Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Startling Discovery

As can be witnessed by the fact that almost all cities large and small have established eruvin, the debate regarding the criterion of shishim ribo between the Bais Ephraim and the Mishkenos Yaakov has just about been abandoned as a lost cause by those who oppose it. However, one of the fundamental arguments between the Bais Ephraim and the Mishkenos Yaakov, whether or not we psaken asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta, has not been settled at all. The Bais Ephraim argued that we pasken lo asu rabbim and that most Rishonim maintain as such while the Mishkenos Yaakov disagreed. Whereas the overwhelming majority of poskim clearly sided with the Bais Ephraim (see here) the preponderance of Roshei Yeshivos and yeshivaleit maintain that the Mishkenos Yaakov was in the right that most Rishonim maintain asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta.[1]

Entering the fray is a startling discovery — a teshuvah by one of the most major of Roshei haYeshivos that has just now surfaced. In the newly published Otzar Reb Chaim Berlin, Shu"t Nishmas Chaim (p. 1) there is a teshuvah from Rav Chaim of Volozhin to an unidentified recipient. After studying the contents of this teshuvah, there is no doubt that this letter was written by Rav Chaim Volozhiner to his talmid the Mishkenos Yaakov regarding his debate with the Bais Ephraim on the subject of eruvin.[2] What is startling is the fact that Rav Chaim argued with the Mishkenos Yaakov stating:

ואשר כתב [המשכנ"י] שהמטלטלים במבואות שבהם דרך הרבים עוברת ע"י צורת הפתח עוברים על איסור דאורייתא, אזיל לשיטתי' שתופס לעיקר, דעת המלחמות בסוגי' דדרך הרבים מפסקתן. אבל לשיטת התוס' שם ובכמה דוכתי קיי"ל כרבנן דסגי בשם ד' מחיצות, ואפילו להעומדים באמצע הפילוש דליכא מכל הצדדים אלא צוה"פ, לא הוי רה"ר לרבנן, מכל שכן היכא דאיכא שני מחיצות גמורות ומשני צדדים צורת הפתח ודאי נפיק ליה מאיסור דאורייתא לשיטת התוס'.

Rav Chaim declared that because the Mishkenos Yaakov accepted the opinion of the Ramban, who maintained that we pasken asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta like Rav Yehudah, carrying in an area encompassed by a tzuras hapesach was a matter of a d’Oraysa. However, Rav Chaim argued that Tosfos, who paskens lo asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta like the Rabbanan, maintains that the matter is not more than that of a d’rabbanan. This teshuvah basically places Rav Chaim in the Bais Ephraim’s camp regarding the issue of asu rabbim.[3]

[Moreover, Rav Chaim, just like the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and numerous other poskim (see here), understood (that according to Tosfos) if a tzuras hapesach is being used to encompass a reshus harabbim the requirement of delasos is only d’rabbanan.[4] It is important to note that, since the requirement of delasos is me’d’rabbanan, we can be lenient (safek d’rabbanan l’kulla) and apply any additional heter to remove the requirement of delasos (Kanah V’Kanamon, 5:56; Livush Mordechai, 4:4, and Bais Av, 2:9:3.]

Following the above, I would suggest that those who disagree with the Bais Ephraim regarding his argument that we pasken lo asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta reassess their position as one of the most important Roshei haYeshivos and the rebbe of the posek whom they are basing their opinion on, the Mishkenos Yaakov, did not agree with them either.
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[1] However, see my post here where I demonstrate that the Bais Ephraim and the poskim are supported by the overwhelming majority of Rishonim. Moreover, most people do not realize that even those Rishonim who follow Rav Yehudah (besides for the Ritva) maintain that if we have mechitzos that are omed merubeh al ha’parutz (as opposed to shem daled mechitzos), even Rav Yehudah would agree that we pasken lo asu rabbim (see here).
[2] There is additional proof that this teshuvah was penned to the Mishkenos Yaakov. On the very same page in the Shu"t Nishmas Chaim, they included a second teshuvah in which Rav Chaim Volozhiner referred to a debate regarding the kashrus of an animal. This happens to be another major debate between the Mishkenos Yaakov and the Bais Ephraim, but in this case, Rav Chaim sided totally with his talmid (see Bais Ephraim, Y.D. siman 6; Mishkenos Yaakov, Y.D. siman 15; Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 31:1, and Darkei Teshuvah, siman 31:5).
[3] Additionally, it seems from this teshuvah that Rav Chaim accepted l’halalchah the criterion of shishim ribo. He argued that Rashi only applied his shita to a platya, but a sratya would be classified as a reshus harabbim even without shishim ribo traversing therein. With this distinction, Rav Chaim argued all of the Mishkenos Yaakov’s proofs to negate shitas Rashi fall to the wayside.
Following all of the above, I do not know what to make of the following anecdotes (that I mentioned here):

סיפר הגרי"ד סאלאווייטשיק ז"ל מבאסטאן (בשיעורו בהל' שבת אייר תשכ"ג, "שיעורי הרב" עמוד רפ"ז): "בעת חילופי המכתבים שבין המשכנ"י והר"ר אפרים זלמן מרגליות, שבעה"ב היה, ולא תפס משרת רבנות, אך הי' נודע כפוסק דכולא גאליציא בזמן ההוא, וכן הג"ר יענקעלע קרלינער הי' נודע ומפורסם כפוסק הליטאי אפילו בחיי רבו הגר"ח מוואלאז'ין, הי' כל יהודי ב' העיירות מתעוררים ומעוניינים לדעת, מי ינצח את מי, במלחמתה של תורה. וכל תלמידי ישיבת וואלאז'ין היו מצפים לבוא הדואר עם המכתב החדש, בכדי לעיין בו מי מנצח. וביקשה אשתו של הגר"ח נ"ע, שיצאתה מהמטבח במיוחד בפרט לשואלו על כן, שיודיענה בעלה, כשיבוא הדואר מי נצח את מי... ולאחר שקרא המכתב (תשובת הבי"א) חזר ואמר לאשתו: ...דער גאליציאנער האט פארלוירן !!!". ויותר מסופר ב"תולדות רבנו חיים מוואלוז'ין" (ווילנא תר"ע, ונדפס כעת פעם ג' מחדש) פרק י"א בהערה 6 וז"ל: "הגאון רבי מאיר מסלוצק סיפר לי בשם אביו הגאון זצ"ל, כי הגאון בעל משכנות יעקב הי' בתור תלמיד חבר להגר"ח... ובעת שבאה לפניו התשובה הידועה של בעל המשכנ"י (באו"ח סימן ק"ט) בנידון רשות-הרבים שלנו אשר מערבין אותן בצורת-הפתח, אמר אז כי דברי הגאון מהר"ז מבראדי בנוגע לתשובה הנ"ל לעומת דברי הגאון בעל משכנ"י, המה כדברי אברך מפולפל מול גאון זקן ומיושב... "

Even though from this recently published teshuvah we see that Rav Chaim did not entirely concur with the Bais Ephraim, it is even more apparent that he did not totally agree with the Mishkenos Yaakov either. Consequentially, I believe that the ikar is missing from these tales. Moreover, these stories are more a form of cultural posturing and cannot entirely be relied on as fact. I will just add what I mentioned previously:

הנה פשוט דחלילה לנו להתעסק בהשוואות מעמדם של גדולי ישראל זה מול זה, ואין לנו אלא להעיר את תשומת לב הקורא שהגר"ח מוואלוז'ין עצמו פנה להגאון בי"א וביקש ממנו חוו"ד על תשובתו (ראה שו"ת בי"א אבה"ע סימן מ"ז). מה עוד, דבאותו דור דעה חיו הגאונים הגדולים הרעק"א, הקצות, הנתיבות והחת"ס, ומדוע בחר לו המשכנ"י לערוך מערכתו זו דוקא לפני הגאון הבי"א, אם לא שהבי"א נחשב בדורו לגדול הדור.


[4] Furthermore, since Rav Chaim accepts that we pasken lo asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta, in a situation of three mechitzos omed merubeh al haparutz there is no reason to believe that he would even require delasos me’d’rabbanan. This is an essential argument of the Bais Ephraim which is in turn supported by the Rishonim, as well (see Tosfas Ysheinim, Eruvin 32b and Tosfos Rosh, Eruvin 32b). No posek who maintains lo asu rabbim necessitates, in a situation of three mechitzos, delasos me’d’rabbanan since the area is classified me’d’Oraysa as a reshus hayachid (see here regarding the Avnei Nezer). However, the Mishkenos Yaakov and Rav Aharon Kotler who follows him pasken asu rabbim umevatlei mechitzta and maintain that a rabbim can be less than shishim ribo. Nevertheless, even according to the Mishkenos Yaakov and Rav Aharon, a tzuras hapesach to bridge the gaps of the mechitzos at the Brooklyn waterfront would be sufficient since there is no rabbim at all traversing them. [That there may be a pirtzos esser in the Brooklyn mechitzos would not concern the Mishkenos Yaakov — who paskens pirtzos esser negates a mechitzah on a d’Oraysa level — since he admits that, halachically, a tzuras hapesach bridges the gap; see Mishkenos Yaakov, O.C. 122 p. 144.]
It is noteworthy, as well, that Rav Chaim did not concur with the Mishkenos Yaakov regarding the need for delasos to bridge the gaps of a karmelis. Rav Chaim argued that there was no consensus of the poskim regarding the obligation of delasos for the pirtzos of a karmelis. Moreover, since the matter [the domain — a karmelis] is only a d’rabbanan, we can be mekil.