Wednesday, April 01, 2009

History of City Eruvin − Part 9: The Eruv in St. Louis

Continued from part VIII

The Underpinnings of the Controversy
A quick perusal of the invectives hurled by Rav Jaffe against Rav Rosenfeld would demonstrate that this was much more than just another halachic debate. One would be hard pressed to find other rabbinical writings in such vociferous tones.[215] Moreover, if one was to read the Tikvas Zecharia after reading Rav Jaffe’s harangues, the silence of Rav Rosenfeld would be almost palpable. Rav Jaffe’s Sho’el Ka’inyan was published approximately a year earlier than Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zecharia, vol. 2, but Rav Rosenfeld totally omitted any mention of the opposition.[216]
There is no doubt that Rav Jaffe’s persona played a major role in this quarrel, which is illuminated by his colorful past. Rav Jaffe’s strident manner was already noted prior to his coming to America[217] and was evident yet again when he came to St. Louis. Preceding Rav Rosenfeld’s arrival in St. Louis, Rav Jaffe had already had a number of squabbles with other rabbanim,[218] but Rav Rosenfeld’s arrival must have rankled Rav Jaffe even more so. After all, as Rav Jaffe expressed, he did not consider anyone in America his equal,[219] but Rav Rosenfeld was someone whom the populace considered more learned than many of those already in America[220] and maybe even Rav Jaffe’s equal.[221] Even more so, Rav Rosenfeld did not come quietly to town; his first orders of business were the major communal issues of eruvin and mikvaos. Straight away, Rav Rosenfeld invalidated Rav Jaffe’s mikveh and even published a kuntres elucidating his reasons for doing so. Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld set to work and established an eruv.

However, unlike the mikveh dispute where Rav Rosenfeld was on the offensive, this time it was Rav Jaffe who took the initiative and invalidated Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv. Rav Jaffe’s repeated refrain that a new rav had come to town and established an eruv[222] reveals the underlying motives for his antipathy towards Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv. How dare Rav Rosenfeld institute a public proposal that applied to the entire community when he was merely the new rabbinic face in town? Since eruvin, more than any other issue, vests a certain amount of centralized power to the baal ha’machsher, a city eruv is the most visible symbol of power that a rav can have. Towns people publicly carrying in Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv were indicative of his influence and support in the community, unlike other more private issues. Therefore, the establishment of the eruv by Rav Rosenfeld elicited a disproportionately hostile reaction from Rav Jaffe.[223]

Analysis of the Non-Halachic Debate

The most improbable, non-halachic complaint that Rav Jaffe leveled against Rav Rosenfeld was that it was discernable from Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres that he had only established an eruv to find favor in the eyes of the public.[224] Even more so, Rav Jaffe alleged that Rav Rosenfeld, by suggesting a framework to establish eruvin, was seeking to curry favor not only with the local community but with all American Jewry.[225] In truth, these allegations could have been leveled against all the major poskim who wrote teshuvos utilizing many of Rav Rosenfeld’s leniencies to establish eruvin. These rabbanim also argued that we needed to find an approach to eliminate the severe transgression of people carrying without an eruv.[226] Yet no one ever accused these rabbanim of being disingenuous when they erected an eruv.

Additionally, it is worth noting that it is extremely difficult to comprehend how Rav Jaffe managed to procure a haskamah from Rav Salant and other rabbanim in Yerushalayim. Rav Jaffe had previously had a few major disputes with another rav in St. Louis which reached the shores of Yerushalayim. These disputes were also extremely vitriolic, similar to the eruv controversy. Rav Salant protested Rav Jaffe’s aggressive methods, and Rav Jaffe had to answer for it.[227] Consequentially, I find it incredible that Rav Salant would issue a haskamah on Rav Jaffe’s kuntres which contained some of the most contemptuous rabbinic writing that I have ever read. The only thing that comes to mind is the possibility that Rav Grayewsky, who lived in Yerushalayim, somehow managed to finagle these haskamos for his friend.[228]

Furthermore, Rav Abramowitz’s statement in his approbation on Rav Jaffe’s Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom[229] should be further explored. Rav Abramowitz declared that Rav Josepf’s haskamah on Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zecharia should be discounted, as it was well known that Rav Joseph was unwell and was incapable of analyzing the situation properly. Clearly, the objective here was to eliminate the importance of the main haskamah that Rav Rosenfeld received, that is Rav Joseph’s.[230] This, however, was obviously political.[231] The fact is, there is documented proof that even a few years later, in 1898, Rav Joseph was still very coherent.[232]

Analysis of the Halachic Debate

Even a cursory analysis of the available material demonstrates that Rav Jaffe’s hostility towards Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv was on more of a personal level than a halachic one. The tone of the rhetoric leveled against Rav Rosenfeld by Rav Jaffe illustrates this point succinctly. However, since the halachic debate was principally regarding the facts on the ground in 1894, it is impossible at the present time to establish the veracity of the facts presented by each side of the debate. It is even possible that Rav Rosenfeld was purposefully vague about the boundaries that he was making use of because he did not want to have to debate all the particulars.[233] However, there are some important points that can be discerned from these teshuvos.

St. Louis was the first controversy regarding a city that had the qualities of a reshus harabbim. Therefore, it is important to note that notwithstanding Rav Jaffe’s continuous harping in his seforim about the issue of reshus harabbim, the matter is still glaringly missing from any of the approbations issued to Rav Jaffe. Moreover, in Rav Hurowitz’s haskamah to Rav Jaffe’s kuntres, not only did he fail to mention the issue of reshus harabbim, he declared that an alternative to the telegraph lines should be found.[234] Obviously, if Rav Hurowitz would have agreed that there was an issue of a reshus harabbim, no alternative would have sufficed.

Rav Jaffe only succeeded in eliciting a clear haskamah regarding the matter of the telegraph lines, which the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel all agreed were not sufficient, the main reason being that it was classified as a tzuras hapesach min hatzad. However, it is suspect that all of these rabbanim did not address Rav Rosenfeld’s claim that he was using some telegraph lines that had wires directly over their poles.[235] Consequentially, the telegraph poles that Rav Rosenfeld was using should not have been classified as min hatzad.[236] Even Rav Hurowitz in his haskamah on Rav Jaffe’s kuntres admitted that the telegraph poles would not be classified as min hatzad if there was nothing projecting above the wires.[237] I would add that the fact that Rav Hurowitz did not mention that Rav Rosenfeld claimed that he was using some telegraph poles where the wires were directly over the pole proves that he did not even see the Tikvas Zecharia.[238]

Additionally, it is questionable why the rabbanim did not address Rav Rosenfeld’s statement that, at the minimum, he was making use of telegraph lines where the crossarms are attached to the top of the pole, and not those whose poles projected above their crossarms.[239] It is incredible that Rav Rosenfeld could bring proof regarding the construct of telegraph poles in St. Louis from none other than Rav Jaffe. Rav Jaffe, in his zeal to disprove Rav Rosenfeld, included in his kuntres diagrams of the telegraph poles in St. Louis, which proved that the poles did not project above the crossarms.[240] As a matter of fact, there are poskim who maintain that in such a situation the poles are not classified as min hatzad.[241] Furthermore, Rav Jaffe claimed that all the telegraph poles in St. Louis only had two wires affixed to each end of the crossarms so they could not be employed for the principle of lavud.[242] This is demonstrably false as there were many telegraph poles in St. Louis with wires running across the entire crossarm just as Rav Rosenfeld had claimed.[243]

Rav Rosenfeld addressed an additional halachic issue regarding the telegraph lines that should have been mentioned by the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel. Rav Rosenfeld asserted that the telegraph lines that he was making use of joined the mechitzos from the north and south without interruption.[244] Accordingly, Rav Rosenfeld did away with the issue of the distance between the telegraph poles and the houses.[245] Consequentially, Rav Rosenfeld had sufficient grounds to rely on the telegraph lines even according to those poskim in Eretz Yisroel who were stringent regarding this matter. Moreover, there were poskim who disagreed with the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel and maintained that telegraph poles were classified as tzuras hapesachim. As a matter of fact, there were towns prior to WWII that made use of telegraph lines that were not as ideally suited for eruvin as the ones that Rav Rosenfeld used.[246]

Additionally, since Rav Rosenfeld stated that he was using, as the northern mechitzah, the railroad embankment that covered the pipelines that brought water into the city, he must have been referring to the railroads that commenced at the Bissell’s Point Waterworks.[247] As a matter of fact, there is a panoramic map that includes illustrations of this artificial embankment which the railroad ran along, and they demonstrate that this artificial embankment would have been halachically sufficient as a mechitzah.[248] Clearly, Rav Jaffe was not being very honest by denying the possibility that this mechitzah existed at all.[249]

In closing, there is no doubt that while Rav Rosenfeld had some original heterim that he relied on, most of them had been mentioned previously and had been relied on by some of the greatest poskim in history and were not so novel after all. Rav Jaffe’s reluctance to admit the precedent for many of Rav Rosenfeld’s heterim,[250] shows this controversy up to be mostly political in nature.


As I mentioned in the introduction to this essay, most of St. Louis’s Jews up until the 1920’s lived in an area referred to as the Jewish Ghetto. I have been told that people carried in Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv at least until Grand Avenue, which was the western border of this so-called ghetto.[251] However, by the 1930’s, most Jews had already abandoned the Ghetto and were migrating westward so the eruv was rendered obsolete.[252]

In December of 1994, the current St. Louis Community Eruv was completed.[253] The contemporary eruv encompasses an area west of Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv, covering parts of University City and three other St. Louis suburbs. St. Louis, which had the first city eruv in North America, has an eruv once more.

It is fascinating how the old St. Louis eruv controversy is still employed in regards to contemporary eruv arguments. In 1981, the anti-eruv kuntres Yetzios HaShabbos published Rav Diskin’s haskamah and included Rav Jaffe’s introduction where he called Rav Rosenfeld “the well known” mechalel Shabbos.[254] Once this letter and introduction are removed from Rav Jaffe’s kuntres, it loses all context.[255] Rav Diskin’s name carries much weight, and if Rav Jaffe’s vitriolic unsigned introduction is attached to the letter, it would seem to the uninitiated reader that it was Rav Diskin who called Rav Rosenfeld “the well known” mechalel Shabbos and that Rav Diskin knew that this spurious claim was a fact.[256]

Furthermore, in the second edition of Yetzios HaShabbos (2003), the author added to Rav Jaffe’s introduction that St. Louis was a reshus harabbim d’Oraysa,[257] and in the latest volume of Teshuvos V’Hanhagos,[258] Rav Diskin’s letter is also mentioned in regards to the issue of reshus harabbim. [259] However, it is more probable that Rav Diskin’s letter is only referring to the matter of the telegraph lines, about which the rabbanim in Eretz Yisroel all seemed to have been stringent. Most notably, as Rav Diskin did not write or sign this letter, it remains a dubious document.[260]

Additionally, the Yetzios HaShabbos mentions[261] that Rav Jaffe had already, in 1895, objected to all large city eruvin in America such as Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. However, the author conveniently omits the fact that Rav Jaffe admitted that according to the Bais Ephraim it would be sufficient to erect tzuras hapesachim.[262]

In the anti-eruv Ḳuntres Arevcha Arva Tzarich[263] the author B. Halberstam mentioned the controversy between Rav Jaffe and Rav Rosenfeld.[264] He argued that someone[265] established an eruv in order to undermine the Av Bais Din of St. Louis, Rav Jaffe. This claim illuminates what this genre of writing is all about, constructing whole arguments without a shred of supporting evidence. It is obvious that the author did not bother to investigate; Rav Jaffe was no more the Av Bais Din of St. Louis than was Rav Rosenfeld. Additionally, he quotes[266] the above mentioned Yetzios HaShabbos that Rav Jaffe prohibited eruvin in all large cities in America, and that he received support from Rav Diskin regarding this matter. He went on to derive from this that there was a long standing issur on erecting large city eruvin in America. The absurdity of this argument is that Rav Jaffe obviously did not have the influence to negate the eruv even in his own town, St. Louis, never mind in the entire America.

Next: The Odessa eruv
[215] I omitted most of Rav Jaffe’s diatribes and invectives that he hurled at Rav Rosenfeld. To really get a sense of Rav Jaffe’s vociferous criticism of Rav Rosenfeld, one would need to examine both of Rav Jaffe’s seforim opposing Rav Rosenfeld.
[216] However, Rav Rosenfeld did quip privately regarding Rav Jaffe. Members of Rav Rosenfeld’s family mentioned that he declared that from, emes [truth] until, yaffa [beautiful], is a great distance. This is a play on the last word of Krias Shemaemes, and the 15th word of Veyatzivyaffa [Jaffe]. There were other such sarcastic remarks regarding Rav Jaffe from Rav Gavriel Zev Margolis (Charuzei Margolios, vol. 2, p. {187} 373), and from Rav Chaim Yaakov Widerevits (see Mordachai Lipson, MiDor Dor, vol. 2 p. 196 number 1491) who it seems soured on Rav Jaffe after he wrote his haskamah.
[217] See note 10.
[218] See note 55.
[219] Ibid.
[220] Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {1} 1.
[221] The outcome of the situation was that the populace accepted Rav Rosenfeld over Rav Jaffe as can be discerned by the fact that Rav Jaffe was the one to leave town. Additionally, it was Rav Rosenfeld’s faction of congregation She’eris Sfard that endured; see notes 20, 39.
[222] Ibid., pp. {1} 1, 44.
[223] Ephraim Deinard writes that the uncompromising rabbanim [Rav Jaffe] who opposed the eruv placed St. Louis in a great turmoil (Sifras Yisroel B’America, p. 109 number 564, and Koheles America, p. 147 number 975). I will cite more evidence in the future that the eruv was the most contentious issue between Rav Jaffe and Rav Rosenfeld.
[224] Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {1} 1 and Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, pp. 10, 16.
[225] Sho’el Ka’inyan, pp. {1} 1, 14 and Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. 10; see also Rav Grayewsky’s haskamah where he makes the same argument (ibid., p. 30). Rav Rosenfeld never actually wrote this; see note 153.
[226] It is of interest to note that Rav Grayewsky argued that there was no benefit to establish an eruv based on heterim for those who were purposefully mechalel Shabbos when it would be detrimental to the few individuals who were Shomer Shabbos (Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. 30). In this situation, it was Rav Grayewsky who was the one fabricating new concepts. None of the previous poskim ever considered such an argument that we do not have the responsibility to save all Jews from transgression because of the possibility that relying on leniencies may affect the observant Jew, as well. On the contrary, all the poskim assert that an eruv needs to be established even if it would amount to relying on many leniencies just so that we can save the masses from sin (see e.g. Ohel Yaakov, siman 73; Chasam Sofer, O.C. 99; Zakan Aharon, 1:26; Nishmas Adam, klal 71:5; HaEleph Lecha Shlomo, O.C. 185; Nefesh Chayah, siman 25, and Livush Mordechai, 4:4). I know of two additional cities where a similar argument was made. All these cities share one underlying condition; they all had major controversies regarding the establishment of their eruv (more about this in the future). I would add that Rav Moshe Feinstein’s objection to the Manhattan and Brooklyn eruvin cannot be compared to our situation of St. Louis. There is no doubt that at the time St. Louis was no different than a large European city in which case Rav Moshe maintained that there was a need to establish an eruv (Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:29).
[227] See note 55.
[228] See also notes 196-197.
[229] Page, {8} 15.
[230] It is interesting to note that after Rav Abramowitz became a rav in St. Louis, he had cordial relations with Rav Rosenfeld (see St. Louis Jewish Voice, July 4, 1907, p. 3) and even eulogized Rav Rosenfeld after his passing (ibid., September 17, 1915, p. 3).
[231] It is of interest to note that after Rav Rosenfeld received a haskamah from Rav Joseph, whom Rav Jaffe must not have been very fond of (see end of note 55), Rav Jaffe then received an approbation from Rav Joseph’s nemesis Rav Seigel (much more regarding this rivalry when I write the history of the 1905 New York eruv). At a later date, I will demonstrate that Rav Jaffe knew about Rav Joseph’s haskamah on Tikvas Zecharia prior to Rav Seigel issuing him an approbation on his kuntres (see also note 211). Consequentially, it is possible that Rav Jaffe purposefully elicited a haskamah from Rav Joseph’s opponent. There is an additional rivalry that existed between the writers of the haskamos. Rav Wilovsky had a major conflict with Rav Phimer; the former issued a approbation on Rav Jaffe’s kuntres, and the latter granted a haskamah on Rav Rosenfeld’s kuntres (for more about the dispute between Rav Wilovsky and Rav Phimer see H. Lang, Fir Doyres, pp. 100, 105; Slutzk and Vicinity Memorial Book, pp. 39, 87, 130, and Ephraim E. Lisitzky, Eleh Toldos Adam, p. 53). However, because of the timeline of these kuntraisim, I don’t think that there is a direct correlation between these two approbations.
[232] In an 1898 interview conducted by Harris L. Selig with Rav Joseph and published in the New York periodical Der Yidisher Veg, (October, 1946, pp. 8-10), one can discern that, while Rav Joseph was obviously very frail and weak, he was extremely coherent and was very capable of understanding a situation such as the eruv issue.
It is ironic that Rav Abramowitz would mention that he would consult with Rav Klein about what to do regarding this issue. If Rav Abramowitz believed that Rav Joseph’s approbation should be discounted, then it would be Rav Klein who would be the one who was most affected. As is well known, it was Rav Klein who made use of Rav Joseph’s hechsher until Rav Joseph’s passing in 1902 (for the most biting critique of Rav Klein regarding this matter, see HaMelitz, February 24, 1897, p. 6). Obviously, Rav Klein was hardly the one to be consulted regarding Rav Joseph’s abilities. Even more so, because Rav Joseph’s faculties were affected by his illness, he definitely was not capable of being involved in the hechsher business, as opposed to giving a haskamah on a sefer.
[233] See note 113. For example, since Rav Rosenfeld was being vague, I am not sure how much of the River Des Peres he was making use of. Consequently, I cannot prove that the River Des Peres was more than just some little furrow in the ground as Rav Jaffe argued, since some of the river as it turned northward and ran west seems to have narrowed considerably (see note 112). However, it is fairly clear that Rav Jaffe was not being honest regarding his claim that currently the River Des Peres was not much of a river especially as it ran along the southern side of the city.
[234] Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. {4} 7. It should also be noted that Rav Vaidenboim disagreed with Rav Jaffe regarding the issue of sechirus reshus (ibid., p. 4).
[235] Tikvas Zecharia, pp. 26, 43, and Addendum.
[236] Either there were some telegraph poles that actually had wires running directly over the pole or Rav Rosenfeld was referring to those crossarms that had wires running across the entire width; consequentially, there was at least one wire that was directly over the pole (this is also apparent from the image below of the St. Louis telegraph poles).
[237] Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. 6; albeit Rav Hurowitz would not have allowed that the telegraph lines could be used because of the other issues mentioned in the Toras Chesed.
[238] It should be noted, as well, that it is evident from the dates on all the haskamos from the rabbanim of America that they did not actually see Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zecharia and were only relying on Rav Jaffe’s version of the particulars (see also note 200).
[239] Tikvas Zecharia, p. 43, and Addendum.
[240] Ibid., pp. 22, 24; see image below.
[241] See, for instance, Nefesh Chayah, siman 34.
[242] Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. 24.
[243] For an example, see image below.
[244] Tikvas Zecharia, p. 43.
[245] Rav Hurowitz even mentioned that, regarding this issue and the matter that only a structure meant to resemble a doorway could serve as a tzuras hapesach, he was uncertain that they were problematic (Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. {4} 7).
[246] See the beginning of the teshuvah from the Nefesh Chayah in the sefer Machshevos Yisroel (siman 2), and Rav Yisroel Yitzchak Yanovsky's, Kuntras HaTeshuvos. The use of the telegraph (and telephone) lines as tzuras hapesachim was discussed by many poskim and really requires its own in-depth study. I hope to write about this in the future.
[247] See notes 114, 124 and number 9 on the St. Louis eruv map in part six.
[248] See the panoramic map by Compton, and Dry, plate numbers 46-48, 80 (see image below of plate number 80).
[249] Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p 28.
[250] For instance, Rav Jaffe mentioned the Bais Ephraim’s opinion countless times yet failed to reveal that Rav Rosenfeld’s argument that we do not include the occupants of the trolleys in the tally when calculating the shishim ribo was mentioned, as well, by the Bais Ephraim (O.C. 26).
[251] See note 119.
[252] Moreover, some of the mechitzos that Rav Rosenfeld was making use of were probably, at the time, not sufficient ― such as the River Des Peres, which was totally rebuilt.
[253] See
[254] Page 64.
[255] Rav Diskin’s letter is quoted from kuntres Yetzios HaShabbos in an article in Mishmeres Chomosenu (Erev Shavuous, 2003), and in the reprint of this article in Der Yid (Thursday, June 5, 2003, section 2 pp. 50-51). I would add that this article is totally redacted and cannot be relied on.
[256] While in the text of the letter the manager and directors of the shelter for orphans claimed that Rav Diskin called Rav Rosenfeld a mechalel Shabbos, they did not use Rav Jaffe’s term, “the well known,” mechalel Shabbos, alluding to the specious claim that Rav Rosenfeld’s name preceded him as a mechalel Shabbos.
[257] Page 208. However, in this edition, Rav Jaffe’s words “the well known mechalel Shabbos” were omitted from the introduction.
[258] Volume 5, siman 102.
[259] This makes it obvious that Rav Sternbuch, the author of Teshuvos V’Hanhagos, did not see Rav Diskin’s letter in the original but only the citation of it in the second edition of the kuntres Yetzios HaShabbos. I would add that Rav Jaffe seems to have appended very few copies of this letter to his Sho’el Ka’inyan as I have come across very few of them.
[260] It is important to note that there was a great controversy regarding the use of Rav Diskin’s name. Even Rav Shmuel Salant argued that Rav Diskin’s good name was being used by mecharcherei riv. (see Rav Mordechai Gimpel Yafeh, Mivchar Kesavim, pp. 88-92, and HaZefirah, May 30, 1882, pp. 147-148). Following this and the fact that this letter was not signed by Rav Diskin but only by the manager and directors of the shelter for the orphans that was under his auspices, I would totally discount this letter.
[261] First edition p. 33, second edition p. 52.
[262] Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. {4} 7.
[263] Boro Park, 2001.
[264] Page 114.
[265] He could not even bring himself to spell out Rav Rosenfeld’s name; he just wrote it as an acronym.
[266] Page 106.


This diagram which Rav Jaffe included in his kuntres Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom (p. 20) proves that the telegraph poles in St. Louis did not project above their crossarms.

This photo demonstrates that there were telegraph lines in St. Louis that had a thicket of wires running along the crossarms (St. Louis Graf Engraving Co., c1896).

This illustration demonstrates that Rav Rosenfeld’s possible northern mechitzah on which the railroads ran from Bissell’s Point Waterworks was a raised embankment (Compton, Richard J., and Dry, Camille N., Pictorial St. Louis, the Great Metropolis of the Mississippi Valley; A Topographical Survey Drawn in Perspective A.D. 1875; Plate 80).