Monday, November 13, 2006

Would Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l Allow an Eruv for the Lower East Side of Manhattan?

Part of an ongoing commentary on the bias against city eruvin.

Since the eruv encompassing the whole Manhattan, established in 1962 (see The Hundredth-Year Anniversary of the First Eruv in New York 1905-2005) by Rav Menachem Kasher and the Shotzer rebbe, zt”l has been declared not viable there has been some debate regarding the establishment of an eruv for the Lower East Side. There are a number of eruvin encompassing parts of Manhattan; however, since the Lower East Side is the place where Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l resided, the issue has become taboo. As in most situations where there is resistance to eruvin, it is doubtful that much thought has been given as to why the subject is closed to debate. I would like to present my analysis why I believe that Rav Moshe would not object and possibly would even agree to a neighborhood eruv for the Lower East Side and other parts of Manhattan as opposed to the 1962 eruv that encompassed the entire island.

At the outset, it is important to note that both in 1959 (HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9) and in 1961 (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:89) Rav Moshe wrote letters supporting the right of the rabbanim of Manhattan to erect an eruv. However, he personally maintained that an eruv could not be established. Rav Moshe argued that even though he would agree that the mechitzos encompassing Manhattan were sufficient, he had the following three shitos yachidaos which he used in conjunction with each other (ibid., 1:39:6) to object to the Manhattan eruv:

  • Issue number 1:
    Even though Manhattan with its mechitzos would be considered a reshus hayachid, since the bridges are open along their sides, they would require delasos (ibid., 1:139:3).
  • Issue number 2:
    Even though Manhattan is enclosed by mechitzos and we were to utilize delasos to close the gaps in the mechitzos, the Rashbah and Rabeinu Ephraim would not allow an eruv since there is a reshus harabbim contained therein (ibid., 1:39:5-6).
  • Issue number 3:
    Even if there is no halachic basis against establishing an eruv in Manhattan, an eruv should not be established there. Manhattan, like Yerushalayim, has many international visitors. Just like an eruv was not erected in Yerushalayim in the times of the Bais HaMikdash because of the fear that people who traveled to Yerushalayim from all over the world would, upon returning home, erect eruvin improperly, an eruv should not be established in Manhattan because of this fear as well (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:89, 5:28:15). [The Noda B’Yehudah, Mahadura Tinyana Kuntres Achron (siman 21) and the Tiferes Yisroel (Eruvin, 10:57) maintain that an eruv was allowed in Yerushalayim, however it was not possible to establish an eruv at the time.]
  • Regarding issue number 1:
    Rav Moshe’s first issue does not affect an eruv only encircling a neighborhood in Manhattan since the tzuras hapesachim that have been erected do not include the bridges and are only encompassing a neighborhood that is included in the mechitzos surrounding Manhattan. Therefore, the area is classified as a reshus hayachid, and delasos are not required. Some have declared that Rav Moshe would require delasos to close all gaps in mechitzos encompassing an area such as Manhattan and Brooklyn (me’d’rabbanan). This is incorrect and is a misreading of Rav Moshe’s teshuvah. Rav Moshe clearly states that the reason why he requires delasos at the bridges is only because the bridges are not enclosed by mechitzos. On the other hand, gaps in the mechitzos would not require delasos; tzuras hapesachim would suffice (ibid., 1:139 see the end of anaf 3 where Rav Moshe states clearly that if the tzuras hapesach is erected in a reshus hayachid, it is sufficient; see Is There a Requirement of Delasos According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l).
  • Regarding issue number 2:
    Rav Moshe’s second issue no longer pertains to Manhattan after he wrote his 1981 teshuvah (ibid., 5:28). Rav Moshe at first stated in his teshuvah regarding Manhattan (ibid., 1:140) that he was unclear whether mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar is considered a criterion of a reshus harabbim. However, Rav Moshe admitted that according to those who do regard mefulash as a criterion of a reshus harabbim, he would allow that delasos at the pirtzos would be sufficient and the shitos yachidaos [the Rashbah and Rabeinu Ephraim] would not be an issue. The reason being is that these shitos yachidaos are only of concern when the area in question has met all the criteria of reshus harabbim (including the criterion of mefulash). In a later teshuvah regarding Brooklyn (ibid., 5:28:7) Rav Moshe does accept that for a walled city to be classified as a reshus harabbim, there is a requirement that its streets ― to be analogous to the diglei hamidbar ― would need to be mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, a criterion of a reshus harabbim (see Part 1: Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim). Consequently, given the fact that Manhattan is enclosed by mechitzos and its streets are not mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, Manhattan would not be classified as a reshus harabbim at all, and Rav Moshe would agree that these mechitzos would classify Manhattan as a reshus hayachid, notwithstanding these shitos yachidaos. (Delasos at the pirtzos would be his only requirement which, as stated above, would be unnecessary as well.) [I hope to post an in depth bi’ur regarding the shitas haRashbah and Rabeinu Ephraim.]
  • Regarding issue number 3:
    Rav Moshe agreed that if the rabbanim in Manhattan would erect an eruv, the precedent of Yerushalayim would b’dieved not pose an obstacle (HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9; Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan p. 161, and Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, siman 4).

Moreover, since Rav Moshe only used these three shitos yachidaos in conjunction with each other to object to the Manhattan eruv (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:39:6) now that we have illustrated that each issue l’chatchilah (or at least issue 1 and 2) would not concern him, there is a possibility that Rav Moshe would permit, and perhaps even support, the establishment of a Manhattan neighborhood eruv. Additionally, we see that Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita agreed that, according to his father’s chiddush in shishim ribo, an eruv could be established in Chicago and in Los Angeles (West Rogers Park Eruv, 1993 p. 23 and the LA Eruv Guidebook). It is evident that Rav Dovid was not concerned with issues number 1 and 2 as these issues are not primary concerns.

We are left with the 1962 kol korei against the establishment of an eruv in Manhattan with Rav Moshe’s signature. However, the fact is Rav Moshe states that rabbanim may enact a takanah only for a short period of time and not indefinitely (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:49). [It is important to note that only when Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l and other Roshei Yeshivos made this takanah in 1962 not to erect an eruv in Manhattan did Rav Moshe join them and prohibit the eruv as well (ibid., 4:86 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89). Even when Rav Moshe signed on the 1962 takanah with Rav Aharon, we see that he was not at ease with the language which stated that, “those who rely on the eruv in Manhattan are considered a mechalel Shabbos,” since after he quoted this takanah in his teshuvah, he omitted this last line (ibid.).]

In summation, since there is a possibility that Rav Moshe zt”l would even support a neighborhood eruv today, why should the Lower East Side be different than any other neighborhood in Manhattan that established an eruv?