Thursday, May 05, 2011

eiruv, for better or worse?

This post is for you 5-Towners. While on the topic of Rav Kornmehl's tshuvos, let me mention another interesting one. Some background: In the 5 Towns we enjoy a large eiruv that extends from Far Rockaway all the way down to Woodsburgh, up to North Woodmere, and beyond (actually it is multiple eiruvin linked together -- map here). The eiruv I believe is now maintained under the auspices of the Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns and was inspected a year or two ago by R' Hershel Shachter (don't trust me 100% on any details -- I honestly am the last person who knows anything about the community I live in). While my kids are all now beyond needing a stroller, I am fully appreciative of the benefit an eiruv provides for parents who need strollers, diaper bags, goody bags, and what-not to bring with their kids to shul. And why shouldn't Shabbos davening be a family experience? Not to mention not having to worry about carrying keys, tissues, etc. Eiruvin make our Shabbos and our communities that much more family friendly and easy to live in.

All that being said, the blessing of an eiruv has it downside as well. One example to illustrate the point: On the occasion that I go for a Shabbos walk, I sometimes deliberately pass one particular house to see what is going on there because my wife and I noticed once they have an interesting Shabbos minhag. They have a regular basketball game going on, the players dressed in appropriate bigdei chol, a big cooler set up in the driveway with drinks, different teams rotating chances to play, etc. My wife and I have seen the name thing multiple times -- it's like a minhag kavua. B'shlama kids who are dressed in their bigdei chol and come to the park to play baseball with their bats, mitts, and gloves, like Shabbos is Little League day -- well, it's hard to have ta'anos on kids. But this basketball game is older teens and adults, so its a bit strange, at least to me.

Chachaim adif m'navi - Rav Kornmehl saw it coming. He writes (Tiferes Tzvi II:65 here) that he was approached by the Rabbanim of the 5 Towns and asked his view about whether an eiruv should be constructed. He replied that although he appreciates the benefit an eiruv would provide to mothers with young children and the potential of the eiruv to circumvent chilul Shabbos by those who would carry anyway, nonetheless, it is a tikun that will bring great kilkul . "Rabim yaschilu l'hakeil b'kol inyanei Shabbos al y'dei hischadshus ha'zos." He thought little of the ability of the American community "medina meshubeshes b'boros, kalei hada'as gavru l'ma'alah...," to understand the mechanism of eiruv, and felt that it would be seen as a joke -- a means of circumventing Shabbos, a legal trick, which would lead inevitably to the question of what else can be circumvented and how. Besides which, he wondered how the eiruv would be maintained and checked and by whom.

The language is quite strong -- Rav Kornmehl pulled no punches -- but in the end, it was to no avail. In the very next tshuavh relates how the Rabbanim and ba'alei batim begged and pressed him until he gave in and sent a letter to R' Moshe asking how to best make the eiruv k'halacha (he had questions about using the overhead elecrtic wires, which is another topic). So the eiruv came to be. Interesting, none of this background appears on the history page of the 5 Towns Eiruv website, which starts its story 27 years ago with Rav Eider being the one consulted. Rav Kornmehl doesn't even get a mention -- I'm not sure why.

So what has changed (if anything) in the intervening years and are we better off or worse? Well, the community has changed. The level of Jewish education and observance has increased across the board, for those on the right as well as those on the left. Supposedly (heard second hand, so take it with a grain of salt) once upon a time a local 5T synagogue asked Rav Soloveitchik his opinion about having a car driven by an aku"m pick members up to take them to shul on Shabbos. I think by and large such shaylos are a thing of the past. The chain that blocks the parking lot on Shabbos is hardly necessary anymore. The technical details of how an eiruv works are probably not much better understood today by the general populace than they were decades ago, but there is a certain respect for the process of halacha that has (baruch Hashem) seeped into our communal psychology. And we have in the Five Towns a Yeshiva Gedolah of bnei Torah and others who check the eiruv every week. Rav Kornmehl, coming from a European background, did not seem to put much faith in the knowledge of his American ba'alei batim. That was then, and this is now -- I don't know if Rav Kornmehl could have envisioned the degree of growth of Torah in suburban America.

And yet, Rav Kornmehl's concerns still ring true to some degree. The technical details of hilchos Shabbos are better known, but is the spirit of kedushas Shabbos improved?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I believe that the Satmar Rav obm was against the idea of an eruv in America for the same reason: he explicitly stated that were there to be an eruv, american children would play ball on Shabbos.
    In my neighborhood in the midwest, heterogeneous in terms of "affiliations", all the various Rabbanim agreed to endorse the local eruv with the condition that everyone agree not to let their children engage in non-Shabbos-appropriate activitites like bike riding and baseball. This caveat was accepted by all, and I remember this clearly. Unfortunately nowadays, I see that there's a considerably lower standard held in my childhood neighborhooh...

  3. Daf Y-mi Yomi is currently near the end of Shabbos. I never noticed before how much of Mes' Shabbos is about hotza'ah -- something around half, and possibly more. Which makes me wonder how much the ubiquity of eiruvin is distorting our Shabbos experience compared to what Chazal pictured.

    That said, I love having an eiruv. <grin>


  4. chaim b.9:41 PM

    Maybe your mind will change after Eiruvin -- an entire masechta devoted to a loophole! Someone I know b'shita wanted to avoid using an eiruv not because of some fancy chumra, but rather he just didn't want to do away l'chatchila with the melacha of hotza'ah. I never understood this -- Chazal invented the idea as a l'chatchila, so why try to outsmart them?

    Shmuel, I cut back the post from saying more on ball playing, but you hit the nail on the head. Kudos to those Rabbonim in your neighborhood -- at least they spoke out.

  5. Truth is, I don't think eiruv really is a loophole. I think the original issur derabbanan was on a limited subset of karmelios.

    And it's a kelal in hora'ah to search for kulos WRT eiruvin. Far from a modern concept. I still feel in my gut, though, that Shabbos was -- from the days of Nechemiah until the later amoraei Bavel -- mostly about remembering not to carry.

    But if you remind me in 2+ months, when we finish Eiruvin, I'll let you know if my mind changed.


  6. great unknown10:29 PM

    As long as we mentioned Nechemia, there is a similar issue with muktzah, where originally the default was - everything is assur to move, unless specifically permitted. Either because this was too harsh, or the ruchnius level of the tzibbur improved, the current approach was invoked: muttar to more except for certain exceptions. In fact, it seems the rationale shifted from gzerah shema yotzi l'rshus harabim to maktze da'to. Of course, as the GR"A says, the official "reason" for a takana is only one of a multitude of considerations that Chazal took into account.

    In Baltimore, when the eruv was first built about thirty years ago, there was a stipulation that the eruv would not permit ball playing. Exactly how that was supposed to work was never clear to me, but the declaration had the intended effect.

  7. Great Unknown:

    According to TB Shabbos 123b, it was Nechmiah's BD themselves who slowly eased the laws of muktzah to the ones we know today. The Y-mi is less specific about who loosened the rules (see 17:1, vilna 82b) really looks like it wasn't until the early tannaim, at times answering a question on a mishnah or beraisah by saying they were from the period when the stricter rules were in force.

    Personal observation: Otherwise, what later beis din would be greater in wisdom than one that included neviim, and thus capable of overturning their gezeirah?


  8. " I never noticed before how much of Mes' Shabbos is about hotza'ah -- something around half, and possibly more. "

    Which is why the mesechta begins with 'Yetzias Shabbos' despite the fact that hotza'ah is one of the latter melachot (coupled with the realization that hotza'ah is also an over arching melacha that involves many of the other melachot). The introduction to the mesechta by R' Pinchas Kehati is (in my opinion) a valuable tool for anyone beginning the mesechta.

  9. Anonymous12:24 AM


    Is there a Rishon who gives that reason? I know Tos. does not mention it.

  10. great unknown7:34 AM

    There is always the standard response that the original gzeira had the built-in option for future relaxation.

  11. I'm trying to say more than that... The original gezeirah was to protect carrying in a rh"r deOraisa. If that protection is about someone carrying from a karmelis to a rh"r, its logic is stretched pretty far to include a karmelis that is closed off.

    IOW, if the point of prohibiting carrying on my side-street is because I might forget and turn onto the boulevard, wouldn't the gezeira logically exclude the case where I have a visual line marking the border?


  12. Anon - I apologize, but I don't have a Kehati mishnayot available to me at the moment, but that is where I saw it, and I believe he cited a source as well.

  13. Anonymous1:54 PM

    with koufax a keeper
    (but not on yom kippur!),
    with jordan than yarden
    and infield for garden,

    is it any surprise
    it's "scouts" now for spies?
    or that eisav the all-star
    gives jacob a stir?

    be it nimrod or a-rod,
    the aleph or b squad,
    our teams are aflame
    tamid! is the game...

  14. Okay, I just got my hands on a Kehati...
    He cites the Meiri.

  15. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Where could one find the tshuva written to Reb Moshe Zt"l?

  16. chaim b.9:08 PM

    It's on the next page in the sefer:

  17. Anonymous10:10 PM

    In the Shabbot zemer Kol Mikadesh Shiveie we say that Jews should "rejoice in gaurding [Shabbot] making an eruv." It sounds like a good thing.

  18. This post sparked an interesting discussion at the shabbos table. Thank you.

  19. "n the Shabbot zemer Kol Mikadesh Shiveie we say that Jews should "rejoice in gaurding [Shabbot] making an eruv." It sounds like a good thing."

    It IS a good thing; the eruv allows the Jew to connect his courtyard with that of his friend, encouraging a sense of 'dibbuk chaverim' where we gather with our brethren and share Torah and encouragement(which makes it all the more ironic when an eruv is the focal point of a machlokes and a source of strife between Jews).

  20. Shmuel,

    I had always assumed that was the reason behind the rule actually look for qulos when dealing in eiruvin.

    Still, I find it interesting that what is possibly the topic of so many of the mishnayos of Mes' Shabbos has been eliminated from many of our experiences of Shabbos. And what does that mean about how we find meaning in those experience compared to the meaning the tannaim found in shemiras Shabbos?


  21. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Was there a response written by Reb Moshe Ztvkl? If yes, where is it?

  22. It's right there -- R' Kornmehl quotes it.

  23. Anonymous11:36 PM

    Where does he quote Reb Moshe's response??