Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Construct an Eruv?

The Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim 99) states that it is not possible for an individual to ensure that all the members of his household do not carry on Shabbos inadvertently, and therefore, the construction of an eruv is the obligation of every rav. Consequently, according to this Chasam Sofer it follows that one cannot assert that there is no need for an eruv. [It is important to note, even if the heter to permit an eruv is not a clear one, the Aishel Avraham states (siman 363) that nevertheless an eruv should be erected in order to save people from chilul Shabbos beshogeg (see also Kriena D’Igrasa, p. 106 and Oim Ani Chomah, p. 136).]

Additionally, just as it is the responsibility of each individual rav to insure that there be a kosher mikveh in his community, it is incumbent on each rav to erect an eruv as well (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos, 1:844; see also the above mentioned Chasam Sofer). In light of this responsibility, even if only one rav would want to erect an eruv, he has the right to construct an eruv even without a consensus of all the rabbanim.

Furthermore, establishing an eruv accomplishes the following:

  • It is a mitzvah to erect an eruv (Tur, and Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 366:13, 395:1; for proof that it’s a requirement for a city as well, see BeHag, Perek Hador and Chasam Sofer, O.C. 99).
  • An eruv helps minimize chilul Shabbos by our Jewish brethren who are unfortunately not religious and carry on Shabbos without an eruv (Nefesh Chayah, siman 25 and Bais Av, 2:1:25).
  • An eruv helps to increase our oneg Shabbos, e.g., families with young children, the elderly, and the infirm are no longer confined to their homes (Perishah, O.C. 395:1).
  • An eruv is also invaluable on Yom Tov, as it allows us to carry items that are not needed for Yom Tov e.g. extra keys on a key chain (Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 518:1).
  • It helps al pi Kabbalah to increase the kedushah of a neighborhood (Shaar HaMitzvos, parshas Beshalach).

Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, when he recognized that an eruv could be erected, saw a great need for one as well (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 4:86, 5:29).

Since it is a mitzvah to erect an eruv, it is unjust to request that those establishing an eruv refrain from doing so, particularly when it does not negatively affect those who do not wish to partake in this mitzvah. For generations in Europe, even in large cities such as Warsaw (which had shishim ribo on the larger side from at least the year 1900; Rocznik Statystyczny Warszawy 1921 i 1922, 1924 p. 14) and Lodz (which had shishim ribo from the year 1931; Encyclopedia Judaica, 1996 vol. 11 p. 426), our ancestors practiced the mitzvah of eruvin and there is no reason that American cities should be any different.