Thursday, March 17, 2016

Memories Play Tricks: Rav Reuven Feinstein Shlita Remembers His Father (Ami Magazine)


In Ami Magazine (Issue no. 259, March 9, 2016) there is an interview with Rav Reuven Feinstein shlita called Growing Up in the Shadow of Greatness, where he discusses his father. 

As there are some shocking accusations made on page 72 regarding the Flatbush eruv, I feel a need to refute these comments. Unless Rav Reuven did not actually say what is stated therein, I would have recommended that he read through his father zt”l’s teshuvos (Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:87-88) on the Flatbush eruv prior to the telling of these tall tales. 

The following is a line by line refutation: 
“For example, when he was first asked about the possibility of constructing an eiruv in Brooklyn he refused to answer. He maintained that the local rabbi should answer the question. But they kept on asking, insisting that unless he issued a psak no one would follow it.” 

The first part of the statement is accurate as can be discerned from Rav Moshe’s teshuvah (ibid., 4:87). However, the last sentence is pure fiction. 

There is no doubt that, from the start, Rav Moshe did not want to be involved in the Flatbush eruv. He wrote that he told the Flatbush rabbanim who had visited him earlier regarding the Flatbush eruv, “I do not want to join you in this matter, because there are many opinions on this topic, as we see in the Shulchan Aruch.” 

However, it was not because of people insisting that he issue a p’sak that led Rav Moshe to finally investigate the matter. Rather, as Rav Moshe detailed in the above teshuvah, his reason for examine the efficacy of a Flatbush eruv was only because at the time there was a misunderstanding concerning his personal conviction and some people mistakenly supposed that he was even in support of an eruv; hence, he saw a need to clarify his opinion on the matter. 

“What did he do? He sent someone down to Borough Hall to find out the exact size and population of Brooklyn. Once he determined that Brooklyn was a reshus harabim d’Oraisa so you cannot make an eiruv, those who tried to attack him were not matzliach – which is not to say that they didn’t try.”

This sequence of events is specious. If Rav Reuven was correct that his father sent someone down to Borough Hall to examine the Brooklyn statistics, then how is it possible in the second teshuvah regarding the Flatbush eruv (ibid., 4:88) Rav Moshe admitted that the statistics that he based his first teshuvah on (ibid., 4:87) may not be accurate. Rav Moshe wrote in the second teshuvah that now he was told that the population over an area of twelve mil by twelve mil in Brooklyn was definitely less than shishim ribo. Following this information, Rav Moshe stated that his opposition to a Brooklyn eruv would only be because some may think that the population was actually greater shishim ribo (thus a Brooklyn eruv was only a matter of a gezeirah). [However, at the end of the second teshuvah, Rav Moshe stated that there was no doubt that there was shishim ribo in any twelve mil by twelve mil area in Brooklyn. He states that he was now told that more than a million people come into the borough to work and visit, and that the population was near three million. In fact, those who told Rav Moshe these statistics made it up out of whole cloth; see here.] 

It is simply not believable that Rav Moshe sent a shliach to Brooklyn Borough Hall to inform him regarding the statistics and was lied to. It was more likely that the anti-eruv cabal made up facts out of thin air. There was a group headed by a Boro Park rav who was extremely anti-eruv and was willing to go to any extreme in order to negate the possibility of the establishment of an eruv. This cabal was in cahoots with those who were Rav Moshe’s gatekeepers (this point is validated by the fact that the teshuvah regarding the Boro Park eruv in ibid., 5:28, which was in response to Rav Menashe Klein’s teshuvah, was instead addressed to these gatekeepers). [For more about this rav listen to the recording of the Hisachdus HaRabbanim convention on April 30, 1980 and read the teshuvah in Kerem BeYavnah, 3:3, dated July 3, 1980. Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz zt”l told me that, when he established the eruv in Far Rockaway, he was called by this Boro Park rav who insisted that he be asked in addition to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l and Rav Simcha Elberg zt”l for permission to establish an eruv. Rav Blumenkrantz then went to his rebbe Rav Moshe for a letter of approbation. Rav Moshe told him that he was right to establish the eruv but refused to issue a letter because he was scared of this Boro Park rav.] 

After the first teshuvah was written, where we see that Rav Moshe was misinformed, it was the Muzay rav who sent Rav Moshe statistics (from the then District Manager of Community Board 12, Brooklyn, Noach Dear) demonstrating that an area of twelve mil by twelve mil in Brooklyn contained a population less than three million (I was given a copy of these documents by the Muzay rav and hope to publicize them in the near future). [As mentioned above, this cabal then misinformed Rav Moshe about the number of people who come into Brooklyn, in order that Rav Moshe’s opposition to a Flatbush eruv should not only be a matter of a gezeirah.] 

“A lot of people stood to benefit financially from having an eiruv so they tried bashmutzing him!” 

Really people stood to benefit financially from having an eruv? I have been involved with many city eruvin and have never seen an eruv that has financial benefits for anyone (Rav Reuven is obviously not referring to the construction company). As anyone involved with eruvin will attest, it is very difficult to raise funds for community eruvin. This claim is simply dubious, and so is the rest of the sentence. 

Who tried to bashmutz Rav Moshe because he opposed the Flatbush eruv? Rav Reuven must be conflating the issues, as he writes, “They even paid someone off to write a sefer against him! But once they saw it wasn’t working, they backed off and treated him with respect.” No one was ever paid to write a sefer opposing Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin. Rav Reuven is probably referring to Ma'aneh Leigros, in which case there is a claim that the author was paid to write against Rav Moshe. However, this has nothing to do with the issue of eruvin at all. 

Even more telling is Rav Reuven’s omission of his father’s final pronouncement in the above cited teshuvos. Even when clarifying his position, Rav Moshe did not want to issue a p’sak din barur since, as he wrote, his chiddush was not mentioned in the Achronim, and moreover the Aruch HaShulchan would not agree with him. This is the final opinion of Rav Moshe that the anti-eruv cabal conveniently omit. 

It is a shame that Rav Reuven is perpetuating these myths regarding eruvin. It seems that Rav Reuven believes that eruvin is an issue of his father’s kavod, when in fact it is far from the truth. If anything, it is those who oppose the Brooklyn eruvin who are besmirching his father’s name. They claim things in the name of Rav Moshe that are truly not becoming (such as Rav Moshe dropped a sefer on the floor because it was pro-eruv, quoted by Rav Belsky zt”l in a shiur in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath). They make up halachic arguments in the name of Rav Moshe when in fact they do not follow Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin (such as the reason why Rav Moshe allowed an eruv in Queens as opposed to Brooklyn was because Queens is not conceptualized from a halachic perspective as one city, whereas Brooklyn is; this in fact does not follow Rav Moshe’s shitos in eruvin which only reckoned with a twelve mil by twelve mil area and not conceptualizations). On the other hand, there were rabbanim who supported an eruv in Brooklyn who did so only after they were satisfied that it would meet Rav Moshe’s shitos.