Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Part 2: Rav Eliyahu Henkin zt”l and an Eruv in New York City

Notwithstanding the incontrovertible proof that I set forth in part 1 proving that Rav Henkin zt”l supported a Manhattan eruv, the text of the 1979 kol korei in opposition to the Flatbush eruv alleges that Rav Henkin signed the 1962 kol korei against the Manhattan eruv. In fact, as I demonstrate in the The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed, there is no signature of Rav Henkin to be found on the Manhattan kol korei at all. There is no doubt that the claim that Rav Henkin signed the Manhattan kol korei is an invention of the 1979 kol korei. It is probable that the anti-eruv group resorted to this fiction since they wanted to present a united front against establishing an eruv anywhere in New York which would have had to include Rav Henkin, one of the preeminent poskim in America at the time. There really is no need to defend the position that Rav Henkin maintained his support for an eruv until the very end since there has never been a letter proffered stating that he had a change of heart (see Noda B’Yehudah, Tinyana, Y.D. 29-30). However, I will present both the arguments from the anti-eruv camp that he changed his mind and my counter arguments illustrating the speciousness of their claims.

Some have cited Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l’s writings as proof that Rav Henkin did sign the Manhattan kol korei. The anti-eruv camp alleges that when Rav Schwab mentioned the issur on the Manhattan eruv (Maayan Beis HaSho’eivah, pp. 232-234) and quoted the text of the 1979 kol korei in opposition to the Flatbush eruv, which included the allegation that Rav Henkin signed the Manhattan kol korei, he must have been informed that Rav Henkin was opposed to a Manhattan eruv. Additionally, some cite the fact that Rav Gedalya Schor zt”l signed both the 1962 Manhattan and 1979 Flatbush kol korei’s as evidence that Rav Henkin signed the 1962 Manhattan kol korei. Rav Schor, they claim, would not have signed the 1979 Flatbush kol korei if it is untrue that Rav Henkin signed the 1962 Manhattan kol korei.

These claims are fictitious and are after the fact. The reality is the 1979 Flatbush kol korei includes the claim that Rav Henkin actually signed the 1962 Manhattan kol korei, yet the Manhattan kol korei is extant and there is no signature of Rav Henkin to be found anywhere on it. Rav Schwab and Rav Schor apparently signed the Flatbush kol korei before seeing the final text to which Rav Henkin’s name was added.[4] Additionally, regarding Rav Schwab’s letter, anyone can peruse Maayan Beis HaSho’eivah and see that Rav Schwab was just repeating the text of the 1979 kol korei and was not commenting whether Rav Henkin signed on the 1962 Manhattan kol korei or not.

Some argue that Rav Moshe Bick zt”l mentioned in two letters that Rav Henkin was opposed to the Manhattan eruv (the first letter was written on the second day of Rosh Chodesh Adar 5721 [1961] and the second letter on the 11 of Av 5740 [1980]; Kerem Beyavnah, 3:25, 27). In fact, there is no proof from Rav Bick’s letters at all. Five months after Rav Bick wrote his first letter claming that Rav Henkin was opposed to an eruv in Manhattan, Rav Henkin wrote his final letter (28 of Tammuz 5721 [1961]; see part 1) arguing that an eruv in Manhattan would be better than in most cities, and that they should establish one before the rabbanim convened. Evidently Rav Bick was not apprised of Rav Henkin’s final letter supporting the eruv.[5]

Regarding Rav Bick’s second letter (1980) - which was written after Rav Henkin was niftar (August of 1973) – there is no doubt that Rav Bick was referring to his first letter and not to some new information that he later received. In Kerem Beyavnah (3:27), Rav Bick mentions that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Savitsky of Boston were against establishing an eruv in Flatbush. Rav Bick added that Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l and Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l were even against an eruv in Manhattan. If Rav Bick had seen the last letter from Rav Henkin (28th of Tammuz 5721 [1961]) where he encourages the rabbanim of Brooklyn to erect an eruv, he would have addressed this fact and not just stated that Rav Henkin was against an eruv in Manhattan, since Brooklyn was the issue. Therefore, the conclusion must be that Rav Bick did not see the last letter of Rav Henkin where he clearly supports an eruv in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Additionally, both Rav Menachem Kasher’s zt”l’s sefer Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2 published in 1980 and Kisvei Hagriah Henkin published in 1989; have Rav Henkin’s last letter dated 28th of Tammuz 5721 (1961) where he maintains that an eruv should be constructed in Manhattan. This supersedes Rav Bick’s claim in his second letter asserting that Rav Henkin was against an eruv in Manhattan.

More so, according to the anti-eruv camp, when did Rav Henkin have a change of mind? The Agudas HaRabbonim’s original kol korei in 1962 against the Manhattan eruv, did not include Rav Henkin’s signature and neither did their reissuing of the kol korei in 1966 (HaPardes, 40th year, vol. 8; see The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed). The issue of eruvin in Manhattan dragged on for thirteen years (1949-1962) and it’s clear from the Agudas HaRabbonim’s 1966 kol korei that Rav Henkin did not object even after 1962. It is not plausible that Rav Henkin would have rescinded his support for an eruv after 1966.

In summation there is no doubt that Rav Henkin supported an eruv in Manhattan and Brooklyn and did not sign the 1962 Manhattan kol korei. The fact that the anti-eruv camp showed no qualms about inserting such an untruth in the 1979 Flatbush kol korei should cast aspersions on the veracity of all their positions.
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[4] As a matter of fact, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Neiman shlita from Montreal wrote (see the pamphlet from the Williamsburg Vaad Tikin Eirevin 7th of Iyyar 5763 [2003]) that his rebbe, the Pupa Rav zt”l, did not sign on the text of the 1979 Flatbush kol korei. There are other rabbanim as well who didn’t sign this text, and I hope IY”H to post a second part to the post The 1979 Flatbush Kol Korei Exposed detailing this.
It is important to note as well that there was no meeting of rabbanim in 1979 when they issued the kol korei against the eruv. Some individuals went to each rav personally to collect signatures. This explains how these individuals produced this kol korei by later adding all the signatures to one text.
[5] It is interesting to note that in Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2 Rav Kasher purposefully omitted the name of the author of some letters that he published therein. It is clear to me that simanim 3 and 17 were from the pen of Rav Bick. Additionally, in Kovetz Bais Yitzchok, number 37 p. 345, there is a letter from the collection of the Vaad L’Maan Tikun Eruvin B’Manhattan from a rav who opposed the eruv; however, they did not know the attribution of this letter. I believe the letter was written by Rav Bick as well.