Monday, June 23, 2008

A Question and Answer Shiur From HaRav HaGaon Rav Yisroel Belsky Shlita

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

On the third day of this past Chol Hamoed Pesach (April 24, 2008), Rav Yisroel Belsky shlita gave a shiur called Varied Questions and Answer Sessions in all of the Shulchan Aruch for Irgun Shiurei Torah (tape #22 part 1) where one of the issues he mentioned was his objection to the Brooklyn eruvin.

I was urged to post a critique because of Rav Belsky’s strong language against the Brooklyn eruvin which are supported by some of America's foremost poskim. What follows is a refutation of many of his arguments. For the reader’s edification, I have included an audio file of the relevant part of the shiur.




The shiur:
What kind of Shabbos is that with having ball teams and playing? … The Medrash says about the city that was חרוב, because they played כדור. People think they invented something that is פון היינטיגע צייטען, but part of it ― I’m not going to say anything ― part of it comes from this latest monstrosity that they were מחדש here with the eruv business, and that they were מתיר ממש an איסור דאורייתא לגמרי לחלוטין and someday, some people will grow up and they’ll do something brave and dangerous and they’ll take a Gemara in their hands and they will begin to learn the סוגיא and they’ll begin to learn the Rishonim and they’ll discover that the whole so called “היתר“ about the eruv, it’s a hoax from beginning to end לגמרי. It’s no more of a היתר than if they would be told that they ― I can’t think of a משל for it because I can’t think of anything worse. So they go out and say that they’ll play ball, שוין.The rebuttal:
I fail to comprehend the confidence behind this statement. After all, Rav Moshe zt”l didn’t want to issue a p’sak din barur because he realized that his objection to a Brooklyn eruv was a chiddush, and that the Achronim and the Aruch HaShulchan would not agree with him (see Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s Reluctance to Pasken Against the Establishment of an Eruv). Consequentially, is it rachok min hasechel for others to maintain that there are solid grounds to allow an eruv in Brooklyn? Additionally, the Achronim have guided our understanding of the sugyas and the Rishonim. Do we comprehend the inyan better than them? (As a matter of fact, there are copious teshuvos dealing with the sugyas and the Rishonim in regards to the Brooklyn eruvin, and they failed to find a reason to object.) There is nothing so unusual about the Brooklyn eruvin that we would not be able to find a precedent for them in the Achronim. No doubt, if we were to delve into the Achronim with an open mind, we would realize that there are numerous reasons why the overwhelming majority of poskim would allow the Brooklyn eruvin.

The shiur:
Yerimayahu haNavi said בפירוש ― if anybody really wants to see it, I said it a number of times ― that Moshiach will come and the גאולה will come when they stop carrying in the streets on Shabbos. ולא תוציאו משא מבתיכם ביום השבת and then the Bais HaMikdash will be built and then there will be a גאולה and if not, the חורבן will last לעולם ועד ― it will never stop. If anybody really wants to do anything worthwhile ― to see to it to cut out these שטותים and there’s ממש not one solid bases of היתר for any of these things.
The rebuttal:
The analogy eludes me. Yerimayah haNavi (according to all meforshim) was not referring to carrying within an eruv. 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 encompassed by an eruv. However, no doubt Rav Belsky is aware of Rav Moshe 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.

The shiur:
You look through all these kuntrasim. It makes you shudder. You have a picture on the front cover of the kuntres of Brooklyn כאילו Brooklyn has a wall around it. ממש משיגע אויף טויט. There’s a wall? There’s sections of fence separated by miles one from another and they say that they are מצטרף to each other because they create a איי ,רוב the biggest צירוף gives you about 30% no matter how you דריי it.
The rebuttal:
How can there be an argument about facts, whether or not there are mechitzos? Of course, we can debate the halachic viability of these mechitzos, but this is not Rav Belsky argument at all. His allegation that, “there’s sections of fence separated by miles one from another,” and that it amounts to no more than a build-up of, “about 30%,” is regarding the metziuos and is easy enough to verify. It is simple enough (though there is a lot of walking to do, and it is very time consuming) to confirm that most of Brooklyn’s waterfront is encompassed by commercial buildings and parks which are enclosed by gates and sea walls. The mechitzos at the waterfront are 95% to 99% built-up and not 30% as Rav Belsky argues. Anyone who denies this fact did not inspect the Brooklyn waterfront unlike the rabbanim hamatirim who did. [The Coney Island Beach is also not an issue. We are using the gates beneath the Boardwalk as the mechitzos which separates the beach from the rest of Brooklyn. As a matter of fact, some of the Brooklyn eruvin do not even need to make use of the mechitzos beneath the Boardwalk.]

The shiur:
But they’ll say no, you could draw a line across the middle of Brooklyn and say that all the houses, each house is a חלק of the חומה that runs straight through the middle of the city.
The rebuttal:
Rav Belsky is conflating the issues. The mechitzos that encompass Brooklyn on three sides consist mostly of gates and not of mechitzos habatim. The mechitzos habatim mentioned and depicted in the kuntres The Community Eruv (as a dotted line; see number 10 on this map of the Brooklyn mechitzos) or on the cover of the kuntres Questions and Answers Regarding the Flatbush Eruv (as a solid line) are only being used to satisfy a shita yechidaos that would require pasei bira’os. Thus, even according to those who want to be stringent in all matters pertaining to eruvin, our mechitzos would suffice, since the batim connect the pasim b’kav echad. In any case, as we will further demonstrate, mechitzos habatim are halachic mechitzos l’chol hadayos and can be used for an eruv as well.

The shiur:
For a person to be so קרום that he should look at the houses in the city as being a חומה in the city, that means every single city since ששת ימי בראשית automatically had a חומה in it. Why? Because the houses themselves were the חומה. A person should פאל אן such a משוגעת, such a טיפשות that the houses in the city should be a חומה. And people come over, and they show me the picture, lookטאקעה ער האט וואס צו זאגען. Take any city that ever was, they don’t have houses in those cities? וואס עפעס? The city in the ancient world, in the new world, the middle world didn’t have houses? The cities in א"י and בבל in שושן הבירה didn’t have houses? What do they do, these people, they lived in holes in the ground? And if you take all those houses, and you’re מצטרף them so you could say look it’s 99%. Houses aren’t שייך to say that there’s a wall around a רשות , because the walls of the house. עיר שגגותיה חומותיה, those are different סוגיות. They should be left for the professionals, for people that know which side of the Gemara to open. I’m sorry, I generally try to be a little bit more gentle and careful about this, but it pains me to no end, to see public חילול שבת.
The rebuttal:
To begin with, Rav Belsky omitted any halachic rationale why houses can’t be classified as mechitzos or why they should be any different halachically than the walls of a city. There are two halachic fundaments that the overwhelming majority of poskim rely on when they make use of mechitzos that are omed merubeh al haparutz ― that we pasken lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta and that we pasken pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan. Both of these criteria apply equally as well to mechitzos habatim. This can even be discerned by the very fact that many poskim make use of houses as mechitzos (see for instance: Magen Avraham 358:5 who cites the Mabit, 1:48; Ginas V'radin, klal 3:22; Mayim Rabim, siman 38; Bais Ephraim, O.C. siman 26; Bais Shlomo, siman 51; Avnei Nezer; O.C. 1:274:2, and the Chazon Ish, O.C. 107:5-7; see also Mahari Stief, siman 68). The simple reason why in earlier times we do not see that they used houses for mechitzos was because Yidden mostly lived in walled cities or on walled streets (Judengasse) and did not have a need to utilize the houses for their eruv. In cities that were not walled the houses were too spread out to be halachically joined as mechitzos (they were parutz merubeh al haomed). Even when the houses were close enough together to be used as mechitzos, the Chazon Ish states that at times they could not halachically be classified as a wall (because of siluk hamechitzos: see ibid., 107:5). There is no doubt that mechitzos habatim are halachic mechitzos l’chol hadayos and can be used for an eruv. Moreover, I am surprised that Rav Belsky did not realize that, at the minimum, he was belittling the Chazon Ish’s chiddush that primarily relies on mechitzos habatim for eruvin.

Sure, there are some poskim who objected to the Brooklyn eruvin, but the way the contemporary eruvin utilize mechitzos habatim and, even more so, the fact that Brooklyn is encompassed by mechitzos makes it doubtful that at this point they would still object. Moreover, at the minimum, there are many sfeikos so even if we would agree that the matter is a d’Oraysa, since it is a s’fek s'feika, we would go l’kula.