Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Part 1: The Jewish Tribune’s Argument Against the NW London Eruv

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

On March 20, 2008, the London Jewish Tribune’s headline read, “Don’t use the eruv.” They went on to say that the kashrus of the North West London eruv had again been called into question. This diatribe appeared after the new kuntres The Eruv HaMehudar in NW London promoting the eruv was disseminated. The article continues with refutations of the main points in the kuntres. I will start by making one statement and then move on to rebut the article word for word.

I think that it is a shame that chashuvah rabbanim such as Rav Padwa shlita and Rav Halpern shlita have allowed their objection to the eruv to become an halachic one. Clearly Rav Halpern maintains that London is not a reshus harabbim, and he would have, at the time of his writing his teshuvah in support of an eruv, been elated with the present eruv. Rav Padwa, as well, has told the Chernobyler rebbe from Boro Park (when he was visiting in London in 2001) that there are no halachic issues with a London eruv, and that his father had ancillary reason for objecting to one. The only reason that the issue of reshus harabbim has even entered the conversation is because this disagreement has been hijacked by people who have agendas and who will utilize all means to win. Even if it takes the rewriting of what some of those objecting today wrote themselves.

The Jewish Tribune, page 1:
[A statement from] the NW London Committee on behalf of Kedushas Shabbos, said that the description of the eruv [in the kuntres] as mehudar was far from the truth. It declares that there are still major problems with the London eruv.
The rebuttal:
Putting all personal bias aside, I think we would all benefit from a little level headedness. Who would know if the eruv is mehudar or not, the rabbanim from London or these experts in constructing eruvin from Yerushalayim? Why would anyone believe the London rabbanim more than the experts who state emphatically that the NW London eruv is a mehudar eruv? Are the local London rabbanim bigger authorities in eruvin than these experts? I do not think so.

The Jewish Tribune, page 1:
The major problem which remains, according to the statement, is that no eruv is valid in an area considered a r’shus harabim from the Torah viewpoint.
The rebuttal:
As I mentioned above, this became an issue with the ossrim only after the fact. The fact that the reshus harabbim issue only later became part of the debate is proof that the machlokas is not leshem shomayim, and it is only to negate the eruv at all costs.

The Jewish Tribune, page 1:
Among the other obstacles to the validity of the eruv is karfifos.
The rebuttal:
The experts wrote an extensive teshuvah in the kuntres explaining the heter. More so, these experts argued that Yerushalayim and other areas contain similar karpeifos and nevertheless the rabbanim allowed an eruv. As I mentioned in my prior post, if this was a machlokas leshem shomayim everyone would find a solution to this problem since most city eruvin contained karpeifos. (See more about this matter in part two.)

The Jewish Tribune, page 1:
The committee is critical of the comparison made [by the experts] between the NW London eruv and that of Yerushalayim, saying that in fact, London’s is, halachically, far worse.
The rebuttal:
There is no doubt that this statement from the experts elicited such a response because it illuminates the hypocrisy that has plagued all the anti-eruv campaigns, which is why don’t they take their fight to Yerushalayim as well? Of course the answer is it would be impossible to stop people from carrying in Yerushalayim since people have been utilizing the eruv from the times of Shlomo HaMelech. Moreover, no one will listen to their arguments since there are many reasons to allow the eruv in Yerushalayim and in cities all over the world. Additionally, who would know whether or not the London eruv is halachically similar to the Yerushalayim eruv, the experts who are involved with the Yershalayim eruv or the rabbanim who live in England?

The Jewish Tribune, page 4, North West London Eruv – a statement:
The Eruv is portrayed as Mehudar and by implication may therefore be relied upon even by the most orthodox. As if to prove this point, the brochure is introduced with portraits of earlier gedolim who all speak in favour of creating an eruv. This fact is not in dispute – provided that there are no halachic objections to its construction, whereas there are unfortunately indeed major problems with the London eruv.
The rebuttal:
There is no question that the eruvin established in Europe prior to WWII ― including those cities that contained shishim ribo ― had major halachic issues. Nevertheless, the gedolim of yesteryear found major leniencies to erect eruvin, and the overwhelming majority of our forefathers utilized their town’s eruv. How much more so would the gedolim of the past have approved of the current NW London mehudar eruv which does not rely on the many leniencies that they had to incorporate into their own eruvin. Additionally, even if the heter to permit an eruv is not a clear one, the Aishel Avraham states (siman 363) that nevertheless an eruv should be established in order to save people from chilul Shabbos beshogeg (see also Kriena D’Igrasa, p. 106, and Oim Ani Chomah, p. 136). Following this, there is no doubt that if the machlokas was leshem shomayim the ossrim would agree that despite their objections, an eruv should be established, and only then would they proclaim that their congregants should not make use of it.

It is important to note, that it is always possible to cite shitos yachidos to invalidate an eruv; however, ruling according to shitos yachidos is not the correct approach in halachah. [The Chasam Sofer writes (Y.D. 37) that if we were to collect all the shitos ha’ossrim, we would not be able to eat bread or drink water.] Moreover, since in hilchos eruvin all criteria have to be met for the area to be classified as a reshus harabbim, even if we were to employ a shitas yachid regarding reshus harabbim, that would then disqualify the eruv based on only one criterion, the other conditions would not be met, and an eruv would be permissible. Consequently, to invalidate an eruv, one would have to selectively choose from disparate shitos yachidos ― which in many cases are contradictory ― and that is an unjustifiable approach in halachah. The reality is that if someone learns hilchos eruvin with an open mind, he would realize that since it is almost impossible to meet all the criteria of reshus harabbim, creating an eruv l’chatchilah is a real possibility.

The Jewish Tribune, page 4:
The pictures are followed by a further set of imposing faces of present-day gedolim, together with eruv letters – aimed at giving the impression that all those leading figures have involved themselves in the complicated issues of the London eruv and given it their full approval. Nothing can be further from the truth. None of them write about London or a situation comparable with London with the exception of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach in his first letter who has since clarified his p’sak in his most recent letter published below. Nor have they been presented with a detailed description of the entire construction. In fact, it goes without saying that no godol would underwrite a contentious and complicated eruv without seeing it at first hand or at least having been properly briefed on all issues from an objective source.
The rebuttal:
This diatribe is duplicitous. Just a little later in this article they have no compunctions to list rabbanim who they maintain would object to an eruv in London when in fact, “none of the rabbanim actually involved themselves in the complicated issues of the London eruv,” either (more about these rabbanim further down). Besides for which, in the many debates I had with one of the members of the cabal (Chevrah Hilchos Issurei Eruvin), the names of some of these same gedolim were mentioned as opposing the London eruv. I wonder who was the, “objective source,” that, “properly briefed,” these gedolim, “with a detailed description of the entire construction?” I guess it is only when a gadol opposes an eruv that he does not need to be briefed from an, “objective source.” The hypocrisy continues. Moreover, I would like to know what was the cause of Rav Auerbach shlita's retraction? Was it because he was, “properly briefed on all issues from an objective source,” or was it the more likely scenario that he was told that some rabbanim objected to an eruv and it is incorrect that he mixed into the matter (as he specified in his first letter that he usually does not mix into matters that take place overseas). I am sure that it was the latter. Additionally, I have been told that many pertinent issues were discussed regarding the eruv between these gedolim and Rav Ehrentreu shlita and the experts. However, I have been informed that these gedolim who quietly support eruvin do not want to officially mix into these matters. In any case, there is no need for the rabbanim to involve themselves in the technicalities of the London eruv since it is halachically indistinguishable from the one in Yerushalayim.

The Jewish Tribune, page 4:
The publication then devotes many pages towards commending the proficiency of three people who came recently at enormous expense to improve the eruv. Apparently their involvement was considered necessary despite the fact as long as five years ago this very Eruv was launched and declared then as kosher lemahadrin.
The rebuttal:
With this argument, the author(s) of this article is showing his true colors. They are trying to create inconsistencies in Rav Ehrentreu’s words to generate doubt in the eyes of his congregation that he was unreliable. This tactic is typical from the anti-eruv cabal. In fact what the Bais Din maintained from the get go was that they were confident in the halachic integrity of the eruv. Clearly the eruv was kosher when it was originally established (there is no doubt that our forefathers would have considered this eruv kosher lemahadrin). However, there are many levels to mahadrin, and what was requested of these experts was to upgrade the eruv lechumrah to reach a mahadrin standard equivalent to that in Yerushalayim (see the kuntres, p. 26). As a matter of fact, the experts mentioned to me that the eruv as it was originally established was more mehudar than most eruvin in Eretz Yisroel. (See more about this matter in part two.)

The Jewish Tribune, page 4:
Whilst not detracting from their knowledge in the field, these visitors (the experts from Yerushalayim) can only do as much as their location permits. They can only correct and improve. They cannot eliminate the natural obstacles that exist.
The rebuttal:
Well, if they admit that these visitors are knowledgeable in their field, wouldn’t they know about these so called, “specific problems,” better than the writer of this article? There is no doubt that these experts from Yerushalayim have a more superior grasp of the inyan than anyone in the whole of England. Moreover, when I debated (one of) the author(s) of this article a while ago, he argued that even these experts agreed with him that there are these insurmountable, “specific problems,” and they only came to rectify whatever was possible. Well, now that the kuntres was published and these experts stated emphatically that these so called, “specific problems,” do not exist, of course the answer now is that these experts do not know what they are talking about. So what is it, do or don’t the experts know what they are talking about? Additionally, it is an extremely base tactic to denigrate these experts by calling them knowledgeable in their field, as if they are mere specialists who know nothing more. In fact, they are true talmidei chachamim, while on the other hand, most of those arguing against the eruv do not know the inyan of eruvin at all.

The Jewish Tribune, page 4:
This brings us to some of the specific problems. First and foremost, no eruv is valid in an area considered a r’shus horabim from the Torah viewpoint. The London Eruv includes roads that fall within this description. According to the most lenient opinion roads in a city inhabited by 600,000 people, serving those residents, are each a r’shus horabim min haTorah – even if the road is not actually traversed by 600,000 people on a daily basis. The North Circular Road (A406) and the Great North Way (A1) are the main arterial highways that access and serve all of London’s more than seven million inhabitants. It follows that these major roads automatically invalidate any eruv.
The rebuttal:
To claim that an eruv (tzuras hapesach) is not valid in a reshus harabbim is erroneous. Many Achronim maintain 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). Moreover, there is no lenient opinion, it is what the Shulchan Aruch states, and all other opinions are chiddushim. The simple understanding of the Shulchan Aruch is that the shishim ribo need to actually traverse the road itself and most poskim concur (Mor U'ketziyah, siman 366; Pnei Yehoshua, Shabbos 5b; Bais Ephraim, O.C. siman 26; Chavas Daas, in Nachalas Yaakov, Eruvin 5b; Michtam L’David, siman 2; Divrei Chaim, Addendum 3; Zivchei Tezdek, siman 102; Maharsham, 3:188; Sefas Emes, Shabbos 6b; Yeshuos Malko, siman 27; Divrei Malkiel, 4:3; Tirosh VaYitzhar, siman 73; Mishnah Berurah, Shaar HaTzion, 345:25 [the Mishnah Berurah indicates this by the usage of the phrase, “derech hamavoi hamefulash,”]; Minchas Elazar, 3:4; Tuv Yehoshua, p. 8; Bais Av, 2:5:2; Maharshag, 2:25; Mahari Stief, siman 68; V’yaan Yoseph, 131:1, 155:1, 195:2; Divrei Yatziv, 173:4, and Rav Shmuel Wosner shlita in Shevet HaLevi, 6:41 ― See also the sheilah to the Chacham Tzvi in siman 37 regarding England). Therefore, according to most poskim, the fact that a road could possibly be servicing shishim ribo is not sufficient grounds for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim. Some argue that the Bais Ephraim maintains that it is sufficient if a road services shishim ribo for it to be classified as a reshus harabbim. However, the simple understanding of the Bais Ephraim is that the shishim ribo would need to traverse the street itself for the street to be classified as a reshus harabbim (Maharsham, 3:188 and Minchas Yitzchak, 8:32). The only question regarding the Bais Ephraim’s position was whether the requirement of shishim ribo traversing the street is on every day or would on most days suffice.

Part II