Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Eruv HaMehudar in NW London

Lately a new kuntres titled The Eruv HaMehudar in NW London was disseminated to Jewish residents in Golders Green and Hendon. This beautiful full color booklet consists of over 160 pages containing letters of support from Gedolim and information regarding the kashrus of the eruv, particularly from three eruv experts who reside in Yerushalayim.

I believe this booklet serves two purposes: 1) Its primary role is to remedy the vilification of Rav Ehrentreu shlita’s name which was maligned by the anti-eruv group. 2) Its secondary role is to rectify what the Edah HaChareidis did when they dismissed their two eruv experts, Rav Moshe Berlin shlita and Rav Yaakov Yizchok Rochman shlita, from their job as retribution for their involvement in the NW London eruv (this illustrates to what length the anti-eruv group would go). To accomplish this purpose, the kuntres had to be written for the layman to understand which precluded any major halachic discussions (it does, however, contain an in-depth teshuvah on karpeifos). Some may consider the lack of halachic content a drawback; however, I think the kuntres accomplished what it set out to do. This is not to say that it is devoid of any content as it does include some interesting tidbits of information that I will now mine. Moreover, I believe that there are additional heterim for the eruv that the booklet did not even mention and which should be elucidated. [Please note that the kuntres consists of both Hebrew and English sides, and the page numbers basically correspond to both languages.]

On page 26 and 54, they state that the eruv is not less mehudar than the eruv of Yerushalayim. This is very important to note as most people carry in the Yerushalayim eruv, and there is absolutely no difference between London and Yerushalayim today.

On page 36, they state that while Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlita maintains that sechiras reshus is problematic, he still advocates the construction of city eruvin because there is whom to rely on. It should be noted that sechiras reshus is only a d’rabbanan, and that regarding this matter, all are in agreement that we maintain halachah k’divrei hameikil. One of the fundamental reasons to allow sechiras reshus l’chatchilah today is the power of eminent domain. I inquired of one of the mumchim from Yerushalayim if this aspect of sechiras reshus was discussed with Rav Elyashiv. He answered that the technicalities were not fully explained to Rav Elyashiv, and, therefore, the issue was never finalized. I mentioned that the rabbanim in Boro Park considered eminent domain to be the most solid approach to sechiras reshus and its importance should be clarified to him. [I was not clear if the power of eminent domain in either Eretz Yisrael or in London is similar to the American system; he answered that he believes that it is somewhat comparable.]

Additionally, from Rav Elyashiv’s letter, it seems that he maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a city. I had many debates with one of the most vocal opponents of the NW London eruv (on Frummer Blog) and this letter clearly illustrates that he was arguing points in Rav Elyashiv’s name without knowing his opinion (he claimed that Rav Elyashiv maintained that the possibility of shishim ribo to traverse a street is sufficient for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim). However, he was just repeating what was stated in the book Simchas Yisrael regarding Rav Elyashiv’s shita of shishim ribo, and as I stated then, this book cannot be relied on and this letter proves it. However, I am a bit surprised that Rav Elyashiv maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a city. As I have posted prior, the fundament of shishim ribo until lately has been accepted as being conditional of a street (see Part 2a: Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim). Even Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:109) accepted as fact that shishim ribo is conditional of a street and only later (ibid., 1:139:5, 4:87-88, 5:28:5, 5:29) stated his chiddush that in a city, shishim ribo applied to an area of twelve mil by twelve mil. Even after Rav Moshe stated his chiddush, he realized that eruvin were established in cities containing shishim ribo, hence he formulated his chiddush of 3,000,000. In any case, as has been pointed out in the kuntres, Rav Elyashiv is referring to a situation of only tzuras hepesachim and not of a city encircled by mechitzos, in which case it would not make a difference if the city contained shishim ribo since it is classified as a reshus hayachid.

On page 38 is a letter from Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita to Rav Dovid Eisenstein shlita, and from this letter they state that one can assume that Rav Kanievsky maintains that the Chazon Ish’s chiddush is permitted l’chatchilah. As a matter of fact, Rav Kanievsky cites the Chazon Ish l’halachah in his Shoneh Halachos (siman 363). Additionally, Rav Eisenstein mentions (p. 55) that Rav Dov Ber Landau shlita, the Rosh Yeshivah of Slabodka and a talmid muvhak of the Chazon Ish, told him that the Chazon Ish can be relied on l’chatchilah. The only reason why this discussion is needed was because the anti-eruv group cites from Orchos Rabbeinu that the Chazon Ish could not look upon one who used an eruv and other such stories. These statements, that the Chazon Ish’s chiddush can be relied on l’chatchilah, should put to rest any claims to the contrary. The fact is that the only difficulty with eruvin that the Chazon Ish himself wrote about was that the eruv was b’chezkas broken or ripped literally every Shabbos (Teshuvos V’Ksavim, siman 85). He was therefore uneasy about people utilizing the eruv. Modern construction material can withstand extreme weather conditions and are b’chezkas kayama. There is no doubt that the Chazon Ish would allow carrying in an eruv today, and the stories to the contrary do not pertain to our eruvin. I have been told that there will be more evidence that will be publicized shortly regarding this matter.

On page 47 there is a letter from Rav Shmuel Auerbach shlita stating that although he usually does not mix into matters that take place overseas, he looked carefully into the matter of the London eruv and was completely satisfied that the supporters of the eruv were basing themselves on reliable halachic sources. He added that all parties should treat each other with respect. [I know about his retraction, and I will discuss this matter in my next post addressing the Jewish Tribune article objecting to this kuntres.] I do not understand this letter. What did Rav Auerbach mean by that he, “usually does not mix into matters that take place overseas?” Didn’t he involved himself with Brooklyn eruvin? Rav Auerbach wrote a scathing letter (in 2005) stating that those who established Brooklyn eruvin had the chutzpah to go against Gedolei Yisrael, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l (actually Rav Aharon never mentioned a Brooklyn eruv).

On page 48 there is a letter from Rav Elchanan Halpern shlita arguing that contrary to what some have told the Gedolim in Eretz Yisrael, it is only a rumor that chareide rabbanim use sharp language to criticize those who use the NW London eruv, calling them names such as mechallelei Shabbos or pesulei eidus or pesulei chittun. I will leave it to members of the Golders Green community to argue if this is a fact or not (I have been told by a reliable source that Rav Halpern’s own son uses such language); however, I would like to understand why Rav Halpern signed kol koreis stating that London is a reshus harabbim when in fact he wrote in his S’dei Elchanan (siman 24; this teshuvah was published previously in his Yagdil Torah) that London is not a reshus harabbim. More so, I know for a fact that Rav Halpern allows his family to use the Boro Park eruv, and why should London be any different?

On page 52-57 there is an interview of Rav Dovid Eisenstein shlita. Rav Eisenstein states that most city eruvin are based primarily on the Chazon Ish’s chiddush (see The Brilliant Chiddush of the Chazon Ish). While there is no doubt that we can rely on the Chazon Ish’s chiddush even l’chatchilah (see above), Rav Eisenstein is incorrect that the Chazon Ish is the primary heter for city eruvin. London and many other cities are encompassed by three and even four mechitzos omed merubeh al haparutz and do not have to come on to the Chazon Ish’s chiddush at all (I have spoken to people in London and I have been told that the metzius is that there is no siluk mechitzos). I suppose the anti-eruv cabal would argue that if four mechitzos are being utilized, some of the tzuras hapesachim which are protruding out of the line of the mechitzos are in a reshus harabbim. However, this is irrelevant. When using mechitzos habattim, there is always another row of mechitzos habattim which would include any tzuras hapesachim that extend beyond the mechitzos. Consequentially, the tzuras hapesach would always be erected in a reshus hayachid.

Additionally, even though Rav Elyashiv maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a city as I mentioned above, there is no doubt that it was the mesorah through the ages that shishim ribo is conditional of a street. The Divrei Malkiel (4:3) stated when writing to the people erecting an eruv in the city of Odessa, which had approximately shishim ribo, that, “the minhag is to erect eruvin even in the largest of cities and it does not concern us that they have shishim ribo since the shishim ribo is dispersed over all the streets.” We can add an additional heter that is of mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar (see Part 1: Why Brooklyn Is Not a Reshus HaRabbim). This heter was relied on in Warsaw and in New York in 1962.

Consequentially, London is not a reshus harbbim for the following two reasons: 1) There is no street that has shishim ribo traversing it. 2) The streets are not mefulashim u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar. More so, because the area is encompassed by mechitzos (either through mechitzos habbatim or through the Chazon Ish’s chiddush) it is classified as a reshus hayachid to begin with, notwithstanding the possibility of a reshus harabbim contained therein.

Rav Eisenstein was then asked about the argument that the North Circular Road contains shishim ribo traversing it. He answered that the number of people using the road falls far short of this requirement, and that there is nowhere near shishim ribo passing through the section of the North Circular included in the eruv. Some have argued that we cannot halachicaly separate the section of the road included in the eruv from the rest of the North Circular. This is incorrect. There are Rishonim and Achronim who maintain that a tzuras hapesach can demarcate an area containing less than shishim ribo (see Tosfos Rid, Eruvin 22a; Or Zarua, Eruvin 22a; Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:28:19 and Addendum to O.C. 4:89; Mahari Stief, siman 68; Toras Chemed, p. 93, and Rav Elya Meir Bloch zt”l in Kol Tzvi number 7). [It’s important to note that most Achronim maintain that a tzuras hapesach changes the status of a reshus harabbim into a reshus hayachid; see Part 1: Delasos – Me’d’Oraysa or Me’d’rabbanan.]

Additionally, Rav Eisenstein argued that many poskim maintain that the occupants of a car are not tallied in the shishim ribo. He is incorrect; it is not many poskim only most poskim (see Are a Vehicle’s Occupants Included in the Shishim Ribo?). Moreover, the poskim maintain that people traversing the road in both directions are only counted traveling in one direction, and so the total for a roadway like the North Circular is actually much less (Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan, p. 108; Kinyan Torah, 4:40:7, and Rechovas Ha’ir, 23:2).

Some claim that according to the Bais Ephraim that the possibility of shishim ribo traversing a street is sufficient for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim. Consequently, the North Circular Road would be classified as a reshus harbbim even if shishim ribo do not actually traverse it. This is incorrect. The simple understanding of the Bais Ephraim is (Maharsham, 3:188 and Minchas Yitzchak, 8:32) that the shishim ribo would need to traverse the street itself for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim, and the only question regarding the Bais Ephraim’s position was whether the requirement of shishim ribo traversing the street is for every day or would on most days suffice. Some claim that the Chazon Ish also subscribes to the idea that just the possibility of shishim ribo traversing a street is sufficient for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim. However, it is clear from the Chazon Ish himself (107:6) that he maintains that shishim ribo is conditional of a street. Nevertheless, this is inconsequential since the Chazon Ish (108:12) upholds like the Magen Avraham that shsihim ribo would have to pass through the tzuras hapesach in order to negate it.

Rav Eisenstein then adds a very important point that many people do not realize. Even if the North Circular Road contains shishim ribo, and we would not agree to any of the above arguments since the area is enclosed by mechitzos, it is nevertheless classified as a reshus hayachid.

On page 60 there is an in-depth teshuvah proving that there are no real karpeifos included in the eruv. I would like to note that the poskim whom I speak to regarding hilchos eruvin have told me that all cities had to deal with this issue (actually, the Brooklyn eruvin do not contain any questionable karpeifos at all) and no one ever objected to an eruv because of them. Actually, there have been one or two cities where the anti-eruv group objected because of karpeifos, and for those who studied these historical struggles, it is obvious that those arguments were for similar factors as London - mi b’rosh. I found it comical that when I debated one of the most vociferous people against the NW London eruv, he did not even know about the issue of the Wildwood karpaf. During the course of our debate, when someone mentioned it to him, he asked to be apprised of the matter. At first, I merely thought it was interesting that he did not know about this issue to begin with, but then I realized that the London anti-eruv cabal is using the seforim from the Chevrah Hilchos Issurei Eruvin who rarely mention karpeifos, as their main arguments have been the issue of reshus harabbim. However, all the anti-eruv groups have one thing in common, they seek all means to negate eruvin, collecting disparate shitos yechidos – which in many cases are contradictory – just so that there will be no eruv.

I have a few more observations to make. There was an argument made, why did those supporting an eruv call in experts from overseas? Was there no one locally who could do as good a job? This is total “rubbish.” These eruv mumchim are from the greatest in the world, and I am sure there are no rabbanim in London who hold a candle to their expertise. Rabbanim have always called in experts to build mikvaos, and there is no reason why eruvin should be different. In any case, anyone locally would have been terrorized (as a matter of fact these overseas experts were terrorized as well - they lost their jobs).

One of the most hypocritical points that I have seen argued lately is what right do the rabbanim from overseas have to mix into a local matter? This is most fascinating. When I debated the virtues of the London eruv, Rav Elyashiv’s name was invoked many times in opposition, and I never heard anyone say, what business is it of his? I guess, as is usual when the issue is eruvin, everyone has a right to inject themselves into the matter to osser an eruv, but to support an eruv, only the local rabbanim have a right to mix in. I shouldn’t be surprised since this same shtik was utilized against Brooklyn eruvin. Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita allowed that an eruv can be established in Chicago according to his father, but the ossrim there argued that his was not the last word regarding his father. However, when those supporting an eruv in Brooklyn argued that Rav Moshe would allow an eruv, those opposing the eruv argued that Rav Dovid was the biggest expert in his father’s shitos and he maintained that his father would not allow an eruv in Brooklyn even in its present construction. The hypocrisy continues.

Another point, throughout this kuntres we see that the eruv was always kosher, and that these experts were just making it more mehuder. In my debate with that anti-eruvnik, he claimed that these experts told him that the eruv was never kosher. I stated then that his goal was to create doubt in the eyes of Rav Ehrentreu’s congregation that he was unreliable. Obviously, as I said then, everything this miscreant claimed in the name of these experts was suspect. Now it is clear as day that he fabricated all these statements in the name of these experts including that the experts maintained that the eruv was never kosher and that London is a reshus harabbim.

In summation, there is nothing that the pro-eruv group could offer that would satisfy the anti-eruv cabal. Their goal is one thing only, that there be no eruv at all. The fact that the anti-eruv cabal mixed into the technical aspect of the eruv, such as the efficacy of the tzuras hapesachim, is proof that they seek all means to negate an eruv. Haven’t they argued that no eruv can be constructed because London is a reshus harabbim? Why then do they care if the tzuras hapesachim are not the most mehudar? According to them, they are worthless anyway. In fact, this was their modes operandi in Boro Park, as well. Additionally, I constantly hear that the eruv is based on kulos. This was argued in Brooklyn, as well, and is factually incorrect. As mentioned above, the Chazon Ish can be relied on l’chatchilah, and the other reasons to allow an eruv that I mentioned are accepted l’halachah as well. More so, since these heterim are at the minimum sfek sfeikos, we would go l’kulah even regarding a d’Oraysa.