Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Specious Arguments Made in the Name of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l Against an Eruv in Brooklyn: Part 2

Continued from part I

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


The argument: The map of the mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn illustrates that we make use of mechitzos habatim between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l does not agree that mechitzos habatim are halachically valid.

The rebuttal:

We are not required to enclose the fourth side of Brooklyn with mechitzos at all. Three mechitzos omed merubeh al haparutz would classify an area as a reshus hayachid me’d’Oraysa, and Rav Moshe does not argue on this.
Mechitzos habatim are mechitzos l’kol hadeios. Rav Moshe’s only issue with them was regarding the Chazon Ish’s chiddush utilizing the halachic omed as a mechitzah. Accordingly, we can make use of mechitzos habatim; however, we are utilizing the mechitzos encompassing the Brooklyn waterfront on three sides, which do not consist of batim, and Rav Moshe would definitely not have had an issue with them.
The only reason we indicate on the map that there are mechitzos habatim on the fourth side of Brooklyn, is because there is a daas yachid that would require pasei bira’os, hence we can make use of the mechitzos habatim on the fourth side. Thus, even according to those who want to be stringent in all matters pertaining to eruvin, our mechitzos would suffice, since the batim connect the pasim b’kav echad.


The argument: In Seagate, the fact that Rav Moshe needed to rely on tzuras hapesachim on the side facing the water indicates that the mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn were not sufficient.

The rebuttal:

The mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn include gates at the waterfront and the mechitzos enclosing private property. The Sea Gate mechitzos that Rav Moshe utilized on three sides to enclose the town are those that are being used for the Brooklyn mechitzos and not the mechitzos facing the water.
Because Seagate utilized existing mechitzos on three sides to enable carrying in the community, it was necessary to close off the waterfront with a tzuras hapesach. However, for the rest of Brooklyn, we just need mechitzos that are omed merubeh to modify Brooklyn’s status to a reshus hayachid. A tzuras hapesach was erected to allow carrying in other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Therefore, the fact that mechitzos facing the water are deficient is inconsequential.
The walls at the Seagate shore have been repaired lately and can be used as mechitzos for Brooklyn, as well.


The argument: It’s not possible that Rav Moshe allowed a tzuras hapesach to demarcate an area containing less than shishim ribo in Kew Garden Hills because a reshus harabbim can’t be divide with a tzuras hapesach. More so, it follows that the reason Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in Seagate (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:19 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89) was because it was separated from the rest of Brooklyn with walls and gates; a tzuras hapesach would not have been sufficient in this case.

The rebuttal:

This is incorrect. There are Rishonim and Achronim who maintain that a tzuras hapesach can demarcate an area containing less than shishim ribo (see Tosfos Rid, Eruvin 22a; Or Zarua, Eruvin 22a; Rav Yonasan Stief zt”l in Mahari Stief, siman 68; Rav Chaim Michoel Dov Weissmandel zt”l in Toras Chemed, p. 93, and Rav Elya Meir Bloch zt”l in Kol Tzvi number 7). [It’s important to note that most Achronim maintain that a tzuras hapesach changes the status of a reshus harabbim into a reshus hayachid; see Part 1: Delasos – Me’d’Oraysa or Me’d’rabbanan.]
Rav Moshe maintained that if an area of twelve mil by twelve mil contains a population of 3 million, an eruv can’t be erected in any part of that area. However, Rav Moshe stated clearly that since the Jewish Quarters in European cities were only a small section of the city, never encompassing shishim ribo, it was permissible to erect tzuras hapesachim therein (ibid., 5:28:5). This is why Rav Moshe stated that even if we were to separate Boro Park and Flatbush from the rest of Brooklyn, it would not change their status as a reshus harabbim since each neighborhood independently contained shishim ribo (ibid., 5:28:5 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89). On the other hand, Rav Moshe declared that an eruv can be erected in Kew Garden Hills since it is only a small section of Queens. The unifying shita of Rav Moshe’s is that it is permissible to encircle a section of a city with tzuras hapesachim if it does not encompass shishim ribo. The fact is that both the Boro Park and Flatbush eruvin do not independently contain even close to shishim ribo, hence there is no reason, according to Rav Moshe, not to allow the establishment of an eruv.
When Rav Moshe stated that Seagate was enclosed by walls, he was merely explaining why tzuras hapesachim were not needed. The mechitzos encompassing Seagate were being used for an eruv to allow carrying [heter tiltul]. If Seagate had been enclosed only by a tzuras hapesach, Rav Moshe would not have objected to an eruv there either as long as the eruv encompassed less than shishim ribo.
In the Addendum to O.C. 4:89, Rav Moshe mentions that both Boro Park and Flatbush independently contain shishim ribo, hence an eruv can’t be established there. Rav Moshe continues that Seagate is enclosed by mechitzos and that Kew Garden Hills is only a small neighborhood, therefore an eruv could be established in these neighborhoods. It is clear from this teshuvah that Rav Moshe only meant that Kew Garden Hills and Seagate are unlike Boro Park and Flatbush because (he was mislead to believe that) they independently contained shishim ribo.


The argument: The reason why Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in Queens as opposed to Brooklyn was because Queens is not conceptualized from a halachic perspective as one city, whereas Brooklyn is (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 never said that Queens is not conceptualized as one, only that Kew Garden Hills is a small neighborhood in Queens (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:86 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89). Rav Moshe never said that Brooklyn is conceptualized as one, only that Boro Park and Flatbush individually contain shishim ribo, and therefore, an eruv can’t be erected (ibid., 5:28:5 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89).
According to Rav Moshe, it makes no difference whether or not Queens is considered as one city since Rav Moshe’s main thesis is that we look at an area of twelve mil by twelve mil and not how the boroughs are conceptualized. If the twelve mil by twelve mil area contains a population of 3 million, an eruv cannot be erected in any part it (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:87-88). Kew Garden Hills is part of the twelve mil by twelve mil of Queens just as Boro Park and Flatbush are part of the twelve mil by twelve mil of Brooklyn. If the population of Queens doesn’t meet the requirement of Rav Moshe’s chiddush to be classified as a reshus harabbim neither does the population of Brooklyn.
In any case, this discussion is beside the point. Rav Moshe declared that both the Boro Park and Flatbush neighborhoods independently contain shishim ribo without including the population of Brooklyn. Consequently, Rav Moshe did consider the neighborhoods in Brooklyn as distinct entities and nevertheless, he objected to an eruv therein (ibid., 5:28:5 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89).

When confronted with this fact, which proves that Rav Moshe couldn’t have subscribed to these claims, they argued:
This explanation of why Rav Moshe allowed an eruv for Kew Garden Hills comes from reputable sources, so why shouldn’t we accept their oral explanations? Those who disagree with these oral explanations of why Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in a neighborhood in Queens are undermining his teshuvos because this is the only reason why he could have allowed an eruv there as opposed to Brooklyn. Consequently, they are denigrating Rav Moshe’s kavod by undermining his position.
This is incorrect for the following reasons:
Rav Moshe clearly set forth his chiddushim in eruvin in his teshuvos. To argue that we should accept what someone claims Rav Moshe verbally expressed when it contradicts what he had clearly written is a dangerous thing to advocate. If so, maybe Rav Moshe verbally discounted all of his teshuvos and none of them are reliable, chas v’shalom (see also Noda B’Yehudah, Tinyana, Y.D. 29-30).
All these purported, “oral explanations,” differentiating between Brooklyn and Queens were clearly fabricated in order to justify why Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in Queens but not in Brooklyn. However, those people generating these fictitious accounts did not fully study all the pertinent teshuvos in Igros Moshe and didn’t realize that their excuses contradict his written words. In essence these people are arguing that we should believe that Rav Moshe didn’t know his own shitos in eruvin. I would rather believe that these claims were created after the fact by people who do not know Rav Moshe’s shitos. Actually, Rav Moshe did indicate in his teshuvos why he allowed an eruv in a neighborhood in Queens so there is no need to rely on hearsay (see above).
It’s fascinating that those promoting these contradictory statements as an excuse for an eruv in Queens have the temerity to claim that those promoting an eruv in Brooklyn are denigrating Rav Moshe’s kovod. In fact, they are making Rav Moshe look as if he did not know his own teshuvos. Clearly they are the ones who are denigrating Rav Moshe’s kavod. Don’t they see the irony in the situation? In their campaign to argue against Brooklyn eruvin, they are quick to make claims in Rav Moshe’s name even if they contradict his teshuvos. Contrast that with rabbanim supporting the eruv who spent a considerable amount of time studying Rav Moshe’s teshuvos and investigating the mechitzos in order to satisfy Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin. So who is more respectful of Rav Moshe’s kavod — the proponents of eruvin who study every word he wrote or those objecting to eruvin whose arguments contradict his teshuvos?