Rav Henkin’s Letters Regarding a Manhattan Eruv
In order to contextualize Rav Henkin’s opinion regarding the Manhattan eruv, we need to analyze all of his pertinent writings on the matter:
1) Rav Henkin’s first mention of a Manhattan eruv was in 1936 (Luach HaYovel Shel Esras Torah, p. 62). Rav Henkin declared that Rav Seigel’s eruv of 1905 could no longer be relied upon because Rav Seigel had only enacted sechiras reshus for ten years. [Rav Seigel wrote a kuntres titled Eruv V’Hotzaah allowing one to utilize the eruv. In Gevuros Eliyahu, Rav Kleinman mistakenly referenced the wrong source, Rav Seigel’s teshuvah in his sefer titled Oznai Yehoshua, siman 18; however, this teshuvah only argued that Manhattan is not classified as a reshus harabbim and was penned prior to Eruv V’Hotzaah which was written to allow that one can actually carry in lower Manhattan, heter tiltul. No doubt the citation should have been to Eruv V’Hotzaah.] However, the main reason Rav Henkin asserted that the eruv was problematic was because of the changes to its parameters (the waterfront and the elevated Third Ave. train line) with the establishment of the bridges that crossed over Manhattan’s waterfront.
2) The above letter was later reprinted in Edus L’Yisroel, 1949 (p. 151; Gevuros Eliyahu, siman 114; it seems that Rabbi Kleinman did not realize that this letter was first published in Luach HaYovel Shel Esras Torah, in 1936) where Rav Henkin added a paragraph in which he stated that although someone mentioned that most of the bridges in fact comprise an integral tzuras hapesach, he refutes this claim. He added that there is an additional matter of asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta since the borough of Manhattan contains shishim ribo. However, he admitted that Rav Seigel had already paskend (Oznai Yehoshua, siman 18) regarding this issue [that we do not say asu rabbim because Manhattan is encompassed by mechitzos and that the shishim ribo would need to traverse the street itself; actually, Rabbi Kleinman in Gevuros Eliyahu, siman 114 n. 746 missed the point that in essence Rav Henkin by declaring that Rav Seigel had already issued an opinion on these matters was affirming that shishim ribo is conditional of the street and that we pasken lo asu rabbim u’mevatlei mechitzta, and therefore Rav Henkin, never cited these issues again].
3) On 12 Kislev, 5719/November 24, 1958 (Gevuros Eliyahu, siman 115) Rav Henkin issued a haskamah on the Shotzer Rebbe’s, Rav Yosef Dovid Moskowitz zt”l’s, sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan (1959). The Shotzer rebbe mentions (p. 45) that he investigated the Manhattan waterfront and its bridges in 1954 and again in 1959 and found that they were halachically sealed. Among the issues Rav Henkin mentioned in his haskamah was that if Manhattan’s mechitzos as is are halachically valid, then he believed that one cannot make an argument in opposition to an eruv that some may come to carry in other neighborhoods (Rav Henkin is disagreeing here with one of Rav Moshe’s arguments against a Manhattan eruv; Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:139:5, 5:28:15, and Rav Schwab Maayan Beis Ha’shoeva, Va’yakhel). However, Rav Henkin declared that if tzuras hapesachim or other means to close the gaps were to be used, as was employed in Europe, he believed that they would not endure. Rav Henkin continued that even though the Shotzer Rebbe maintained that the pirtzos of the bridges and tunnels of Manhattan are halachically considered sealed, he was still not clear about the matter. Rav Henkin concluded that if the mechitzos were valid then he would be lenient regarding zeraim negating the mechitzos and shemo yaaleh hanahar sirton and sechirus reshus. [There is a follow up to this letter with some clarifications in Gevuros Eliyahu, siman 116. Actually, Rabbi Kleinman missed some additional points of Rav Henkin’s which were published in Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 224.]
4) On 7 Teves 5719/December 18, 1958, Rav Henkin wrote a letter to Rav Eisenstadt (collection Gevuros Eliyahu, siman 117) stating that, on the whole, he was not opposed to an eruv in Manhattan and if sechirus reshus was enacted, it would be sufficient for all. However, Rav Henkin stated that he did not want his name included with those who support using the eruv. Furthermore, he declared that he did not believe that it is fitting to publicize the heter.
[At a meeting in Rav Henkin’s house on 16 Adar Beis 5719/March 26, 1959, regarding the issue of the Manhattan eruv (HaPardes, 33rd year, vol. 9, and Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 38), the following was discussed: the fact that Manhattan was an island that was encompassed by mechitzos b’y’dai adam (besides for one area) and the issue of the bridges and tunnels being halachically sealed.
On 16 Adar 5720/March 15, 1960, Rav Henkin signed on to a kol korei of the Vaad L’Maan Tikkun Eruvin B’Manhattan (ibid., p. 10) that stated there is a need to investigate how to bring to fruition the plan for a Manhattan eruv.]