Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Part 3: Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim

Continued from Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim part: IIb


Even if one argues that Brooklyn meets all the criteria of a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa, since Brooklyn is circumscribed by mechitzos on three sides, which enclose more than 95 percent of its waterfront (see map below), the borough is nevertheless classified as a reshus hayachid d’Oraysa.

There are poskim who maintain that the natural riverbanks [mechitzos hayam] themselves are considered mechitzos ― when they are built up ten tefachim over a four-amos area ― even if the area would otherwise be classified as a reshus harabbim (Maharsham, 9:18; Harei B’samim, 5:73, and Eruv V’Hotzaah). In 1905 they allowed an eruv in Manhattan, which was established utilizing riverbanks as mechitzos on three sides, and on the fourth side, the Third Avenue El as a tzuras hapesach. Brooklyn is circumscribed by riverbanks on three sides as well and accordingly would be classified as a reshus hayachid.

The mechitzos we are utilizing, however, are universally accepted since they only consist of man-made walls [mechitzos b’y’dai adam] in which case we pasken that the multitudes [rabbim] do not negate the enclosure, lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta. In addition to gates that circumscribe Brooklyn’s waterfront, the eruv utilizes sea walls. These man-made walls, which prevent the encroachment of the sea, are mechitzos b’y’dai adam as well and, along with the gates, surround Brooklyn on three sides. Additionally, we can utilize mechitzos habatim to close the fourth side of the three mechitzos at our waterfront, and as a result we are circumscribed by four mechitzos omed merubeh al haparutz and just about every posek would agree lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta of four mechitzos.

These mechitzos were confirmed by the following rabbanim:
  • Members of Rav Yechezkel Roth shlita’s Bais Din; see Emek HaTeshuvah (5:19).
  • Rav Shlomo Gross shlita, Belzer Dayan of Boro Park.
  • Rav Tuvia Goldstein zt”l sent a select group from his kollel Emek Halacha.

While there may be some pirtzos [gaps] in the mechitzos, once the walls are omed merubeh al haparutz on three sides [that is, more than 50 percent of the length of each side must actually consist of a wall] practically all poskim maintain that the multitudes do not negate the enclosure, lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta. Although some of the pirtzos may even be ten amos, practically all poskim maintain that pirtzos esser is only a rabbinical proscription including HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and therefore a tzuras hapesach would be sufficient to close the pirtzos.

[Additionally, the poskim maintain that since the houses that line the streets are omed merubeh al haparutz, we can utilize mechitzos habatim as the four mechitzos that encircle our neighborhood and then the area would be considered, me’d’Oraysa, a reshus hayachid (see also Bais Shlomo, siman 51; Mayim Rabim, 1:38; Tuv Yehoshua, p. 7, and Mahari Stief, siman 68). However, an additional benefit of the mechitzos surrounding Brooklyn (as opposed to the mechitzos habatim) is that the pirtzos in these mechitzos open into the water as opposed to opening into a thoroughfare that is traversed by a rabbim. Additionally, the pirtzos in these mechitzos are not bkeren zavis ― gaps at the corners where the mechitzos meet.]

Me’d’rabbanan, we are required to rectify all the pirtzos in the mechitzos with at least a tzuras hapesach so that the area is entirely enclosed. Alternatively, the tzuras hapesach can be utilized, me’d’rabbanan, to encircle a section of the area enclosed by the mechitzos since the tzuras hapesach is being erected in a reshus hayachid d’Oraysa. Since Brooklyn is classified as a reshus hayachid d’Oraysa, an eruv of tzuras hapesachim can be erected in any of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

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