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.)

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.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Case of the Missing Missive

Some friends of mine asked me why I would position myself and Rav Kimchi shlita in a situation where the cabal could possibly place us in a bad light by conjuring up a letter which, to the ill informed (or to those who are looking for fodder to do away with my arguments), shows us to be not on the level. Indeed, I had recognized the possibility that this supposed letter existed even prior to their posting of it, and had suggested in an earlier comment that they had penned it themselves years ago. Despite the cabal’s insistence that they had a letter, the fact that Rav Kimchi never received this letter makes it worthless. Anyone can type a letter and then append a letterhead and signature to it. I don’t doubt for a second that the cabal would make use of such tactics. They did so with kol koreis in Brooklyn many times. This is the modus operandi of all anti-eruv campaigns to negate an eruv at all costs. I realize that one can make an argument that the pro-eruv group has an interest in suppressing this letter since it negates the eruv because it mentions the issue of reshus harabbim. However, I believe that the cabal has been dishonest regarding so many issues that they have no credibility whatsoever. Even regarding Rav Eider zt"l's letter to Rav Chaim Halpern shlita (parts of which were conveniently translated in this disreputable letter), they lied and claimed that Rav Eider argued that according to Rav Moshe zt”l no eruv could be established in the face of opposition. In fact, Rav Eider only said that Rav Moshe recommended to him that he should only explore the possibility of establishing an eruv if the rabbanim are all in agreement. However, Rav Moshe never said that a rav can’t establish an eruv in his own city in the face of opposition as the cabal would have you believe. With these sorts of shenanigans, why would anyone believe the cabal at all? Furthermore, if the letter never reached Rav Kimchi, maybe it was because Rav Eider regretted what was stated therein and, therefore, never sent it. Moreover, does anyone truly believe that Rav Kimchi imagined that the letter would not somehow leak out since the eruv is such a contentious issue? If Rav Kimchi was willing to go out on the limb and publicly declare that he never received this letter, it’s simply more plausible that he never obtained it at all.

To begin with, I guessed that Rav Eider was terrorized because when I sent a friend of mine to speak to him regarding the NW London eruv he seemed very agitated and did not want to speak about it at all. [Later, I was supposed to have a meeting with him regarding the state of eruvin in the USA, and one of the issues I was going to ask him about was the matter of the NW London eruv. However, this meeting never materialized as he was unfortunately nifter prior to it.] Moreover I know for a fact that he was constantly pursued whenever he was involved with establishing eruvin. Lately, I have confirmed that this was the case regarding the Golders Green eruv as well; after Rav Eider left London he was terrorized by the cabal to stay out of the London eruv matter.

There are a few possible scenarios of how this letter came to be:
1) Rav Eider did write the letter - He wrote this letter under great duress from the cabal. This could possibly answer why he never sent a copy of it to Rav Kimchi since Rav Eider would have been very uncomfortable with its contents. However, this possibility does not explain the many inconsistencies in this letter that I will discuss in number three.

2) Rav Eider did write the letter – He wrote the letter under his own free will. Even if we could discount all of the difficulties that I mention in number three and the fact that somehow the letter never reached Rav Kimchi, I don’t understand why the cabal is so pleased with this letter. To begin with, this letter (and the letter to Rav Chaim Halpern plus I know of two other letters) confirm that Rav Padwa zt”l had no halachic objection to the eruv. Therefore, all other arguments such as reshus harabbim, karpeifos and sechiras reshus (which Rav Padwa allowed for Amsterdam; see Noam, 11 1979) should be discounted for they were only added afterwards by people whose ulterior motives were to negate the eruv at all cost. (I would add that the fact the reshus harabbim matter was not mentioned by Rav Eider until this much later second letter is proof that it was either not Rav Eider’s letter or he only wrote it under pressure.)

Furthermore, one of the most vociferous members of the cabal constantly mentioned this letter and quoted from it without starting from the beginning of the pertinent quote. The full [relevant] passage of Rav Eider is, “At the time of my visit, I did not personally determine whether there was any problem of shishim ribo because I was there to determine feasibility and present this to the Bais Din. Therefore, initially I relied upon information supplied by yourself [Rav Kimchi]. I recently received statistical information which seems to indicate that the area of the Eruv meets the specification of a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa according to Maron Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.” This member of the cabal started the quote from,”the area of the Eruv meets the specification of a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa according to Maron Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l,” opportunely leaving out that Rav Eider’s objection was dependent on statistics supplied by members of the cabal which of course are debatable and would have influenced Rav Eider’s opinion. Additionally, the shishim ribo issue is a non-starter. Rav Eider is either referring to the cabal’s quoted statistics that the population of the twelve mil by twelve mil area which includes the eruv is greater than Rav Moshe’s requirement of 3,000,000 people or that the eruv encompasses roads that contain shishim ribo traversing them. In essence, as stated above, Rav Eider’s information is only as good as the people who are giving it to him. Each one of these suppositions can be debated, and no doubt, the LBD could argue otherwise so it is not a definitive statement from Rav Eider regarding Rav Moshe’s opinion.

Moreover, it is more likely that Rav Eider was only interested in the area enclosed by the eruv than the issue of the twelve mil by twelve mil area. Rav Kimchi mentioned to me that when Rav Eider originally came to London to inspect the feasibility of an eruv, Rav Eider called his office to obtain a copy of Rav Moshe’s teshuvah regarding the Detroit eruvin. At the time, this teshuvah was only available as a ksav yad since Igros Moshe volume eight where this teshuvah is presently published was first printed in 1996. After the ksav yad was faxed to Rav Eider in London, he joyfully stated that the circumstance in Detroit where Rav Moshe allowed an eruv is analogous to the situation in Golders Green. I too have argued (and baruch sh’kevanti) that similar to the circumstances of Golders Green, the Detroit neighborhoods are built-up to the city of Detroit proper, and nevertheless, Rav Moshe considered them as distinct neighborhoods and did not reckon with the matter of the twelve mil by twelve mil area at all. Consequently, Rav Eider declared that Rav Moshe would allow an eruv in Golders Green. It is therefore improbable that Rav Eider would even consider the statistics of the twelve mil by twelve mil area pertinent to the efficacy of the eruv. So, we are only left with the issue of roads containing shishim ribo, and regarding this statistic, it is easy to verify that the cabal is totally incorrect.

Furthermore, this letter contradicts another tenet of the anti-eruv cabal. In this supposed letter Rav Eider mentions that he went to Rav Elyashiv shlita regarding some questions he had with the Sydney eruv, and Rav Eider states that, “Before [Rav Elyashiv] responded to these questions, he wanted to know whether Sydney meets the criteria of Maran Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Only after determining that there was no problem of a reshus harabbim according to these criteria, did I agree to visit.” However, the Chevrah Hilchos Issurei Eruvin declared that Rav Elyashiv is more stringent and disagrees with Rav Moshe regarding the application of shishim ribo. Rav Elayshiv, they argue, either (they can’t even get their arguments straight) upholds that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of a city or that the possibility that shishim ribo traversing a street would suffice to classify the road as a reshus harabbim. However, from this letter it would seem that Rav Elyashiv does accept Rav Moshe shitos in eruvin l’halachah. Clearly something is wrong with this letter or what the Chevrah Hilchos Issurei Eruvin alleges in the name of Rav Elyashiv.

3) Rav Eider did not write the letter – Members of the cabal told Rav Eider after Rav Kimchi published The Foundation of the North West London Eruv which stated that, “All this has been done according to a map drawn by Rav Shimon Eider shlita of Lakewood,” that he has to publicly declare that he had nothing to do with the eruv. Rav Eider complied, and a notice was published in The Jewish Tribune at the time. Moreover, they insisted that Rav Eider pen a public letter of rebuke to Rav Kimchi. At this point, Rav Eider said that they should write a letter, and that he would sign it.

This possibility would clarify why the letter is, except for the addition of a paragraph regarding reshus harabbim and the Sydney eruv, mostly a translation of the original Hebrew letter sent to Rav Chaim Halpern in 1995 (the last paragraph is a word for word translation from a letter written eight years prior). As Rav Eider never wrote this letter, the cabal did the typical thing and based their letter on Rav Eider’s original missive but updated the issues (reshus harabbim) to suit their needs. This scenario can also explain why Rav Kimchi never received this letter; it served the purpose of the cabal to be in possession of such a letter and be able to use it when they desired.

Moreover, that Rav Eider did not write this letter would explain why there is a fundamental mistake in this letter regarding the understanding of Rav Moshe zt”l’s shitos in eruvin. Rav Eider states in this purported letter that, “I recently received statistical information which seems to indicate that the area of the Eruv meets the specification of a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa according to Maron Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and requires delasos in many areas, tzuras hapesach would not be sufficient.” Anyone familiar as Rav Eider would be with Rav Moshe’s teshuvos would not argue that delasos would be needed in many areas but that delasos would be necessary to close every single area requiring a tzuras hapesach. Once Rav Moshe labeled a city a reshus harabbim, a tzuras hapesach would never suffice. Sure, some would try to excuse this damming evidence that this letter was not penned by Rav Eider because there is a possibility that a cul-de-sac was included in the perimeter of the eruv, and then, even according to Rav Moshe, delasos would not be required. However, this is clearly incorrect and an excuse after the fact. Rav Eider was cognizant of the boundaries of the eruv as he was the one who established them, and he would have recognized that there was no cul-de-sac involved in the limits of the eruv. In any case, according to Rav Moshe, a cul-de-sac in an area classified as a reshus harabbim would suffice with a tzuras hapesach since it is encompassed by three mechitzos. However, if a cul-de-sac was part of the boundaries of the eruv, it would, in essence, not be part of the eruv since it opens to the outside of the eruv boundaries; hence, Rav Eider would not be referring to such a situation. In the end, we will never know if Rav Eider actually signed this letter or not.

In summation, there are many inconsistencies in this letter, and since Rav Kimchi never received the original for us to examine its veracity, there is no reason to rely on this letter at all. I should add that, notwithstanding this supposed letter stating Rav Eider’s opinion that Rav Moshe would not allow an eruv in Golders Green, the LBD does not have to agree with Rav Eider’s interpretation of Rav Moshe’s teshuvos as they are available for all to analyze. Of course, the cabal would argue that Rav Eider was a talmid so he knows Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin better than all. However, this is similar to the situation that I mentioned regarding Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita allowing an eruv to 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. I guess that when the issue is eruvin, the leading experts are always those who are against eruvin. What is particularly galling is that there are people out there who, after reading these arguments, will recognize that what I presented rings true but will never concede that these arguments undermine the validity of the letter.

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 7

Orthodox Jews’ Request Divides a Resort Village

By Joseph Berger

WESTHAMPTON BEACH - “Is Westhampton Beach an Orthodox Jewish Community?” the full-page newspaper advertisement asked in boldface type. Then it answered: “No it’s a secular, open Village with a proud history of welcoming All faiths. The erection of an eruv will proclaim us as an Orthodox Jewish community for all time. Don’t let it happen.”

Just a few months ago, the response to such an advertisement might have included not just outrage or applause but also a question: “What is an eruv?” Read on...

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 6

Glass Ceiling for Eruvs?

By Shlomo Shamir

While the number of U.S. urban eruvs grow, the Westhampton eruv effort is meeting fierce local resistance.

New York - Belonging to a synagogue, observing the laws of kashrut, even holding a Pesach Seder have lost their pride of place as the outright signs of religious affiliation in the American Jewish community. Lately, what typifies the ultra-Orthodox population, particularly the substrata of young couples who moved in recent years to small towns and suburbs, is the worrying and effort being put into establishing an eruv.

Yes, eruv chatzerot, that ancient ruling by King Solomon and his court which turns private property and public property into one entity so that small items may be carried and baby carriages pushed on the Sabbath. Read on...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 5

Eruv Ad Again Stirs Debate in Westhampton Beach

By Mitchell Freedman

Earlier this year, the Westhampton Beach Village Board wrestled with whether to approve an eruv, a symbolically fenced area where many Orthodox Jews feel free to perform tasks otherwise proscribed on the Sabbath, such as pushing a baby carriage or even carrying house keys.

Several heated village board meetings later, Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue suspended the request until the fall. Read on...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Open Letter From HaRav Kimchi Shlita

On the numerous occasions when I debated members of the anti-eruv cabal, they mentioned two letters from Rav Shimon Eider zt”l regarding the NW London Eruv. One of the letters was addressed to Rav Chaim Halpern shlita, and according to the cabal, it stated that Rav Eider had asserted that his rebbe Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l would have objected to the NW London Eruv because of the machlokas that ensued. I argued that Rav Moshe would not have objected to the eruv because of machlokas since he allowed the rabbanim to erect an eruv in Manhattan and in Brooklyn in the face of opposition. I stated then that if Rav Moshe had mentioned anything to Rav Eider regarding machlokas and eruvin, it was only a suggestion that Rav Eider should not involve himself in the internal politics of eruvin if there is no consensus from the local rabbanim. After I received a copy of this letter, I was proven correct. According to this letter, if some of the local rabbanim want to establish an eruv, Rav Moshe would not object even if there is opposition.

The cabal alleged that the second letter from Rav Eider was addressed to Rav Avrohom Kimchi shlita. The cabal asserted that Rav Eider argued in this letter that his rebbe Rav Moshe would object to the NW London Eruv for halachic reasons. However, as we will now see from the following letter, Rav Kimchi never received such a missive which also explains why it was never disseminated. The following open letter from Rav Kimchi should hopefully put to rest this rumor circulated by the anti-eruv cabal. Subsequently, there is no doubt that Rav Moshe would not have objected to the NW London Eruv for halachic reasons.


18th June 2008


It has been brought to my attention that in the debate surrounding the NW London Eruv a claim has been made which is entirely without any foundation or truth whatsoever.

It is well known that approximately 20 years ago, at the initial planning stage of the eruv, the late R. Shimeon Eider ztzal came to London for several days on our request. He spent many days with me together with our team, during which he carefully considered many possible maps for the eruv, and finally decided on the one which was eventually built. He took great care with all measurements, traffic flow figures and maintenance strategies, as was fitting for an expert and a professional in his field. From the outset he was enthusiastic and encouraged us all in this venture, and the intention was that he would return to supervise its actual construction. However, when he realized the extent of the opposition from other local rabbonim he apologized to me on the phone and said that he was not able to suffer the aggravation of machlokes.

At no point did he indicate in any way that he had changed his mind about the validity and kashrus of the eruv itself, and when it was built he simply let it be known that he had not in fact supervised its construction, which is absolutely correct.

It is now being claimed that a letter was written to me in which he allegedly cites his halakhic reservations or problems with the eruv as the reason for his withdrawal, and that I have allegedly suppressed this letter.

I would like to make it absolutely clear that I have never received such a letter myself, or anything similar to it, nor have I ever heard of its alleged existence. In fact anyone who had been at any of the many meetings and phone calls we had together would be amazed at this claim, since it was with great certainty and enthusiasm that he led us in the initial stages of this project citing all the reasons why London did not have the problems of Manhattan, and that clearly the rulings of HaGaon R. Chaim Ozer ztzal for Paris and the rulings of HaGaon the Chazon Ish zatzal were directly applicable here.

Yehi Ratzon she'nizkeh le'harbos be'divrei sholom ve'emess

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Westmount, Quebec

Westmount Eruv Okayed

By Dan Delmar

Westmount’s council unanimously passed a resolution last month allowing a local synagogue to put up a thin fishing line on utility poles circling most of the city, an installation deemed necessary by conservative and Orthodox Jews.

The line, called an Eruv, symbolically joins private domains to public ones, allowing for the carrying of small items outside one’s home permissible on Shabbat. Read on...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Westhampton Beach, NY 4

Eruv Plan Roils Tony Town In Hamptons

Nasty E-mail Campaign in Westhampton Beach Says Schneier Wants ‘To Create Another Lawrence.’

By Stewart Ain

The negative e-mails started soon after word spread that the Hampton Synagogue was asking the tony Village of Westhampton Beach for a proclamation permitting it to erect an eruv, or symbolic boundary, around the synagogue.

It would, one e-mail said, “allow the Jewish people to pass through people’s property on their way to temple. ... It is the beginning of a ‘push’ by the rabbi to create another Tenafly or Lawrence [both have large concentrations of Orthodox Jews]. Shopkeepers have already been asked rather strongly to please close their stores on Saturday.” Read on...

{Ed. note - The prize for the most glaringly obvious statement goes to the Mayor of Tenafly NJ: "Teller, who is seeking re-election as mayor ... pointed out that he called the mayor of Tenafly, N.J., which lost a six-year battle to prevent the erection of an eruv. Teller said the mayor told him, “It is invisible and has made no change [in the community] in the three years it has been up.” Had they asked me I could have spared them the six-year battle.}

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Part 3: The Jewish Tribune’s Argument Against the NW London Eruv

Continued from part II

The Jewish Tribune, page 4, Public Notice:
In view of a brochure and rumours recently circulating in connection with the Eruv in Nort West London, we wish to reaffirm our opinion that it remains problematic and of doubtful validity.
In particular, renowned past and present Poskim – including Rav M. Feinstein, Dayan I. J. Weiss and others have ruled that London is considered a public domain Min-Hatorah, automatically invalidates any such Eruv. According to the Chazon Ish it has other faults.
The rebuttal:
To begin with, regarding Rav Moshe zt”l, it is important to note there is a fundamental flaw in the anti-eruv cabal’s way of thinking regarding his chiddushim in eruvin. Rav Moshe was only against an eruv in Manhattan and Brooklyn. His objections were based on self-admitted major chiddushim in hilchos eruvin and therefore Rav Moshe did not want to even issue a p’sak din barur (see Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l’s Reluctance to Pasken Against the Establishment of an Eruv). We, therefore, do not have a right to negate an eruv by adding to his chiddushim.
There are two reasons why Rav Moshe would allow the London eruv:
1) Despite the fact that Golders Green is developed with houses all the way up to the inner city of London, Rav Moshe would allow that the neighborhood is distinct from its surroundings. This can be discerned from the fact that Rav Moshe allowed the establishment of eruvin in neighborhoods with comparable conditions to Golders Green. Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in the Detroit neighborhoods of Oak Park and Southfield despite the fact that these two neighborhoods are well developed with houses right up to the Detroit city line. Additionally, Rav Moshe allowed an eruv for the neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills, Queens even though all of Queens’s neighborhoods adjoin each other. In both situations, Rav Moshe maintained that these neighborhoods are distinct despite the fact that they were part of a larger built up area. There is no doubt that Golders Green is a distinct neighborhood and is not part of the inner city of London. Why should Golders Green be any different then Queens and Detroit where Rav Moshe allowed an eruv? [I would add that even if we were to apply Rav Moshe’s chiddush that he used in Brooklyn, that a city is an area of twelve mil by twelve mil, to the city of London, we probably would not have a population of 3,000,000 people contained therein. However, in light of the above, we do not have to involve ourselves with this issue at all.]
2) Alternatively, the area is classified as a reshus hayachid since it is enclosed by mechitzos habatim. Those who assert that Rav Moshe would not allow mechitzos habatim are totally incorrect. Mechitzos habatim are mechitzos l’chol hadayos. There are two fundaments required to allow mechitzos habatim (or for that matter any mechitzos), and Rav Moshe agrees to both of them: 1. That we pasken lo asu rabbim. 2. That we pasken pirtzos esser is d’rabbanan. Rav Moshe only took issue with the chiddush of the Chazon Ish that the omed of a reshus hayachid formed a mechitzah but not with the above two fundaments.

Regarding the Chazon Ish shitos, the eruv has no other faults. He would allow the eruv l’chatchilah (as mentioned above on the subject of the K’vish Haschachor and the karpeifos).

Regarding Rav Weiss zt”l, it is important to mention that he never articulated a word about erecting an eruv in London. He only declared that based on the Bais Ephraim’s (and the Chacham Tzvi’s) statement, London is a reshus harabbim regarding shishim ribo. Therefore, he argues, we would not be able to include shishim ribo as one of the heterim to allow, for example, pushing a wheelchair on Shabbos without an eruv (Minchas Yitzchak, 2:114:9; see also 2:98:17; 2:112:4; 3:26:4; 3:36:3; 5:40; and his haskamah on Birchas HaShabbos, 1987). From this statement, the cabal wants to convince us that the Minchas Yitzchak was opposed to an eruv in London. This is totally preposterous since there are several reasons why Rav Weiss could have called London a reshus harabbim but nevertheless would have allowed an eruv. To begin with, it should be noted that the Minchas Yitzchak, in his teshuvos, oscillated between calling London a reshus harabbim and stating that the matter still requires consideration (tzaruch iyun).

As I just mentioned, Rav Weiss primarily cites the Bais Ephraim as the source for his statement that London is a reshus harabbim of shishim ribo; thus it would be judicious to examine what the Bais Ephraim assumed regarding London. The Bais Ephraim (O.C. siman 26 p. 45) states that the reason why some Rishonim only mention, as the criteria of a reshus harabbim, that a street would need to be sixteen amos wide and mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar and not shishim ribo is because there were cities such as Paris, London, Vienna, Frankfort-on-Main and others that did contain shishim ribo. Therefore, the Bais Ephraim postulates, these Rishonim only mentioned the criteria that pertained to large cities (and would allow an eruv). As proof that there were such cities, the Bais Ephraim quotes the question posed to the Chacham Tzvi (siman 37) regarding the possibility that there were several sratyas [thoroughfares] and platyas [marketplaces] in England that contained shishim ribo traversing them. Some want to argue that since the Bais Ephraim states that the cities of Paris, London, Vienna and Frankfort-on-Main contain shishim ribo, he upholds that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of a city and not a street. This is incorrect. As can be discerned regarding his discussion of cities containing shishim ribo, it is clear from the Bais Ephraim that he maintains that the criterion is conditional of a street since he quotes the query posed to the Chacham Tzvi which was referring to thoroughfares and marketplaces in England containing shishim ribo and not about the cities themselves (there are many instances when the Bais Ephraim actually discusses the criterion of shishim ribo and clearly indicates that it refers to a street; see The Overwhelming Majority of Achronim Maintain That the Shishim Ribo Has to Traverse the Street Itself and Part 4: Birur HaShitos ─ Regarding Shishim Ribo). Moreover, the Minchas Yitzchak himself, when he explores the criterion of shishim ribo (8:32:1), upholds that the Bais Ephraim is of the opinion that the shishim ribo must traverse the street itself (albeit not daily). Consequentially, when the Bais Ephraim discusses cities containing shishim ribo, he must be referring to streets of a city that contain shishim ribo.

In light of the above, let us explore the opinion of the Minchas Yitzchak regarding shishim ribo, and what he would possibly maintain regarding eruvin. When Rav Weiss posits that the circumstances in London would not allow us to include shishim ribo for any heter since the city contains shishim ribo, it was not because he made a survey of London and consequentially came to this conclusion, but rather he was just quoting the Bais Ephraim. However, the Bais Ephraim assumed that there were streets and marketplaces that possibly contained shishim ribo, and therefore, he referred to London as a reshus harabbim of shishim ribo. Additionally, the Minchas Yitzchak himself understood the Bais Ephraim’s shita in shishim ribo as applying to a street. Consequently, if we now know that there is no street in London that ever has shishim ribo traversing it, even Rav Weiss would admit that no reshus harabbim exists therein, and an eruv of tzuras hapesachim can be erected. Clearly there is no street in Golders Green that has anywhere close to shishim ribo traversing it. Moreover, if the Minchas Yitzchak was asked about establishing an eruv in London, it is possible that he would argue that we follow the Shulchan Aruch HaRav that a tzuras hapesach reclassifies a reshus harabbim into a reshus hayachid, and only me’d’rabbanan, do we require delasos. Since the requirement is only me’d’rabbanan, we can be lenient and apply any additional heter to remove the obligation of delasos. Additionally, Rav Weiss could allow an eruv based on the Chazon Ish’s chiddush. Furthermore, since Rav Weiss followed the Bais Ephraim ─ who maintains lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta, and that pirtzos esser is me’d’rabbanan ─ there is no doubt that he would allow the eruv since it consists of mechitzos. The reason why the Minchas Yitzchak did not rely on the Chazon Ish or mechitzos (habattim) to downgrade London to a reshus hayachid in his teshuvos was simply because he was not erecting an eruv, so he did not evaluate the possibility of using mechitzos.

The above illuminates an overarching flaw in many of the anti-eruv group’s arguments. They purposely conflate a statement from a posek regarding another issue as if it would negate an eruv. If a posek was actually establishing an eruv, he would truly plumb the depths of hilchos eruvin to seek a means to establish one. This can be discerned from the Minchas Yitzchok himself. When he refers to issues such as pushing wheelchairs on Shabbos (without an eruv), he accepted the Bais Ephraim’s assumption that there are streets in London that have shishim ribo traversing them. However, when the matter was eruvin, he states clearly that the Bais Ephraim maintains that the shishim ribo must traverse the street itself as opposed to a city, which in fact would allow an eruv for London.

[I would add, it is remarkable and telling that Rav Weiss cites in some of his teshuvos the Bais Ephraim’s argument that there were cities which contained shishim ribo and yet were not classified as a reshus harabbim since the streets were not sixteen amos wide and were not mefulash mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar. The Minchas Yitzchak then posits that it is obvious that the streets of London are sixteen amos wide so they possibly are a reshus harabbim, but he then fails to mention anything regarding the criterion of mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar. (Of course, the cabal would proclaim that evidently Rav Weiss considered the streets of London mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar since he never utilized this criterion. However, this begs the question of why did he mention the criterion that the streets today are sixteen amos wide and did not just append to this that the streets of London are mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, as well.) The most likely explanation for this omission is that since the Minchas Yitzchak was not referring to establishing an eruv and was not seeking a heter to erect one, he did not utilize the criterion of mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar since it would require that he evaluate each and every street separately to observe if they meet this criterion or not. However, regarding shishim ribo, Rav Weiss accepted the Bais Ephraim’s assumption (and did not evaluate the streets to discern if they actually contain shishim ribo or not) that there were streets that met this criterion; hence, London was classified as a reshus harabbim, and as a result, we would not be able to use it as a heter at all. Consequently, if Rav Weiss was involved with the construction of an eruv in London, there is no doubt that he would follow the Bais Ephraim and assess each street separately to distinguish if it meets the requirement of being mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar, as well.]

Finally, I think that it is important to note that the greatest posek that lived in England in the past hundred years, Rav Avroham Ahron Yudelovitz zt”l, the Bais Av, wrote an entire volume regarding an eruv in Manchester and in all major cities. He argued that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of a street, and that the streets would need to be mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar in order to be classified as a reshus harbbim. There is no doubt that he would be more than satisfied with the new eruv consisting of mechitzos in London.

In summation, the article in The Jewish Tribune contains the following fabrications:
1) Rav Eider zt”l claimed that Rav Moshe zt”l would not allow the eruv in Golders Green. Some members of the cabal even go so far to claim that Rav Eider alleged that his rebbe would not allow the eruv in Golders Green because he would classify it as a reshus harabbim. There is not a shred of evidence to back up these allegations.
2) The London Bais Din or the Rosh Bais Din shlita originally asserted that the eruv was mehudar. In fact never was the word mehudar used.
3) Rav Elyashiv shlita understood the criterion of shishim ribo as being conditional of a street servicing shishim ribo. In fact, Rav Elyashiv stated in his letter that shishim ribo is conditional of the city. [Of course the cabal would argue that what Rav Elyashiv meant when he said that a city containing shishim ribo is classified as a reshus harabbim was that there could now be a street in the city that services shishim ribo. Besides for the fact that they would need to add words to Rav Elyashiv’s letter for this argument to be true, it is erroneous as well. Rav Elyashiv stated that it is a concern if Yerushalayim contains shishim ribo since we would not be able to rely on shitas Rashi. If Rav Elyashiv maintained that the criterion of shishim ribo is conditional of a street servicing 600,000 people, he would not have mentioned the issue of Yerushalayim containing shishim ribo. For even if the city did not contain shishim ribo, the roads could nevertheless be classified as servicing 600,000 people since additional commuters use the roads coming into the city as well. Consequently, if Rav Elayshiv understood the criterion of shishim ribo as being conditional of a street servicing 600,000 people, this would have been his emphasis and not the city of Yerushalayim itself.]
4) Rav Elayshiv upheld that only in an area where people were previously carrying can we rely on sechirus reshus of the city mayor. In fact, Rav Elayshiv’s maintained that eruvin can be established in areas that did not have one prior, and that we can rely on today’s sechirus reshus.
5) Rav Karelitz claimed that the Chazon Ish did not rely on his chiddush in practice, and therefore, the K’vish Haschachor was not included in the Bnai Brak eruv because it was possibly a reshus harabbim. In fact, it was not included by the Chazon Ish in the Bnai Brak eruv because it failed to meet the criterion of his chiddush.

In summation the following rationales would allow an eruv in Golders Green:
1) There is no street that has shishim ribo traversing it. Given that there is no street included in the eruv that ever comes close to having shishim ribo traversing it, even those who argue that just the possibility alone would classify it as a reshus harabbim would allow an eruv. Moreover, most poskim maintain that we do not include vehicular traffic in the tally.
2) The streets of the community are not mefulash u’mechuvanim m’shaar l’shaar.
3) We can rely on the chiddush of the Chazon Ish.
4) The area is fundamentally a reshus hayachid since it is encompassed by mechitzos.
Even one of the above conditions would be sufficient ground to allow an eruv of tzuras hepesachim l’chatchilah. Additionally, as there are many reasons to allow an eruv in London, even a Baal Nefesh can rely on the eruv with certainty. Furthermore, since the Golders Green eruv consist of mechitzos habatim, the eruv is considered a Rambam eruv.

All the other halachic arguments ─ such as sechiras reshus or karpeifos ─ are issues that affect all city eruvin today, but nevertheless, have not negated any eruv yet. Why should Golders Green be any different? Moreover, all the arguments set forth to date have been that the Gedolei Haposkim would have objected to an eruv in London, but the issue of sechiras reshus and karpeifos have never been part of the Gedolei Haposkim’s arguments at all. Why do we have to follow those who want to collect every chumrah in hilchos eruvin? Dear readers, there are few poskim who, if we would follow all their rulings in regards to eruvin, would not allow us to establish an eruv l’chatchilah.

We are left with the hashkafic issues. One who claims that an eruv negatively impacts the sanctity of the Shabbos by encouraging unbecoming behavior, such as ball playing or socializing, is in fact making a blanket statement against all eruvin ─ since these issues can be problematic with eruvin in both large and small cities and even a private eruv between adjacent houses ─ and he can be considered an einoh modeh b’eruv. Eruvin, according to the poskim, was always a matter of halachah and not hashkafah. Let us remember that an eruv is a tikun and not a michshol, and it serves to improve the spiritual quality of a community’s Shabbos observance.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Owings Mills, MD

Eruv For Owings Mills

Eruv in Owings Mills Enables Residents to Leave Their Homes on Shabbat

By Barbara Pash

Rabbi Aaron Tendler talks about building community. He talks about outreach to the Jewish community in Owings Mills. He also talks about what it takes to install an eruv because four years ago, Rabbi Tendler, who works at Ner Israel Rabbinical College and is the rabbi of the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning’s Valley Village Center, did just that.

Now, every Thursday morning, he tours the eruv in Northwest Baltimore County to make sure it is intact. “It gives me time to make a repair,” he said. Read on...