Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Part 7: A Critical Analysis of Rav Yisroel Hirsch’s Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn

Continued from part VI

Page 9 comment 32:
“It is true that such an opinion is maintained by many poskim [that pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan]. But it is far from unanimous. R’ Ahron devotes much space in his קונטרס to proving the veracity of the contrary position. Therefore, a primary concern of those who oppose the eruv was that Brooklyn remained a רה"ר since the pirtzos in its mechitzos were larger than 10 (or 16) amos.”

Our list proves that it is as close to unanimous as it gets. The overwhelming majority of poskim (see Pirtzos, Biblical or Rabbinical proscription?) including Rav Moshe zt”l maintain that pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan. It is unjustifiable to compel others to go against the accepted halacha pesuka that pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan. Rav Aharon zt”l and the Mishkenos Yaakov are just about the only poskim who maintain that pirtzos esser is d’Oraysa. (Brooklyn has the added benefit that since our mechitzos are at the waterfront, even Rav Aharon would admit that they are sufficient since there is no rabbim traversing them.) Additionally, Rav Hirsch is mistaken. 16 amos is a shiur reshus harabbim not a shiur pirtzah and even the Mishkenos Yaakov admits as such (Mishkenos Yaakov, O.C. 122 p. 144-45).


Page 9 comment 33:
Has already been discussed in comment 15.


Page 9 comment 34:
“All that is stated in this paragraph [that Rav Moshe agrees that there is almost no true reshus harabbim today] and the following one is meaningless. R’ Moshe was not matir [using a cane on Shabbos]; rather, he felt that it should be assur but conceded that today it is generally done. He agreed to leave that practice because “generally” there is no רה"ר.”

Rav Moshe zt”l’s final p’sak regarding using a walking stick on Shabbos is not the issue here at all. The issue is that Rav Moshe stated in three teshuvos (Igros Moshe, O.C. 3:94, 5:19, 5:24:10) that there is no reshus harabbim today and the distinction the anti-eruv group has always asserted is that Rav Moshe wasn’t referring to Brooklyn since he has stated that Brooklyn is a reshus harabbim. However, now that we know that one of these three teshuvos is referring to Boro Park (ibid., 5:24:10) there is no other explanation but that he agreed that the minhag is not like his shita in eruvin. The fact that they omitted from Rav Moshe’s teshuvos this important detail (Boro Park) is proof that there were some shenanigans within teshuvos Igros Moshe, particularly when it concerned eruvin.


Page 9 comment 35:
“This assertion [that Rav Moshe’s statement that no posek would allow an eruv in Brooklyn because Brooklyn, unlike Manhattan, wasn’t surrounded by mechitzos doesn’t pertain to us today since we have established that Brooklyn is encircled by mechitzos] is incomprehensible! R’ Moshe definitely states: “regardless of all the improvements that certain rabbis have or will implement.” The language could not be clearer that the matter is closed for discussion.”

Rav Hirsch is conflating Manhattan and Brooklyn. Nowhere did Rav Moshe zt”l state regarding a Brooklyn eruv that “regardless of all the improvements that certain rabbis have or will implement,” an eruv cannot be erected. Only in Manhattan did Rav Moshe sign on to the takanah of 1962. The inclusion of Brooklyn in the Manhattan issur is an invention of the 1979 Flatbush kol korei (see The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed). [Regarding the Manhattan eruv, Rav Moshe agreed that the rabbanan can do as they please (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:89 and HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9) but then signed on the 1962 takanah against an eruv. However, Rav Moshe stated (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:86 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89) that he had signed against the Manhattan eruv because Rav Aharon Kotler zt"l and other members of the Agudas HaRabbonim had enacted a takanah against establishing an eruv in Manhattan.] In any case, Rav Hirsch would have to admit that this is either a gezeirah or a takanah and unless this is hora'as sha’ah, only a Sanhedrin has a right to implement this gezeirah forever or as Rav Moshe states that rabbanim may only enact a takanah for their particular locale and only for a short period of time (ibid., 4:49).


Page 9 comment 36:
“With this suggestion, the apex of absurdity has been achieved. R’ Moshe was alive and well when he published this addendum as a portion of his sefer in 1982. He never had a problem with it. No one had a problem with it. R’ Schwab considered it authentic, for he cites it authoritatively. I understand that the writers of this booklet have a big problem with it. But wishing it out of existence only exposes the great desperation that is driving their whole enterprise.”

It is a well known fact that Igros Moshe vol. 7 and 8 have been tampered with, and since there is no addendum in any other volume of Igros Moshe, there is no reason to believe the veracity of an addendum even in vol. 6. It’s no secret that Rav Moshe zt”l was surrounded by people who were vehemently against establishing an eruv in Brooklyn and who didn’t allow anyone supportive of an eruv to approach Rav Moshe. Additionally, there are questions regarding this addendum: To whom and when was it written? Rav Moshe admits therein that regarding a Manhattan eruv one can disagree with his chiddushim pertaining to shishim ribo so why can’t one disagree with him regarding shishim ribo in Brooklyn? Why did they insert it as an addendum and not wait for the next volume of Igros Moshe to be published since this was the practice with all of Rav Moshe’s teshuvos (by 1982 there was no rush to publish this teshuvah since the issue of the eruv had already ended)? All of this strongly suggests that this addendum is not from Rav Moshe’s hand.

Additionally, Rav Hirsch is mistaken that Rav Schwab zt”l quoted this addendum. Rav Schwab was discussing the Manhattan eruv and therefore he quoted the 1979 Flatbush kol korei since it contained the text of the 1962 Manhattan kol korei (this indicates that Rav Schwab didn’t have the 1962 Manhattan kol korei). The 1979 Flatbush kol korei was published prior to this addendum (Igros Moshe vol. 6, 1982) which makes it impossible for Rav Schwab to be referring to this addendum.


Page 9 comment 37:
“R’ Schwab (Maayan Beis Ha’shoeva, Va’yakhel) lists R’ Henkin as a signatory in opposition to the eruv (Manhattan). I trust R’ Schwab.”

The fact that Rav Schwab zt”l mentioned the 1979 kol korei in Maayan Bais HaSho’eivah does not attest to the validity of the claim that Rav Henkin zt"l signed on the 1962 Manhattan kol korei. He was just quoting the text of the kol korei (since, as stated above, Rav Schwab most probably didn’t have a copy of the 1962 Manhattan kol korei) and not affirming every word stated therein. In any case, the 1962 kol korei is extant and there is no signature of Rav Henkin to be found. We also know from Rav Henkin’s letters (Kisvei Hagriah Henkin, p. 33) and from family members that Rav Henkin was even in support of a Manhattan (and Brooklyn) eruv. Therefore, even if Rav Schwab did mentioned the 1979 Flatbush kol korei and he was attesting to the legitimacy of the text of the kol korei, he could only maintain that he was under the impression that Rav Henkin was against an eruv but not that Rav Henkin signed the kol korei since there is no signature to be found.


Page 10 comment 38:
“I do agree that a kol korah by itself carries little weight. It is what is behind the kol korah that is important. In this case, it is public knowledge that R’ Moshe was against any eruv for Brooklyn or Manhattan.”

Rav Hirsch deserves credit for admitting that kol koreis carry little weight. However, it’s surprising that he believes “public knowledge” (which in the case of eruvin is based on kol koreis since it seems that even the rabbanim ha’ossrim are not very familiar with Rav Moshe zt"l's teshuvos regarding eruvin since they only quote these kol koreis) carries more weight then a kol korei. Even more so, there is a teshuvah that contradicts this so called “public knowledge.” Rav Moshe clearly writes (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87) that he doesn’t want to mix in to the matter of eruvin in Flatbush at all, so why would he sign such a strident kol korei? Additionally, Rav Moshe told Rav Tuvia Goldstein zt”l that the Flatbush rabbanim can do as they please. Therefore, this so called, “public knowledge,” should carry very little weight as well.


Page 10 comment 39:
“The obvious difference is that in seeking to establish an eruv, one takes a position which is contrary to the status quo, whereas the cases cited, e.g. shavers, uphold the status quo. However, in no circumstance should physical harassment or verbal abuse be condoned.”

The status quo was not against erecting eruvin. On the contrary, there was an eruv established in 1905 in Manhattan and in Brooklyn people erected street eruvin for Succos prior to 1979. (Who upholds the status quo regarding modern shavers? Public knowledge, kol koreis?) Therefore, the kuntres made a valid point that there are other d’Oraysas, such as shaving, where no one is mocheh, and why should eruvin be any different? Rav Hirsch should be commended though for not condoning the anti-eruv campaign of verbally abusing people whom utilize the eruv.


Page 10 comment 40:
“This is a grossly inaccurate presentation of R’ Schwab’s views. He expressly states that no part of Manhattan, Brooklyn/Flatbush can affect the construction of an eruv. The oblique reference here cited is to all cities in which the implementation of an eruv would be possible!”

Rav Hirsch is incorrect. Rav Schwab zt”l posited (Maayan Beis HaSho’eivah, pp. 232, 234) that hopefully the future generations would be strong in Torah and at that point, with great joy, everyone would take part in erecting eruvin in Manhattan and in all cities. If one were to read Rav Schwab’s writing’s regarding eruvin, they would see that his main objection to eruvin was because of the lack of Torah observance. To claim that at this point in time this is still an issue shows a lack of understanding of Orthodox Jewish history in America.
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In closing this series, as we have stated in the first post we have been told that after Rav Hirsch published his Critique of Eruvin in Brooklyn, a member of his congregation pressed him to answer what Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l's shita was regarding mechitzos. After analyzing the way it was elucidated in Eruvin in Brooklyn, he admitted that what was stated therein was accurate. Additionally, the later edition of Eruvin in Brooklyn, The Community Eruv kuntres covered many of Rav Hirsch’s comments.

All of the above is testimony that while there is no doubt of Rav Hirsch’s erudition and vast Torah knowledge, when the issue is eruvin one’s opinion tends to become extremely subjective. Why would Rav Hirsch who is of the opinion that one can even argue on the Shulchan Aruch maintain that we can’t disagree with contemporary poskim (never mind that it’s likely that these contemporary poskim would allow an eruv today) if not for the fact that the issue is eruvin.