Thursday, May 11, 2006

Part 4: Misconceptions in the Los Angeles Eruv Guidebook

The LA Eruv Guidebook:
Historically, the type of Eruvin constructed in the small towns …; the general public practiced leniency while the “Baal Nefesh” (those seeking a higher level of observance) were recommended to be Machmir.

This statement that historically only the, “general public practiced leniency,” is patently false. In some towns, even the rav carried (some even declared that one must carry; see Part 6: Meoz U’Mekedem – Exploring the Historical Roots of the Machlokas Regarding Eruvin) and the fact is, most people utilized their town’s eruv. This is even more so in regards to the LA eruv, where even a baal nefesh can rely on it since it consists of mechitzos.

The LA Eruv Guidebook:
Los Angeles, a city with a population of a few million, with streets that are relatively straight and extend for miles and service 600,000 people is unique. On the one hand, as stated clearly in the Responsa of R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzenski ZT”L, Los Angeles is definitely considered a Reshus HaRabim of 600,000 making our city more stringent than the small towns in Europe. On the other hand, the construction of an Eruv utilizing “walls” is better than the European Eruv which consisted solely of a Tzuras HaPesach.

How does one weigh the efficacy of an Eruv built with three walls with its breaches closed with a Tzuras HaPesach in a city with 600,000 people …? How would our contemporary Poskim classify the proposed Eruv in Paris?

This question was submitted to leading Poskim of our generation: Their response ranged from: “The Eruv should be relied upon only in case of true necessity” [רק יסמוך על העירוב בשעת הדחק, ואף בשעת הדחק המחמיר תבא עליו ברכה.] to “The decision to act stringently is one’s own private decision.”[[ הרוצה להחמיר יחמיר לעצמו

The RCC accepted to supervise the construction and maintenance of the Eruv and to certify it as Kosher, within the abovementioned parameters.

It is important to note again that there were European cities such as Warsaw and Lodz that contained population’s greater then 600,000 and nevertheless erected eruvin (see The Requirement of Shishim Ribo: Is It Conditional on a City or a Street). There is no question that until now the general consensus was that shishim ribo is conditional of a street (see The Overwhelming Majority of Achronim Maintain That the Shishim Ribo Has to Traverse the Street Itself). To reiterate, this is a simplistic and erroneous reading of the Achiezer’s teshuvah (4:8). 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). Additionally, it is interesting that the author writes, “with streets that are relatively straight,” alluding to LA meeting the criterion of mefulash, while never actually explaining why it does so. One has to wonder if the author inquired of the gedolim what their stance was regarding LA meeting the criterion of mefulash.

This claim in the name of gedolim, that the eruvin of yesteryear relied on the fact that the city did not contain shishim ribo and were therefore preferable to our mechitzos eruvin, is just not credible. We do not pasken that a baal nefesh should be stringent in an area enclosed by three mechitzos omed merubeh al haparutz. In contrast, regarding relying on shishim ribo, there are Achronim who maintain that a baal nefesh should be stringent. Therefore, it is unconscionable to make such statements in the name of gedolim when anyone who learned hilchos eruvin knows that an eruv consisting of mechitzos can be relied upon by all. More so, there are Achronim who clearly state that an area enclosed by mechitzos is superior to one relying on the criterion of shishim ribo alone (Bais Ephraim, p. 49b; Bais Shlomo, siman 51; Avnei Nezer, O.C. 279:2, and Chazon Ish, siman 107:7). In light of this, it is very doubtful that any posek would assert that the proposed eruv in Paris supported by the Achiezer is worse then the European small town eruvin.

Most importantly, it is a well known fact that when the issue is eruvin, statements said in the name of gedolim are deliberately misconstrued. Therefore, these declarations should be discounted. Let us see their opinions in writing! Additionally, it is interesting how when the subject is eruvin, so many people would like us to believe that they are baalei nefesh.

In closing this series, what can be gleaned from this guidebook is that even those rabbanim who are obligated to establish an eruv because of community demands go on to create difficulties with their eruv in order to satisfy their anti-eruv leanings and also those of their yeshivaleit constituents. It is unfortunate that some yeshivaleit have a misplaced antipathy towards city eruvin, believing that being machmer in eruvin is a lofty goal. Some yeshivaleit even learn hilchos eruvin with one goal in mind ─ to unearth as many chumros in eruvin conceivable. I find what Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher zt”l wrote to a group of yeshivaleit who were trying to implement chumros in eruvin (such as establishing small local eruvin) very refreshing. He wrote that the Yerushalayim eruv is just fine and does not require their rectifications (Even Yisroel, 8:37).

While there are some excellent passages in the guidebook (particularly regarding Rav Moshe zt”l’s shita in eruvin) much of it is typical rhetoric fostered by those who feel a need to promote hilchos issurei eruvin.