Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Response to the Responsa – Shulchan Halevi: Part 2

Continued from part I

Shulchan Halevi: Number of passerby: Others set on finding a loophole for eruvin in large cities looked to the wording of the Shulchan Aruch, who writes that a reshus ha’rabbim is one that is traversed by six-hundred thousand people each day. This, they suggested, means that even if an area or thoroughfare was potentially capable of handling the traffic of six-hundred thousand people, if the number of actual passerby each day was fewer, it could not be classified as a public domain. This would allow the construction of halachic ‘doorways’ in and along such thoroughfares. The Mishnah Berurah takes issue with this interpretation, saying, “I have looked through all the Rishonim who discuss this view, and this precondition is not mentioned by them. [The Rishonim] only say that a city must be populated by six-hundred thousand.” Given this, all of a city’s roads and thoroughfares are to be considered a reshus harabbim, even if no existing street carries six-hundred thousand people daily.
The rebuttal: Rav Belsky is conflating two distinct arguments regarding the criterion of shishim ribo. Is the fundament of shishim ribo conditional of the city or street or is the obligation of shishim ribo bokim a daily requirement or not? As I mentioned earlier, Rav Belsky is incorrect as there is no doubt that the criterion of shishim ribo has been understood through the ages as being conditional of the street. Regarding the Mishnah Berurah (345:24), it is clear that he is only referring to the issue of shishim ribo bokim being a daily requirement or not. However, this issue is not pertinent since there is not one day of the year that any of our streets have shishim ribo traversing them. Moreover, at this point in time, it is clear that the Mishnah Berurah has been superseded since we now know that there are many Rishonim who uphold that the criterion of shishim ribo is a daily requirement (Are There Rishonim Who Require a Daily Shishim Ribo?).

Shulchan Halevi: As an aside, the idea that there are streets through which 600,000 people traverse daily gives credence to a fantasy. No such street ever existed and imagining this to be a requirement for a reshus ha’rabbim is essentially an attempt to institute halachic reform for the sake of modern convenience. The danger of such an approach is self-evident.
The rebuttal: Prior to making such a categorical statement, it would have been prudent of Rav Belsky to peruse the Rishonim and Achronim to distinguish how they applied the criterion of shishim ribo. As I mentioned previously, there is no doubt that the Achronim understood the criterion of shishim ribo as being conditional of the street. In regards to the Gaonim and Rishonim, the original source for the criterion of shishim ribo is the Gaon the Behag (Berlin edition, p. 131), who clearly refers to a street that contained shishim ribo. Additionally, there are many Rishonim who mention the criterion of shishim ribo in conjunction with a street (Rashi, Eruvin 6b; Tosfos, Eruvin 6a, 26a, and Shabbos 64b; HaEshkol, Hilchos Tzitzis ois 31 and Hilchos Eruvin ois 64; Sefer Ha’itim, ois 206, 209; Ra’avan, Shabbos 349; Ravyah, Hilchos Eruvin 379; Sefer HaMinhag, Hilchos Shabbos Hatzrichos ois 138; Sefer HaTerumah, ois 214, 239; Or Zarua, Hilchos Shabbos siman 16, Eruvin 129; Piskei Mahrach Or Zarua, Eruvin Perek 2 ois 57; Semag, Hilchos Shabbos p. 17; Maharam MeRotenberg, siman 31, Eruvin ois 10; Smak, Mitzvos Hatluyos B’Shabbos p. 296; Ramban, Shabbos 57a; Riaz, Eruvin Perek 1:5; Meiri, Shabbos 57a; Rabbeinu Yerucham, Toldot Adom V’Chavah Nesiv 12:4, 12:17; Rivevan, Eruvin 6b; Ran, Eruvin 6a; HaAgur, siman 537, and Sefer HaNeyar, Hilchos Eruvin p. 51).

Although, some of the Rishonim mention a city when discussing the criterion of shishim ribo, it is important to examine what a city denotes. Rashi, our source for the criterion of shishim ribo, states (Eruvin 59b; see also Tosfas Rid, ad loc.) that cities had one main thoroughfare used by all the residents to enter and exit the city, and this was the reshus harabbim, of the city (accordingly, all those who cite the lashon “air” that Rashi at times used as proof that he maintained that shishim ribo was conditional of the city are missing the point; to Rashi, city and street were one and the same). [On the other hand, today’s cities do not only have one main thoroughfare.] Furthermore, we see that some of the Rishonim alternate between using a lashon of a city and that of a street which indicates that they are one and the same (see Ritva, Eruvin 59a where he references city and in Shabbos 6a where he mentions a street). Therefore when some of the Rishonim make use of the term city they must be referring to a city’s main street including shishim ribo as Rashi outlines.

Consequentially, it is patently clear that the Rishonim assumed that there was a possibility for a street to be traversed by shishim ribo since they maintained that the criterion of shishim ribo was conditional of a street. Moreover, the Gemara in Berachos (58a) states that Yishai the father of Dovid HaMelech always traveled and lectured to a multitude of shishim ribo so we see that the Gemara assumed that there was a possibility for shishim ribo to congregate in one area.

Shulchan Halevi: The law of the land: In one city, a certain Rav justified the building of an eruv based on the halachah of dinna d’malchusa dinna, that the law of the land is halachically binding. It is the law of the land that all people, pedestrians and vehicles alike, are required to come to a full stop at a red light. Therefore, this Rabbi opined that the barrier of the traffic signal should be considered a halachic ‘wall’ separating one city block from the next, breaking up the city into hundreds of separate blocks. On the basis of this idea, one which was never previously mentioned in halachic literature, he permitted the construction of an eruv in an area where the Torah prohibition to carry remained.
The rebuttal: Well, no previous posek mentioned the concept of using red lights as a “halachic wall” because there were no traffic signals in previous days to talk of. It is interesting that, for some reason, in this sefer Rav Belsky omitted the name of the rav to whom he had earlier (he mentioned this issue in two shiurim) pegged this heter to, namely Rav Menashe Klein shlita. It is even more fascinating that Rav Belsky disparaged Rav Klein because of this heter but never derided the Klausenberger rebbe zt”l whom Rav Klein stated in his teshuvah was the originator of this chiddush (see Rav Klein’s Shaarei Halachos, 11 p. 27 and the Klausenberger rebbe’s Divrei Yatziv, 2:172:14, 173:4).

Moreover, Rav Belsky assiduously cites the example of the red lights as a paradigm of the arguments set forth by those who allow eruvin in large cities. With this reference, Rav Belsky is trying to make light of the mattirim as if this is their main argument to allow large city eruvin. In fact, Rav Klein mentions eleven reasons to allow an eruv in Boro Park, and the red lights are only one of them. Rav Kein includes fundamentals such as that the streets do not meet the criterion of mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, and that Brooklyn is encompassed by mechitzos. The question is why didn’t Rav Belsky address these fundamental reasons and chose instead to only focus on the red light heter?

In any case, to those not acquainted with what the poskim maintain are the underlying conditions of a reshus harabbim, it may seem that the red light heter is questionable. In truth, this heter is based on previous poskim. The Shoel U’maishiv (Mahadurah Kama, 1:251) and the Avnei Nezer (1:267:5) declare that if the authorities do not allow access to an area at a certain time, it is not classified as a reshus harabbim since one of the prerequisite of a reshus harabbim is that it always be accessible to the public. These Gedolie Haposkim maintain as such even though there are no physical barriers that inhibit the traffic. Why should the legal requirement to stop at a red light be any different? I will add that those poskim who suggested the red light heter would agree that it should only be looked upon as a snif l’heter.

Moreover, it is customary of the rabbanim who write teshuvos to build upon a heter by adding layers of additional rationale to be lenient. Rav Belsky is no stranger to this phenomenon and is known to employ it regarding modern-day kashrus issues and can be extremely creative in discovering additional reasons to be lenient. Why then can’t he understand when others do so when the issue is eruvin?

Shulchan Halevi: The severity of hotza’as Shabbos: It is one thing if a person relies on an established leniency among the Rishonim, such as Rashi and Tosafos. No one will be taken to task by the Ribbono Shel Olam after one hundred and twenty years for carrying in an eruv that was built in consideration of the minhag ha’kehillos, the custom of the European communities, and founded on the opinions of Rashi and Tosafos.
Even so, when it comes to relying on the city-wide, European eruvin, the Mishnah Berurah often repeats the telling phrase, “uba’al nefesh yachmir – and a sensitive soul should be stringent.” In our times, it is no longer a question of stringency. With city populations easily exceeding six-hundred thousand, it is a genuine matter of a Torah prohibition. Creative rationales have no place anywhere in halachah, especially when we are dealing with a serious issur like hotza’as Shabbos.

The rebuttal: Well, excuse us all for relying on the leniencies of the Gedolie Achronim, such as the Divrei Malkiel, the Achiezer and the Chazon Ish, who understand the Rishonim better than all of us. It is preposterous for one to suggest that one will be, “taken to task,” for relying on these Gedolie HaPoskim. Furthermore, we follow the Shulcahn Aruch who informs us as to which Rishonim we follow, and there is no doubt that the Shulchan Aruch applies the criterion of shishim ribo to a street. [Those who argue that the Shulchan Aruch understood the criterion of shishim ribo as applying to a city would need to answer why does the Shulchan Aruch use the term shishim riboovrimbo (implying that the shishim ribo need to traverse the street). According to their argument, the Shulchan Aruch should have written shishim ribodarimbo (implying a city containing a population of shishim ribo).] Moreover, since all of those carrying are just following their rav, there is no doubt that they will not, “be taken to task by the Ribbono Shel Olam after one hundred and twenty years for carrying in an eruv” (see further on). Is Rav Belsky suggesting that one should not follow his rav?

In fact, the Mishnah Berurah would have to admit that even a Baal Nefesh can be lenient since the overwhelming majority of Rishonim pasken that we can rely on shishim ribo (Part 1: According to the Mishnah Berurah, May a Baal Nefesh Carry in an Eruv of Tzuras HaPesachim?). There were cities in Europe that contained shishim ribo, and most people carried in these city eruvin. Cleary the minhag was that the criterion of shishim ribo was conditional of a street and not the city as Rav Belsky is suggesting. Even without relying on the criterion of shishim ribo, there are additional fundaments that are definitely not “creative rationales” which would allow an eruv in large cities namely the criterion of mefulash and that the area is encompassed by mechitzos. Consequently, as there are numerous grounds to allow our large city eruvin, there is no doubt that we will not be transgressing a “Torah prohibition.”

Shulchan Halevi: The prohibition of hotza’ah, of carrying on Shabbos, is one of the most serious prohibitions in the Torah. Family purity, which is dear to everyone (and no one would ever think to be lenient in this), carries a punishment of kareis spiritual severance from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Hotza’ah is far more serious, and carries the death penalty of skilah – stoning, in addition to kareis.
The issur of carrying is unique amongst all the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos. The discussion of hotza’ah in the Talmud is ten times longer than the next most extensive topic. Over two hundred pages of Gemarah are dedicated to the intricacies of forbidden hotza’ah. No other issur d’Oraisa is protected by so many Rabbinical ordinances and stringencies. We refrain from performing two Torah mitzvos, and one ordinance of the Prophets – shofar, lulav, and megillah – in deference to the issur of hotza’ah on Shabbos. According to most Rishonim, the entire edifice of muktzah, the restriction of handling unnecessary items on Shabbos, is to guard against accidental hotza’ah. Shlomo HaMelech wisely developed the requirements of eruvin even in non-public areas, and Hashem approved it, as a safeguard against violating the Torah prohibition of hotza’ah.
If anyone would ask why the first Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the natural response would be to quote the Gemara in Yoma (9b): “Because of three things… idolatry, immorality, and murder.” But Yimiyahu HaNavi gave another reason altogether:
Thus says Hashem, Guard your lives and do not carry any object… do not take out from your homes any object on the Sabbath day… If you do not heed Me to sanctify the Sabbath day and not to carry objects, and you come to the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, I shall kindle fire in her gates, and I shall consume the palaces of Jerusalem, and it will not be extinguished” (Yirmiyahu 17:21-22,27).

The rebuttal: All of the above was uttered in vain. No one denies that the matter of hotza’ah is a serious issue, but this is the reason to establish an eruv. All of the issues regarding hotza’ah that Rav Belsky mentioned are only when one carries in an area not encompassed by an eruv, but this is not our situation at all. Of course, Rav Belsky’s argument is that the eruv is not kosher so it is as if people are carrying in an area that is not included in an eruv. However, no doubt Rav Belsky is aware of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s teshuvah (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:186) were he states that when one follows one’s rav on any issue, even on issurei chilul Shabbos, albeit the halachah is not like their rav’s interpretation, no aveirah is transgressed. Consequentially, since those utilizing the eruvin in Brooklyn are just following their rav’s opinion that the eruv is kosher, no issur was transgressed. Is Rav Belsky suggesting that one should not follow his rav? Moreover, there is no doubt that the Brooklyn eruvin are more kosher then much of what we put into our mouths today. Vhamayvin yavin.

Shulchan Halevi: Instead of seeking leniencies and finding rationales to permit what is assur, we should take Chazal as our guide and guard ourselves from the issur of hotza’a, relying only on the solid views of the Rishonim. We should shun modern-day excuses for carrying on Shabbos Kodesh.
The rebuttal: Yet again it would seem that Rav Belsky is suggesting that we should discount the views of the Gedolei Achronim, such as the Divrei Malkiel, the Achiezer and the Chazon ish, who allow large city eruvin. There is no doubt that these Gedolie Achronim understood the Rishonim unlike Rav Belsky. Moreover, Rav Belsky time and again fails to recognize that there are numerous grounds in addition to the criterion of shishim ribo that would allow eruvin in large cities l’chatchilah namely mefulash, and that the city is encompassed by mechitzos. These “excuses” are as old as hilchos eruvin itself.

Shulchan Halevi: The Gemara (Eruvin 101a) states that when Yerushalayim was completely surrounded by walls, it was rendered a karmelis. The question then arises, why indeed did they not make eruvei chatzeiros or shitufei mevo’os to permit carrying on Shabbos? Many mefarshim answer that it was an accepted minhag not to build eruvin in large cities even where it was permissible.
The rebuttal: I challenge Rav Belsky to cite one “meforesh” besides for Rav Moshe zt”l who argues, “that it was an accepted minhag not to build eruvin in large cities even where it was permissible.” All the mefarshim give alternative reasons why an eruv was not erected in Yerushalayim at the time (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). Moreover, some Rishonim clearly state that while they did not enclose the entire city of Yerushalayim, they did enact eruvei chatzeiros for the mavo’os of the city (Ravyah, p. 398). It is obvious that the Rishonim did not know of this “accepted minhag.”

Shulchan Halevi:It should be noted when making eruvin in cities where the population is less then 600,000 one must be on guard for an increase in population which would render the existing eruvin invalid.
The rebuttal: It appears that Rav Belsky is alluding to the Yerushalayim and Beni Brak eruvin which today contain a population greater than shishim ribo. It would be interesting to hear the reaction to Rav Belsky’s arguments in these cities in Eretz Yisroel where it seems that they do not agree to his understanding of the criterion of shishim ribo. Moreover, even though Rav Moshe zt”l allowed an eruv in Kew Gardens Hills, Rav Belsky should argue that it is invalid since it is part of a borough that contains a population that is much greater than shishim ribo.

Shulchan Halevi: Furthermore, almost all the creative reasons invented to permit eruvin in large cities today would result in rules that would make it impossible for the existence of a reshus ha’rabbim, even those surrounded by walls, such as Yerushalayim, and the Babylonian city of Mechuza. It is self-evident that reasoning which leads to absurd conclusions is flawed by definition. It is surely the most ridiculous absurdity to imagine that there were never any public domains when so many of them are actually identified by Chazal and in light of the many decrees that were made by Chazal to prevent carrying on Shabbos. This alone is proof enough to invalidate this entire modernistic approach to halachah.
The rebuttal: This is not an argument at all. Of course there were cities that were classified as a reshus harabbim even according to those who maintain that shishim ribo is conditional of the street. As Rashi explains (Eruvin 6b) regarding Yerushalayim and Mechoza, the reshus harabbim of the city was sixteen amos wide, mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar and included shishim ribo traversing it. Later, Rashi illuminates how the cities of that time were designed (Eruvin 59b). They had one main road that all residents used to exit and enter the city, and this was the reshus harabbim, of the city. Consequently, only cities with such a layout could possibly meet all the criteria of a reshus harabbim. However, our cities have more than one main street thus they would not meet the criterion of shishim ribo.

It would be illuminating to peruse the words of one of the greatest poskim of his time, HaGaon Rav Shlomo Kluger. In his Sefer HaChaim (siman 345:7) he states that in the time of the Chachmei HaShas there was the possibility of a reshus harabbim, but as Rashi maintains, in our days there is no such thing as a reshus harabbim. In the times of Rav Kluger, there were cities such as Paris and London that contained a population greater than shishim ribo. Nevertheless, he argued that only in the time of the Chachmei HaShas was there a possibility of a city being classified as a reshus harabbim. Rav Kluger was not bothered that in his day there was no such thing as a reshus harabbim, and we should not be bothered as well.

Shulchan Halevi: It is painful to observe how the groups who wish to construct these eruvin insist that the Chasidic custom has always been to seek any justification to allow eruvin any place, when in fact all historical evidence points to the contrary. As we mentioned above, it was the Beis Ephraim, a staunch misnaged, who permitted eruvin in Europe.
The rebuttal: While there is no doubt that most poskim, Chassidshe and Litvishe alike, sought out kulos when necessary to establish an eruv, there is no doubt as well that the Chassidshe rebbes and poskim on the whole were the foremost advocates of eruvin.

To quote The Contemporary Eruv (note 49):
Historically, Chassidim have been more inclined to promote the construction and the use of eruvin than Misnagdim. This tradition commenced with the founding of Chassidus, as the Beis Aharon – Rabbi Aharon “HaGadol” of Karlin (Likutim, p. 289) – reports that the Ba’al Shem Tov himself said that he came to this world to rectify three areas: to insure the proper slaughter (shechitah) of animals; to encourage the construction and use of eruvin; and, to promote more extensive use of mikvah. The first letters of the Hebrew terms for each of these three areas: Zevicha, Eruvin, Mikveh, form the acrostic: ZA’aM.” The Beis Aharon interprets the verse in Chabakuk 3:12: “In ZA’aM the land shall march,” as alluding to these three rectifications, that by them the land will march toward proper underpinnings.

Even more so, there were Chassidshe rabbeim who advocated that one must carry in an eruv (Part 5: Meoz U’Mekedem – Exploring the Historical Roots of the Machlokas Regarding Eruvin). It is telling that almost all the supporters of the eruv in Manhattan were of Chassidshe linage, and those opposing were of Litvishe descent (The Hundredth-Year Anniversary of the First Eruv in New York 1905-2005). Furthermore, Rav Belsky is totally incorrect. The Bais Ephraim was not a misnaged by any stretch of the imagination. It is well known fact that he davend Nusach Sefard and that he gave countless haskamos on Chasidshe seforim (see here).

Shulchan Halevi: In Warsaw, Poland, the Rav who permitted an eruv, even when the population of the city grew to exceed 600,000, was Rav Shlomo Dovid Kahane, a Lithuanian Jew who never identified with Chassidism. The Chassidic population of Warsaw never used the eruv, and considered carrying in Warsaw on Shabbos to be prohibited.
The rebuttal: To begin with, it is important to note that Rav Belsky has mentioned in his shiurim that Rav Shlomo Dovid Kahane zt”l’s heter for an eruv in Warsaw was based on the fact that the Vistula River divided the population of Warsaw into parts that contained less than shishim ribo. This is incorrect, and it is telling that Rav Belsky assiduously omits the reason why Rav Kahane allowed an eruv in Warsaw. Rav Kahane clearly stated that they relied on the heter of mefulash, and that he didn’t want to rely on the criterion of shishim ribo at all (Part 1: The Truth About Warsaw). Furthermore, the fact is that by the year 1900 the much larger side of Warsaw contained shishim ribo (Part 2: The Truth About Warsaw) so those who did rely on the criterion of shishim ribo must have upheld that the criterion applied to a street and not to a city.

Moreover, Rav Belsky is perpetuating a myth. The fact is there are people alive today who will testify that Chassiddim carried on Shabbos in Warsaw. I personally spoke to Chassidshe residents of Warsaw who carried in their hometown. There is also a movie clip of Chassidshe Yidden carrying in Warsaw on Shabbos. [I hope to post a more comprehensive history of the Warsaw eruv in the future.]

Shulchan Halevi: Those who today wish to permit eruvin, who in every other respect are faithful to time-honored traditional custom have in this case availed themselves of an approach to halachah that has no precedent and has never before appeared in any reputable Torah work.
The rebuttal: On the contrary, those who are establishing these eruvin are the ones who are following the “time-honored traditional custom” of erecting eruvin even in the largest of cities. It is Rav Belsky who is arguing on the minhag as mentioned in the Divrei Malkiel, the Achiezer, the Chazon Ish and by Rav Shlomo Dovid Kahane.

In summation, it is telling that Rav Belsky harps on the issue of shishim ribo and omits the other criteria suggested by the Gedolie HaPoskim that would clearly allow an eruv to be established even in the largest of cities for the following reasons: Most poskim uphold that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of a street. Most poskim maintain that for a street to be classified as a reshus harabbim, it would need to be mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar. Moreover, many cities could make use of mechitzos habattim. Furthermore, even if an area was classified as a reshus harabbim, many poskim maintain that if the area is encompassed by tzuras hapesachim, the area is downgraded to a reshus hayachid, and only me’d’rabbanim is there a requirement of delasos. Additionally, at the minimum, these heterim would be considered sfek sfeikos, thus we would go l’kulah even if it were to be a Torah prohibition.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Response to the Responsa – Shulchan Halevi: Part 1

The new sefer of HaRav HaGaon Rav Yisroel Belsky shlita, Shulchan Halevi, has just hit the shelves. Showing his mastery of halachah, Rav Belsky deals with a wide range of topics, and the sefer is extremely informative. One can see why he is such a well respected posek. However, I find it uncanny how Rav Belsky never fails to miss an opportunity to inveigh against large city eruvin.

Under the heading Eruv in Bungalow Colony and City (p. 46), Rav Belsky criticizes, in the harshest of terms, the practice of establishing an eruv in cities that contain more than shishim ribo. As I did previously with Rav Belsky’s shiur, I weighed the pros and cons of rebutting this diatribe. Typically this category of English seforim is read by the layman, and since many of them do not have the tools to recognize how his opinion is biased regarding this matter, there is no doubt that they will be negatively influenced by his strong language. However, the fact is these eruvin are supported by some of America's foremost poskim, and their collective kavod surely carries more weight than any one posek. Therefore, I concluded that there must be a rejoinder to this harangue. While some of Rav Belsky’s arguments can be found in the poskim, it is what he fails to mention that is more noteworthy. What follows is an analysis and a refutation of his assertions in a linear fashion.

Shulchan Halevi:
Is it preferable to be stringent (machmir) and avoid carrying within the eruv of a city, bungalow colony, or camp?


If the eruv in question is known to be kosher, and under reliable supervision, then there is no problem making use of it. There are some who wish to follow the opinion of the Rambam, who holds that the distance of the enclosure covered by the actual mechitzos (halachic ‘barriers’) should be greater than that covered by tzuros ha’pesach (halachic ‘doorways’). This principle is called “omed merubah al haparutz,” that is, the real barriers must be greater than the open areas in which doorways are used to complete the enclosure. Most eruvin do not adhere to this restriction, and those who wish to be machmir should consult with the Rav in charge of the particular eruv they wish to use.
The rebuttal: It is ironic that the main subject of this chapter, large city eruvin, which Rav Belsky is seeking to malign are usually classified as Rambam eruvin. In large cities, the houses are situated closely enough together that they can be classified as mechitzos through omed merubeh al haparutz and would, therefore, satisfy shitas haRambam (A Rambam Eruv in Brooklyn?). Consequentially, according to the Rambam, this creates an interesting dichotomy as there are fewer grounds to be stringent in large cities then in smaller ones where the houses are too spread out to be halachically joined as mechitzos. However, I must emphasize that besides for a few yachidim, the minhag Europe was not to be stringent regarding shitas haRambam at all.

Shulchan HaleviBungalow colonies: In a bungalow colony, as long as the eruv was installed correctly (al pi din), there is almost never a question as to its kashrus. This is because these small collections of summer cabins are usually not considered to be a proper public domain (reshus ha’rabbim), even considering the country road that might bisect it. Even in the view of the Mishkenos Yaakov, such an area is not a public domain, and the eruv is kosher. Some bungalow colonies may nevertheless have public domains running through the area enclosed by the eruv, so it is always advisable to consult with the Rav in that colony for specific information regarding each eruv.
The rebuttal: Actually the Mishkenos Yaakov maintains that any town road (unroofed) which is 16 amos wide is classified as a reshus harabbim. Accordingly, if the public road that bisects a colony is 16 amos wide, it would pose a problem. However, as Rav Belsky mentions further on, our custom was not to follow the Mishkenos Yaakov but the Bais Ephraim, so I do not comprehend why he even mentioned this opinion. Paradoxically, there is a possibility that the Brooklyn eruvin which Rav Belsky is inveighing against would satisfy the Mishkenos Yaakov since the mechitzos encompassing Brooklyn at the waterfront do not have a rabbim traversing them as opposed to these colony eruvin (see Mishkenos Yaakov, O.C. 122, p. 144).

Shulchan HaleviCity eruv: Determining the halachah regarding a city eruv is far more complex. It is clearly established in halachah, that a series of tzuros ha’pesach, or open doorways, in a public domain (reshus ha’rabbim) cannot be used for an eruv. What remains as a matter of dispute is precisely what the Torah considers to be a public domain.
The rebuttal: What Rav Belsky fails to mention is that there is a, “clearly established halachah,” that many if not most poskim uphold that me’d’Oraysa a tzuras hapesach would reclassify a reshus harabbim as a reshus hayachid. Accordingly, the requirement of delasos is only me’d’rabbanan (Rosh Yosef, Shabbos 6b; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, O.C. 364:4; Tzemach Tzedek, Eruvin the end of Perek 5; Aishel Avraham, siman 345; Gaon Yaakov, Eruvin 11a; Yeshuos Malko, O.C. 21; Aruch HaShulchan, O.C. 364:1, and Kaf HaChaim, O.C. 364:12). Since the requirement of delasos is me’d’rabbanan, we can be lenient [safek d’rabbanan l’kulla] and apply any additional heter to remove the requirement of delasos (Kanah V’Kanamon, 5:56; Livush Mordechai, 4:4, and Bais Av, 2:9:3). It is incredible that Rav Belsky would state with such surety that a tzuras hapesach would not suffice in a public domain, and that he would disregard some of the greatest poskim who uphold otherwise.

Shulchan HaleviThe early Rishonim disagree on whether a domain must contain six-hundred thousand people to be considered ‘public.’ Rashi and Tosafos hold that it must, while most of the Rishonim disagree, and maintain that even if there are not six-hundred thousand people in a particular area, it may still be a full-fledged public domain.
The rebuttal: It seems that Rav Belsky is repeating the Mishnah Berurah’s [Mishkenos Yaakov’s] argument but is neglecting to mention that they have been clearly superseded. At this point in time, it is no more a matter of debate; we now know that the overwhelming majority of Rishonim maintain that shishim ribo is a fundament of a reshus harabbim (The Overwhelming Majority of Rishonim Maintain that Shishim Ribo is a Criterion of a Reshus Harabbim). Anyone who has learned through this inyan should be familiar with this reality, and the fact that Rav Belsky still argues otherwise shows him up to be prejudiced when the matter is city eruvin.

Shulchan HaleviAbout one hundred and seventy-five years ago, two major responsa were written regarding eruvin. The Mishkenos Yaakov wrote against the practice of building eruvin in large cities, even if their population did not reach six-hundred thousand, while the Beis Ephraim justified the construction of such eruvin, as long as the population did not exceed six-hundred thousand people, based on Rashi and Tosafos. The custom in Europe in most communities was to rely on the Beis Ephraim, Rashi and Tosafos, that a Torah-sanctified reshus ha’rabbim must be populated by six-hundred thousand people. Since most European towns did not meet that criterion, eruvin were permitted during that period.
The rebuttal: This is simply incorrect. No one argues that the Bais Ephraim maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a city. Anyone who argues as such did not learn through the Bais Ephraim. The only disagreement regarding the Bais Ephraim is how he applied the criterion of shishim ribo to a street. Some want to argue that the Bais Ephraim would classify a road as a reshus harabbim just if it was possible for shishim ribo to traverse the street (actually, nobody of stature maintains as such). However, the poskim understand that the Bais Ephraim would only classify a street as a reshus harabbim if, at times, 600,000 people actually traverse the road itself (The Overwhelming Majority of Achronim Maintain That the Shishim Ribo Has to Traverse the Street Itself). Even the Mishkenos Yaakov admits that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of the street (siman 121). The fact that there were cities in Europe (see below) containing shishim ribo that maintained eruvin is proof that they relied on the fact that no street contained shishim ribo and not just the city itself.

Shulchan HaleviWith the passing of time cities became larger until it became common for Jews to live in cities, with populations in the hundreds of thousands and even millions. This means that even Rashi and Tosafos would consider these cities full-fledged ‘public domains,’ and the main heter of the Beis Ephraim no longer applies.
The rebuttal: Since Rav Belsky is on the subject of the European custom in regards to eruvin, how could he not recognize that the custom was to established eruvin even in cities with populations greater than shishim ribo? Warsaw, Lodz and Odessa all maintained eruvin despite the fact that their populations were greater than shishim ribo. Moreover, the Divrei Malkiel (4:3) clearly states the custom in Europe was to rely on the fact that no street had shishim ribo traversing therein. Even Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l agreed that in Europe the minhag was to establish eruvin in cities containing shishim ribo (consequentially he required a population of three million; The Requirement of Shishim Ribo: Is It Conditional on a City?). I challenge Rav Belsky to list one posek other than himself and Rav Moshe Bick zt”l who upholds that shishim ribo is conditional of the city (regarding the Achiezer see Part 1: The Achiezer Explained, Part 2: The Achiezer Explained). Moreover, the Bais Ephraim mentions other grounds to allow large city eruvin that Rav Belsky conveniently omits (the fundament of mefulash and that we pasken lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta). Consequentially, even without relying on the criterion of shishim ribo, the Bais Ephraim would allow our eruvin since there are additional conditions of a reshus harabbim that were not met.

Shulchan HaleviIn the interest of maintaining the viability of eruvin in large cities, some modern-day Rabbanim began to search for various rationales to avoid classifying large cities as bona-fide public domains.
The rebuttal: I think that Rav Belsky should have known whom he is classifying as modern-day rabbanim who allowed eruvin even in large cities. These include the Divrei Malkiel, Rav Chaim Berlin (Oddesa eruv), the Achiezer (Paris eruv), Rav Shlomo Dovid Kahane (Warsaw eruv) and the Chazon ish (all large cities). I think the contemporary rabbanim are in very good company. Is Rav Belsky suggesting that these Gedolei Haposkim acted like modern-day rabbanim who seek leniencies that are unsubstantiated? Is Rav Belsky suggesting that the renowned Chazon Ish’s heter that sanctions large city eruvin exposes the Chazon Ish as a modern-day rabbi?

Shulchan HaleviSidewalks: One suggestion that has been made is that sidewalks are not public domains, but simply “edges of the public domain” (tzidei reshus ha’rabbim). If this were indeed the case, it would be permissible to set up an eruv on the sidewalk. Presumably, the rational is that cars and other vehicles do not generally drive on the sidewalk; they drive on the paved road, which contains no obstacles and upon which it is easier to travel. On the other hand, the Gemara defines tzidei reshus ha’rabbim as a market place where peddlers sell their wares and pedestrians cannot pass through with ease. With this in mind, it becomes very difficult to classify our sidewalks, which were made for the express purpose of permitting the free flow of pedestrian traffic (hiluch ha’rabbim), as tzidei reshus ha’rabbim, where pedestrian terrific is limited.
The rebuttal: To the best of my knowledge, the first and only posek to suggest this heter was Rav Belsky himself. In 1999 when the Boro Park eruv was established, Rav Belsky gave a shiur in Yeshivah Torah Vodaath vehemently objecting to the eruv. In his zeal to excuse away the fact that a Boro Park Chassidshe shul had erected an eruv enclosing their sidewalk, Rav Belsky suggested that they were relying on a tenuous heter of tzidei reshus harabbim. The only similar heter suggested (and possibly this is what it is being conflated with) is that since the streets are designated for cars ― and there is a requirement that the whole 16 amos must be suitable for people ― the streets and the sidewalks on either side of the street are not considered connected to form one contiguous 16 amos (Tikvas Zechariah, p. 40 and Divrei Yatziv, 2:172:13; see also Oim Ani Chomah, siman 63). Additionally, the parked cars themselves serve as mechitzos as they separate the sidewalk from the street. Consequentially, the streets are not considered 16 amos wide (Nesivos Shabbos, 3:1:2). However, these heterim are really only being used as a snif l’heter in conjunction with other heterim to allow eruvin in large cities.

Shulchan HaleviIndividual streets: Another mistaken idea is that individual streets which cannot accommodate six-hundred thousand people at a time are not considered reshus ha’rabbim, even if they are part of a city whose population exceeds that number. This innovative distinction fails when subjected to halachic scrutiny. The undisputed halachah is that an ally-way open on both ends (mavui mefulash) to a public domain is also classified as a public domain. Side streets are no better than alley-ways, and open-ended side-streets must also be classified as part of the public domain. Thus, the argument for constructing an eruv on side-streets becomes completely baseless. More fundamentally, the fact that open-ended alley-ways are considered part of the public domain negates the notion that for any particular street to be deemed a public domain, it would need to have six-hundred thousand residents. It is unthinkable that an ally-way could accommodate such a number, yet it certainly forms part of the public domain.
The rebuttal: Rav Belsky is totally mistaken regarding mavoi mefulash. No Rishon or Achron who upholds that shishim ribo is a fundament of a reshus harabbim maintains that an open ended alleyway [mavoi mefulash] does not itself require shishim ribo traversing the mavoi (or according to some poskim, traversing only at times) in order to be classified as a reshus harabbim itself (see for starters Tosfos, Shabbos 64b; moreover, this Tosfos is proof that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of the street). Furthermore, even if one were to find an Achron who would agree to Rav Belsky’s argument, it is totally irrelevant whether or not a mavoi mefulash to a reshus harabbim would itself require shishim ribo traversing therein, since at the outset, we do not have a reshus harabbim ― a street including shishim ribo ― that the mavoi is mefulsh to. [The Bais Ephraim (and other poskim) maintains that when a mavoi is mefulash in its length into a street classified as a reshus harabbim, we do not require shishim ribo traversing the mavoi for it to be classified as a reshus harabbim. However, Rav Belsky is referring to side-streets which run perpendicular to a street classified as a reshus harabbim; in which case, even the Bais Ephraim would require shishim ribo traversing the side street, as well. Additionally, as mentioned above, to begin with there is no reshus harabbim that the side-street is mefulash to. Therefore, the Bais Ephraim does not concern us at all.] Consequentially, Rav Belsky’s argument, “the fact that open-ended alley-ways are considered part of the public domain negates the notion that for any particular street to be deemed a public domain, it would need to have six-hundred thousand residents,” is incorrect. Open-ended alleyways are classified as a reshus harabbim only if they contain shishim ribo (and meet the other criterion of reshus harabbim, as well ― there are some halachic distinctions to take into account when classifying an open-ended alleyway and a street as a reshus harabbim such as their required widths and the number of mechitzos).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Eruvin in Pre-War Europe: An Eyewitness Account

Minhagei Lita

Customs of Lithuanian Jewry

By Rabbi Menachem Mendel Poliakoff


It is a mitzvah to establish an eruv, and Chazal even instituted a brachah for setting one up. Additionally, the local Rabbi is obligated to establish an eruv for his community. There was hardly a community in pre-war Lithuanian, Poland, or Russia without an eruv. I surmise the same was true regarding Rumania, Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. There were also eruvin in Vienna and Paris.

Today many American communities have an eruv, which is as it appropriate, and in consonance with the halachah. Whoever instituted them deserves commendation. However, in keeping with the spirit of extremism in vogue these days, some people think they are demonstrating great piety by publicly refusing to rely on the eruv. Those who ostentatiously refuse to use the eruv cause the uninformed to feel guilty for using it. They are also violating halachah (Shulchan Aruch, 366:13). Even worse, the Talmudic Sages and later authorities would have accused them of being apikorsim [heretics] (Eruvin 31b, Mishnah and Rashi, 61b, Rabbeinu Yehonasan, and Shulchan Aruch 385:1). The Sages of the Talmud highly praise King Solomon, and expressed their gratitude to him for instituting the laws of eruv, hailing it as one of the most important rabbinic regulations ever enacted. Consequently, they frowned upon people who impeded those who sought to install and use an eruv.

The knowledgeable dissenters base their objection on the Chafetz Chaim’s ruling in his Mishnah Berurah.

I am well aware of the Mishnah Berurah’s strong objection to the eruvin we have installed during the 20th century all over the world, and I am shocked. His objection is not new. It has been a point of contention for hundreds of years, and it is evident the overwhelming majority of the great scholars disagreed with this objection. Proof of this is there was no community large or small without an eruv, despite the objection of the Mishnah Berurah and those who preceded him.

The point of contention hinges upon the definition of a public thoroughfare, because an eruv is not effective upon one. The Shulchan Aruch cites “there are those who hold (in addition to other qualifications) if the traffic is thoroughfare is less than 600,000 people passing through daily, it is not a public thoroughfare.” He does not cite a contrary opinion even though there are highly respected authorities who sharply disagree with this view. Surprisingly, not even the Rema challenges this opinion. The Chafetz Chaim himself writes it is impossible to reverse the halachah because it is universally accepted, but one who is exceedingly pious should not rely on it. However, the Chafetz Chaim must admit that even one who agrees with his ruling may not demonstrate this stringency publicly (Mishnah Berurah 345:7 {23}, be stringent for himself; ibid, 364:8 do not prevent others from using).

Likewise, those who may be justified in heeding the advice of the Chafetz Chaim should know a public refusal to use an eruv is sheer vanity and certainly against halachah.

The Yeshivah students in the towns of Telshe and Slabodka before the Holocaust availed themselves of the benefit of the eruv, and I assume the same was true in all Litvishe Yeshivos. I base this assumption on the fact that we did not hear any of the Yeshivos following a different custom. In fact, the Rabbonim and Roshei Hayesheva were so circumspect about this matter that I cannot be sure whether they availed themselves of the benefit of the eruv.

I use the eruv in Baltimore, just as I used the eruv in Telshe and Slabodka. While I am not so vain as to claim to be a great scholar and very pious, at the same time I can say, without conceit, I am much more a scholar and more pious than many people in Baltimore who denigrate the eruv. (Minhagei Lita: Customs of Lithuanian Jewry, 2008, Page 72.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 12 ― A Voice of Reason is Heard (Finally)

Protecting the Village

As part of a PowerPoint presentation on a recent Sunday, the group that calls itself Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv posed a question to those gathered: “How can each one of us help to preserve and protect our village from those who would cause harm?”

It’s a terrific question, and one worth considering.

Nothing causes more harm to a community, to the way it thinks about itself and presents itself to others, than unbridled prejudice. Those who spread paranoia about “outsiders” will destroy a community faster than any such mysterious group of non-residents ever could. And it’s important to ask, How can each one of us protect our village from such people?

The trajectory of the eruv controversy has been startling: In a matter of months, it has gone from a simple disagreement over whether the village should accommodate a request by the Hampton Synagogue for a symbolic gesture, to a truly venomous spectacle. Blame the Westhampton Beach Village Board and Mayor Conrad Teller: By allowing the dispute to fester, with no resolution, they have permitted the ugliness to continue to rise, filling the vacuum left by lack of leadership.

Last week, there was the spectacle of a room full of Jewish people raising the specter of Orthodox Jews overrunning and destroying the “secular community.” Worse, the phrase “Orthodox Jews” was rarely, if ever, used; instead, “they” and “them” and other dehumanizing and xenophobic terms were deployed to cement the image of an invading enemy. It was disheartening, and more than a little sad.

It is long past time for a deep breath. Despite the frantic language, no serious “threat” has ever been linked to the eruv request—unless you count fears that the community might become “too Jewish,” which is what opponents are arguing, even while angrily denying that they might be bigots. (When was the last time you heard it said that a community was “too Christian”?) Many communities have eruvs, and there isn’t a single “horror story” in the bunch. There’s nothing to suggest that the request has any hidden nefarious intent.

Had the Village Board simply approved the request and moved on, one of two things would have happened by now. Perhaps opponents would have filed a lawsuit, so that the courts could decide the matter. Or ... nothing. The debate would have ended, and life would have gone on, the only difference being the absence of months of overheated rhetoric.

As it stands, the eruv debate has peeled the veneer of civility off Westhampton Beach, and exposed an ugliness beneath. How to protect the village from those who would cause harm? Unfortunately, the greatest threat has been here all along.

(Southampton Press ― Western Edition ― Oct 23, 2008, Opinion; Page 8)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Baltimore, MD

City Adds 2nd 'Eruv' Religious Zone

By Annie Linskey

Most city residents haven't noticed the thin lines added to telephone poles in North Baltimore, creating a nearly invisible perimeter around the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

But for the Orthodox Jews who live within those neighborhoods, the wires create a symbolic wall, or eruv, which allows them to carry loads on the Sabbath within its borders. Read on...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 11

Group Opposed to Eruv Urges Petitions

The leaders of a Jewish group opposing a religious boundary proposed for Westhampton Beach Village urged more than 100 people who attended a Sunday morning meeting to sign petitions voicing their opinions on the matter to utility companies and village officials. Read on...

(Please stay tuned for my take on this fiasco.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Potomac, MD

A Neighborhood Built Around Religious Ritual

By Janet Lubman Rathner

Orthodox Jews do not use phones on the Sabbath and on some holidays. Nor do they drive.

However, telephone poles and highways have combined to create a Montgomery County neighborhood that is especially welcoming to Orthodox families. Read on...

Eruvin in the News: St Ives, Australia

Jews Seek Religious Freedom With a Ring Around St Ives

By Jano Gibson

A JEWISH group plans to overcome an ancient and restrictive religious commandment by creating a virtual wall around an entire North Shore suburb.

But its push for greater freedom has caused angst among some St Ives residents, who say it will block their views and create a "Jewish ghetto". Read on...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

K’siva V’Chasima Tova

I would like to wish my readers and all of Klal Yisroel a k’siva v’chasima tova and a gut gebentchte yahr. Hashem yemaleh kol mishalos lebecha l’tova.

As we enter 5769, may the lines we have drawn serve not to divide us but rather to unite us as one, so that together we may be zocheh to greet Moshiach speedily in our days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Vienna

Vienna Jews Plan 'Eruv' to Ease Life on Shabbat

By Associated Press

Vienna's Jewish community is nearing completion of plans to create an eruv - a symbolic enclosure - in parts of the city to ease life on Shabbat, a senior official said Tuesday.

"It's meaningful for Orthodox Jews because it allows them to do things that would otherwise be forbidden on the Sabbath," Raimund Fastenbauer, the community's secretary general, said in a telephone interview. Read on...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Williamsburg Eruv: Eruvin and Politics

For those of you who have greeted with skepticism my assertion that most of the disputes regarding eruvin are politically motivated, this article regarding the Williamsburg eruv machlokas is corroboration to what I have been arguing all along.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

History of City Eruvin − Part 6: The Eruv in St. Louis

Continued from part V

Rav Rosenfeld then demonstrated how the above was applicable to St. Louis.

He stated that the population of St. Louis three years prior to his establishing of the eruv was 460,000,[108] and that the present population count was approximately 500,000.[109]

Rav Rosenfeld then declared that most people traversed the streets in either electric or steam trolleys, the walls of which were within three tefachim off the ground; consequently, the passengers were actually sitting in a reshus hayachid and therefore, as the trolley passed, the ground beneath it was classified as a reshus hayachid, as well. Thus, according to those who defined a reshus harabbim as an area that had shishim ribo traversing it on a daily basis, it would be illogical to argue that we include the commuters in the trolleys in the tally since when they passed over the street it was categorized as a reshus hayachid. Moreover, he asserted, even those who maintained that shishim ribo was not a criterion of a reshus harabbim required that the area be able to sustain the rabbim; consequentially, since the trolleys made it dangerous for pedestrians to traverse the street, it was not halachically considered as being capable of sustaining the masses. Additionally, the sidewalks alone were not independently 16 amos wide, and to cross over to the next street, one needed to negotiate the side street, avoiding the trolleys that were obstructing the way there, as well.[110]

Telegraph lines bisected the city, and the wires halachically created a roofed area through the principle of lavud. Consequentially, the streets beneath them were classified as a karmelis, dividing the city into parts of less than shishim ribo as outlined in chapter one, section two.

Rav Rosenfeld then set forth how the area where the Jews resided was enclosed:[111]
On the east side by the Mississippi River [numbers 1-2 on the map].

On the south side by the River Des Peres [numbers 3-4 on the map]. Both rivers had banks which were more than 10 tefachim high above their respective waterlines.[112]

On the north side by the Mississippi River, as well [numbers 5-6 on the map],[113] whose banks were above the waterline. Closer to the city, however, railroads ran along artificial embankments. One embankment that was longer and steeper than the others covered the pipelines that brought water into the city [numbers 7-9 on the map].[114]

On the west side there was a deep artificial trench that ran [south] from its northern corner where it met the Mississippi River.[115] Several bridges that were broader than 10 amos spanned this trench. There were also walls in the vicinity that consisted of fences surrounding Jewish and non-Jewish cemeteries in that area [numbers 10-11 on the map][116] and numerous hills,[117] but there were many breaks broader than 10 amos between them.

There was an additional mechitzah on the west side between the area in which the Jews resided and the areas inhabited by non-Jews.[118] The telegraph line that began on the hill from the north [the railroad embankments] continued right up to the riverbanks of the River Des Peres on the south, so that there was no break between the telegraph poles and the northern and southern walls of the eruv.[119]

The mechitzah on the south side, the riverbanks of the River Des Peres, was more than 10 tefachim high above its waterlines and was never plied by boats. There was only one bridge[120] on which the railroad ran that crossed over the section of the river facing the neighborhood where the Jews resided.[121] However, this bridge had a structure that served as a tzuras hapesach. On the north side, both the embankments of the Mississippi River and the artificial embankments were sufficient as mechitzos [and did not have any bridges negating them].

The mechitzah on the west side, the artificial trench, was also crossed by bridges. Although Rav Shlomo Kluger upheld that bridges did not halachically negate riverbanks,[122] Rav Rosenfeld declared that he would not rely on this leniency, and therefore, he was utilizing the telegraph lines as he had outlined in chapter five. More so, since he was only using telegraph lines that either had wires directly over their poles[123] or telegraph lines where the crossarms were attached to the top of the pole and not those whose poles projected above their crossarms, he deflected the Toras Chesed’s first concern. Rav Rosenfeld argued that since the telegraph lines joined the mechitzos from the north and south without interruption, the Toras Chesed’s third issue did not apply, as outlined in chapter five. Therefore, since the Toras Chesed’s objection to the use of telegraph lines for tzuras hapesachim was only in conjunction with all four issues, now that two of his issues had been deflected, even the Toras Chesed would have allowed that the telegraph lines could be used as tzuras hapesachim. Besides for which, since the telegraph lines served as halachic tzuras hapesachim, Rav Rosenfeld argued that we could view the wires halachically as connected through the principle of lavud. We could then apply the principle of pi tikra yored v’sosem, and the telegraph lines could be regarded as mechitzos, as outlined at the end of chapter five.

The mechitzah on the east side, the riverbank of the Mississippi River, was more than 10 tefachim high above its waterlines and was sufficient. Additionally, since the Mississippi River abutted the artificial embankment on the north side [number 9 on the map],[124] the issue of the houses being set back 10 amos from the river does not concern us.

Rav Rosenfeld then cited a few reasons why the issue of the masses disembarking from the ships and negating the natural riverbanks should not concern us:
1) Only when the rabbim cross natural mechitzos that are einam mukafim l’dira do we say that they negate the mechitzos. However, since two of the mechitzos are manmade ― the telegraph lines on the west side and the artificial embankment on the north side ― the riverbanks are considered mukafim l’dira. Consequentially, the masses do not override the natural mechitzos of the river.

2) St. Louis was encompassed by three mechitzos which did not have a rabbim traversing them ― the artificial embankment on the north side, the riverbanks of the River Des Peres on the south side, which did not have boats plying it, and the telegraph lines on the west side [which were regarded as tzuras hapesachim]. Given that three of the mechitzos did not have a rabbim negating them, it does not concern us, halachically, that the fourth side did.

Rav Rosenfeld then explained the quandary of employing the telegraph lines as a mechitzah through pi tikra yored v’sosem. Only when there are two adjoining mechitzos [and not just two parallel walls] can we utilize the principle of pi tikra yored v’sosem for the third side. Consequentially, if we made use of the telegraph lines on the west side through pi tikra yored v’sosem, the riverbank of the Mississippi River on the east side would be the third mechitzah, in which case we maintain that the masses do override the natural mechitzah. However, Rav Rosenfeld posited that the telegraph lines could also be employed for gud achis mechitzta [we regard the wall as if it extends downward forming a valid partition] since there were numerous crossarms totaling at least 10 tefachim in height affixed to the telegraph poles (we can use the principle of lavud and classify the crossarms as a solid wall). Nevertheless, gud achis has its own drawback; we do not make use of such a mechitzah on land since there can be geduyim bokim bo [the open space beneath a mechitzah employing gud achis is one in which small animals such as young goats could readily pass through, thus the principle is not applied]. Therefore, Rav Rosenfeld suggested that, in order to overcome these shortcomings, the telegraph lines could be employed for both principles, pi tikra and gud achis, in conjunction with each other. When employing gud achis, we do not have the disadvantage of needing two adjoining mechitzos, and when utilizing pi tikra, there is no drawback of geduyim bokim. Nonetheless, even though Rav Rosenfeld considered this argument sound, he did not want to employ it since he did not know of any other poskim who used these principles in conjunction with each other to overcome these shortcomings.

Nevertheless, Rav Rosenfeld posited that incorporating the telegraph lines through pi tikra did not prevent him from using the riverbank of the Mississippi River as a mechitzah for the following two reasons: He argued that me’d’Oraysa we could employ pi tikra for the third side even if the two walls were not adjoining each other. Consequentially, even if the fourth side was enclosed with a natural mechitzah, the masses did not override it, and the area was classified me’d’rabbanan as a reshus hayachid. Additionally, according to the Elya Rabah,[125] only when both open sides of the two parallel mechitzos open into a reshus harabbim do we not employ pi tikra for the third side. However, in our situation, the open side on the east opened into the Mississippi River, which was a karmelis. Even on the open west side, besides for the telegraph lines [that he was employing through pi tikra], the mechitzos [the artificial trench, fences of the cemeteries, and the many hills] were sufficient me’d’Oraysa, notwithstanding the fact that there were bridges and gaps between these mechitzos that were more than 10 amos wide. Consequentially, we could employ pi tikra for the third side.

3) Rav Rosenfeld posited that since St. Louis is encompassed by mechitzos, it was classified as a reshus hayachid, and as the Magen Avraham maintained,[126] to negate the mechitzos we require shishim ribo traversing them.

As he had illustrated above, Rav Rosenfeld stated there was ample reason to allow an eruv even if the rabbim did override the natural walls. However, he argued that there were no masses traversing these natural walls at all.

Rav Rosenfeld explained that the ships never negated the riverbanks. Passengers disembarked and embarked from gangplanks that were retrieved as soon as they were no longer needed. He argued that the fact that there was a rabbim crossing the riverbanks when these gangplanks were extended was no worse than a reshus harabbim where carrying was allowed as long as its doors were closed by night. Rav Rosenfeld continued that he did not need to rely on this rationale for the ships which navigated between St. Louis and East St. Louis, as these ships only plied the water during the day and not by night. Consequentially, there was no continuous traversing of the masses, which was a prerequisite for them to be classified as overriding the walls. Additionally, the passengers embarked and disembarked these boats via manmade piers that extended into the river and which had doors that were opened only when needed. Therefore, the riverbanks themselves were not negated by the masses.

Furthermore, Rav Rosenfeld stated, there were those who were stringent even regarding rivers and oceans because their natural mechitzos may in time be obliterated by a build-up of sediment. However, even those who were stringent would have allowed the riverbanks that he was relying on since they were above the waterline by at least 10 tefachim.

Rav Rosenfeld continued that on the east side crossing the Mississippi River there was one bridge that linked St. Louis to East St. Louis [number 12 on the map][127] which was more than 16 amos wide on the St. Louis side. However, he declared, the bridge was divided in the middle of its span into three sections by mechitzos on the west, north, and south sides. The outer two sections of the bridge, which were used by the railroads, were less than 11 amos, and the middle section was less than 13 1/3 amos [therefore, the bridge was not classified as a reshus harabbim]. More so, since the majority of the center span’s width was utilized by the railroads, the remainder of the width was even less than 10 amos, consequentially a telegraph line could certainly serve as a tzuras hapesach to close the gap.[128]

Concluding his kuntres, Rav Rosenfeld stated that the poskim upheld that if there was an additional basis for leniency besides for the fact that the street did not have shishim ribo traversing it daily, the area was not considered a reshus harabbim. Accordingly, Rav Rosenfeld argued that he did not consider St. Louis as a city containing shishim ribo, and in conjunction with the fact that the streets of the city were not mefulash to a reshus harabbim, there is no question that the mechitzos encompassing the city were sufficient.

Rav Rosenfeld received haskamos from:
Rav Yaakov Yosef Josef (1840/1-1902),[129] Chief Rabbi of New York dated September 17, 1895. Rav Josef urged his friend Rav Rosenfeld to publish his kuntres.
Rav Shabsi Rosenberg (1851-1913)[130] of Brooklyn dated September 26, 1895. Rav Rosenberg stated that his friend[131] Rav Rosenfeld stayed by him[132] and showed him his kuntres regarding the eruv. Rav Rosenberg was duly impressed and recommended that it be publish.

In some editions[133] there are the following additional approbations:
Rav Abba Chaim Levinson (1853-1912) of Baltimore dated April 22, 1896. He mentioned that there was nothing to add as Rav Rosenfeld had done a thorough job in citing the Rishonim and Achronim.
Rav Yosef Komissarsky (1831-1908) of Chicago dated April 23, 1896. Rav Komissarsky declared that Rav Rosenfeld did not need a haskamah from him.
Rav Todros Yukel Ticktin (b. 1835) of Chicago dated May 1, 1896. Rav Ticktin stated that he saw Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres and that there was hope it would cause the rabbanim of America to be envious and rectify pressing issues.
Rav Meir Peimer (1840-1911) of Slutsk dated August 17, 1896. He declared that without a doubt one could rely on Rav Rosenfeld’s heter to carry, and whoever disagreed with Rav Rosenfeld was the underdog. Most importantly, Rav Peimer stated that Rav Rosenfeld was correct in seeking all means to remove obstacles.

Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld included the following two letters of praise:
Rav Dov Aryeh Levinthal (1865-1952) of Philadelphia. Rav Levinthal commended Rav Rosenfeld for building on a solid foundation of Rishonim.
Rav Moshe Shimon Sivitz (1855-1936)[134] of Pittsburgh. Rav Sivitz stated that he had received Rav Rosenfeld’s two letters, but the reason he had not replied was that he was afraid to get involved in an ongoing machlokas between gedolim in halachah, and that he was sure that it was a machlokas l’sheim Shomayim. However, now that he had the satisfaction of actually seeing the kuntres, he is required to give him a brachah.

Sometime later, Rav Rosenfeld added an Addendum which was only included in some editions. He reiterated that the population of St. Louis had not reached shishim ribo, but even when it would, at some point in time, reach shishim ribo, the city would still not be classified as a reshus harabbim, and he listed the reasons mentioned above, stressing that there were three mechitzos encompassing the city.[135] Rav Rosenfeld stated that the bridges were only an issue me’d’rabbanan. He added that the bridge over the Mississippi River had two levels, and to reach the upper level one would need to go through a structure which is classified as a reshus hayachid.[136] He reiterated that he was only relying on telegraph lines whose wires were directly on top of the poles[137] or on those were the crossarms were attached to the top of the pole; in which case, he could employ the principle of pi tikra.

Next: The Rebuttal
[108] Most probably Rav Rosenfeld is referring to the 1890 census; see note 57.
[109] I do not know where Rav Rosenfeld obtained such an estimate for 1893. Gould’s St. Louis Directory, p. 25 stated that by 1893 the population of St. Louis was 574,569. However, if Rav Rosenfeld was using Gould’s, they stated that in 1890, the population of St. Louis was 466,200 which is more than he said the population was at that time (but closer than the 1890 US Census of 451,770; see also note 57). [See note 135 regarding the population tally for 1896, the year that Rav Rosenfeld actually published the kuntres.]
[110] It is interesting to note that the Bais Av (2:9:2) quotes this chiddush in the name of Rav Rosenfeld although he disagrees with him. However, see the article by Rav Price regarding the Toronto eruv in HaPardes (25th year, vol. 4 pp. 11-38) where he defends Rav Rosenfeld (pp. 20-23). Additionally, when the Bais Av mentioned the Tikvas Zecharia, he did not spell out the name of the kuntres; he only used an acronym. Therefore, Rav Price mentioned that he did not know which sefer the Bais Av was arguing on, but he stated that he agrees with the author regarding this issue (see also notes 98, 100). Rav Price’s talmid, Rav Gedalia Felder, in his Yesodei Yeshurun (vol. 5 p. 287) clarifies that the Bais Av was referring to the Tikvas Zecharia.
[111] See note 118.
[112] Actually, the River Des Peres after running along the southern side of the city turns northward and runs west through and past Forest Park. However, since the river seems to have narrowed considerably at this point, I do not know if these riverbanks would have satisfied Rav Rosenfeld’s assertion that they were 10 tefachim high. In any case, I assume that Rav Rosenfeld was not using the western part of the river as a boundary at all, since he only mentioned the trench and the hills and cemetery gates as the western mechitzos.
[113] Currently, it is nearly impossible to identify the northern and western boundaries of the mechitzos. Even at the time of the eruv’s establishment, is seems that Rav Rosenfeld did not verbally specify these mechitzos’ exact positions as can be discerned from Rav Jaffe’s rebuttal. It is possible that because the eruv was so contentious, Rav Rosenfeld was deliberately vague about the composition of these boundaries. Rav Rosenfeld probably did verbalize until where one was permitted to carry, which on the west side was based on the telegraph poles (see note 119). The following is some of the issues that illustrate the difficulty of comprehending what Rav Rosenfeld was referring to regarding this northern mechitzah. Rav Rosenfeld mentioned that the Mississippi River bounds St. Louis on the north when, in fact, it is the Missouri River that encloses the northern side of St. Louis [number 6 on the map]. It is possible that Rav Rosenfeld was utilizing the Mississippi River for the northern border as it curves around the city of St. Louis [number 2 on the map], but this leaves numerous questions. For instance, what did Rav Rosenfeld gain by utilizing the railroad [numbers 7-9 on the map] since there is actually not much distance at this point between the Mississippi and the railroad track? Additionally, if Rav Rosenfeld was using the Mississippi River as it curves around the city, this would mean that the northern boundary terminated in the city proper, but the western borders ― the Jewish cemeteries and the hills ― are all much further west of the city and could not have been used as a fourth mechitzah to enclose the city.
[114] Since these tracks commence at the Bissell’s Point Waterworks [number 9 on the map], it is likely that they are the ones that covered the pipelines and are the tracks that Rav Rosenfeld is referring to (see note 124 for further proof). However, I have no idea how far west of the city Rav Rosenfeld made use of these tracks.
[115] I have spent a considerable amount of time on the different possibilities for this boundary, but alas, all of them come up short. I have chosen to leave out these possibilities as they leave more questions unanswered then answered. Since Rav Rosenfeld used an assortment of structures to assemble this mechitzah on the western side of the city, it makes it all the more unfeasible to pinpoint with any certainty what he was using for this border.
[116] At the time, there were three Jewish cemeteries west of the city. Bnai Amoona, Chesed Shel Emes, and Mt. Olive. However, since neither of these Jewish cemeteries is in close proximity to the non-Jewish cemeteries, Rav Rosenfeld probably was just referring to the general vicinity west of the city where there were many non-Jewish cemeteries, as well.
[117] Since there are numerous hills west of the city, it would be impossible to pinpoint which ones Rav Rosenfeld was referring to.
[118] Rav Rosenfeld mentioned twice (Tikvas Zecharia, pp. 42-43) the area where the Jews resided and only here did he make the distinction between the area of the Jewish and non-Jewish neighborhoods. As there were no segregated neighborhoods in St. Louis ― Jews and non-Jews lived side by side ― Rav Rosenfeld could only have been referring to the predominately Jewish neighborhood, the area commonly referred to as the Jewish Ghetto. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that Rav Rosenfeld was using telegraph poles and wires running along Grand Avenue, which was the northern boundary of the ghetto (see the following note). Actually, Rav Jaffe took Rav Rosenfeld to task regarding this issue of a Jewish neighborhood (Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, pp. {14} 27, {15} 29). This, though, is one of Rav Jaffe’s more trivial arguments.
[119] I am only suggesting that the indicated end points of these boundaries [numbers 4 and 8 on the map] are correct. In any case, Rav Rosenfeld could have selected one of the many telegraph lines that crisscrossed the city to join any point of his choosing on the north and south boundaries to conclude the enclosure of the city. I have been told by members of Rav Rosenfeld’s family that they remember hearing that residents of St. Louis carried on Shabbos at least until Grand Avenue, but this is much farther east than the probable western border of the mechitzah, although the telegraph lines that he used as tzuras hapesachim could have been situated there.
[120] From the maps of the time, there seems to have been three bridges on the south side of the River Des Peres (see for instance Higgins' Road Map of St. Louis and Vicinity, c. 1895). Therefore, it is hard to identify what Rav Rosenfeld was referring to.
[121] See note 118.
[122] U’Bacharta B’Chaim, siman 117.
[123] See note 236.
[124] As can be seen from the included illustration of the northern mechitzah, the railroad tracks from the Bissell’s Point Waterworks (notice the raised railroad embankment on the illustration) joined up with the eastern mechitzah [the Mississippi River]. I am indebted to Mr. Murray Darrish for pointing out this map to me.
[125] Siman 346:4.
[126] Siman 363:40.
[127] There is no doubt that Rav Rosenfeld was referring to the Eads Bridge which was opened in 1874 [number 12 on the map], since it was the only bridge between St. Louis and East St. Louis at the time. However, the question is why didn’t he mention the Merchant Bridge which connected St. Louis with Venice, Illinois, and which was already operable by 1890 (this bridge was a railroad bridge; the 1878 Pitzman map below predates the bridge but it would be situated near number 13 on the map).
[128] I have spent a considerable amount of time poring over photographs, maps, and schematics of the Eads Bridge trying to understand Rav Rosenfeld’s description, but alas, I am no clearer now as to what he was referring to than I was at the outset.
[129] Author of L’Bais Yaakov (Vilna, 1888), and Toldos Yaakov Joseph (New York, 1889). See also L’Bais Yaakov (New York, 2002).
[130] Author of Bris Melech (Vilna, 1907). See also note 23.
[131] Family members of Rav Rosenfeld think that there is a possibility he knew Rav Rosenberg from Yeshivah in Vilna (see Chachmei Yisrael B’America, p. 96 on Rav Rosenberg).
[132] It is probable that to obtain a haskamah from Rav Yaakov Yosef, Rav Rosenfeld came to New York; at which time, it is likely that he stayed by Rav Rosenberg in Brooklyn. It is possible that the underlying cause of the quarrel Rav Jaffe had with Rav Rosenberg when he came to Brooklyn was because of Rav Rosenberg’s friendship with Rav Rosenfeld; see note 23.
[133] See Hebrew Printing in America 1735-1926, p. 974.
[134] Author of Cheker Daas (Yerushalayim, 1898, 1902); Bais Paga (Yerushalayim, 1904); Pri Yecheskel (Yerushalayim, 1908); Mateh Aharon (Yerushalayim, 1914); Mashbiach, vol. 1 (Yerushalayim, 1913, St. Louis, 1920), vol. 2 (St. Louis, 1918), third edition (Yerushalayim, 1929); Hasfos L’Mashbiach HaYerushalmi (St. Louis, 1931, Kedainiai, 1933), and Tzemach HaSadeh (St. Louis, 1935).
[135] It is possible that Rav Rosenfeld was rebutting Rav Jaffe in this Addendum with his statement that it is irrelevant if the population reached shishim ribo, which Rav Jaffe claimed as fact. Therefore, there is a possibility that this Addendum was published even after Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom. The fact that Rav Jaffe did not mention this Addendum (even though he rebutted just about everything Rav Rosenfeld wrote) also lends support that it was published after Rav Jaffe’s Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom. However, the fact that Rav Rosenfeld only defended himself against one of Rav Jaffe’s refutations and totally ignored Rav Jaffe’s countless other criticisms suggests that there is no correlation between this Addendum and Rav Jaffe’s Rishfei Eish (see note 52) and Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom. Therefore, it is possible that this summary was published even prior to Rav Jaffe’s Rishfei Eish.
I believe that Rav Rosenfeld was only bringing his figures up to date. The numbers in his kuntres were for 1893, the year that he established the eruv, but his kuntres was published in 1896. Even though Rav Rosenfeld relied on the US Census figures, he was answering those who cited the 1896 Gould’s St. Louis Directory which established the population as 611,268. Therefore, he declared in his Addendum that it was irrelevant if the population at some point in time reached shishim ribo, since the city was encompassed by three mechitzos (it should be noted that even by the year 1900, the census claimed that the population was only 575,000).
[136] See notes 127-128.
[137] See note 236.

Map of St. Louis with possible eruv boundaries (Pitzman, Julius. Pitzman’s New Atlas of the City and County of Saint Louis, Missouri, 1878).

Illustration of the Bissell’s Point Waterworks showing the northern mechitzah (notice the raised railroad embankment on the illustration) that ran alongside the riverbank and joined up with the eastern mechitzah [the Mississippi River] (Compton, Richard J., and Dry, Camille N., Pictorial St. Louis, the Great Metropolis of the Mississippi Valley; A Topographical Survey Drawn in Perspective A.D. 1875; Plate 48).

Finally! Stamford Hill Joins the Club

Mazel Tov to the Jewish residents of Stamford Hill upon the establishment of their  eruv . Finally, the last bastion of opposition to the ...