Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Strings Attached - An Eruv Story

I am considering to write a post on a very timely controversial subject. It is also quite a sensitive subject and I am not certain as to the best way to approach it.

As I was thinking about it, I was inspired to write about a much more passe' controversial subject which is not nearly so sensitive: the issues of community eruvs from the Chareidi perspective.

The truth is that I wrote a whole chapter about it for One Above and Seven Below. What is more interesting is that it is the very first chapter that I wrote when I first started writing One Above and Seven Below. This was before I decided to split the book into two volumes. Once I did that, it was clear that this chapter is from the material that would go into Volume 2, so it didn't make it into the book. If Volume 2 does come out (not any time soon, unfortunately), I do hope to include it.

The story is absolutely true even if all the names of people and places are not. And it happened back in 1997. The purpose of writing the story was to help my readers understand why something as benign and overtly beneficial as a community eruv would be a source of discord. And there is an important point in there which may help explain the Chareidi perspective on some much more timely, pertinent controversial issues.

Which will probably be passe' by the time I get to it.

I now present to you, the first chapter written for One Above and Seven Below:

Strings Attached - The Story of the Eruv in Hammerstone Hills

Strings Attached by on Scribd


YechezkelsFriendInTheHouseOfSun said...

Very nice article. The one area where I think you pushed a round peg into a square hole is that this issue is not particularly a chareidivs non-chareidi one. Most town eruvim are supported by Rabbis that are without question chareidi, including Passaic, Monsey, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and others.

Also, in Hammerstone Hills, the leaders of the "anti" opposition were generally affiliated with NCOJ Yeshivas, although some chareidim may dispute this when they send children there.

Lastly, I believe that the Rabbi Katz you describe said clearly that even when he himself believed in a stringency, he recognized the legitimacy of certain leniencies, and would even support said leniencies for the masses when he himself was stringent. Chalavai that all Jews should be able to refrain from imposing their own beliefs on others.

Yechezkel said...

>>The one area where I think you pushed a round peg into a square hole is that this issue is not particularly a chareidivs non-chareidi one.

Didn't I write exactly that in the article?

>>Most town eruvim are supported by Rabbis that are without question chareidi, including Passaic, Monsey, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and others.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the supporters can be called chareidi and the opponents can be called chareidi and so it it typically more of a Chareidi vs. Chareidi issue. Like I just said, that's exactly what I wrote in the article. Did you mean something else?

>>Also, in Hammerstone Hills, the leaders of the "anti" opposition were generally affiliated with NCOJ Yeshivas,

Personally, I don't consider these Yeshivas NCOJ. They are the classical American scenario of Yeshivas with chareidi hanhalla and NCOJ students. Moreover, the "Rabbi Zussman" in the story is the Rosh Kollel and is as chareidi (and Yekki) as they come!!

>>although some chareidim may dispute this when they send children there.

I can't imasgine anybody who calls themselves chareidi sending any of their kids there ;-)

>>Lastly, I believe that the Rabbi Katz you describe said clearly that even when he himself believed in a stringency, he recognized the legitimacy of certain leniencies, and would even support said leniencies for the masses when he himself was stringent.

I really do not understand your point here. Rabbi Katz was a supporter of the eruv. Are you merely confirming it? Incidentally, when I had to return to Natwich for my brother's wedding and I had a more pressing need to rely on the eruv because of my kids, I consulted Rabbi "Katz" about the standards of the eruv and he told me, "Chezkel, if you use the eruv in Yerushalayim (not a full given, but I use the one in Har Nof), you can certainly use it here."

Thank you for commenting


Drummette said...

Yechezkel, First, by any standard Rav Moshe was a big meikel in eruvin. Most people would argue that shishim ribo is 600,000-not several million people. The other issue is that the litvish chareidi olam including roshei yeshiva and dayanim was opposed to the eruv in large part because the zkan roshei yeshiva of Natwich was opposed to its construction-for all of the reasons cited by Rabbi R as well as a particular fidelity to the Rambam. It was for that reason that R. Heineman and others did not want to pasken on a local issue. Rabbi K apparently had no such problems. Considering Rabbi R's retraction, I hope Rabbi K has groise plaitzes.

David said...

By no standard was Rav Moshe a makil in eruvin. He called his tallying of shishim ribo a chiddush. Most people who oppose eruvin do not begin to know the inyan. The fact is the Chasam Sofer maintained that it’s imperative to establish an eruv. There are no other issues regarding establishing an eruv only halachic. All the other issues suggested smack of apikorsis since they in essence would negate all eruvin.

David said...

Just as the Zkan Roshei Yeshiva can’t insist that all the mikvaos in Natwich follow his shitos so to he can’t insist that they follow his opinion regarding eruvin. Fidelity to the Rambam? Natwich has a mechitzah eruv which would be more than sufficient according to the Rambam. Moreover, how can you insist that one follow a Roshei Yeshiva’s teshuvah when it does not even mention the Shulchan Aruch even once?

Baruch said...

What is a mechitza eruv doesn't every eruv require mechitzos even if you rely on turas hapeasach it gives the place a din of mechitzos. Do you have the tshuva of RAS?

Yeechzkal what does NCOJ stand for?

regards from Jerusalem

Yechezkel said...

>>what does NCOJ stand for?

NCOJ = Non Chareidi Orthodox Jew

This is in accordance to the definition for "Chareidi" that I posited in One Above and Seven Below:

Chareidi = One who keeps mitzvos w/ ameilus b'Torah (Based on Vayikra 26:3 w/ Rashi)

NCOJ = One who keeps mitzvos but doesn't bother with ameilus b'Torah (Based on Vayikra 26:15 w/ Rashi)

For more details, see this post:


Anonymous said...

I think the people opposed to the eruv were serious Bnai Torah and do bother with Amelius B torah and most of the talmdim that learned there continue today to be involved in limud torah.

Yechezkel said...

To Anonymous -

I believe you misread something. The term "NCOJ" was not used in connection with the opponents to the eruv. I clearly wrote that it is typically a chareidi vs. chareidi debate.

Rafi G. said...

I am not sure I am getting the point. Do you meant o say the charedi community is so concerned about communal unity and against communal discord that they will oppose anything they suspect might bring about discord rather than unity?

in theory that might be a wonderful position, but I don't think it is supported in other realms of life where charedi communities support all sorts of things that create discord (separate bus lines, one could say kollel itself for the masses causes discord, off the top of my head are two easy examples)

Was that the point or was that just something that was by chance? If I know what you are talking about in real life, the opposition of the talmidim of the elder rav who had passed away were not opposed because of eventual discord, but they held and continue to hold that anyone who uses the eiruv is a mechalel shabbos b'farhesya. I know because my family was affected in this way.

David said...

No a mechitza eruv consists of walls/gates that are omed merubeh al haparutz. RAS’s teshuvah does not mention once the Shulchan Aruch. What right do you have to compel one to follow his views? Do you force people to follow his views regarding mikvaos?

Dummette said...


1. You had better believe this kulah is a chidush-how else does 600,000=2 million+?
2. Anybody who has seen the wide diagonal street crossing Natwich or the wide street crossing into the suburbs will have a serious problem with the Rambam.
3. It is also a davar galuy viyaduah that when Rav Kook was stuck in Europe during World War I he reisted the Aderet's attempt to get him a rabbanus position that would force him to put up an eruv. And the RaAyah was no Brisker.
4. As a matter of principle, if the Roshei yeshiva pasken, I heed their psak, whether I agree or not. That is kavod hatorah. When faced with various roshei yeshiva, roshei kollel and dayanim vs. pulpit rabbis, I go with the Yankees.

David said...

1) No the accepted p’sak is that shishim ribo applies to the street. Rav Moshe himself said that his shita is a chiddush. Rav Moshe’s shita created a chumrah regarding large cities. In any case, what would you do with Rav Moshe’s predicament which caused him to come up with his chiddush (that eruvin were made in cities that contained shishim ribo and that the Shulchan Aruch says shishim ribo bokim -- and not dorim).
2) You do not know what you are talking about. All the streets are encompassed by mechitzos, and no doubt that the Rambam would allow.
3) It is a davar galuy (see the biography of the Aderes) that the RaAyah wanted to follow the Mishkenos Yaakov, and therefore he was machmir (anyway I am doubtful that your story is true). The world never followed the Mishkenos Yaakov at all.
4) Roshei Yeshivos and Roshei Kolleim are not automatically poskim. As a matter of fact most of them do not know halachah. The fact that RAS does not even mention the Shulchan Aruch in his teshuvah speaks volumes. Moreover, RAS’s argument regarding the Chazon Ish is simply incorrect.
5) The eruv in Natwich is no less (it is actually much much better) than the eruv in Warsaw in which case almost all carried. The anti-eruv stance is a modern day phenomenon that is based on am haaratzus.

Yechezkel said...

Nobody in Natwich roots for the Yankees!

Drummette said...

B'H, finally there is an issue we can all agree on.

Baruch said...

Where is the tshuva ad can you please post a copy

David said...

See Kovetz Bais Yitzchok, 1996. Unfortuantly, it's not online.

Anonymous said...

What were his views regarding mikvah? I think regarding mikavas most mikvas at least womens ones are makpid for all the various shitas?

Also you write that people who are against eruvin usually dod not know what they are talking about. I think the mishna berurah that a baal nefesh should not rely on an eruv.

David said...

You missed my point. My argument is that when the issue is mikvaos do RAS’s talmidim also claim that his opinion is the only one that counts or not? Of course not, so why should eruvin be any different? In any case, it is just about impossible to satisfy all shitos in mikvaos.

No the Mishnah Berurah is referring to eruvin that only rely on the criterion of shishim ribo. If the eruv consists of mechitzos (or mefulash) as well there is no reason for a Baal Nefesh to be machmir. I am positive that most people and even rabbanim do not know hilchos eruvin.

Anonymous said...


I think RAS did know hilchos Eruvin and he felt that it was problematic to have a Eruv in Chicago. I mentioned about the misha berurah does chicago not have 600,000 people do wouldn't the mishna berurah be referring to a place like Chicago?

Kol tuv

David said...

From RAS’s teshuvah we only see that he went against minhag Yisroel. The fact is, eruvin were established in large cities such as Warsaw. There is no reason why Chicago should be any different. If anything the current eruv in Chicago is much better than any eruv established in pre WWII Europe.

I repeat, the Mishnah Brurah is only referring to eruvin that rely on shishim ribo not any other criterion, which you could rely on in Chicago. Moreover, the MB never said that the eruv should not be erected only that a Baal Nefesh should be machmir. Why didn’t RAS just state that his students should not rely on the eruv, instead of fighting its establishment?

David said...

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that being against eruvin is more of a cultural matter than an halachic issue.

Anonymous said...


I am not sure what you dont understand RAS felt that Chicago is a reshus harabim doirasa and therefore the only way to make an eruv would be to have walls and gates that would be closed.I still have not been able to get a copy of the tsuva but I hope to be able to get a copy soon.

David said...

RAS’s teshuvah does not follow the conventional style of teshuvah writing. The fact that RAS maintained that the area is a reshus harabbim was only because he was not following the usual standard (such as mentioning the Shulchan Aruch). Moreover, as I mentioned RAS was going against minhag Yisroel (contrary to his opinion eruvin were established in large cities). So how can they force the community to follow his teshuvah at all? Please, RAS can say what he wants to his followers, but there is no reason that rest of the community has to follow his shitas yachidaos.

Drummette said...


I have not seen the teshuva you are referring to so I will assume that you have seen and reviewed RAS's teshuva. I will also assume that you are an expert in eruvin and an expert in the traditional style of teshuva writing. Then I will assume that RAS is a shitas yachid and so out in left field that he didn't bother mentioning the shulchan aruch in the teshuva you are referring to and, unlike you, he can't really understand the shita of Chazon Ish. But I am still in a quandary because in Natwich, most roshei yeshiva and roshei kollel (I know, they are not poskim) and the Agudah Dayan (I know, he must be another am haaretz and RAS fan) opposed and continue to oppose the eruv. This is certainly not for the kovod of RAS who no longer resides in Natwich. Who then is the establishment that establishes the eruv? The baalei batim in Pepsi Park? The homeowners of Hammerton Hills? The eruvin expert whose psak was tossed out of Flatbush? You? I'm still voting for the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

I started writing something similar to what you wrote and then it got lost and never got posted thank you for putting this David person in his place. The Rabbonim who were normally involved in Eruvin wanted no part of the eruv in Chicago and therefore they brought in someone from Monsey. The person who was responsible for putting up the eruv in Skokie also had nothing to do with the eruv in Chicago. I think the reason that those who wanted an eruv in Chicago even though most Rabbis were opposed they were afraid that many would people would move to skokie and then what would be with the local neighborhoods.
Have a gut Yontoff

Anonymous said...


David said...

The fact is that RAS and his family followed the Mishkenos Yaakov. The fact is the Mishkenos Yaakov was not accepted as can be witnessed by all the eruvin past and present. The fact is there was an eruv in Warsaw with similar settings to Natwith. The fact is RAS didn’t even mention once the Shulchan Aruch in his teshuvah. The fact is RAS claimed that the Chazon Ish retracted from his shita, when in fact the CI’s talmidim state otherwise. The fact is there were rabbanim who called RBZW to give a hechsher. The fact is nowhere does it say that to erect an eruv requires great rabbanim or a consensus of rabbanim. On the contrary, every rav, great or small, has a responsibility to establish an eruv. The fact is when one builds a mikvah he calls in an expert even from outside the city, so to regarding eruvin (e.g. Rav Eider). The fact is that RBZW is an expert in hilchos eruvin that has no parallel in Natwith.

When you can answer these facts then we can talk. Just to argue about issues you know nothing about is silly. The opposition to eruvin is cultural and has little to do with halachah. There is probably not a piece of meat that you put into your mouth that is as kosher as the eruv in Natwith. In order for an area to be classified as a reshus harabbim all the criteria need to be met. Even if only one criterion is not met an eruv can be established l’chatchilah (besides according to some poskim the criterion of shishim ribo).

Harry’s blog is devoid of Torah.

The Talmid said...

Wow, Where did the name Natwich come from? I remember Rabbi R's father-in-law, whose name in your scheme would be Weinthal.

Rabbi "Katz" went Posek Shopping in E"Y. Rav Elyashiv refused to approve the Eruv because of the kavod of the zkan rosh yeshivos in the city (who - David- was also the posek of the Mikva for several years).

David, RAS's father did not use the eruv in Warsaw when he lived there.

Yechezkel said...

Natwich is an acronym for: N_orth A_merican T_own W_ith I_ntegrated C_ommunity of H_ebrews. I use it in my book. It is not the largest city in Kansas.

Anonymous said...

This write up makes me much more appreciative that I live in Dallas, a community with a widely accepted Eruv and not in Hammerstone Hills.
Four percent of Shas is about Eruvin. Here, the day a family closes escrow on a house in the Eruv is the day the family becomes Shomer Shabbos. There is only one reason not to have an Eruv - where Halacha says that one can not be made. Then the leadership is obligated to put up smaller Eruvin, at the level that Halacha allows an Eruv to be made. In some situations that may be at the building level.
A leadership that trivializes the need for an Eruv will drive Jews away from torah and Mitzvos faster than European Haskallah ever did.
Dallas Jew

The Talmid said...

To David -
Perhaps you do not realize that there is no one who upheld the psakim of the Shulchan Aruch like RAS. Who else worked to keep the psak of SA in YD 293 (and for those who can't learn anything without MB, OC 489:10? Isur Chadash was a mitzva yesoma in that everyone ignored the psak of the SA except RAS.