Monday, August 21, 2006

An Important Letter to the Editor of the Hamodia

Rav Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer shlita wrote the following letter in Monday, August 14th’s issue of the Hamodia:

Standards for American Eruvin

To the Editor:

The article in Friday’s Hamodia, ("Rabbanim: State of Eruvin in Israel “Worse Than Expected,” p. 12), highlights the deterioration of eruvin in Eretz Yisrael “due to lack of funding for normal inspections and repairs.”

Clearly the situation is grave, with terrible ramifications for Shemiras Shabbos, R"L. However, at least in Eretz Yisrael there exists “the Eruvin Center of Eretz Yisrael,” a Rabbinical body established with the blessings of the Gedolei HaPoskim.

In Chutz La'Aretz, at least here in North America, no such center exists. The decentralized nature of the North American kehillos practically precludes the existence of such a center.

Yet, if anything, due to the way in which eruvin are constructed here (heavily relying on utility poles and other pre-existing structures, as opposed to Eretz Yisrael, where the use of dedicated eruv poles and structures is far more widespread), the situation is much, much worse.

I have engaged in numerous conversations with Rabbanim who are experts in the construction of eruvin. They bemoan both the lack of maintenance and proper manpower that have led to an extraordinary prevalence of American eruvin in states of disrepair that render them invalid - according to even the most lenient opinions.

In a recent, somewhat impromptu conference call among several concerned Rabbanim, the following suggestions were raised, and it would be an extraordinary zechus and zikkui harabbim for both Rabbanim and askanim to do whatever they can to help bring them to fruition:

1. Every local eruv should have written protocols and plans for checking and maintenance.

2. Every locality with an eruv should designate a posek to whom they ask their she’eilos, and who oversees their procedures.

3. The standards of eruv Inspectors and inspections should be uniform, and there should exist a “mini-course” and certification for inspectors.

4. The local community should be aware of the boundaries and construction of the eruv and be alert to problems, so as to alert the local Rav.

5. The local Rav/Rabbanim must be involved with the eruv on an ongoing basis.

6. As is the case with tefillin and mezuzos, every eruv should undergo a major inspection by a posek twice in seven years.

7. It is essential that the complex issues of Eruvei Chatzeiros and Sechiras Reshus are regularly reviewed by competent Rabbanim or a posek.

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
(Author: The Contemporary Eruv: Eruvin in Modern Metropolitan Areas, Monsey)

See Rav Bechhofer’s post here.


I have advocated some of Rav Bechhofer’s suggestions and agree to all of them. However, since there is no centralized control of North American kehillos, it would be almost impossible to obligate them to agree to the above conditions. Therefore, I believe that the most tenable means to rectify the situation is through the rabbanim. Most North American eruvin are established by the same few rabbanim (since many local rabbanim do not know the inyan of eruvin very well, they call upon rabbanim who have experience with the construction of eruvin) and it would be simpler to ask them to consent to these propositions. Furthermore, even Eretz Yisrael’s rabbanus is not really centralized, and no vaad harabbanim would have the power to enforce conformity over a rav from another town. The reason why the vaad in Eretz Yisrael can be successful is because it is comprised of experts that visit towns suggesting and implementing tikkunim in the construction of the eruv. Such a vaad of experts would be possible to realize in North America as well and would not step on anyone’s toes. I would suggest that the rabbanim who establish eruvin should form a vaad of experts who would be responsible to them and aid in the construction and upkeep of eruvin.

There are a few additional issues that I would like to expound on. We can’t ignore the fact that part of the blame for these problems with city eruvin should be pegged on the anti-eruv camp. They have polluted the air regarding the issue of eruvin; so much so, that there are many rabbanim who keep away from the matter with a ten foot pole. Rabbanim who are involved with establishing city eruvin are often harassed by the anti-eruv camp and face opposition every step of the way. One expert from Eretz Yisrael was even fired from his job in the Eidah because of his willingness to help rectify an eruv in Chutz La'Aretz. Additionally, a rav who helped establish an eruv was harassed by the anti-eruv camp in an attempt to harm his livelihood. I realize that some will counter that small town eruvin are not contested by this group; however, I know of some smaller towns in North America where they did resist the construction of an eruv. Basically the anti-eruv camp in Chutz La’Aretz has hijacked eruvin in the name of frumkeit and has caused many problems.

Finally, as is typical of the anti-eruv camp’s inclination to utilize all means to negate eruvin, I am predicting that they will now claim that eruvin should not be established because the track record for maintenance is unreliable. I would suggest that if they really mean it l’shem shomayom, they ought to organize a campaign against mikvaos because there are many problems with their upkeep as well.