Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Part 1: The Permissibility of a Brooklyn Eruv According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l

Like most poskim, Rav Moshe originally maintained (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:109) that the criterion of shishim ribo was conditional on 600,000 people traversing the street and a tzuras hapesach would therefore be sufficient anywhere in Brooklyn. However, later (ibid., 1:139:5) he formulated his chiddush in which shishim ribo was not dependent on a street but on a twelve mil by twelve mil area [approximately 8.1 by 8.1 miles]. Rav Moshe concluded (ibid., 5:28:5, 5:29) that in order for an area this size to have 600,000 people collectively traversing its streets at the same time there would have to be five times that number, 3,000,000 people (see Part 1: Shishim Ribo According to Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l), living and/or commuting into the area for work. Only then would the area be classified as a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa. [The rationale underlying Rav Moshe’s zt”l’s rulings is based on the diglei hamidbar from which the halachos of domains are derived. Since the twelve mil by twelve mil encampment in the midbar included shishim ribo (600,000 men 20-60 years of age) plus women, children and elders, Rav Moshe calculated the population to be 3,000,000. As a result, Rav Moshe maintained there was shishim ribo traversing the streets of the encampment. To utilize the size of the encampment and to require a population of 3,000,000 as the basis for a reshus harabbim of shishim ribo is uniquely Rav Moshe’s own interpretation in the laws of reshus harabbim (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:87).] Therefore, if Brooklyn encompassed 3,000,000 people, a tzuras hapesach would not be adequate; dalsos would be needed.

However, if the tzuras hapesach encircled only a neighborhood in Brooklyn, it would be permissible according to Rav Moshe as long as the eruv encompassed fewer than shishim ribo, (ibid., 4:86, 5:28:5, 5:29) [see Does the Eruv Encompass Shishim Ribo] or if Brooklyn was surrounded by mechitzos (ibid., 1:139 the end of anaf 3). [According to Rav Moshe, mechitzos would classify an area as a reshus hayachid d’Oraysa. Therefore, a tzuras hapesach would be sufficient anywhere in an area included by mechitzos; a future post in this series will elaborate on this topic.]

Only when all three criteria have been realized ― that is, Brooklyn has a population of 3,000,000 and the tzuras hapesach encompasses more than shishim ribo and Brooklyn is not enclosed by mechitzos ― would it not be permissible to erect an eruv of tzuras hapesachim even around a section of Brooklyn; dalsos would be needed.

It is important to note that Rav Moshe did not set forth his chiddush as a p’sak for others since his chiddush was not stated in the Achronim and the Aruch HaShulchan did not agree with him. Only when people mistakenly supposed that he was personally supportive of the eruv did Rav Moshe feel a need to clarify that he was not in favor of one, hence his teshuvah clarifying the matter (ibid., 4:87; see Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s Reluctance to Pasken Against the Establishment of an Eruv).

Rav Moshe’s personal approach to eruvin prohibited an eruv in Boro Park and Flatbush, because it was based on information that was provided to him at the time.

That is:
Brooklyn’s population, including those who commute into the borough to work, is over 3,000,000.
Boro Park and Flatbush independently contain more than shishim ribo.
Brooklyn is not encompassed by mechitzos.

Part 2 of this series will present current Brooklyn facts and statistics that would make the eruv permissible in its present construction even according to Rav Moshe’s personal approach to eruvin.