Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fiction As Fact?

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

From the book The Legacy of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler by R. Yitzchak Dershowitz, p. 395:
Reb L.C. [Leib Cywiak], one of the close aides of the Rosh Yeshiva in fundraising endeavors tells that: “The ‘Ish HaTorah’ was Neki Chapayim – his hands were clean in his rulings as well as his actions. He was against making an Eruv in Manhattan (where other rabbonim were lenient). He argued that it is a R’shus Harabbim – public domain – D’oraiso and an Eruv would not help.” [See Tshuvos Mishnas Rav Aharon for a lengthy “Tshuvoh” on this subject.] “I once said to him, ‘The wealthiest religious Jews live in Manhattan. Why is it necessary to battle with them and to prevent them from putting up an Eruv. Other rabbonim look for Heterim’. The great Gaon got very upset about what I said and responded emotionally ‘Let my yeshiva close, I won’t budge from my opinion about the Halocha!’” (from Sefer Yom Hazikoron HaRishon, 1964, submitted by Moshe Weissman)

This story is fiction and is an affront to Rav Aharon zt”l as well. In contrast to the author, Rav Aharon knew very well who the rabbanim supporting the Manhattan eruv were and would not have allowed a statement such as “Other rabbonim look for Heterim” to go unanswered. To suggest that the overwhelming majority of rabbanim who supported the Manhattan eruv would compromise their principles and would be swayed by financial considerations is the biggest affront to their kavod. The following rabbanim supported the Manhattan eruv: Hagaon Harav Tzvi Eisenstadt, Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Henkin, Amshinover Rebbe, 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 (see The Hundredth-Year Anniversary of the First Eruv in New York 1905-2005). The ramification of Rav Aharon’s chiddushim in eruvin meant that no eruv established in European towns, large or small, was allowed. Therefore, disagreeing with Rav Aharon’s chiddushim does not imply that the rabbanim were seeking heterim at all.

It is very unfortunate that the submitter of this article (who has a personal agenda against eruvin and has already included this bubbe maseh in his work on issurei eruvin) managed to get this fictional episode published in a mainstream book where it would grow in status and soon become accepted fact.