Thursday, June 22, 2006

History of City Eruvin − Part 3: The Eruv in St. Louis

Continued from part II


The First City Eruv in North America – St. Louis 1894

The first mention of a city eruv in America[56] was in 1894, in regards to St. Louis.[57] Shortly after Rav Rosenfeld came to St. Louis, he set to work on establishing an eruv for the city.[58] However, before Rav Rosenfeld published his arguments for the eruv in 1896, Rav Jaffe wrote an opposing argument on January 9, 1894,[59] based solely on Rav Rosenfeld’s public suppositions.[60] Rav Jaffe then had his sefer Sho’el Ka’inyan published in Yerushalayim in 1895,[61] and included this teshuvah regarding eruvin among other teshuvos.


The Controversy

Rav Jaffe stated in his introduction to his teshuvah[62] that a rav [Rav Rosenfeld] who had recently come to St. Louis allowed carrying on Shabbos based on empty premises. He claimed that Rav Rosenfeld had built an entire framework of leniencies that would permit carrying on Shabbos in all American cities.[63] Rav Jaffe continued that violators were rampant in this generation and those in America would hang on to his coattails, arguing that the power of permissibility is preferable. He declared that since this issue concerned the entire America, how could we be assured that there would not be other rabbanim who would learn to invent heterim in order to placate the masses and to gain favor in their eyes. In the same vein, he predicted, these people would pride themselves that Rav Rosenfeld would find them a heter to allow their stores to be open on Shabbos through its sale to the non-Jewish workers. The state of Orthodoxy in America was so weak, Rav Jaffe declared, that the observant only sought leniencies while the non-observant Jews did what their hearts desired. Meanwhile, [by allowing all these heterim] he claimed, the Shabbos would be violated by the few extant observant Jews, and its essence would be altogether forgotten. Consequently, Rav Jaffe stated, he was compelled to publicly declare that all of Rav Rosenfeld’s empty premises for establishing an eruv were in error. He went on to say that he had related his misgivings regarding Rav Rosenfeld’s leniencies to many rabbanim in America, and they had answered justly, but that Rav Rosenfeld’s supporters claimed that these rabbanim were not of Rav Rosenfeld’s stature. Therefore, Rav Jaffe declared, he was left with no choice but to publish his rebuttal and to present it to the gedolim of Eretz Yisroel; if they would agree with him, the G-d fearing Jew would surely abide by their rulings.

Continued here.
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[56] Rav Rosenfeld states that he desired a haskamah on his kuntres since he was the first to establish an eruv in America (Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2 preface p. {5}). This may be one of the reasons why Rav Rosefeld only sought a haskamah on Tikvas Zechariah vol. 2 regarding eruvin and not on vol. 1 referring to mikvaos. He argued that Rav Jaffe was departing from the conventional standard of constructing mikvaos. On the other hand, regarding eruvin, since Rav Rosenfeld was establishing something new in North America, he saw a need for a haskamah (see below). I have not seen any mention of a city eruv in North America prior to the St. Louis eruv. See also The Earliest Reference to Carrying on Shabbos in New York City.)
[57] The earliest documented evidence of the establishment of the St. Louis eruv is Rav Jaffe’s exegesis against the eruv, January 9, of 1894 (Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {12} 23). Hence, I have been stating all along that the date of the founding of the eruv was 1894. However, the actual date of the establishment of this eruv could be anytime from after Rav Rosenfeld immigrated to America on August 22 of 1893 (see note 32) to the period prior to Rav Jaffe’s teshuvah against the eruv on January 9 of 1894. As Rav Jaffe had already written his teshuvah in January of 1894 ― unless he wrote this teshuvah extremely quickly ― it is likely that the eruv had already been established by the end of 1893. Rav Jaffe mentioned (Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. 20) that Rav Rosenfeld had already contracted sechiras reshus from a policeman. The fact that Rav Rosenfeld would not have had to do any physical work to declare the eruv operable, since he was using existing structures, supports this premise that the eruv was in existence at that time. Nevertheless, since Rav Rosenfeld did not publish his rationale for his eruv until 1896 ― when he wrote his kuntres Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2 ― Rav Jaffe in his Sho’el Ka’inyan could still be referring to Rav Rosenfeld’s theory for an eruv and not that the eruv was established at that time.
Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld seems to be referring to the 1890 US Census when he states (Tikvas Zechariah, p. 40) that the population of St. Louis three years prior to his establishing of the eruv was 460,000. According to the 1890 US Census, the population of St. Louis was 451,770. Consequentially, it seems from this that he had established the eruv by 1893. While Rav Rosenfeld’s tally is somewhat more than the 1890 census – hence I wrote that he seems to be referring to the census – it’s highly unlikely that Rav Rosenfeld was referring to anything but the census since the other tallies such as Gould’s St. Louis Directory (1892 p. 28) claimed that by 1890 the St. Louis population was 466,200. Additionally, why would Rav Rosenfeld stress a count that was made three years prior to his establishment of the eruv if not for the fact that it was from an authoritative benchmark such as the 1890 US Census.
The chronology above helps establish a plausible timeframe when Rav Rosenfeld arrived in St. Louis. It is possible that Rav Rosenfeld did not arrive in St. Louis until the beginning of 1894 since he spent some time in New York and possibly Baltimore before he appeared in St. Louis (see notes 33-34). However, since Rav Jaffe wrote his teshuvah in the beginning of January 1894 and an eruv on the scale of the one Rav Rosenfeld was proposing for the city of St. Louis would have required many days of planning and scouting, it stands to reason that Rav Rosenfeld must have come to St. Louis prior to end of 1893.
[58] Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2 preface p. {5} and Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {1} 1.
[59] Ibid., p. {12} 23.
[60] Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, introduction p. 10. Since Rav Jaffe was only acquainted with what Rav Rosenfeld publicly suggested was his heterim for an eruv, Rav Jaffe only had a general idea of the boundaries that Rav Rosenfeld was making use of. Clearly, Rav Jaffe did not know many of the particulars that Rav Rosenfeld suggested in Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2 (see note 152). Moreover, as we shall see, some of the fundaments that Rav Jaffe claimed to have heard that Rav Rosenfeld was using as a heter do not show up at all in Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2; see notes 69-70, 74-75.
[61] See title page and notes 51-52.
[62] Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {1} 1.
[63] See note 153.
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Title page of Rav Jaffe’s sefer where he refutes the validity of the St. Louis eruv and defends the kashrus of his mikveh.