Thursday, December 29, 2005

Part 6: A Critical Analysis of Rav Yisroel Hirsch’s Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn

Continued from part V

Page 7 comment 25:
"No one is making a gezeira! For that, a Sanhedrin or the like is necessary. R’ Moshe had a concern, which he felt was talmudically sanctioned, that precluded the construction of an eruv in any mega-metropolis. The concern was based on the conceived perception of the unsuspecting and unlearned individual who resided outside the jurisdiction of the would-be eruv. It had nothing to do with the eruv itself! On the last point I would like to say the following: Reb Dovid Feinstein’s name is mentioned in this booklet a few times. But, all that is quoted in his name is anecdotal and must therefore be discounted. I would, however, ask this of those who see him as support for their cause: If what you are saying of Reb Dovid Feinstein is true, then surely he must be an ardent supporter of the eruv in Brooklyn? But to the best of my knowledge only the contrary is true."

Rav Moshe zt"l writes (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:88) that we find that Chazal enacted gezeiros not to establish eruvin (he wrote this in regards to his opinion about not erecting eruvin in large communities with fewer than 3,000,000 people, since some might think that there is shishim ribo therein). It’s surprising that Rav Hirsch would fail to notice that Rav Moshe himself considered this matter a gezeira.

Nowhere is it stated in Eruvin in Brooklyn that Rav Dovid shlita supports an eruv there. However as Rav Hirsch states (see comment 4) “Different aspects of any argument may be accepted or rejected, without having to accept the entire thesis … one may find one point valid and the other not.” Therefore, we can accept parts of Rav Dovid’s argument’s such as his claim that his father’s shita is that the area requires 3,000,000 and we don’t have to agree with his conclusion. Unfortunately, since there are political (as well as halachic) considerations involved, statements made regarding a different city are more credible than statements made regarding Brooklyn. Since Rav Dovid maintained -- according to his reading of his father’s teshuvos -- that an eruv can be established in Chicago, since the population is less then 3,000,000, therefore by extension an eruv can be erected in Brooklyn as well.
Page 7 comment 26:
"Because Queens is mentioned in this booklet a number of times but is never accurately portrayed, it is worthwhile to set the record straight. Queens is both larger in size and smaller in population than Brooklyn – much smaller. Its population current to the time of the responsum (1974) was 1.9 million, making the number of people living in Brooklyn in excess of those living in Queens greater than the entire population of both Boston (589,141) and Denver (554,600). Queens was the last borough of New York City to be developed, hence the many cemeteries and park, e.g. Shea Stadium, Arthur Ash, etc. It is the most spacious of the boroughs. More importantly, Queens was incorporated into the city not as a whole unit, but as a set of disparate neighborhoods that was then absorbed. As a popular travel guide (2004 ed.) put it: “ a vestige to the borough’s past as a collection of unincorporated villages.” This also explains the open spaces between different neighborhoods, a phenomenon found nowhere else in New York City. This alone was the decisive factor upon which R’ Moshe permitted the Kew Gardens (Hills) eruv, as stated in his 1974 teshuvah to R’ Peretz Steinberg. None of this has any relevance to Brooklyn."

The only decisive fact that Rav Moshe zt”l states regarding Kew Gardens Hills is that it was a small neighborhood in Queens (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:86 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89). Rav Moshe never claimed that Kew Gardens was a separate entity and it’s a wonder that Rav Hirsch would assert otherwise. This claim regarding the evolution of Queens into a borough of NYC is totally irrelevant and was concocted as an excuse after the fact. There is no trace of it in any teshuvah from Rav Moshe. Additionally, Queens today has over 2.2 million residents and Brooklyn in the 1990’s had approximately the same number. Why was an eruv not allowed in Brooklyn then? More so, why didn’t Rav Moshe object to an eruv in Queens because some, “unsuspecting and unlearned individual who resided outside the jurisdiction of the would-be eruv (see comment 25),” would think that there is shishim ribo therein? It’s important to note that, Rav Moshe wanted to enact this gezeira in Detroit proper (ibid., 5:29) with a population of approximately 1.2 million, which is much less than Queens! The only satisfactory answer is that Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in Kew Gardens Hills since the tzuras hapesachim demarcated a small part of Queens from the rest of the borough. Therefore, there is no reason, according to Rav Moshe, not to allow an eruv of tzuras hapesachim to separate a section of Brooklyn such as Flatbush from the rest of the borough (see Brooklyn and Queens: Same or Different? and Does the Eruv Encompass Shishim Ribo).
Page 8 comment 27:
"This is bona-fide nonsense! New York City is comprised of close to 100 neighborhoods; Brooklyn, of nearly a score. Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bergen Beach, Bay Ridge, Carol Hills, Dyker Heights to mention a few Brooklyn neighborhoods. Boro Park is one small part of one borough out of five, which comprises New York City. No marginally informed semi-educated individual would entertain the notion that, between the two neighborhoods of Boro Park and Flatbush, six million out of eight million New York City inhabitants reside. Certainaly not a man as sagacious and responsible as R’ Moshe. All that R’ Moshe meant was that Flatbush/Boro Park are neighborhoods whose halachic identity extends beyond their geographic borders, encompassing the entire Brooklyn, as concerns the numerical reckoning for 600,000."

As can be ascertained from the above, Rav Hirsch doesn’t have a better explanation for Rav Moshe zt”l’s statements that both Boro Park and Flatbush contain a population of greater than shishim ribo. Rav Moshe states clearly that both Boro Park and Flatbush encompass an area less than twelve mil by twelve mil and nevertheless they contain more than shishim ribo (see Does the Eruv Encompass Shishim Ribo). On the other hand, Rav Moshe states that Brooklyn includes an area of more than twelve mil by twelve mil (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87-88). Consequently, these teshuvos must indicate that each neighborhood independently has shishim ribo and not just the whole of Brooklyn. Therefore, Rav Hirsch’s claim that, “ All that R’ Moshe meant was that Flatbush/Boro Park are neighborhoods whose halachic identity extends beyond their geographic borders, encompassing the entire Brooklyn, as concerns the numerical reckoning for 600,000,” is totally erroneous since Rav Moshe stated that each neighborhood on its own contains shishim ribo.
Page 8 comment 28-30:
Has already been discussed in comment 24-26.

Page 8 comment 31:
"If it is obvious that there is no platya in Brooklyn, then R’ Moshe’s raising of the issue was pointless. He was just outright wrong! This is the fifth or sixth time that this work, although claiming to explain R’ Moshe’s shitah, instead discounts it as erroneous. However, in truth there are many platyos all over New York City. Union Square in Manhattan and Fulton Mall in Brooklyn Heights are two examples. As to the assertion that the Shulchan Aruch and the Achronim have not accepted this shitah, that unfortunately, is untrue. This shitah is none other than the Rashba’s shitah – and none of the Rishonim disagree. Had the writers of this work been familiar with the Nishmas Adam (49:2), they would not have mistakenly penned these few lines. In general, I think they have not fully understood the concept of platya."

Nowhere is it stated in Eruvin in Brooklyn that Rav Moshe zt”l is c”v wrong, only that he was misled regarding certain facts. Does Rav Hirsch offer a better explanation why Rav Moshe stated that there are over a million people who come into Brooklyn to work or that both Boro Park and Flatbush contain a population of more than shishim ribo or that until then (1981) Brooklyn was not encompassed by mechitzos? We have yet to see better answers!!

While this critique is not the place for a full analysis of the shitas HaRashba (in a future post we will elaborate IY”H), we will just cite a few sources that will prove that Rav Hirsch is incorrect. There are some Rishonim who undoubtedly do not agree with the Rashba: Ran, Shabbos 6a; Ramban in Milchamos 6a, and Sefer Habattim, Sha’arei Issur Hotza’a 1:15 (see Kaf HaChaim, 345:35). These are some of the Achronim who clearly state that we don’t pasken like the Rashba: Ma’asas Binyomin, siman 92; She’eilas Yaavetz, siman 7; Ginas Veradim, 3:22; Mayim Rabim, siman 38; Birkei Yosef, 345:1; Bais Ephraim, siman 26; Bais Shlomo, siman 51; Tzemach Tzedek, Shabbos 6a; Maharsham, 1:162; Yeshuos Malko, siman 21, and Kaf HaChaim, 345:35. More so, the Achronim maintain that there is no real platya today either because our cities don’t have a central marketplace (Aruch HaShulchan, 345:22) or because our stores are indoors (Bais Av, 6:2). Consequently, even the Fulton Mall would not be classified as a platya. Additionally, even if there is a platya in Brooklyn, it is only prohibited to carry in the platya itself and not in the rest of the borough since we are excluding any platya in the tzuras hapesachim encompassing our neighborhood (Meiri, Shabbos 6a and Sefer Habattim, Sha’arei Issur Hotza’a 1:15).

Part VII

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Does the Eruv Encompass Shishim Ribo?

From Rav Moshe zt”l’s first teshuvah listed here [Fig. a] we see he maintained that if the tzuras hapesach encircled fewer than shishim ribo it is considered as if the tzuras hapesach separates the neighborhood from the whole city and an eruv is permissible. Additionally, both these teshuvos [Figs. a and b] demonstrate that Rav Moshe was led to believe that independently Boro Park and Flatbush have populations of shishim ribo and therefore an eruv of tzuras hapesachim was not permissible. Rav Moshe states that each one of these neighborhoods encompasses less than twelve mil by twelve mil and nevertheless they have more than shishim ribo. On the other hand Rav Moshe states that Brooklyn includes an area of more than twelve mil by twelve mil (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87-88). Consequently, these teshuvos must indicate that each neighborhood independently has shishim ribo and not just the whole of Brooklyn. Therefore, since the Boro Park and Flatbush eruv contain considerably less then shishim ribo inhabitants (approximately 100,000 and 200,000 respectively − NYC Department of City Planning, Community District Profiles, 2002) there is no reason according to Rav Moshe not to allow an eruv to be established (see also Brooklyn and Queens: Same or Different?).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Eruv Stories: “Sticks”… and Stones

The following story is about a pogrom in the town of Kalish, Poland in 1878. The rav of the town of Kalish at that time was Harav Chaim Elazar Wachs zt”l (1822-1889), the world renowned author of the Nefesh Chayah. He had been the rav of Tarnogrod from 1842 to 1862 and then was rav in Kalish until 1881; he then served as rav in Pietrkow in 1884. The account of the pogrom below appeared in Dos Kalisher Leben 2, July 29, 1927 (see facsimile below). This translation is from The Kalish Book, 1968. For further reading on Harav Chaim Elazar Wachs see Shem V’She'eris LeNefesh Chayah, 1961.


The Jubilee of the Eruv

The Story of a Pogrom

The eruv we have in our town is now all that it should be according to Jewish law and practice; and it is almost always in proper order. This is due to the watchful activities of three or four people who constitute a Committee for the purpose. But in the past the eruv led to bitter quarrel between Jews and Christians. On the Jubilee of the eruv, let us record what happened then.

Fifty years ago the Rabbi of Kalish was the scholarly gaon Reb Chaiam Elazar Wachs, who was honored and esteemed by all. One of the matters to which he devoted himself was the establishment of the eruv in town. Dozens of meetings were held in connection with this. Everybody wanted to help the Rabbi somehow in his holy task, but the poverty of the community caused the matter to be deferred for a very long time. However, at last the actual construction of the eruv began. The Rabbi himself supervised the execution. When no more pillars were available, the Rabbi called on the wood merchants who responded favorably.

Work continued for months. The eruv was stretched round the urban area as it then existed: From the “Rogatka” as it was then called, beside the Christian Hospital as far as the Bridges across the Stawiszin and Turek Streets. It was completed about Midsummer 1878.

In those days the Russian Authorities tried to frighten the Poles away from politics. Those, after all, were the years following the Second Polish Revolt. So they decided to exploit the eruv for their own base purposes.

Within a few days the rumor spread among the Polish population that the eruv was a piece of witchcraft. The rumor was spread by Russian agents. Reb Chaim Elazar Wachs, they claimed, had surrounded the whole city with an iron wire so as to bring the entire Christian population within the field of operation of the witchcraft. Oil was poured onto this fire of incitement against the Jews by the evidence of the wife of the Christian physician Remarkevitz, who claimed that she had seen Jews throwing stones at a passing Christen woman. The doctor’s wife was telling the truth, but this was a Russian provocation. The supposed Jew was a disguised Russian provocateur.

On Sunday, July 3rd, 1878, when the Christens went to Church, the priests delivered sermons of incitement against the Jews, particularly the Rabbi, and the eruv served as the excuse. When the Christens left the Church they proceeded to the Jewish Quarter in masses and began rioting.

They began thrashing every Jew who came their way; they pillaged Jewish property and wrought destruction in the Synagogue and Jewish Hospital. When they finished all this they gathered around the home of the Rabbi. Here, however, they met with the effective resistance of the House of Study students, headed by Tratel Green the Butcher. The crowds had to withdraw.

Three Jewish children were killed in these riots, while many grown-ups were injured defending life, limb and property. It was estimated that goods to a value of more than 100,000 rubles were looted and stolen.

The Russian Authorities in Kalish, who had planned and executed this fine piece of work, were very satisfied at the results, but concealed the whole incident from the knowledge of the Colonel of Hussars, who was a liberal and would undoubtedly have protested against the whole proceeding. And sure enough, as soon as he learned about the Pogrom he came to the town at the head of his Regiment and put an end to the dreadful game. At his order the Hussars placed many cheder children on their saddles to save them from the crazed crowds and fetch them to their homes.

Against their will the Russian Authorities had to approve of his actions and follow through in his humane measures. They imposed a fine of 120,000 rubles on the Christian population of Kalish and the vicinity.

However, the late Reb Chaim Elazar had to resign his rabbinical office in Kalish an account of the incident [note - this is incorrect, see below]. That was the beginning and the end of the Eruv Pogrom in Kalish fifty years ago.


Harav Chaim Elazar Wachs zt”l did not leave Kalish because of the pogrom, but about a year later. [The reason that he left Kalish is mentioned in Shem V’She'eris LeNefesh Chayah, p. 26.] This factual error in the jubilee article in the Dos Kalisher Leben is understandable since this misinformation was already published in the enlightened Jewish newspapers at the time such as the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, Berlin (July 16, 1878 number 29 p. 458) and HaMelitz (August 21, 1878 p. 124). The Maskilem took advantage of this opportunity to ridicule the Jewish custom of eruvin (more about this in a future post). News of the pogrom spread like wildfire and European newspaper accounts reached American shores. Inevitably, erroneous information was just repeated.

While Rabbi Samuel Myer Isaacs (1804-1878) founded the New York Jewish Messenger (1857-1902) to further the cause of traditional Judaism, his son Abram Samuel Isaacs (1853-1920) who was editor (from 1878 until 1902) at the time of our story was not so inclined (see for instance Halevanon, July 19, 1878 number 49 p. 389), and repeated this denigrating information about Harav Chaim Elazar Wachs zt”l in the Jewish Messenger August 2, 1878 (see below).

Monday, December 26, 2005

Like Whom Does the Rif Pasken – like Rav Yehudah or the Chachamim?

Some claim that the Bais Ephraim is incorrect when he states that the Rif could pasken like the Chachamim since some Rishonim (whose manuscripts have only been published in the last 150 years) clearly state the Rif paskens like Rav Yehudah (who paskens asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta). However, the reason that some Rishonim (Rashba, Ramban, and Rivash) maintain that the Rif paskens like Rav Yehudah, is not because the Rif quotes Rav Yochanan and therefore he must pasken like Rav Yehudah. These Rishonim maintain as such because they are of the opinion that according to the Chachamim a tzuras hapesach is considered shem daled mechitzos and therefore they uphold that the sugya in Eruvin, 6a can’t be according to the Chachamim, but only like Rav Yehudah. Since when the Rif quotes the sugya he states that a tzuras hapesach isn’t sufficient for a reshus harabbim, these Rishonim state that he paskens like Rav Yehudah. However the overwhelming majority of Rishonim whom pasken like the Chachamim maintain that a tzuras hapesach is not considered shem daled mechitzos (see Tosfas, Eruvin 6a; see The Overwhelming Majority of Rishonim Maintain Lo Asu Rabbim U’Mevatlei Mechitzta). Hence, the sugya according to the Rif can be in agreement with the Chachamim – as the Bais Ephraim elucidates – even though he quotes Rav Yochanan. Both the Ravyah (p. 270, 276) and HaEshkol (siman 64-65) quote Rav Yochanan and pasken like the Chachamim, which buttresses what the Bais Ephraim states is the p’shat in the Rif. [Regarding the first opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, the Rif, see The Shulchan Aruch Explained.]

More so, the Raved, Rabeinu Yonasan, Meiri (Eruvin 20, 22a) and even Rishonim like the Rashba (who quotes the Raved), Ran and Ramban (see Gaon Yaakov, Eruvin 6), who state that the Rif paskens like Rav Yehudah, maintain that if we have mechitzos that are omed merubeh al ha’parutz, even Rav Yehudah would agree that we pasken lo asu rabbim. (From this we see that the Bais Ephraim and the Chazon Ish were guided min hashomayim. They stated that only the Ritva explicitly states Yerushalyim was omed merubeh al ha’parutz and we pasken asu rabbim like Rav Yehudah which is not contadicted by any of the Rishonim discovered recently.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

History of City Eruvin − Part 1: The Eruv in Krakow


The Jewish Town in Kazimierz near Krakow

In 1495 all of Krakow Jewry was banished by the King of Poland, Jan I Olbracht, to a section of the town called Kazimierz, a municipality with its own charter that was right at the doorstep of Krakow and which, by 1340, was encompassed by its own defensive walls. In the first half of the 17th century, a wall demarcating the Jewish quarter from the Christian quarter was erected. When Poland was partitioned for the third time by it’s conquerors in 1795, after which it ceased to exist as a state, Krakow and its surrounding areas were annexed by Austria. By 1800, the town of Kazimierz was incorporated into the city of Krakow. Under the Hapsburg rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, between 1815 and 1846, Krakow was briefly a free city of its own. The ramparts and the dividing wall between the Jewish and the Christian quarters were torn down. By 1846, the Republic of Krakow ceased to function and Krakow became part of Austria once again. At that time, some Jews were permitted to live in the Christian sections of Kazimierz and some moved into other districts of Krakow particularly Stradom, which adjoined Kazimierz by a bridge. In 1867, the Austrian parliament allowed greater autonomy for Galicia, Krakow was emancipated, and Jews were finally given permission to settle in Krakow proper.

Included in Krakow’s illustrious history of the Chief Rabbinate was the Rama, who was Rabbi from 1550 until his passing in 1572; the Bach from 1618-1640, and the Tosfas Yom Tov, from 1643-1654. Rav Shimon Schreiber-Sofer (the youngest son of the Chasam Sofer) was Rav from 1861 until his passing in 1883, after which Krakow was not to have a Chief Rabbi for another sixteen years. After Rav Sofer’s passing, his son-in-law, Rav Akiva Kornitzer, was selected by the Chasidim of Krakow as Chief Rabbi. However, since the board in charge of selecting a Chief Rabbi wanted a more liberal candidate, Rav Kornitzer couldn’t garner enough votes and was given the title of Ravad and not Chief Rabbi (HaMagid, Jan 28, 1892, number 4; Krakow-Kazimyez-Krakov: Mehkarim BeToldos Yehude Krakov, p. 171, and Sefer Krakow Ir Ve’em BeYisrael, p. 107).

One of the other contenders for the post of Chief Rabbi had been Rav Chaim Libush Horowitz (1851-1904, author of Tikkun Eruvin and Chayei Aryeh) whom the Chasidim disliked since they considered him too liberal as he had opened a school in 1877 in Krakow which also taught non-Jewish subjects. Nevertheless Rav Horowitz was very popular with the baalei battim and, in 1888, he was elected a Dayan and Moreh Tzedek in Krakow (ibid., and Me’ore Galicia, vol. 2 p. 203). After Rav Kornitzer’s passing in 1892, there was controversy once again regarding the post of Chief Rabbi, until Rav Horowitz was finally elected in 1899 (ibid., HaMagid, April 20, 1899, number 15, and HaMitzpeh, November 25, 1904, number 33).

Prior to WWII, Krakow’s Jewish population of 65,000 (out of a general population of approximately 250,000) was the third largest in Poland, after Warsaw and Lodz. [For the most thorough history of Jewish Krakow from 1304-1868 see Majer Balaban, A History Of The Jews In Cracow And Kazimierz, reprinted in Hebrew in 2002. See also Encyklopedia Krakowa, 2000 p.211, regarding the fortification of Krakow.]

The First Krakow Eruv

In a proclamation that was published in Krakow in 1892, there was a testimonial to an eruv from the times of the Rama and the Bach. Since Jews were not able to live in the other parts of Krakow, they relied on the walls of the Jewish quarters of Kazimierz (see below the map from Majer Balaban’s book of the walled Jewish quarters in Kazimierz, circa 1809). According to a letter in HaMagid (December 22, 1887, number 49) and HaZefirah (December 23, 1887, number 274) these walls had gates that were closed on Shabbos to allow carrying. [Rav Menachem Mendel Krengel (1847-1930, author of Toras Eruvin, Pleitas Sofrim and Devash VeChalav), a Moreh Tzedek in Krakow wrote a letter to Rav Shmuel Salant (Toras Rabeinu Shmuel Salant, vol. 1, p. 82) stating that there was an eruv, of tzuras hapesachim in Krakow for more than three hundred years (see also Toras Eruvin, p. 51). However, it’s more probable, as stated above, that they relied on the walls of the Jewish quarters and possibly used tzuras hapesachim only when necessary.] This was all until the year 1846 when Krakow became part of Austria again. At that point the Jewish quarter, which consisted of only a few streets, was bursting at its seams and the government allowed some migration into the non-Jewish areas of Krakow. As the walls at this time were mostly dismantled, it was necessary to erect tzuras hapesachim to enclose the areas where the Jews lived (ibid., HaMagid and HaZefirah).


A map of the walled Jewish quarters in Kazimierz, Krakow (circa 1809). By default, the eruv was comprised of the walls surrounding the neighborhood.

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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Hundredth-Year Anniversary of the First Eruv in New York 1905-2005

A city eruv in New York, despite what some would like us to believe, is not a novel concept but part of a longstanding tradition with roots in our European heritage.

The first record of a discussion regarding eruvin in New York City [Manhattan] was in 1901 when the rabbanim Hagaon Harav Tzvi Yechezkel Michelzon zt”l, one of the main rabbanim of Warsaw, and Hagaon Harav Yosef Levenstein zt”l, Av Bais Din of Serotzk, agreed that halachically it was permissible to establish an eruv there (see Chavalim BaNe’imim, 3:17 and Tirosh VaYitzhar, siman 73).

In 1905, an eruv was established by Hagaon Harav Yehoshua Seigel zt”l, the Chief Rabbi of Kehilas Yisroel and one of the most noteworthy poskim of that era living in New York (Otzar Zichronasi, pp. 118, 352). At the time, Rav Seigel published a kuntres, Eruv V’Hotzaah, in which he established the halachic underpinning for an eruv in New York, guidelines that are still pertinent today. Members of the Polish and Galician communities in New York asked their rabbanim in Europe if it was permissible to utilize this eruv. These Gedolei HaPoskim the Brezaner Rav (Maharsham, 9:18), Stanislaver Rav (Harei B’samim, 5:73), Hagaon Harav Moshe Meisels zt”l, Av Bais Din Premishler (Eruv V’Hotzaah), and Hagaon Harav Moshe Nachum Yerushlimsky zt”l, Av Bais Din Kieltz (Eruv V’Hotzaah) answered with a resounding yes. Rav Seigel’s eruv only encompassed the Lower East Side, utilizing the natural riverbanks [mechitzos hayam] of Manhattan on three sides and on the fourth side, the Third Avenue El as a tzuras hapesach.

As the Jewish community migrated out of the Lower East Side, there was a growing need to enlarge the Manhattan eruv to encompass the whole Manhattan. In 1949, the Amshinover Rebbe zt"l urged Hagaon Harav Rav Tzvi Eisenstadt zt”l to establish an eruv that included the whole Manhattan. Rav Eisenstadt spent days investigating the Manhattan waterfront and concluded that it was bounded by man-made walls [mechitzos b’y’dai adam] and an eruv could be established (Minchas Tzvi, siman 4). There were many meetings and teshuvos written concerning this eruv, the culmination being that most rabbanim allowed an eruv in Manhattan. Along with Rav Eisenstadt, and the Amshinover Rebbe, the list included the Kapishnitzer Rebbe, Boyaner Rebbe, Novominsker Rebbe, Radziner Rebbe, Hagaon Harav Michoel Dov Weissmandel, Hagaon Harav Yonasan Steif, Hagaon Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Hagaon Harav Menachem Kasher, and the Shatzer Rebbe, zt”l. By 1960, even Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Henkin zt“l had signed onto the committee to establish an eruv (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 10; see also Kisvei Hagriah Henkin, p. 33 where he urges the rabbanim of the Bronx and Brooklyn to erect eruvin). In Iyar of 1962, an eruv was finally established under the supervision of the Shatzer Rebbe zt”l.

Monday, December 19, 2005

An Eruv in Karlin?

This historic document shows that there was an eruv established even in the city of Karlin where the Mishkenos Yaakov – who objected to the minhag of erecting eruvin in all cities and towns – was the rav. This document bears witness to the election of the mashgiach of the eruv, Rav Moshe Zev Wilk and it was signed by the Moreh D’Asra Hagaon Harav Dovid Friedman (zt”l, the author of She’eilas Dovid) together with 22 baalei battim on the Fourth of Kislev 1896 (see Part 2: Meoz U’Mekedem – Exploring the Historical Roots of the Machlokas Regarding Eruvin, note 30).

Yerushalayim of Old and Brooklyn: A Common Thread?

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, using Yerushalayim in the times of the Bais HaMikdash as his precedent (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 4:89, 5:28:15), maintained that an eruv should not be erected in Manhattan even if there is no halachic basis against establishing an eruv there. Rav Moshe maintained that an eruv was not erected in Yerushalayim in the times of the Bais HaMikdash because of the fear that people who traveled to Yerushalayim from all over the world would, upon returning home, erect eruvin improperly. [The Noda B’Yehudah, Mahadura Tinyana Kuntres Achron (siman 21) and the Tiferes Yisroel (Eruvin, 10:57) maintain that an eruv was allowed in Yerushalayim, however it was not possible to establish an eruv at the time.] Since Manhattan like Yerushalayim has many visitors from all over the world, Rav Moshe maintained an eruv should not be established in Manhattan as well. However, Rav Moshe agreed (HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9; Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan p. 161, and Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, siman 4) that if the rabbanim in Manhattan would erect an eruv, the precedent of Yerushalayim would not pose an obstacle. How much more so would Rav Moshe have allowed an eruv that had been erected in Brooklyn, as he was not sure if Brooklyn was even comparable to Yerushalayim at all (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:6, 5:28:15).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Eruvin: Whose Obligation

Just as it is the responsibility of each individual rav to insure that there be a kosher mikveh in his community, it is incumbent on each rav to erect an eruv as well (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos, 1:844; see also Chasam Sofer, O.C. 99). Even more so, the Chemdas Shlomo (p. 203) states that members of the community should establish an eruv. The obligation is theirs as well as the rav’s.

Eruv = Tzuras Hapesach

There are those who claim that the term eruv refers to eruvei chatzeiros and not to a tzuras hapesach. However the Gemara (Eruvin 6a) calls a tzuras hapesach an eruv; see also the Piskei Rid (Shabbos 6a) for further proof that the term eruv applies to both the physical construct and the brachah.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Requirement of Shishim Ribo: Is It Conditional on a City?

This teshuvah proves Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l knew that there were cities with populations exceeding shishim ribo (600,000) and nevertheless, eruvin had been erected there. Therefore he posited that like the diglei hamidbar there would need to be 3,000,000 people over an area of twelve mil by twelve mil in order for that area to be classified as a reshus harabbim. Consequentially, those that argue that shishim ribo as stated in the Shulchan Aruch is conditional of a city and not a street would have to answer the fact that there were cities that had a population of shishim ribo and nevertheless established eruvin.

The following large cities with populations of 600,000 erected eruvin: Warsaw, which was not walled from the year 1877 and which had shishim ribo on the larger side from the year 1900 (Mishmeres Sholom, 24:10; Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, pp. 42-43; Encyklopedia Warszawy, 1994 p. 187, and Rocznik Statystyczny Warszawy 1921 i 1922, 1924 p. 14; see also Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:5), Lodz (Mishmeres Sholom, 24:10 and Encyclopedia Judaica, 1996 vol. 11 p. 426), Odessa (Divrei Malkiel, 3:14-18, 4:3; Tikkun Shabbos, and Tuv Yehoshua), Manchester (introduction Bais Av vol. 2 and Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 vol. 17 p. 547), St. Louis (Tikvas Zechariah and Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 vol. 24 p. 24), and New York in 1905 (Oznei Yehoshua, 1:18; Tirosh VaYitzhar, siman 73; Eruv V’Hotzaah, and US Census, 1900).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Part 5: A Critical Analysis of Rav Yisroel Hirsch’s Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn

Continued from part IV

Page 5 comment 16:
“R’ Moshe (Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:94, 5:19) was not discussing the laws of eruvin and made mention of ששים רבוא only as it was tangentially pertinent. He therefore did not see a need to clarify its intricacies."

Rav Moshe zt”l permitted a blind women who resided in Boro Park to use a walking stick on Shabbos because today we rely on the fact that there is almost no true reshus harabbim (Kovetz Am HaTorah, 1986 no. 11; see Rav Moshe zt"l and the walking stick). Rav Moshe objected to an eruv in Brooklyn because he maintained that Brooklyn is a reshus harabbim but from this teshuvah we see that he maintained conclusively that Boro Park is not a reshus harabbim. Therefore, there is no reason why an eruv can’t be established.

Page 6 comment 18:
"I am unaware of the circumstances which surrounded the eruv in Paris. But the information provided herein proves, ostensibly, that the authors of this work are not better informed. No meaningful point can be extrapolated from this case until all its specifics are revealed."

There are many significant points that can be garnered from this Achiezer (4:8). The Achiezer clearly states that the situation in Paris was that there was more then shishim ribo traversing it’s streets (1936, population 2,829,746; Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968 vol. 17 p. 355). However, since there was mechitzos encompassing the city an eruv could be established. On the other hand there were many pirtzos in these mechitzos and some were even ten amos. The Achiezer then goes on to declare emphatically that we pasken lo asu rabbim and that pirtzos esser is only d’rabbanan. The situation in Brookyn is no different then Paris and the Achiezer would allow an eruv in Brooklyn as well.

Page 6 comment 20:
"There are no detractors of eruvin – a rabbinic precept promulgated by the court of Shlomo Ha’Melech. There are only those – as in this case – who feel that many cities do not meet the necessary conditions within which the construction of an eruv would be plausible."

Unfortunately there are detractors of eruvin. There are those who claim that an eruv negatively impacts the sanctity of the Shabbos by encouraging unbecoming behavior. These statements are in fact blanket statements against all eruvin and are proof that the anti-eruv campaign would like to uproot eruvin the world over. These arguments can be used against eruvin in both large and small cities and even eruvin in bungalow colonies, not just an eruv in Brooklyn. More so, why are there so many lies spread regarding eruvin ― such as the claim that Rav Henkin zt”l signed on the 1962 Manhattan kol korei or the fact that when they published vol. 8 of Igros Moshe they omitted the place of residence Boro Park ― if not that there are people who don’t believe in eruvin.

Page 6 comment 21:
"[What is stated in the kuntres that Rav Moshe zt”l maintained that a city requires five times shishim ribo] is inaccurate."

Rav Hirsch is mistaken (see Part 2: Shishim Ribo According to Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l).

Page 6 comment 22:
"[What is stated in the kuntres that Rav Moshe zt”l maintained that 12 mil by 12 mil is approximately 8.5 by 8.5 miles] is inaccurate."

Actually, Rav Moshe zt”l’s shiur for a amah was anywhere from 21 ¼ to 23 inches so 12 mil could be either more or less than 8.5 miles (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:136).

Page 6 comment 23:
"[What is stated in the kuntres that Rav Moshe zt”l was led to believe that a million people come into the borough to work] is inaccurate."

Rav Hirsch is incorrect. Rav Moshe zt”l states clearly (see the end of Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:88) that Brooklyn’s population is a little less then 3,000,000 and that together with the nearly one million people who come into the city to work, Brooklyn is definitely a reshus harabbim. Actually, Rav Moshe was misled; there is nowhere near one million people who work in Brooklyn. The approximate number according to NYC statistics is 236,000 people (NYC Department of City Planning, Table CTPP P-6, P-7, 2003).

Page 6 comment 24:
“R’ Moshe lived for 90 years and published 5 volumes of responsa without giving any (written) number for what would constitute ששים רבוא. It wasn’t until his very last volume of responsa that he suggested a general, but not absolute, number. The reason for this was simple. The determination of a mobile ששים רבוא is the product of an educated estimate, subject to fluctuating contingencies. What needs to be determined is: how many people must reside in a city for the human traffic to be 600,000? There is no fixed number! It depends on demographics, climate, the health of the inhabitants, and other factors. Even before giving a general numerical range, R’ Moshe says this explicitly: “It would seem as probable that not all cities are equal in this matter” (Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:87). However, in that very responsum, he does formulates the ratio of inhabitants to traffic as 4:1 or 5:1. This translates precisely to 2,400,000-3,000,000….”

If one were to study all of Rav Moshe zt”l’s teshuvos where he discuses his chiddush in shishim ribo he will see that it evolved incrementally. Therefore, if Rav Hirsch admits that Rav Moshe in the end does formulate a general ratio for shishim ribo, why didn’t Rav Hirsch mentioned the last two teshuvos (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:5, 5:29) where Rav Moshe clearly codified his chiddush in shishim ribo that the requirement is 3,000,000 people (see Part 1: Shishim Ribo According to Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l)? Additionally, Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita would not agree with Rav Hirsch. Rav Dovid maintained that his father’s shita in shishim ribo was that it necessitated a population of 3,000,000 (West Rogers Park Eruv, 1993 p. 23) and therefore Rav Dovid allowed an eruv in Chicago.

Part VI

Friday, December 09, 2005

Eruv Stories: A Burning Issue

The history of city eruvin has many fascinating aspects to it. What follows is a truly amazing story about Harav Mordechai Benet zt"l (1753-1829), a world renowned posek who was Chief Rabbi of Moravia from 1790 until his passing. Harav Mordechai Benet authored many seforim including Gedulas Mordechai, Mharam Benet, Magen Avos, and Parshas Mordechai. For further reading on Harav Mordechai Benet see Pe’er Mordechai by Ruven Faerber, 1951.

Der Eruw

A Cabalistic Legend from Nikolsburg

By Dr. Berthold Huller

[The German original, here translated by Mark Tritsch, appeared in Hickl's illustrierter Jüdischer Volkskalendar, 1926/27, Brünn, a few years after the last great fire in Nikolsburg]

As the centuries old roofs of Nikolsburg burned like dry tinder during the fire catastrophe still all too fresh in everyone's memory, there was one house, covered with wooden tiles like all the others, that remained quite unaffected. It really seemed like a miracle, and people could only shake their heads in wonder...

Now, that house stood in the Quergasse, at the point where people used to pass from the Jewish into the Christian town, and there is a wonderful legend connected with it which deserves to be brought back out of the mists of time and reawakened to new life. It involves none other than the famous Cabalist Mordechai Benett, who was Moravian Chief Rabbi at the time of which this story tells, and whose memory is garlanded with many charming tales and legends. He must have been a quite extraordinary man, part scholar and part mystic. He died in Lichtenstadt near Karlsbad where he was taking the waters, and lies buried in Nikolsburg. A massive gravestone there reminds later generations of his fame.

Once upon a time, the Jewish community decided that it wanted to set up an eruw at the house on the Quergasse which is the subject of this tale. An eruw was a special chain, intended to remind the pious of how far they were permitted to go abroad on a Saturday without infringing the law of the Sabbath. However, the plan could not be carried out because the owner of the house, the honorable master butcher Topolanski, a Christian, stubbornly refused to allow the chain to be set up. This was not so much due to any scruples of his own as because of his neighbors, who objected to the presence of this symbol of an alien belief in their proximity.

The governor of the town, to whom both parties appealed for arbitration, decided in favor of the house owner. After that, there was only one person who could still help, and that was Mordechai Benett, who was the object of almost idolizing veneration by both Jews and Christians and whose judgment was accepted unconditionally by all.

As a deputation of the community elders entered his study, Benett sat bent over an enormous folio deep in thought. Becoming aware of their presence, he asked curtly in his usual manner what they wanted. Hearing the litany of complaints which now poured forth over the villainy of Master Topolanski, he answered again in the same taciturn way, assuring his listeners that he would soon attend to solving the problem...

And indeed the next day saw this tall, patriarchal figure making his lonely way through the streets and alleys of Jewish Nikolsburg, on his head the imposing bearskin hat, in his hand the staff of ivory.

Master Topolanski was sitting in front of his house relaxing and smoking his pipe, after completing the day's work. As he saw the Rabbi coming, he rose and went a few steps towards him. After all, it was a great distinction when this famous man paid him the honor of a visit! Mordechai Benett explained in his brief manner the reason for his coming. Master Topolanski responded with a bewildered shaking of his head and a torrent of objections: he himself was "not an enemy of the Jews", but "the wicked neighbors will complain" and he "wanted to live in peace with all". And anyway, the authorities had decided against the whole thing, he added.

The Rabbi listened quietly then replied: "As the authorities have decided in your favor, no-one can make any complaint against you or force you to comply with any wish of mine. But pay heed to the words of a man who has already seen eighty years sweep over this wretched earth. The justice of men is a fairground comedy. Enthroned above us all there is a supreme judge, for whom these childish games are at most the cause of a weary smile. Indeed all the different religious confessions, which divide pitiable humans against each other and fill them with blind hatred for one another, are his children, all equally dear and valued in his fatherly heart. And so you need not be afraid of complying with my request. Your God will not be angry as a result. And furthermore, you and your descendants will be richly rewarded: I shall utter a blessing on your house which will for all time protect it from fire". The deep earnest with which Mordechai spoke and his flashing eyes made the greatest impression upon the Master. He had heard too many wondrous things of the Rabbi, not to believe him now...

After a moment's silence he agreed to comply with the request and some days later the eruw was set up. And what Benett had promised came true. When a terrible fire destroyed much of Nikolsburg in the 1830s, that house was protected from the flames. Time and again since then fire has broken out and destroyed part of the ancient town! In the year 1866, as the Prussians occupied Nikolsburg and Bismarck negotiated peace with Austria there... In the seventies and eighties of the nineteenth century... And so on decade after decade! In the confusion of flames, smoke and rubble that so often fell on Nikolsburg, that house always remained unaffected. And once again during the last fire, the biggest ever in Nikolsburg, the flames seemed to be brought to a halt before they reached that house, as if by some unimaginable sorcery.

Today, people come from far and wide to see this great wonder with their own eyes. For the calm rationalist it may be just a case of so many coincidences, but for one trembling before the mysteries of life it seems to be one more proof that much more lies between heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in our dry school wisdom...

This photograph of the house in the preceding story was printed in Hickl's illustrierter Jüdischer Volkskalendar, 1926/27. According to Mark Tritsch the house was demolished during the communist era. In a related vein, after a fire consumed a house in Siget the Yatev Lev of Siget declared that the cause was because there was no eruv there. He then went on to guarantee that those who establish an eruv would be protected from all harm (Gedulas Yehoshua; see Pinini HaMaor, 3 p. 273 regarding the Chasam Sofer).


The following letter by the Dayan of Nikolsburg Harav Moshe Lieb Cohen zt”l (niftar 1890) is another mention of the Nikolsburg story and was published in Kovetz Kerem Shlomo, 1998.

ברכת צדיק עושה רושם

ניקלשבורג שנת תרל"ד לפ"ק

בעזה"י ניקאלסבורג יום א' י"ב מרחשון תרל"ד

ת"ר מה שלחו בני לשכת הגזית לחוני המעגל, ותגזר אומר ויקם לך, אתה גזרת מלמטה והקב"ה מקיים מאמריך מלמעלה (תענית כ"ג ע"א).

על דברי אמת במאמר הזה נתעוררנו, בראותנו פה עדתינו מעשי ה' ונפלאותיו. – שלשום בנטות צללי ערב, ובא העת הגיע היום שבת קודש לה', והנה פתע פתאום גדלה צעקת אנשי העיר גם רבה, כי אש אלקים נפלה משמים ותבער בית איש נוצרי ברחוב היהודים.בעזרת ה' עושה גדולות ונפלאות, טרם בא הכנסת כלה, כבר אש אבדון כלה, ונאום האדון ה' צבאות למשרתיו אש לוהט: עד פה תבא ולא תוסיף.

אכן כל עין רואה כן יתמה וישתומם על המראה ואין מבין, כי קרוב הבית מאוד אל בית שכנו הנוצרי עד אפס מקום, וחצר א' לשניהם, והנה כידודי אש יתמלטו מפה ומפה, וגדרות צאן של שכנו מחופות בתבן ובחציר יבש, נצבות מבלי נזק מאומה, הלא זה אוד מצל מאש. – וכולם פה אחד השיבו מלים: אין זה כי אם ברכת צדיק וטוב עליו תבא, ולא לבד מאחינו בני ישראל נשמע כן, אף גם בגוים אומרים ככה.

והמעשה אשר נעשה, היא ממעשה תוקפו וגבורתו ופרשת גדולת מרדכי. – בעת אשר האיש מרדכי גדול ליהודים הי' רועה עדתנו, ה"ה אמ"ו הרב הגאון קדוש ישראל מ' מרדכי בנעט זצוק"ל זי"ע, קרה כי הנוצרי (אדון הבית הניצל) לא אבה להציג מוטה העירוב אצל חומת ביתו, ולדברים רבים דברים טובים ונכוחים, אזניו הכביד משמוע, ונתן כתף סוררת, לכל לשון מדברת, עד כי נקרא אל מורנו הרב הגאון הנ"ל, והוא הבטיחו על משענת הקנה אם יסמך אל ביתו, ישא ברכה מאת ה', כי לא תשלוט בו אש להבה. וכשמוע את הברכה הזאת חרד לבו והטה אזנו לשמוע בקול דברי איש האלקים הזה, ועד היום הזה מוצב ארצה.

והנה אנכי יודע ועד, כי לא א' ולא פעמים שמעתי מאדון הבית הזה קמוט בכלחו משבח ומפאר עצמו בברכה הזאת, כי תצא אש ונאכל הגדיש, תמיד תהלתו בפיו לאמר: "איך פירכטע ניכט, איך האבע פאן דעם הייליגען מאנן איינען זעגען בעקאממען" (אני לא אירא רע, יען הברכה היא לי מאת איש אלקים הקדוש), וגדול הי' כבוד הבית הזה גם בפעם הזאת בעיני כל רואיו, באמרם כאשר גזר הצדיק והקדוש, כן קם הבית הזה לבעליו, ועל זה נאמר מן החכם שבחכמים, "זכר צדיק לברכה" – ואנכי אומר "אמן כן יעשה וכן יקום ה' לנצח"...

משה ליב כהן דיין דק"ק הנ"ל

(הובא בקובץ כרם שלמה שנה כ"א קונט' ו' אייר-סיון תשנ"ח)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Part 2: Shishim Ribo According to Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l

In Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s final two teshuvos about eruvin we see that he codified his chiddush; in order for a city to be classified as a reshus harabbim of shishim ribo, the requirement is at least five times shishim ribo which could amount to 3,000,000 or more people. Consequently, in the Chicago eruv pamphlet (West Rogers Park Eruv, 1993 p. 23) it is stated that Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita was in agreement that according to his father’s shitah there must be a minimum of 3,000,000 people in order for the city to be defined as a reshus harabbim. Since the population of Brooklyn is less than 3,000,000, an eruv of tzuras hapesachim would be allowed even according to Rav Moshe zt”l (see also Part 1: Shishim Ribo According to Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Part 1: Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim

Since the streets of our community do not run straight from one end of the city to the other ― they are not mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar.

Most poskim use the term mefulash m’shaar l’shaar without differentiating between a walled city and an open city (see also Mefulash According to the Shulchan Aruch). Since this is a very important distinction and has a great impact in how we apply the criterion of mefulash, we can garner from this omission that there is no difference halachically whether or not the city is walled.

The following is a partial list of poskim who are clearly not referring to a walled city:

  • The Mishnah Berurah (364:8), when describing the cities of his times, stated that there were streets that were sixteen amos wide and mefulash m’shaar l’shaar. Therefore, a Baal Nefesh should be stringent since to erect an eruv in these cities they had to rely on the fact that the street did not have shishim ribo traversing it. As we know that most towns in his times were not walled ― even in earlier times most cities were not walled, Pri Megadim (Mishbetzes Zahav 362:17) ― we can deduce that he accepted the criterion of mefulash as not being dependent on a walled city.
  • The Divrei Malkiel (4:3) states that to find a street in a large city which is mefulash, open from one end of the city to the other, is unheard of and that is why the minhag is to erect eruvin even in the largest of cities. He wrote this teshuvah regarding Odessa, a city that was not walled.
  • Rav Shlomo Dovid Kahane zt”l (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, pp. 42-43), one of the main rabbanim of Warsaw before World War II, posited that the heter to erect an eruv in a large city such as Warsaw, which was not walled from the year 1877 (Encyklopedia Warszawy, 1994 p. 187), was universally accepted as the streets were not mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar. More so, he claimed, a small city would have a greater problem establishing an eruv since its streets would be mefulash. In a small city there is usually one main street running straight through the center of the town as opposed to a large city where the streets are generally not straight from city gate to city gate.
It is important to note that Rav Moshe zt”l (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:7) disagreed with the above poskim and maintained mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar is a criterion that can only be utilized in a walled city. However, since we have established that Brooklyn is a walled city ― because it is circumscribed on three sides by mechitzos ― Rav Moshe would agree that our streets have to be mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar in order to be classified as a reshus harabbim.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mefulash According to Most Poskim

Most poskim understand mefulash m’shaar l’shaar as meaning mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, open and running straight from city gate to city gate (Bais Yosef, 345:8; Magen Avraham, 345:6; Pri Megadim, Aishel Avraham, 364: 2; Bais Ephraim, O.C. 26; Tiferes Yisroel, introduction to Shabbos; U’Bacharta B’Chaim, siman 123; Shoel U’Maishiv, 2:87; Yehudah Yaleh, O.C. siman 54; Mahari Slutsk, O.C. siman 11; Minchas Elazar, 3:4, and Mishnah Berurah, 345:20). Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l states (Mishnas Rav Aharon, 6:2), that for a street to be classified as a reshus harabbim it is accepted that it would have to be mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar ― although he personally maintains that it is dependent on a walled city.

Part 4: A Critical Analysis of Rav Yisroel Hirsch’s Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn

Continued from part III

Page 5 comment 12:
“We have already mentioned R’ Ahron’s position (comment 10) that מכוון is not a necessary condition. R’ Moshe raised objections similar to R’ Ahron’s and arrived at the same conclusion. This is all explicitly stated in Iggeros Moshe (Orach Chaim 1:140).”

This is incorrect, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l maintains that mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar is a criterion of a reshus harabbim; however, he is of the opinion that it’s only a condition of a walled city (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:7, 1981). He posits that in the diglei hamidbar, the encampment was circumscribed by the ananei hakavod, which served as mechitzos. This is in contrast with Rav Aharon zt”l who maintained that mefulash u’mechuvanim is dependent solely on mechitzos and is not a criterion of a reshus harabbim. Actually, the teshuvah (ibid., 1:140, 1952) that Rav Hirsch cites is Rav Moshe’s first teshuvah regarding mefulash and there he states that he is not clear about the criterion of mefulash at all. Only in the aforementioned 1981 teshuvah (ibid., 5:28:7) does he clarify that he understands the criterion of mefulash u’mechuvanim as being dependent on a walled city. Rav Hirsch cites the earlier teshuvah which doesn’t mention a word about mefulash u’mechuvanim being conditional only of a walled city and fails to note the last teshuvah from vol. 8 (ibid., 5:28:7) where Rav moshe formulated his chiddush in mefulash probably because he questions the veracity of this volume.

Page 5 comment 13:
“That there are those who disagree with R’ Moshe is beside the point. What is important is that R’ Moshe disagreed with them! This means that even after knowing the מ"ב etc., R’ Moshe when considering New York City still upheld his own p’sak. Why shouldn’t we? Especially since halacha ke’basrai.”

To begin with Rav Moshe zt”l in his teshuvah to the rabbanim of Flatbush (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87) didn’t want to issue a p’sak since he realized that the Achronim didn’t agree with him. So how could one demand of others that they must follow Rav Moshe’s p’sak. Furthermore, many rabbanim who allow an eruv today do not agree with Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin (e.g. Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher zt”l in Even Yisroel, 8:36; Rav Shmuel Wosner shlita in Shevet HaLevi, 6:41; and all the rabbanim that signed in support of the Boro Park eruv) so if the halacha is ke’basrai we can rely on these rabbanim. [Particularly since they all know Rav Moshe’s shitos; see Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat siman 25.] Additionally, there is an overarching flaw in Rav Hirsch critique. The kuntres Eruvin in Brooklyn was organized into many sections, the first ones dedicated to the way most poskim pasken and the latter sections dedicated to the way Rav Moshe paskens. It’s clear from the kuntres that there are those who believe that Rav Moshe would allow an eruv in Brooklyn today. In fact Rav Tuvia Goldstein zt”l maintained that nowadays Rav Moshe would allow a Brooklyn eruv.

Page 5 comment 14:
“This information is incorrect. The approximate populations of Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak is in excess of 650,000 and 200,000 respectively (although unverified).”

If Rav Hirsch admits that Yerushalayim’s population is greater than shishim ribo then, according to those who claim that shishim ribo is conditional on a city and not a street, why are they allowed to establish eruvin there? Additionally, the kuntres is talking about, “Bnai Brak and all its connected neighborhoods,” the Gush Dan where the population is well over a million people.

Page 5 comment 15:
“This is untrue. R’ Moshe never said that they “could do as they saw fit”. In fact, he was dissatisfied and unhappy about the whole idea. What he did say was that, since his position was not mentioned by the early achronim and was contrary to the Aruch Ha’Shulchan, that he could not give forth a “definite opinion” on the matter. Meaning that he would not come out against them.”

Nowhere in Rav Moshe zt”l’s words do we see that, “he was dissatisfied and unhappy about the whole idea.” On the contrary Rav Moshe clearly stated that he didn’t want to be involved with the issue of Brooklyn eruvin at all (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87). Therefore, this is pure conjecture on Rav Hirsch’s part. More so, Rav Moshe zt”l told Rav Tuvia Goldstein zt”l ― after the 1979 kol korei was published ― that, not withstanding his opinion of the matter, if the rabbanim of Flatbush wanted to erect an eruv they could do as they saw fit. It’s important to note as well that Rav Hirsch would have to admit that Rav Moshe couldn’t have signed the 1979 Flatbush kol korei since Rav Hirsch admits that what Rav Moshe meant when addressing the rabbanim of Flatbush was that, “he would not come out against them.”

Part V

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shishim Ribo According to the Shulchan Aruch

The text of the Shulchan Aruch reads:
“What is a reshus harabbim? A street or marketplace that is sixteen amos wide, … and there are those who say that if it [the street or marketplace] does not have 600,000 people traversing it daily, it is not a reshus harabbim.”

Rashi is the original source of this criterion that the street requires shishim ribo traversing it in order that it be classified as a reshus harabbim, and not all of the Rishonim are in agreement with him. [The Bais Av (2:5:2) brings proof that the majority of Rishonim accepts shishim ribo as a fundament of a reshus harabbim (see also Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, perek 17, note 21 and Toldos Shmuel, 3:86:8).] Since there is no unified opinion among the Rishonim, when the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 345:7) mentions the criterion that the street requires shishim ribo it prefaces it with a qualifier, “vyeish oimrim,” there are those who say. Nevertheless, nearly all of the Achronim consider the criterion of shishim ribo an accepted fundament of a reshus harabbim (Taz, 345:6 and Magen Avraham, 345:7). The Aruch HaShulchan (Choshen Mishpat 162:1) maintains that shishim ribo is an accepted fundament to the extent that if one does not want to join his neighbors in their eruv chatzeiros because he wants to be stringent and not rely on the criterion of shishim ribo, his neighbors can compel him to join them.

However, since some of the Rishonim do not accept shishim ribo as a requirement for a reshus harabbim, there is a difference of opinions among the Achronim whether or not a Baal Nefesh should adopt the stringent position if there is no shishim ribo present. Most Achronim mention the requirement of shishim ribo traversing the street without stating that a Baal Nefesh should adopt the stringent position. This omission signals that the requirement of shishim ribo traversing the street is an accepted fundament in the laws of reshus harabbim and even a Baal Nefesh can rely on it. Additionally, some Achronim state that once we utilize a tzuras hapesach for a street that is sixteen amos wide it is accepted that a Baal Nefesh could rely on the fact that the street does not have shishim ribo traversing it (Kanah V’Kanamon, 5:56; Livush Mordechai, 4:4, and Bais Av, 2:9:3). Other Achronim maintain that a Baal Nefesh should adopt the stringent position and not rely on the fact that the street does not have shishim ribo traversing it. However, that is only where the sole basis for leniency is that the streets are lacking shishim ribo (Mishnah Berurah, 364:8).

It is important to recognize that when considering the basis for leniency there are two levels: a fundamental factor in the din of reshus harabbim such as mefulash or mechitzos and a tzad l’heter such as using questionable mechitzos. The Mishnah Berurah (Bi’ur Halachah, 345:23), quoting the Elya Rabah, states that even in conjunction with a tzad l’heter, a Baal Nefesh can be lenient and rely on the fact that the street does not have shishim ribo traversing it. How much more so, if we were relying on fundamental mitigating factors like the streets not being mefulash and the area having mechitzos, there is no doubt that the Mishnah Berurah ― and all the other poskim as well ― would agree that a Baal Nefesh could be lenient and utilize an eruv of tzuras hapesachim, since we have not met all the requirements of a reshus harabbim.

It should be noted that had the Mishnah Berurah (345:23) seen the Bais Ephraim (O.C. 26) in conjunction with the Mishkenos Yaakov (O.C. 120-122), there is a possibility he would have paskened like the Bais Ephraim that shishim ribo is an accepted fundament of a reshus harabbim, and he would have agreed that even a Baal Nefesh could be lenient and rely on the fact that the streets are lacking shishim ribo. See Bi’ur Halachah (208:9, s.v. Eino M’Vorech), where he states that he does not have the sefer Bais Ephraim (see also Toldos Shmuel, 3:81:7, 3:86:8; Bais Av, 2:5:2; Divrei Yatziv 2:173:1, and Even Yisroel, 8:36).

It is significant to note that Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l considered the criterion of shishim ribo an accepted fundament of a reshus harabbim (Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:94, 5:19, 5:24:10; see Part 1: Shishim Ribo According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l); however, he had chiddushim in how to apply it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l’s Reluctance to Pasken Against the Establishment of an Eruv

Interestingly, of all the instances where Rav Moshe zt”l was asked for a p’sak, eruvin is probably the only issue where he did not want to prohibit something solely on the basis of his own chiddush. The only actual p’sak regarding eruvin issued by Rav Moshe were those in favor of erecting an eruv, in communities such as Sea Gate, Kew Gardens Hills and Detroit (Igros Moshe, O.C. 2:89-90, 4:86, 5:29). Yet in instances when he personally was against the establishment of an eruv and he was asked for a p’sak on the matter such as in Flatbush, Rav Moshe not only avoided giving a p’sak he even declined to state his personal conviction (ibid., 4:87; see below). He just said, “I do not want to join you in this matter, because there are many opinions on this topic, as we see in the Shulchan Aruch.” It is along this same line of reasoning that Rav Moshe zt”l told Hagaon Rav Tuvia Goldstein zt”l ― even after the 1979 Flatbush kol korei was published ― that, not withstanding his opinion of the matter, if the rabbanim of Flatbush wanted to erect an eruv they could do as they saw fit.

However, at the time there was a misunderstanding concerning Rav Moshe’s personal conviction and some people mistakenly supposed that he was even in support of an eruv; hence Rav Moshe’s two teshuvos clarifying his opinion (ibid., 4:87-88). Even when clarifying his position, which he considered to be “l’dinah,” Rav Moshe did not want to issue a p’sak since, as he wrote, his chiddush was not mentioned in the Achronim, and moreover the Aruch HaShulchan would not agree with him. It is important to note that both these teshuvos (ibid.) were written to the same people and the second one was just a clarification of the first and was not written as a p’sak to prohibit the eruv. In the first teshuvah (ibid., 4:87) Rav Moshe explained his chiddush that in order for there to be shishim ribo traversing the streets over a twelve mil by twelve mil area there would need to be about 3,000,000 people living in the area. However after Rav Moshe was told that there were fewer than 3,000,000 people living in Brooklyn, he expounded on his chiddush in the second teshuvah and added that he would not be in favor of an eruv in a big city since some may think that there was shishim ribo traversing the streets (ibid., 4:88; see Three Million: More or Less?). In both instances, “l’dinah” refers to Rav Moshe’s personal opinion.

Concerning the Boro Park eruv, a similar sequence of events occurred when Hagaon Rav Menashe Klein shlita asked Rav Moshe to issue a p’sak whether he could erect an eruv. Rav Moshe answered that he could do as he saw fit (Oim Ani Chomah, p. 266). Just as in Flatbush, this was misunderstood to mean that Rav Moshe would support an eruv. Therefore, Rav Moshe felt a need to clarify his personal opinion on this matter (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:20). In both Boro Park and Flatbush, Rav Moshe’s teshuvos were written in reaction to the public’s misunderstanding of his personal opinion regarding eruvin and not as a p’sak. [Concerning Rav Moshe’s signature on the 1979 kol korei which prohibited the Flatbush eruv, see The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed.]

On the other hand, when Rav Tzvi Eisenstadt zt”l asked the rabbanim of Manhattan for their opinions ― as opposed to their p’sak ― concerning erecting an eruv, Rav Moshe answered that in his personal opinion they should not establish an eruv (see the beginning of Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:138 which is the beginning of the Manhattan teshuvah 1:139). When Rav Moshe was asked if the rabbanim of Manhattan have a right to erect an eruv he answered that they could do as they saw fit (ibid., 4:89 and HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9). This is exactly what Rav Moshe told Rav Menachem M. Kasher zt”l, “even though I will not join you, you should go finish what you started [and establish the eruv]” (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, introduction). Only when Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l and other Roshei Yeshivos made a takanah not to erect an eruv in Manhattan did Rav Moshe join them and prohibit the eruv as well (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:86 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89) ― this takanah was only about Manhattan and not Brooklyn; see The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed. Even when Rav Moshe signed on the 1962 takanah with Rav Aharon Kotler we see that he was not at ease with the language which stated that, “those who rely on the eruv in Manhattan are considered a mechalel Shabbos,” since after he quoted this takanah in his teshuvah, he omitted this last line (ibid., Addendum to O.C. 4:89).

Given that Rav Moshe, despite his personal convictions, never issued a p’sak for others against erecting eruvin we can possibly understand why Rav Moshe stated (ibid., 3:94, 5:19, 5:24:10) that we rely on the heter of shishim ribo in all cities ― even Brooklyn and Manhattan ― since he did not want to employ his chiddush as a p’sak (see also Rav Moshe zt"l and the Walking Stick).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Part 3: A Critical Analysis of Rav Yisroel Hirsch’s Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn

Continued from part II

Page 4 comment 7:
“The true nature of this work is now clearly exhibited. A sniff l’heter? We are dealing here with a s’fek d’oraysoh which is always l’chumrah! And not just any d’oraysoh, but one of chillul Shabbos! If this alone was the objection to the eruv it would be more than sufficient grounds for opposition! Note that although it is not here reveled, R’ Moshe Feinstein objected to all these points. For instance, the point that streets are made for cars and not people, and therefore are not a legal part of a רה"ר, is complete nonsense! Chance a guess at who in fact is driving these cars, Monkeys, baboons, orangutans – of course, people! Failure to disclose to the reader R’ Moshe’s opposition is an act of dishonesty.”

As stated in Eruvin in Brooklyn (p. 15) there are three primary reasons why Brooklyn is not a reshus harabbim. This sniff l’heter is only noted in a footnote and is not included in the three fundamental reasons to allow an eruv in Brooklyn. Therefore to say, “The true nature of this work is now clearly exhibited,” is extraneous to say the least. Additionally, this is the way most teshuvos are written; after the main points are expounded on the poskim will usually add that we can also include a sniff l’heter. Regarding the subject of who is driving the cars, Rav Hirsch is conflating two issues. This is what’s stated in the kuntres, “Since the streets are designated for cars, the streets and the sidewalks on either side of the street are not considered connected to form one continuous 16 amos (Tikvas Zechariah, p. 40; Divrei Yatziv, O.C. 2:172:13 see also Oim Ani Chomah, siman 63).” The kuntres is not referring to whether or not we include the occupants of the vehicles in the tally of shishim ribo only if streets and the sidewalks on either side are considered as one contiguous sixteen amos. Even regarding the subject of tallying the occupants of vehicles, what many don’t realize is that most poskim maintain that the occupants of cars would not be tallied in the shishim ribo (Bais Ephraim, O.C. 26; Maharsham, 1:162; Yeshuos Malko, siman 26-27; Harei B’samim, 5:73; Bais Av, 2:9:3; Mahari Stief, siman 68; Satmar Rav, Kuntres Meoz U’Mekedem p. 27; Divrei Yatziv, 2:172:13; V’yaan Yoseph, 1:155:1; Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan, siman 12 p. 105; Kinyan Torah, 4:40:6, and Rabbi Eliezer Y. Waldenberg shlita, author of the Tzitz Eliezer, as cited in The Contemporary Eruv, 1998 p. 54 note 119). The reason is either because a vehicle in itself is considered a reshus hayachid and therefore its occupants are not part of the total or because we only include pedestrians (holchei regel) who traverse the street in the tally. This list is indicative of whom Rav Hirsch considers to be uttering, “complete nonsense.” The kuntres dedicates many pages to Rav Moshe’s shitos but definitely does not claim to quote all of them. Particularly when the kuntres is only using this issue as a snif it doesn’t have to quote others.

Page 4 comment 8-9:
“There is a fundamental distinction between a street that is itself covered, and a street that at random juncture is bisected above its air-space, creating a covered area. The former is not דומה לדמ"ד and would therefore be invalidated as a ר"הר דאורייתא. The latter, on the other hand, would not.”

Rav Hirsch is conflating mikorah [roofed] with mefulash [open]. For any part of a street to be classified as mikorah only the area that is roofed would be considered as such. Rav Moshe adds (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:140) that a street, which is bisected by a roofed roadway even if it’s not along its entire length, it would not be classified as mefulash. [However, according to Rav Moshe, a roofed area does not divide the tally of shishim ribo into separate parts of less than shishim ribo (ibid., 5:28:20).]

Page 4 comment 10:
“This is perhaps the most blatantly inaccurate statement in this entire booklet, the result of either outright deception or intellectual dishonesty. R’ Ahron does indeed quote the מג"א who maintains such a position, but devotes much energy and considerable time to refuting its halachic accuracy. … This point [of mefulash] was an absolutely integral component of R’ Ahron’s halachic synthesis upon which he assured (אסור) an eruv for New York City.”

This is what is stated in the kuntres: The Magen Avraham, (345:6) understands mefulash me’shar le’shar as meaning mefulashim u’mechuvanim [straight] me’shar le’shar, straight in an uninterrupted line from city gate to city gate. The poskim concur (Bais Yosef, 345:8; Prei Megadim, Aishel Avraham, 364: 2; Bais Ephraim, O.C. 26; Tiferes Yisroel, in his introduction to Meseches Shabbos; U’Bacharta B’Chiam, siman 123; Shoel U’Maishiv, 2:87; Yehuda Yaleh, O.C. siman 54; Mahari Slutsk, O.C. siman 11; Minchas Eliezer, 3:4; Mishna Berura, 345:20; see also Misnhas Rav Ahron, 6:2, where Rav Ahron Kotler zt”l states, that it’s accepted that for a street to be a reshus ha’rabbim it has to be mefulashim u’mechuvanim me’shar le’shar). While Rav Aharon does not agree with the aforementioned poskim (note that he was not included in the list of those who pasken as such) he admits that it was accepted that a street has to be mefulashim u’mechuvanim me’shar le’shar in order to be classified as a reshus harabbim. That’s all that was stated in the kuntres. Additionally, Rav Hirsch is mistaken; Rav Aharon never wrote a teshuvah regarding Manhattan (see Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 16).

Page 5 comment 11:
“The requirement of [600,000 people traversing] “daily” is not in accordance with R’ Moshe’s own view. He was of the opinion that since the Poskim who stipulate the requirement of ששים רבוא, i.e. Rashi, Tosafos, Rosh, etc., do not mention “daily”, it is not a necessary condition. Even ששים רבוא over a few days a year would be enough. Even if there is not ששים רבוא at one time but as a sum total of the days’ traffic. But he concedes that, possibly, one may disagree with him and uphold a contrary position that would admit leniency on this point.

This is incorrect. Rav Moshe zt”l maintains that according to the Shulchan Aruch’s shita, the requirement is daily (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 4:87-88, 5:28:16). Rav Moshe explained that the Shulchan Aruch is referring to a sratya which requires that the shishim ribo traverse it daily in order that it be classified as a reshus harabbim. This is as opposed to a city (a twelve mil by twelve mil area) where he posits that if there is a population of 3,000,000 it would support shishim ribo in its streets and then the city would be classified as a reshus harabbim. Additionally, Rav Hirsch’s statement that, “Even ששים רבוא over a few days a year would be enough,” is misleading since we can infer from these words that the shishim ribo can be tallied collectively over a few days when in fact Rav Moshe clearly maintains that the shishim ribo must be over one day. Rav Moshe just questioned (ibid., 4:88) if the requirement is every day of the year or would a single day suffice. More so, Rav Hirsch is misinterpreting this aforementioned teshuvah. In this teshuvah Rav Moshe concludes that "אך בזה כיון דבשו"ע כתב בדעת שיטה זו דצריך שיעברו ס' ריבוא בכל יום בסימן שמ"ה סעי' ז' יש אולי להקל." Nowhere did Rav Moshe mention that, “he concedes that, possibly, one may disagree with him and uphold a contrary position that would admit leniency on this point.” It’s the Shulchan Aruch’s leniency and therefore, Rav Moshe himself would agree that it’s possible to be lenient. More so, in the aforementioned teshuvos Rav Moshe states clearly (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:87, 5:28:16) that the requirement of shishim ribo is daily.

Part IV

The Chazon Ish on Carrying

Though the Chazon Ish was known as a big supporter of eruvin, in Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 1, p. 170) it is stated that the Chazon Ish did not even allow a child to utilize the eruv and carry in Bnei Brak on Shabbos. Some claim that since the Chazon Ish did not allow the use of the eruv, it is irrelevant that he maintained that a reshus harabbim does not exist today. They are mistaken; the only difficulty with eruvin that the Chazon Ish himself wrote about was that almost every time he inspected the eruv after Shabbos it was either broken or ripped and therefore he maintained that the eruv was considered be’chezkas pasul every Shabbos (Teshuvos V’Ksavim, siman 85). He was therefore uneasy about people utilizing the eruv. Modern construction materials can withstand extreme weather conditions and are b’chezkas kayama. There is no doubt then that the Chazon Ish would allow carrying in an eruv today.

The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed

The text of the 1979 kol korei against a Flatbush eruv [Fig. a] refers back to the 1962 Manhattan kol korei [Fig. b], claiming that it includes Brooklyn in the Manhattan issur and listing among the signatories Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Henkin zt“l. However, as the original copy of the 1962 Manhattan kol korei demonstrates, the takanah then against erecting eruvin only applied to Manhattan and not to Brooklyn. This correlates with what Hagaon Harav Menashe Klein shlita wrote (Oim Ani Chomah, siman 7) that Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l told him in 1979 - in the presence of Rav Elimelech Bluth shlita, Rav Shalom Dresner shlita, and Rav Mordechai Tendler shlita - that contrary to what someone in the Agudas HaRabbonim was promoting, the 1962 issur from the Agudas HaRabbonim was only regarding Manhattan.

Additionally, it shows only five signatures. Nowhere is Rav Eliyahu Henkin’s signature to be found. For more proof that Rav Eliyahu Henkin never signed the 1962 kol korei, see the copy of the 1962 kol korei that the Agudas HaRabbonim advertised in the HaPardes in 1966 (40th year, vol. 8) [Fig. c]. Note that even at this later date there was still no signature from Rav Eliyahu Henkin to be found. Even more so, from Rav Henkin’s letters (Kisvei Hagriah Henkin, p. 33) and from the 1960 kol korei on behalf of the Manhattan eruv (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 10) [Fig. d], we see he was a proponent of the Manhattan [and Brooklyn] eruvin. Additionally, Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l never gave a p’sak l’maaseh against eruvin as the 1979 kol korei falsely claims. On the contrary, he declined to issue a p’sak since the Aruch HaShulchan and other Achronim disagreed with him (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87).i