Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Part 1: Misconceptions in the Los Angeles Eruv Guidebook

Part of an ongoing commentary on the bias against city eruvin.

The following halachic guidebook was posted on the website of the new Los Angeles eruv. This guidebook illustrates that while a halachically sound eruv was established in LA, unnecessary stringencies are being promoted against the eruv. We will deconstruct selected parts of this overview and show that these stringencies have no foundations in halachah. More so, this overview shows a misinterpretation of hilchos eruvin that is common with many yeshivaleit.


The LA Eruv Guidebook:
Definition of “Reshus HaRabim” - Public domain
There are a number of criteria that have to be met in order for an area to qualify as a Reshus HaRabim:
a) “16 Ammah” - The area must have a thoroughfare, which is approximately 24-32 feet wide. The street must be open to the public and it cannot have a roof over it.
b) 600,000 people - There is a dispute among the Rishonim, whether a requirement of Reshus HaRabim is that 600,000 people use the street.


It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of Rishonim maintain that shishim ribo is a criterion of a reshus harabbim (see The Overwhelming Majority of Rishonim Maintain that Shishim Ribo is a Criterion of a Reshus Harabbim) and that a simple reading of most Rishonim would show that the requirement of shishim ribo is conditional of a street (e.g. Bahag, Berlin edition, p. 131; Tosfos, Eruvin 6a; Ritva, Shabbos 6a; Ramban, Shabbos 57a, and Ran, Shabbos 6a).


The LA Eruv Guidebook:
There is a major debate on how to define this requirement of 600,000 people, especially in light of the fact that the Shulchan Aruch states that we require 600,000 people “Ovrim Bo Bechol Yom,” which simply interpreted means that it has to be a street traversed by 600,000 people every day. However, this interpretation is difficult:
a) Historically, when the Gemorah calls certain locales a Reshus HaRabim, it does not seem feasible that there were 600,000 people there each day.
b) Pictures of the levaya of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, show that the city was clogged with 250,000 to 300,000 attending, so one cannot imagine 600,000 in a 16 Ammah-wide street each day.
c) The Ritva states that the population of Yerushalayim was less than 600,000 people. Only by including the surrounding suburbs was there a population of 600,000. To imagine that all the people of Yerushalayim and of the suburbs all used the main thoroughfare each day is not feasible.


Even though one may have questions on the feasibility of a shita mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch it doesn’t change the halachah. This difficulty is not a new one; the Aruch HaShulchan asked (O.C. 345:18) a similar question and then declared that in any case it would not make a difference. The accepted halachah is that the shishim ribo must traverse the street itself daily.

There is no doubt that many Achronim maintain the simple understanding of the Shulchan Aruch, that the shishim ribo must traverse the road itself on a daily basis for the road to be classified as a reshus harabbim (see below). Rav Moshe zt”l understood that shishim ribo ovrim bo b’chol yom as stated in the Shulchan Aruch refers to a sratya where the shishim ribo would be required to traverse the street daily (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 4:87-88, 5:28:16). Apparently, Rav Moshe believed that it is possible for shishim ribo to traverse a road on a daily basis.

Additionally, this is an incorrect understanding of the Ritva. The Bais Ephraim explains the Ritva that three conditions regarding shishim ribo must be met for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim. The shishim ribo must: 1) Be present in the area (metzuyim shom). 2) Frequently use the street (ovrim v’shovim). 3) That they could all possibly traverse the street in one day (bechol yom). Consequently, it is erroneous to include suburbs or neighborhoods that have nothing to do with each other in the tally of the shishim ribo. Even people from adjoining suburbs do not frequent the streets of all their adjacent neighborhoods. More so, the simple understanding of the Bais Ephraim’s p’shat in the Ritva is as the Maharsham (3:188) and the Minchas Yitzchak (8:32) maintain that the shishim ribo would need to traverse the street itself most days of the year (as opposed to literally every day) for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim. Otherwise, as the Maharsham (ibid.) declares, what is the time span required for the shishim ribo to traverse the street, a few years? If this would be the case, most roads would be classified as a reshus harabbim!

We see from this that the previous poskim did not resort to creating new chiddushim in shishim ribo as has been proposed in the LA Eruv Guidebook. Notwithstanding all these questions regarding the feasibility of a daily shishim ribo traversing the street, the previous Achronim did not resort to this answer that if a street had the ability to support shishim ribo it would be classified as a reshus harabbim. It is only if the street would frequently have shishim ribo traversing it that the capacity to support shishim ribo would classify the street as a reshus harabbim.


The LA Eruv Guidebook:
Granted that some Poskim do insist on the requirement of 600,000 each day, the consensus of Poskim [Chazon Ish, Rav Moshe Bick, Rav Yisroel Gustman, Rav Moshe Stern, Rav S.Z. Auerbach זכרונם לברכה, and Rav Elyashiv שליט"א] interpret the Reshus HaRabim requirement to be a street, that services a population of 600,000 people every day. For example, in Brooklyn, Ocean Parkway is a wide street (three lanes each way) that services the people in the Flatbush and surrounding areas [more than 600,000 people]. It is considered a Reshus HaRabim even though 600,000 people will never use it on a single day. The Mishna Berurah shows that this opinion is supported by the Ramban and Ritva. עי' בביה"ל סי' שמ"ה ד"ה שאין ששים

Some poskim maintain that the requirement of shishim ribo is daily (Zivchei Tezdek, siman 102; Aishel Avraham 345:3; Kinyan Torah, 4:40:7, and Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 4:87-88, 5:28:16). These poskim definitely require that the shishim ribo traverse the street itself and it would not be sufficient for a street to be classified as a reshus harabbim if it would just support 600,000 residents. Even those poskim who maintain that it would be sufficient if the street would frequently have shishim ribo traversing it (but do not require it daily) do not agree that it would be adequate that the street just supports 600,000 residents; the shishim ribo would need to actually traverse the street very often (Maharsham, 3:188; Minchas Elazar, 3:4, and Minchas Yitzchok, 8:32:1).

It is immaterial if the Chazon Ish maintained that the criterion of shishim ribo is that the street just has to service 600,000 residents (there is not a shred of evidence from his writings that this was his opinion) since he clearly maintained that if a tzuras hapesach is used to rectify a pirtza, we would require that shishim ribo traverse through the pirtza in order for that street to be classified as a reshus harabbim (Chazon Ish, O.C. 108:12). Consequentially, there is practically no situation where the Chazon Ish would consider a street without shishim ribo traversing it a reshus harabbim.

Rav Moshe Bick zt”l, cited above, does not maintain that it is sufficient if the street supports shishim ribo since he maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a city (as opposed to a street; see Kerem B’Yavnah, 3, siman 26). Additionally, in the sefer Yashiv Moshe (p. 58), there is an alternative opinion cited in the name of Rav Elyashuv shlita that the shishim ribo has to traverse the street itself. Why should we believe that Rav Elyashuv disagrees with the simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of the street and is needed on a daily basis?

More so, the opinion of the above cited poskim is all hearsay and is not based on their writings at all. None of these poskim state that this is their understanding of shishim ribo. Some yeshivaleit claim this in their name.

This assertion regarding Ocean Parkway is erroneous. As mentioned previously, according to the shitas haRitva, Ocean Parkway would not be classified as supporting shishim ribo.

As stated above this is an incorrect reading of the Ritva and the Ramban does not pertain to this matter at all since he is referring to intercity roads (sratyas) and not to the city streets themselves.


The LA Eruv Guidebook:
R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzenski zt”l, felt that Paris was a Reshus HaRabim DeOraysa, fulfilling the requirement of 600,000 people, despite the fact that he states there were not 600,000 people on any street on any given day.

This is a simplistic and erroneous reading of the Achiezer’s teshuvah. Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzenski zt”l maintained that at least one street of the city would require shishim ribo traversing it before the entire city would be classified as a reshus harabbim (see Part 1: The Achiezer Explained). Therefore, it’s incorrect to assert that the Achiezer’s position regarding shishim ribo is conditional of a city and not a street since at least one street would be required to have shishim ribo traversing it (see also Kovetz Ohr Yisroel, vol. 18, p. 18-19).


The LA Eruv Guidebook:
R’ Gustman zt"l was asked that if this is the correct interpretation of the Shulchan Aruch, how did Warsaw continue to keep their Eruv, even after the population there grew, and exceeded 600,000. He answered that Warsaw did not have main streets like Paris or Brooklyn, wherein there were 600,000 people from all around using those streets. Warsaw expanded in a manner that the people from the various parts of the city did not use any single streets, and rather each neighborhood used the adjacent streets. At the time there were no cars or wide streets, hence no major thoroughfares used by 600,000 people.

Los Angeles has streets such as La Brea, Wilshire, Olympic, and others, which are heavily traveled daily, and therefore should be considered a Reshus HaRabim Deoraysa fulfilling the criteria of “600,000” similar to Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.


Rav Gustman zt”l could not have said this since there were trains and trolleys in Warsaw and those streets were heavily trafficked by commuters from other parts of the city (there were two bridges that crossed from Warsaw to Praga and people used to commute both ways there as well). Consequently, there is no difference between Warsaw and our cities, and if an eruv was allowed in Warsaw even though it contained shishim ribo, there is no reason not to allow an eruv in our cities that contain shishim ribo as well (see Part 3: The Truth About Warsaw and Part 4: The Truth About Warsaw). As explained above, even according to this shita in shishim ribo, Ocean Parkway does not service shishim ribo.