Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Part 2: Why is Eruvin Different From Any Other Issue that it Elicits Such a Visceral Response?

Continued from part 1.

While I am still convinced that the main reason why the issue of eruvin elicits such a visceral response is because of mi b’rosh, there is an additional and, at times shared, motivation as well. This rationale developed over time and became remarkably significant after the 1979 Flatbush eruv debacle (or maybe even from the time of the 1949-1962 Manhattan eruv saga).

Over the years, we have faced an argument from yeshivaleit that if we would learn through the sugyos and the Rishonim on Meseches Eruvin, particularly the inyanim of asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta and pirtzos esser, it would be apparent that one should be stringent in regards to city eruvin (even with those eruvin that make use of mechitzos). At first glance, it should be evident that these statements fly in the face of our halachic mesorah. No one is denying that there are some major poskim who would object to our city eruvin. However, the preponderance of poskim of yesteryear would surely have supported the eruvin that have been established in the last thirty years (particularly those eruvin making use of mechitzos). Do we know the sugyas and the Rishonim better than these poskim? Don’t those poskim who want to rely on the great decisors of the past have on whom to rely? While it is possible to argue that these yeshivaleit do not comprehend the halachic process, I believe that it is not as simple as that. Moreover, why is there a trend in the yeshivah velt to seek all chumros to negate most city eruvin?

I propose we chalk this all up to a phenomenon that I labeled The Lamdanim Factor. The sugyos in eruvin are extremely complex, involving many commentators, and run the gamut from reshuyos to sechiras reshus and from issues in Orach Chaim to Choshen Mishpat. Moreover, there are numerous Rishonim on Meseches Eruvin; it has more Rishonim than nearly all of the mesechtos in Shas. For this reason, the yeshivah velt believes that eruvin is their domain, and is too entailing an issue for the lowly moreh hora’ah to pasken on (albeit Eruvin is not traditionally considered a yeshivashe mesechta). Eruvin requires a lamdan, one who can plumb the depths of the sugyos and the Rishonim. Eruvin requires a lamdan who can seek out the sources without having to rely on any precedent, as do the local poskim. Eruvin requires a lamdan who can extrapolate from the Rishonim which some of the great poskim of the past did not understand or from the Rishonim who were not published until later (this argument has a basis in the great historical machlokas between the Bais Ephraim and the Mishkenos Yaakov; see Part 4: Meoz U’Mekedem – Exploring the Historical Roots of the Machlokas Regarding Eruvin).

In truth, eruvin is not unlike any other halachic issue. Every rav, big or small, has a right to pasken how he sees fit. Eruvin is comparable to all other issues in halachah where a posek recognizes his limitations and accepts the precedents of yesteryear. If only the lamdanim would realize their place as well.

(As evidence to the above, many lamdanim support their arguments against city eruvin by citing their Rosh Yeshivos, as opposed to deferring to the poskim. Moreover, I find it is futile to argue in support of the major poskim of yesteryear. Even demonstrating that it is the lamdanim and not the earlier poskim who misunderstood the sugyos and the Rishonim is ineffective since the lamdanim have already made up their minds. I have yet to see an argument from these lamdanim that cannot be explained away or one that is even correct. Additionally, on numerous occasions, I noticed that these lamdanim have tried to justify a ruling from a posek whom they agreed with when, in fact, it was apparent that these poskim would never have suggested the lamdan’s reasoning at all. In truth these arguments are only to validate their own understanding of the issues.)