Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Specious Arguments Made in the Name of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l Against an Eruv in Brooklyn: Part 1

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

Recently there has been some discussion regarding our claim that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l would allow an eruv in Brooklyn with many of the arguments presented confirming that the anti-eruv group makes claims in Rav Moshe’s name without truly knowing his shitos in eruvin. They prefer to first make grand pronouncements, and only then to do their research. If the issues at hand weren’t so serious, I’d find these catch up attempts amusing. I question their intellectual honesty in formulating opinions before studying the sources. In truth, it is not Rav Moshe’s positions which are being contested, but the positions of those who believe that Rav Moshe would never allow an eruv not withstanding any changes in the metzious. The following is some of their arguments.

The argument: Rav Moshe's classification of an area of twelve mil by twelve mil as a reshus harabbim was not dependent on there being a population of 3 million contained therein, but only if there are 600,000 people traversing its streets (see Five Towns Jewish Times, June 1, pp. 15-17).

The rebuttal:

If one was to peruse all the pertinent teshuvos in Igros Moshe regarding the issue of shishim ribo, they would realize that Rav Moshe maintains that only with a population of 3 million could we possibly have 600,000 people traversing the streets at one time.

In regards to Chicago, Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita was in agreement that, according to his father's shitah, there must be a minimum population of 3 million in order for the city to be defined as a reshus harabbim (West Rogers Park Eruv, 1993 p. 23).

Some have argued that they have yet to see that Rav Dovid would allow an eruv in Brooklyn, so no proof can be brought from his statements regarding Chicago.
However, this is incorrect:

Nowhere are we arguing that Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita allowed an eruv in Brooklyn. Different aspects of his arguments may be accepted or rejected, without having to accept his entire thesis. Regarding this point of contention, what Rav Dovid’s father’s shita is on the subject of shishim ribo, he clearly agrees that a population of 3 million is the crucial number.

○ This is ironic. In Brooklyn, when one argues that Rav Moshe would allow an eruv, the rejoinder is that Rav Dovid maintains that his father would not allow an eruv, and he knows his father’s opinion better than anyone. On the other hand, in Chicago (and LA), they argue that Rav Dovid is incorrect regarding his father’s shitos in eruvin. When the objective is to negate an eruv, the anti-eruv group always knows better, even better than Rav Dovid.

When the rabbanim who wanted to erect an eruv in Flatbush argued that the population of Brooklyn is fewer than 3 million, Rav Moshe answered that nevertheless he would not advise that they establish an eruv since Brooklyn is a large borough, and some might think that there is shishim ribo traversing its streets (this is an additional chiddush of Rav Moshe’s, and he only considered this objection to an eruv a gezeirah; see Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:88). If it’s as these people argue, Rav Moshe should not have countered that some might think that there is shishim ribo traversing Brooklyn’s streets, but rather that Brooklyn is a reshus harabbim since the population number of 3 million is not a hard and fast rule as his main concern is whether there is 600,000 in the streets. Additionally, Rav Moshe stated regarding Detroit proper that even though his requirement is that there be a population of 3 million to classify the area as a reshus harabbim, an eruv should nevertheless not be established because some may think that the city is large enough that there is shishim ribo traversing its streets (ibid., 5:29). Yet again we see that when Rav Moshe was asked about an area that contained a population fewer than 3 million, he did not argue that the population number of 3 million is not a hard and fast rule as his main concern is that there be 600,000 in the streets. On the contrary, he considered the matter a gezeirah and not an issue of a reshus harabbim (ibid., 4:88). [It’s important to note, Rav Moshe’s conclusion was that an eruv in Brooklyn, according to his opinion, is a matter of a d’Oraysa. Whilst the population of Brooklyn was less than 3 million, Rav Moshe was misled to believe that there are over a million people who come into the borough to work. The combined tally pushed Brooklyn into a status of a reshus harbbim (ibid.). This however is incorrect, and the actual number of people who come into the borough to work is much fewer than 1 million (see Part 2: The Permissibility of a Brooklyn Eruv According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l). Hence, Rav Moshe’s objection to a Brooklyn eruv should only be a matter of a gezeirah.]

Some have argued that if Rav Moshe always considered an eruv in a large city a gezeirah, how can we claim that he would allow a Brooklyn eruv because its population is fewer than 3 million?
This gezeirah does not pertain to us as well for the following reasons:
Rav Moshe only stated this gezeirah because he was led to believe that Brooklyn did not have mechitzos. Once we have established that Brooklyn is circumscribed by mechitzos, Rav Moshe would certainly not have objected because of a gezeirah since, in any case, with mechitzos, Brooklyn is considered, me’d’Oraysa, a reshus hayachid.
Since we have erected a tzuras hapesach in each neighborhood, the area enclosed contains a population of much fewer than shishim ribo, which would definitely not be mistaken as a reshus harabbim.
It is interesting to note the similarities between the Brooklyn and Chicago eruvin. Both Brooklyn and Chicago have a population of approximately 2.5 million people over a twelve mil by twelve mil area. Despite this number of people, Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita agreed that, according to his father, an eruv could be established in Chicago. This gezeirah was not considered a serious enough issue to impede the construction of an eruv in Chicago and should not interfere with an eruv in Brooklyn as well.

The argument: Rav Moshe’s chiddush that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of the city as opposed to a street is more rational since it’s not possible that there was shishim ribo traversing any one street of Yerushalayim at one time in the period of the Bais HaMikdash (see Five Towns Jewish Times, June 1, pp. 15-17).

The rebuttal:
Rav Moshe originally maintained that the criterion of shishim ribo was conditional of the street (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:109) yet after he codified his chiddush, we do not see that he used this argument as a motive for his change of mind.
It’s possible that when the Yiddin were oleh regel, there were 600,000 people traversing the main artery of Yerushalayim. I would add that it’s hard to speculate how many people could have been contained within the walls or on a street of Yerushalayim. Besides for the Midrash Eichah (1:2) which states that there were vast numbers of people living in Yerushalayim (and consequentially could have supplied a street with shishim ribo), the Gemara in Gitten (57a) declares that there were many cities on Har HaMelech containing shishim ribo or more. As the Gemara mentions, the Tzdokim didn’t believe that such a population was possible, and I think this is ironic given what is known about the Tzdokim that they were einoh modeh b’eruv.
Actually, there is just as much a possibility of shishim ribo traversing a single street as there is in the collective streets of Yerushalayim. The Achronim only require that the shishim ribo traverse the street over an entire day and just on some days of the year. It is Rav Moshe who required that the shishim ribo traverse the streets at one time (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:87). Rav Moshe maintains that regarding a city, the requirement of shishim ribo is that 600,000 people would need to traverse its collective streets at one time. [In regards to a intercity road, the shishim ribo need to traverse the same section of the road daily in order that it be classified as a reshus harabbim (ibid., 5:28:16).] The real question then is how was it possible for the old city of Yerushalayim to have 600,000 people traversing its streets collectively especially if this is only achievable with an extremely large population [3 million] as Rav Moshe posits?

The argument: Rav Moshe would not have argued that an eruv can’t be established in Brooklyn without having personally investigated the possibility of Brooklyn being encompassed by mechitzos or having at least looked at a map of the Brooklyn waterfront (see Five Towns Jewish Times, June 1, pp. 15-17).

The rebuttal:
There is no question that Rav Moshe never investigated the mechitzos, and no one ever claimed that Rav Moshe did. People do not realize that to physically inspect the mechitzos at Brooklyn’s waterfront would take many days of work. Had Rav Moshe done so, it would have been common knowledge. It is a specious argument to claim that Rav Moshe would have noticed mechitzos by studying Brooklyn’s maps. Maps are not detailed enough to show mechitzos.
If Rav Moshe would have explored the mechitzos, he would not have said that it’s possible to investigate their existence (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:5). Instead he would have said that he had inspected them, and that he believes that they are halachically insufficient.

The argument: When Rav Moshe stated (ibid., 5:28:5; see also ibid., Addendum to O.C. 4:89) regarding Brooklyn’s mechitzos, “Until now they [the mechitzos] did not exist, but that one can investigate [vezehu efshar levarer]” he did not mean that the existence of mechitzos can be investigated, but only as an admonition to those that claim that they do exist (see Five Towns Jewish Times, June 1, pp. 15-17).

The rebuttal:
Anyone who would learn through this teshuvah would realize that this is a complete distortion of the simple meaning of Rav Moshe’s words.
Rav Moshe was only following what he was informed were the facts on the ground regarding mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn. It’s obvious that Rav Moshe was informed that there were no mechitzos, past or present, encompassing Brooklyn. However, this teshuvah of Rav Moshe’s was in response to Rav Menashe Klein shlita’s argument that there were mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn (Kuntres Oim Ani Chomah, vol. 1 p. 29, published in Shaari Halachos, 11). To this Rav Moshe responded that it’s possible to investigate the mechitzos [vezehu efshar levarer]. The foremost Rav feeding Rav Moshe information regarding the facts on the ground in Brooklyn cavalierly stated in his teshuvah opposing an eruv in Brooklyn that the mechitzos basically don’t exist because there were hundreds upon hundreds of large pirtzos in the mechitzos, and that there were whole neighborhoods that were not included at all (Kerem Beyavnah, 3:27). Alas this is entirely incorrect, and it’s a well known fact that this Rav never even bothered to investigate the mechitzos himself. Following this, it is no wonder that Rav Moshe was under the impression that there were no mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn.

Some have argued that it’s not plausible that Rav Moshe would agree that there is a possibility of mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn, because then he would not have written a teshuvah objecting to a Brooklyn eruv without having investigated the matter.
This is incorrect for the following reason:
○ If one would read the subsequent line in Rav Moshe’s teshuvah, he would not argue this point. Rav Moshe stated that even if Brooklyn was encompassed by mechitzos, he would still object to an eruv because he requires delasos. However, this does not pertain to us because Rav Moshe only required delasos at the bridges (as stated in this teshuvah regarding Brooklyn, Rav Moshe was referring to the chiddush that he set forth about the Manhattan bridges which were not enclosed by the mechitzos). Rav Moshe states that if we erect a tzuras hapesach in the area enclosed by the mechitzos, which is classified as a reshus hayachid, it’s sufficient (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:3; see Is There a Requirement of Delasos According to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l ).

The argument: Rav Moshe maintained that pirtzos esser negates the mechitzos on a d’Oraysa level. Therefore, Rav Moshe was of the opinion that the mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn were halachically deficient (this has been argued at a shiur given by a prominent Rav in Flatbush and in a article in the Five Towns Jewish Times, June 1, pp. 15-17).

The rebuttal:

Rav Moshe stated explicitly that pirtzos esser is only d’rabbanan (Igros Moshe, O.C. 2:89-90).

When confronted with these teshuvos which proves that claims are made in Rav Moshe’s name without actually knowing his shitos, those in opposition to the eruv split hairs and argue the following two points:
1) In O.C. 2:89 Rav Moshe only states that a pirtzos esser is mashma that it is d’rabbanan; hence, it is inconclusive what his final decision was regarding the matter.
This is incorrect for the following reasons:
Rav Moshe makes use of the word mashma and nevertheless means it as a final p’sak (see e.g. Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer, 1:58 and Yoreh Deah, 2:141).
In the following teshuvah (O.C. 2:90) Rav Moshe clearly maintained that pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan, and does not use the word mashma at all.
2) Yes, but these teshuvos are regarding Seagate, a karmelis, but in a situation of a reshus harabbim, Rav Moshe would argue that a pirtzos esser negates the mechitzos me’d’Oraysa.
This is incorrect for the following reasons:
Rav Moshe in O.C. 2:89-90 did not argue that the pirtzos do not negate the mechitzos because the area is a karmelis. Instead, Rav Moshe stated that the pirtzos themselves do not negate the mechitzos because they are only prohibited me’d’rabbanan.
Siman 2:89 is only referring to issues of d’Oraysas.

Rav Moshe was aware of the fact that there were pirtzos greater than ten amos in Manhattan, and he never made an issue of the matter (see Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan, pp. 68, 168-69; Divrei Menachim, O.C. vol. 2, p. 76 and Rav Tzvi Eisenstadt zt”l in his Hatzaah L’Tikkun Eruvin B’Manhattan).
Rav Moshe disagreed with the Chazon Ish’s chiddush that the omed of a reshus hayachid can create a mechitzah (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:3). If Rav Moshe would have been of the opinion that a pirtzos esser is a matter of a d’Oraysa, this could have been his main argument against the Chazon Ish, since this is one of the fundaments that the Chazon Ish makes use of in his chiddushim.
It is a important to note that the overwhelming majority of poskim maintain that pirtzos esser negates the mechitzos only me’d’rabbanan, and a tzuras hapesach is sufficient to rectify the gaps (Mabit in Kiryat Sefer, Shabbos Perek 16; Bais Meir, siman 364; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzes Zahav, 363:1; Markeves HaMishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 14; Pnei Yehoshua, Shabbos 6a; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, O.C. 345:11; Zera Emes, Eruvin 17; Bais Ephraim, O.C. 26-27; Tikkun Eruvin Krakow, teshuvah 1; Melamud Leho’il, siman 68; Avnei Nezer, O.C. 265:13, 265:25, 276:1, 279:3; Aruch HaShulchan, O.C. 362:26; Mahari Slutsk, O.C. 11; Achiezer, 4:8; Chazon Ish, O.C. 107:5-8, 112:5; Chavatzelet HaSharon, O.C. 19, and Kol Mevaser, 1:20:2).
In summation, not only is there no statement of Rav Moshe’s stating that pirtzos esser is a matter of a d’Oraysa, he actually maintained that a pirtzos esser only negates a mechitzah me’d’rabbanan. The reason why some can make such statements with impunity – that Rav Moshe maintained pirtzos esser is a matter of a d’Oraysa – is because most people would overlook these teshuvos in Igros Moshe, O.C. 2:89-90, since they do not concern the issue of eruvin in large cities.