Friday, November 02, 2007

History of City Eruvin − Part 5: The Eruv in St. Louis

Continued from part IV


The First St. Louis Eruv

In 1896, Rav Zecharia Yosef Rosenfeld published his arguments for an eruv in a kuntres called Tikvas Zecharia.[89] He stated in his preface:[90] I was driven out of the country in which I was born by the fury of my oppressor,[91] a country where Torah and greatness completely enveloped me. I arrived in this country and observed that even many of the religious Jews permitted carrying on the Shabbos [without an eruv]. A religious Jew, a Jew for whom all is holy, is not embarrassed to carry his tallis to shul in public and then to wrap himself in it during prayer. I said to myself, what could I do for the sake of my people, to remove this major sin? If I raise my voice in public to express the severity of the prohibition, I know very well that my words will not make an impact because people have already become accustomed to carrying. Furthermore, the many preachers of this country have used all the means at their disposal to rebuke the public, yet they have been unsuccessful and their words have been ignored.

Rav Rosenfeld then stated: When I was appointed as the Rav of the Agudas HaKehilos of St. Louis, I wasted no time, and I examined the configuration of the city and labored over the halachic issues. Baruch Hashem, I found that there is an acceptable way to permit carrying in St. Louis on Shabbos. He then added that he hoped that others would be energized to do likewise in all communities, to seek an acceptable means to permit carrying in order to remove this major sin.

Since a proposal to establish an eruv had never before been implemented in this country,[92] Rav Rosenfeld sent his kuntres to Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor (1817-1896)[93] Av Bais Din of Kovno to secure a haskamah. Rav Spektor answered that it was difficult for him to be involved from such a great distance in a complicated halachic issue like this since he was unfamiliar with the configuration of American cities. Rav Spektor directed Rav Rosenfeld to turn to Rav Yaakov Yosef Josef, Chief Rabbi of New York, for a haskamah since he would be more familiar with the cities of America. Rav Rosenfeld stated that he followed this suggestion and indeed secured a haskamah from the Chief Rabbi. He then signed and dated the preface as the Rav of the Agudas HaKehilos of St. Louis on Feb 24 (or April 20), 1896.

In his introduction, Rav Rosenfeld cited the Chasam Sofer[94] who declared that it was common sense and an obligation to rectify the chatzeiros and the mevo’os in order to permit carrying as it is known that issurei Shabbos are severe. Those who did not observe Shabbos were considered as if they denied the entire Torah, and included in this was the proscription of carrying. Moreover, we were commanded to educate the children not to become accustomed to chilul Shabbos. However, it was not possible for the public to ensure that members of their household did not leave their houses without carrying something. The Chasam Sofer continued that it was the responsibility of the rabbanim to rectify their city, and if not, they would have to account for it.

Rav Rosenfeld then added that it was only Bais Din and not the inhabitants of the mavoi who could compel one to contribute for the mechitzos and the eruvei chatzeiros. He cited the Behag[95] that there was a requirement to establish an eruv of tzuras hapesachim for a city. Rav Rosenfeld then argued that the duty of a rav, whether or not he received wages from the community, definitely included the responsibility of establishing an eruv.

Rav Rosenfeld cited the Rosh[96] who commanded the leader of the city Freres, who refused to establish an eruv, to rectify the streets of his city in order that carrying be permitted on Shabbos.

Therefore, Rav Rosenfeld declared that it was incumbent upon him to inspect the perimeter of the city of St. Louis in order to find a heter to rectify the city so that carrying would be permitted on Shabbos.

Chapter One – Citing support for his opposition to the Masa'as Binyamin,[97] Rav Rosenfeld argued that most poskim did accept the criterion of shishim ribo as a fundament of a reshus harabbim, including Tosfos. Rav Rosenfeld added the Eshkol, Piskei Rid, and HaAgur to the Bais Ephraim’s list of Rishonim who maintained that shishim ribo is a criterion of a reshus harabbim.[98]

Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld, in support of the Bais Ephraim, cited Rashi[99] who clarified that the reason why Machane Levi'ah was a reshus harabbim was because it was where Klall Yisroel assembled to hear Torah from Moshe Rabbainu. Rav Rosenfeld argued that even though Machane Levi'ah was the main reshus harabbim since Yidden came from the entire diglei hamidbar to Machane Levi'ah, it was prohibited to carry in all the streets in the diglei hamidbar. Consequently, Rav Rosenfeld argued, even according to those who posited that it was sufficient to classify a street which supported shishim ribo as a reshus harabbim, at least one street actually needed to contain shishim ribo traversing therein. Only then, according to Rashi, would all the streets leading to it be considered as supporting shishim ribo and, therefore, they would be classified as a reshus harabbim.

Section One – Rav Rosenfeld maintained that even though we included all the inhabitants of the city towards shishim ribo – since all the streets opened into each other – if a karmelis such as a roofed area bisected the city, we would not tally the now divided population as a unified total to render the city a reshus harabbim.[100]

Section Two – In Rav Rosenfeld’s opinion, the telegraph lines which bisected the city created a roofed area through the principle of lavud [we view objects within three tefachim of each other as if they are halachically connected] because their wires were spaced less than three tefachim apart on crossarms that projected more than an amah on both sides of the poles. Consequentially, the streets beneath them would be classified as a karmelis, and the city was bisected into parts of less than shishim ribo.

Chapter Two – Notwithstanding the platyas contained therein, Rav Rosenfeld upheld that a city encompassed by mechitzos would be classified as a reshus hayachid since, as a result, the platyas were not mefulash.

Chapter Three – Rav Rosenfeld mentioned that many of the Gedolei Achronim maintained that the mechitzos were not negated even at the time when the river froze over. He then argued that water did halachically negate the riverbanks; only the riverbanks that were above the water line could be used as mechitzos.[101]

Chapter Four – An additional concern discussed by Rav Rosenfeld was that the riverbanks may later be obliterated by a build-up of sediment.

Chapter Five – Rav Rosenfeld cited the Shoel U’Maishiv[102] who maintained that telegraph lines served as halachic tzuras hapesachim. He then disputed the Toras Chesed’s four reasons why telegraph lines were not considered halachic tzuras hapesachim:[103] 1) Rav Rosenfeld advocated that wires affixed to the top of the crossarms were not considered tzuras hapesach min hatzad. [Additionally, he declared that he only made use of telegraph lines where the wires were affixed to insulators fastened to crossarms that were attached to the top of the poles.] 2) He demonstrated that the poskim would have allowed that a structure meant to resemble a doorway could serve as a tzuras hapesach even if not expressly constructed as one [as opposed to an area requiring only minimal rectification ― a heker]. Additionally, the fact that telegraph wires, in order to allow passage beneath them, were intentionally placed high up on poles, which were never placed in middle of the street but only on the corners, proves that they were designed to allow free passage beneath them. 3) He argued that we were not concerned that the distance between the telegraph poles and the houses was more than three tefachim because the poles were running along the sidewalk, parallel to the streets. Since the opening between the telegraph poles and the houses was only on the side, Rav Rosenfeld stated that that the gap could be up to 10 amos wide. Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld noted that in a situation where the telegraph lines and the mechitzos were joined together without any gaps between them, it did not concern us that there were gaps between the poles and the houses. 4) He maintained that only when the tzuras hapesachim were less than three tefachim apart was there a dispute that this was not the way a doorway is constructed. In fact, the telegraph poles were more than four tefachim apart.

Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld noted that the crossarms on the telegraph poles projected more than an amah on each side, and the wires generally were spaced less than three tefachim apart on the crossarms. Therefore, he reasoned, since we view the space between the wires as halachically connected through lavud, we could then apply the principle of pi tikra yored v’sosem [we regard the edge of a roof as extending downwards, forming a legitimate partition], and the telegraph lines could be regarded as mechitzos.

Chapter Six – Rav Rosenfeld stated: 1) That he disagreed with Rav Akivah Eiger[104] and maintained that the renting of the reshus through sechiro v’lekito was effective for an observant Jew. 2) Rav Rosenfeld argued that, even according to Rav Akivah Eiger, sechiro v’lekito was effective for a non-Shomer Shabbos Jew.

Chapter Seven – According to the Teshuvos Rivash,[105] Rav Rosenfeld stated it was possible to contract sechiras reshus from the city’s mayor because he could place objects in the homes of the city’s residents as he pleased. Another rationale cited by the Rivash was that, since the mayor had the authority to alter the major thoroughfares as he pleased and to offer the residents an alternative route, he obviously had the right to remove all the non-Jews from the thoroughfares. Since he may expel them, he may sell their jurisdictions over the streets as well. The Rivash noted that the second reason did not suffice to permit carrying into the streets from the houses that belonged to the non-Jews. He therefore concluded that, in order to satisfy both reasons, it was best to refrain from carrying in and out of the houses of non-Jews and to limit one’s carrying to taking objects from houses owned by Jews into the streets and vice versa.

Citing the Pri Megadim[106] Rav Rosenfeld wrote that, as far as we are concerned, each reason is sufficient by itself. Therefore, when the mayor was authorized to quarter soldiers in private homes, one was allowed to carry even to and from non-Jewish homes. If, however, the mayor was not authorized to do so, one was only permitted to carry into the streets from Jewish homes. Thus, according to the laws of this country that authorized the authorities to condemn private homes in order to construct roads, marketplaces, or for other public benefit when they deem necessary, the Rivash’s second reason allowed carrying even into the streets from non-Jewish homes.

Rav Rosenfeld continued that, according to the laws of this country, magistrates could issue warrants allowing the police to enter any house. Detectives might enter houses even without the knowledge of homeowners. The officials in charge of hygiene and health might enter any house at any time to inspect the cleanliness, the water pipes and other matters, and then require the homeowners to work and fix any violations in accordance with their directives. If the homeowner did not fulfill their directives, they might send workers with tools into the homes to make the necessary repairs at the owner’s expense. If he did not reimburse the authorities, they had the right to sell his house. According to Rav Rosenfeld this suggested that one might contract the sechiras reshus from the mayor of the city. Furthermore, since the officials, the police officers, and all the city authorities involved in municipal matters such as preventing harm, maintaining roads and preserving sanitation, were not appointed by the government but were rather elected by the inhabitants of the city who, in turn, are the sole sources of their salaries, the municipal authorities and workers were thus no less than sechiro v’lekito of the inhabitants of the city, or at the very least, they should be considered sechiro v’lekito of sechiro v’lekito.[107]

Continued here.
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[89] Preface p. {6}. Rav Jaffe later claimed that the rabbanim of Yerushalayim had seen Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zecharia, vol. 2 (Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. 2). Consequentially, Tikvas Zecharia, vol. 2 must have been published prior to their haskama on Rav Jaffe’s Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom which is dated June 28, 1896 (ibid., p. {2} 3). However, I am not convinced that they actually saw Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres at all; see further Analysis of the Halachic Debate.
[90] Page {3}.
[91] See note 31.
[92] See note 56.
[93] Author of Be'er Yitzchak (Konigsberg, 1858); Ein Yitzchak, vol. 1 (Vilna, 1889), vol. 2 (1895), and Nachal Yitzchak, vol. 1 (Vilna, 1872), vol. 2 (1884).
[94] O.C. siman 99.
[95] Hilchos Eruvin, Perek Hador.
[96] Klal 21, siman 8.
[97] Siman 92.
[98] This was the first teshuvah to mention that, besides for the Bais Ephraim’s list, there are additional Rishonim who support shishim ribo. By 1906, Rav Rosenfeld’s addition was being quoted by others; see Rav Avraham Aharon Yudelovitch, Bais Av (2:5:2). As Rav Rosenfeld sent a query to Rav Yudelovitch (ibid., 3:30), I would venture to say that he sent him his kuntres as well (see also notes 100, 110). How else can we explain how Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres reached Rav Yudelovitch who was in Manchester at the time?
[99] Shabbos, 96b.
[100] This chiddush in the name of Rav Rosenfeld was mentioned, as well, by the Bais Av (2:5:10) who did not agree with him. See the article by Rav Avraham Aharon Price regarding the Toronto eruv in HaPardes (25th year, vol. 4 pp. 11-38) where he defends Rav Rosenfeld (p. 21); see also notes 98, 110.
[101] Rav Rosenfeld extensively reworked this chapter at a later date. Hence some editions are paginated as folios with a different type from pp. 13-18 (see Hebrew Printing in America 1735-1926, p. 974). See also note 167.
[102] Mahadura Kama, 2:88.
[103] O.C. siman 9.
[104] Gilyon HaShas, Eruvin 80a.
[105] Siman 427.
[106] Mishbetzes Zahav, siman 391:6.
[107] I have cited many of Rav Rosenfeld’s arguments regarding sechirus reshus as they are pertinent to contemporary American eruvin. Besides for some of my own insertions, the above translation regarding sechirus reshus [chapter 7] were taken from The Contemporary Eruv (2002), p. 115.
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Title page of Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres attesting to the permissibility of the St. Louis eruv.