Friday, November 23, 2007

A Letter to the Editor

The following is my letter to the editor which appears in the current issue of Mishpacha [November 21, 2007]. It was written in response to the article Beaver Hats and Brownstones [November 7, 2007].

Dear Sir,

As an avid reader from the get go, I would like to take this opportunity to commend you for publishing a wonderful magazine. I know I can always count on Mishpacha to provide balanced coverage on a wide variety of topics. That is why I was taken aback when I read your recent cover story about Williamsburg (November 7, 2007; page 6) where you drew parallels between the religiosity of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem with that of Williamsburg, and compared the current anti-eruv vigilantism of a few individuals with that of prewar Williamsburg Rabbis Chaim Gelb and Baruch Kaplan, “who would vocally stand up for Shabbos.”

The analogy is totally off the mark. Chillul Shabbos in prewar Williamsburg was universally accepted as a legitimate concern, while the contemporary eruv issue is at the most a machlokas haposkim. There is no requirement for one to be mocheh when others are following their rabbanim who allow carrying. As a matter of fact, the eruv is supported and used by the foremost posek in America, Harav Fischel Hershkowitz shlita.

The rabbi you describe as a, “proponent of a machlokas l’sheim Shamayim, [who] fervently believe[s] that any eruv subscriber is a mechallel Shabbos,” is not just, “taking to task those Jews who accept the Williamsburg eruv.” He has physically attacked people carrying and has even been arrested for harassment. I hardly think that this is the paradigm of one who campaigns l’sheim Shamayim that you seek to promote in your fine publication.

It’s ironic that Bnei Brak and Jerusalem — areas that are known for their kanaus l’sheim Shamayim — are, hallachically, no different than Williamsburg, yet the overwhelming majority of observant Yiden who carry in the eruvin there never encounter such vigilantism. Carriages are not overturned and the women pushing them are not verbally harassed. This clearly demonstrates that the motive for this vigilantism is not l’sheim Shamayim.

This is not the venue for a detailed discussion regarding the underlying issue of the Williamsburg eruv. Suffice it to say, it’s clearly a power struggle and has little to do with halachah.



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