallels in the present day eruvin machlokas), and I will endeavor to present the facts from rabbinic and archival sources wherever possible. We will begin with Krakow in 1887 since it is the first documented large city with such a machlokas, and then IY”H follow up with cities with populations of even more than shishim ribo.