Friday, May 06, 2005

New Eruv in town: Attempted Halachic Change in Flatbush

A day or two before Passover hundreds or perhaps thousands of Orthodox Jewish households in the Flatbush part of Brooklyn got a small book in the mail. The book was half in Hebrew and half in English. It was essentially a defense of the new eruv put up in Flatbush. (This debate has been around for a while. About a year ago there was a whole to-do about this with ads in the Jewish Press, etc.)

Orthodox Jews do not carry objects outside their houses on the Sabbath. An eruv is an artificial enclosure (usually done by stringing a wire around the area, thus “enclosing” it) which, as a legal fiction, transforms a “public domain” in to a “private domain”. If the outside area which is enclosed in this eruv becomes a “private domain” then Orthodox Jews will allow themselves to carry objects from their homes to the outside. This represents a large convenience for the Orthodox communities which have them. Most orthodox communities all over the world are surrounded by eruvs.

Flatbush has an eruv. It has had one for around 30 years. The eruv was put up and sponsored by the Young Israel movement. However, among a large portion of the Orthodox (at least those who do not consider themselves to be modern-orthodox) the eruv never gained acceptance.

The major reason for the eruv not being accepted was that when the eruv was initially conceived, Rabbi Moses Feinstein, unarguably the most widely respected halachic authority in the US of his time, ruled that for various technical reasons such an eruv would not be kosher in that part of Brooklyn. An eruv, to be kosher, has to meet certain technical requirements. One of the requirements limits the number of people who pass through the areas that it encloses. (An area can reasonably be called a “private domain” if there are hundreds of thousands of people who pass through it daily.) Parts of Brooklyn that are encompassed by the eruv (or have streets that are feed in to them by certain large streets), do not meet this requirement.

But there is a new eruv up in Flatbush. This has been causing controversy for some time. Many may recall the fights over the eruvs in Boro Park (which is fairly widely accepted among the Hassidic communities) and in Williamsburg. Both of these led to actual verbal and physical altercations. All of these eruvs are the victims of constant sabotage. (The theory behind the sabotage is that if you sabotage the eruv it will not be used because it is not up, so you win by not having people carry, even if they are doing so for your reason and they still believe you can.) I am told that students of a certain school which I am an alumni of are quite active in the sabotage of the new Flatbush eruv.

So the booklet that came in the mail was anonymous. It is widely believed to be the work of RH who is the most outspoken supporter of this new eruv, and is both learned and has the financial resources produce this. The book is well produced, and the timing was perfect. It was sent out just before Passover when people would have three days off to read it, and the rabbis who are opposed would not have nearly enough time to formulate a coherent response. And in Flatbush people were reading it over Passover.

The book made a strong case that 1) the eruv was kosher, and 2) Moses Feinstein would accept it today. Finally there was a long and impressive list of rabbis who actually endorsed the view that the book was espousing.

The fact that that the book was both in Hebrew and English said that it was both respectable for scholars and also for the lay person. The long list of rabbis indicated that even if you are merely a rabbi follower and don’t know much, you should take the conclusion seriously. The fact that it wa well produced made it look like it was from some one(s) who had their act together, and the fact that it was anonymous made people want to know who it was, and hence there was more discussion about it. (It was actually put out by something like “The organization to fix the eruv in Greater Flatbush”.)

Here is not the place to examine the technical merits of the case. Nor am I really qualified. (nor do I have the book in front of me right now.) But it would be interesting to follow this development. This would be an interesting case of Halachic change.

Jewish law, like all law, is very conservative by nature. Once a law gets established, it is very hard to change it, regardless of the facts that one later finds out. Laws built upon scientific mistakes get kept. It is just the way the law works. (The equating of electricity with fire or “building” are both laughable, but it is still prohibited on the Sabbath.) It will only change if there is a very strong movement on the part of people who generally otherwise follow Jewish law to change it. And this happens, but rarely. (The great Jewish historian Jacob Katz documents instances of this in some of his books.)

I find it odd for someone to attempt to orchestrate halachic change, but I guess it has to start somewhere. In this case it is happening from within the community, which is the only way it has a chance of working. I am curious to see how this turns out.

This will have a real impact on the community either way. If people do change over the next few years, then the culture will be different than it is now. You can expect more women at Sabbath prayers now that they can carry their children and bring carriages. You can expect a very different feel to the community now that they can interact in different ways – like they can carry food from one house to another. Keep in mind this is one of the strongest Orthodox communities in the world, so its impact will be deep. If this does not get off the ground, there will be repercussions too. The rabbis that signed on will loose some credibility. The anti-eruv group will feel vindicated and become stronger. It will prevent an eruv attempt in Flatbush for quite some time thereafter. The whole thing may just serve to polarize the community even further. Lord knows that Jews have enough of that.

26 comments:

E said...

What was their argument in support of the eruv? I was told that they feel Rav Moshe only ruled against the eruv because he received incorrect information. He was told Flatbush is one large continuous grid and he drew the conclusion that is it one continuous neighborhood which certainly has more than the required number to qualify as a public domain. The supporters of the eruv contend that he would change his psak if he knew that Flatbush has 'breaks' in it's continuity. Is this what their argument was?
In any case, the argument deserves a fair shot, not simply to be shut down 'because Rav Moshe ruled against it'. We know anyone that they are not 'Rav Moshe chasidim'.

E said...

correction: cross out the word 'anyone' in the last sentence.

Karl said...

A few things. First, as I mentioned, halachic rulings based on mistakes stay.

Second, I do believe that you are right about the reasons for R' Moshe's dicision. It does have something to do with the nature of the neighborhood. It is odd that R' Moshe did not carefully check some maps. The booklet does reproduce area maps to illustrate the point you make.

Third, there is another caveat. R' Moshe's son, R' Dovid Feinstein, has not weighed in on this controversey as far as I know. His word might have a real impact on the outcome. However, it is a lot of people's guess that he will not weigh in so quickly. He was one of the people who not too long ago signed on to the Slifkin book ban, for which he took quite a lot of flak. Coming out with something so high profile after that requires some very careful thought.

Fourthly, although there are no "R' Moshe Chasidim" he was taken pretty seriously, and his work the Iggros Moshe is still looked on as an important source for halachically dealing with contemporary issues.

Shosh said...

halakhic rulings based on mistakes stay?? why?

Joclyn said...

Where is the consideration for people who don't live by the rules of string? It sounds like a kid's game where suddenly everything is "home base." I always hated those games, and the kids who made up the arbitrary rules.

If I live within private domain why must I leash my dog? I don't leash my dog in my apartment.

bec said...

yeah but joclyn, if you check out shmirat shabbat, if there's no eruv, cannot carry a leash to walk your dog (so i assume that means a leash isn't necessary if there's no eruv??? and can i get a ticket on shabbat from a police officer if my dog is unleashed due to lack of eruv????)AND you also cannot pet your dog on shabbat bc you might accidentally remove a hair (although if it's my dog, no hair removed is ever an accident, it's more like a fact of life.) and then, it gets more complicated. if i live within an eruv, but in order to leash my dog i must put the pronged collar over her head which would inadvertently remove hairs when she struggles since she REALLY wants to go out, wouldn't it just be better to not leash said dog so as not to remove hairs, and instead accidentally terrorize the whole community with my horse of a dog, or should i risk the hair removal, leash the dog, and take her for a walk? and this is obviously why more folks in the frum community don't own dogs.
as for the eruv, what i've always wondered is why within the secular and non-jewish community are there always people who oppose the eruv?? is that anti-semitism? i mean, it seems it, but i'm hoping it's just ignorance.

Joclyn said...

Wait, wait. I think a dog is muktzah (not Muktzah--that dog lives in New Hampshire now :-( ) because sometimes dogs can be used to herd farm animals. So hair or no hair, Bec, dogs are a no-no, just like Tickle-Me-Elmo with the batteries in. Maybe you need to just teach them to use the toilet (but don't teach them on Shabbat) and remember not to flush if you are in the basement.

Joclyn said...

Re: people who are against the eruv. I think people always get upset when another group of people gets some kind of special dispensation that is visible to everyone. It's like me being annoyed that I can't get alcohol before noon on Sunday, or at all in a "dry state." Not my religion; don't force me to stare at its manifestations.

I guess?

bec said...

we have hokey pokey elmo and he is battery operated. i think that using him on shabbos would be a no-no regardless of the batteries in or not, since couldn't that be misunderstood by someone who doesn't realize there are no batteries? (i am using elmo inside, someone outside sees me, cant tell there are no batteries, assumes there are batteries in it, and then next thing i know, no one will eat in my house because everyone thinks i break shabbos.)

ptjew said...

This sounds very interesting. Keep us posted on how it turns out.

A- said...

Dogs seems have a couple of problems on Shabbat. There are feeding and emergency cases that cross over into tzar baalei chaim, but those are solvable. Also, one might need to catch a dog that has run off, or if one has a dog which tends to run off, doing some act to make sure that the dog stays in, is likely to violate the restriction on hunting/capturing animals on shabbat.

Now, in theory, a dog might be considered a work animal, in which case the dog is assur for obvious reasons, moreover, the dog is entitled to its rest. Even telling rover to "sit" might be a problem.

More likely - and necessarily exclusive with the above theory - the dog has no explicit use, in which case there is no use for the dog on shabbat, and hence, muktzah.

So yeah, either the dog is functional and assur, or "useless" and muktzah.

I could probably dig up some halachic sources, but I don't have anything here, and is better left as an exercise to the reader.

Anonymous said...

Fact is Reb Moshe never opposed eruvin in Brooklyn. Posters, leaflets, and adds in newspapers, claiming he was are lies, trying to hoodwink the public.
Because in Igros Moshe (4:88) he states: his ruling is against the Shulchan Aurach: and one can follow ruling of the Shulchan Aurach.However, he personally wants to be machmer against the ruling of the Shulchan Aurach.
So, obviously,what he says is not an absolute isser, as publicized,it's only a chumra.
There (4:87) he states the acronim don't agree with him. Obviously one can follow what the achronim say.
See posts by shiah director, on Flatbush eruv website:Back Row of the Beis: The Slow Strikes Back, Just Passing Through, eSefer, mail-Jewish vol.30 number95, for more information.

shiah director said...

Recently a booklet was published about eruvin in Brooklyn: "LETTERS BY RABBI SHIAH DIRECTOR",containing many facts unknown to the general public,and was distributed door to door in Flatbush.
If someone wants this booklet write to: P.O.B. 786, WOODBOURNE, N Y 12788

SHIAH T. DIRECTOR said...

Those leading the fight against eruvin in Brooklyn, are fighting against the Shulchan Aurach (simon 445), all leading poskim, and Reb Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, who never ruled eruvin cannot be established in Brooklyn. Any one who asked him was told they can make an eruv in Brookly,(IGROS MOSHE part 4 letter 87). Eventhough, he did not want to be involved in their eruv project. This is not the first time in Jewish history where a Godel B'Yisroel was macmer, but told others not to follow his ruling.
He als told Rav Menasha Klein, he can make an eruv in Boro Pk.. This was published in a booklet by Rav Klein and 5,000 copies were distributed. Reb Moshe saw his booklet.
Also see "Mail-Jewish vol.30 no.95" on this website. Stated there: a student of Reb Moshe, living in Flatbush,asked him if he can use the eruv there. He replied YES.
It is well known Briskers do not use the eruv in Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt in our days. However, their wives use the eruv there. It is also well known, they don't protest against the eruv there.
Please be advised, there was an eruv in Manhattan in the year 1908, approved of by seven leading Torah scholars of the generation. Their discussion of this subject was printed for all to see and study, was never refuted,and is available, by writing P.O.B.786, Woodbourne, N Y 12788, and enclosing $5.00.
Their reasons for permitting an eruv in Manhattan apply to Brooklyn as well.

Anonymous said...

For more information about eruvin in Brooklyn see website: "Flatbush eruv Shiah Director". Also see Avodah vol.14.

Anonymous said...

For additional information on Flatbushe Eruv see posts Shiah Director on: "Just Passing Through" on Flatbush ewruv website.

Anonymous said...

Also see comments by Shiah Director on website: "Manhattan Eruv Returns".Same applies to Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

In 1979 there was a meeting in Yasser Rov's Bais Medrash to discuss making an eruv in Flatbush. A collel student decided it was osser to make an eruv. He went to Rabbonim and told them a lie. Modern Rabbonim in Flatbush want to make an eruv. They know nothing about eruvin: and, will cause the public to sin. Many rabbonim signed on a document against eruvin in Brookly. Not knowing promenent poskim were invoved.

Anonymous said...

Another lie he told them was Rav Moshe Feinstein is against eruvin in Brooklyn. Without checking if this is true. They signed this document against eruvin. He was alive then. They could have asked him.
Rav Menasha Klein did ask him: and told him what they are saying in his name. Reb Moshe answered: they're spreading lies in my name.
Rav Kleins conversation with Rav Moshe was recorded in 46 page booklet he wrote about eruvin in Brooklyn. 5,000 copies were distributed via mail. Also, stated there. He asked Reb Moshe if he can make an eruv in Boro Park and he replied yes. See privious posts about Brooklyn Eruvin.

LET THIS STAND AS A MONUMENT FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. BEFORE RABBONIM PUT THEIR SIGNATURE ON ANY DOCUMENT, MORE, SO, A DOCUMENT CONCERNING A PUBLIC MATTER, THEY SHOULD FIRST CHECK THE FACTS, AND SEE IF WHAT THEY ARE SIGNING IS CORRECT.
ONE TELEPHONE CALL TO RABBONIM OF FLATBUSH WHOULD VERIFY THE FACT,
RESPOSABLE RABBONIM WERE INVOLVED, NOT "MODERN RABBONIM". RESPECTABLE POSKIM WERE DISCUSSING THE MATTER. THEY WILL DECIDE IF ERUVIN CAN BE MADE IN BROOKLY AFTER CAREFUL RESEARCH AND DISCUSSIONS.
THERE WAS NO EXCUSE FOR ANYONE TO SIGN ON THIS OBVIOUS LIE. THEIR ONLY EXCUSE WAS THEY WERE TO LAZY TO PICK UP A TELEPHONE AND MAKE A CALL. THEY WERE TOO LAZY TO VERIFY FACTS BEFORE SIGNING. THEIR SIGNATURE MEANS NOTHING. BECAUSE, WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN THEY SLANDERD THOUSANDS OF HOLY PIOUS JEWS WHO USE BROOKLYN ERUVIN. THEY SLANDERD HOLY PIOUS JEWS WHO FOLLOW RULINGS OF THE SHULCHAN AURACH AND ALL POSKIM. THEY WILL BE DAMED FOREVER, NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, FOR THEIR IRESPONSABLE SIGNATURES. THEY WILL BE DAMED FOREVER FOR NOT ASKING THE GREAT HOLY SAGE: REB MOSHE FEINSTEIN,OF BLESSED AND HOLY MEMORY, IF HE'S AGAINST ERUVIN IN BROOKLYN, BEFORE SIGNING AGAINST IT. ON THEIR JUDGEMENT DAY THEY WILL BE JUDGED BY ALMIGHTY GOD. FOR THEIR LAZYNESS: AND, FOR ISSUING A FALSE RULING, AND MISLEADING THE PUBLIC. THE GATES OF HELL WILL CLOSE ON THEM FOREVER.

Anonymous said...

MORE, SO, THEY SLANDERED HOLY SAGES FROM PAST GENERATIONS BY ISSUING A RULING AGAINST THEM. THEY SLANDERD THE BAIS YOSEPH (RAV YOSEPH CIRO) AUTHOR OF THE SHULCHAN AURACH: AND TWO HUNDRED HOLY SAGES IN HIS GENERATION, WHO AGREED WITH HIS RULINGS (SEE SHEM HAGEDOLIM, BY THE CHIDAH OUS BEIS, BAIS YOSEPH).
MAY THE ALMIGHTY HAVE MERCY ON THEIR DAMED SOULS.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at this site
http://www.eruvonline.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I was searching for http://laserhairremoval.thedatabase.ca/ and your site ended up in the search results. Not what I was looking for. So I will say ado and continue on my way.

shiah director said...

Reb Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory,was not the only one in Jewish history who wrote on this subject. Noteworthy, is an involved discussion by Rav Graubart,of blessed memory, formerly Rov of Toronto, Canada. He made an eruv there about 80 years ago. Approved of by leading sages in his generation. No one opposed validity of his eruv. His work CHAVALIM BNEMIM, discussing this matter, was republished, by his children, about 40 years ago by Feldheim Publishers.
In the year 5741(26 years ago) a compilation of rulings on eruven, written in Hebrew,dating back more than 100 years, was publishes by this writer,it's available by sending $3.00 to P.O.B. 786, WOODBOURNE, N Y 12788.
Over 100 rulings, and sources, are cited, in this book, on the subject of eruvin.
Rabbonim approving of eruvin in Brooklyn have this book and relied on it when approving of eruvin.
However, the public is hoodwinked by posters in the street against eruvin: (many without a name or address)and are not aware of the vast amount of literature available on this subject.
ALL RULE JUST THE OPPOSITE OF REB MOSHE FEINSTEUN.
Even though publicity in the streets is trying to convince the public that he was the only one who wrote on this subject. It's not true. Basic research will show anyone otherwise.
However, anti- eruv people never did basic research on this subject. They never learned basic concepts of eruvin.

shiah director said...

Comment by E states "I was told" Reb Moshe recieved incorrect information.

This is the basic problem with pro-eruv publicity. They are too lazy to to do proper research.
Reb Moshe was a super intellegent person. He had basic knowledge to check facts told to him.
However,he never was against eruvin in Brooklyn and was never fooled about obvious facts. He was always very careful to explain reasons for his rulings clearly. However, both pro- eruv people and anti- eruv people are too lazy to look and see what he says in IGROS MOSHE about eruvin. THEY "HEAR" THINGS. But fail to study the source.
As stated in previous posts. He writes clearly in IGROS MOSHE, black on white, that what he says is only a chumrah. NOT A "CLEAR CUT RULING".

I will never understand why people writing on this subject fail to study what he says in IGROS MOSHE they "hear" things. However we don't rule on Jewish law fron what we "hear". Do we see anywhere in poskim "they heard" the Rosh or Rif ruled on a subject so and so? No they see what he wrote. Same is true with Reb Moshe Feinstin.
Karl commented Reb Dovid Feinstein did not voice his opinion. We don't need him to tell us what his father rules. Because, his father explains himself very clear in IGROS MOSHE.

The whole problem with eruvin is people, including promonent Rabbonim, are too lazy to learn IGROS MOSHE and other literature on this subject.

Had they studied this subject there would have been no opposition to eruvin in Brooklyn. Including the YOUNG ISRAEL eruv of 30 years ago.Which was made under strict supervision and checked by this writer many times.
If many don't trust this eruv they shouldn't trust the OU either which is supervised by modern people.
It's time anti-eruv and pro-eruv people, got of their LAZY ASSES and learned the subject. Literature is available.

shiah director said...

My comments were not against prominent poskim who all approve of Brooklyn Eruvin and studied literature concerning same.
I was refering to anti-eruv people completely ignorant of subject matter involved. And pro-eruv people who put posts in the internet before learning the subject. Therefore, they make all kinds of weird statements that dont make sense.

Anonimous said...
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