2006-07-23

Making the last eruv post available again

UPDATE [Monday, 24 July 2006 01:48]: A new version of the anti-eruv website has now appeared at http://washington-heights-eruv-zeitgeist.blogspot.com/. Suffice it to say that the author has not made a better case for himself in his latest post than in previous versions (quite the opposite, if anything). Also, see the comments to this post where I have something to say about why I am exposing these rants here.

So it appears that http://maalot-eruv-psychosis.blogspot.com/ is no longer around. I shed no tears. But as I have already responded (in part) to the article which had been posted there, my readers are now unable to see the text in question. Luckily, I suspected such a thing might happen and saved an archive of the site last Wednesday night (19 July). Here is the text of the article as of that time [formatting removed for legibility]:
"There is an eruv around Bennett Avenue" and it's bringing on a psychosis of confusion.
" In Washington Heights there is an eruv around Bennett Avenue in Manhattan".
That sentence contains a lot of presumptions, and one of those presumptions is that you and I can use the Bennett Avenue eruv in Washington Heights to carry on Shabbat.

But can we? That is the subject of this article, and the PERMISSIBILITY of using it will be explored. The purpose of this article is not to explain the halachos of eruvin, but rather our Mesorah's unanimously held of procedure for employing rabbinic authority to our lives in a relatively narrow type of situation which will be described below-- and with this "procedure" we can determine how it is we are to determine whether or not we can use the eruv here on Bennett.

First a summary of the conclusions of the article, then we'll provide some background, then we'll elucidate the main point of the article further:

It should be obvious, after careful consideration of the facts mentioned in the rest of this article, predicated upon the hope that the reader is somewhat educated and aware of normative Torah practice, that a special situation exists with regard to this eruv on Bennett that would require special psak halacha to be allowed to use it. It starts like this.: We all agree that in general we learn halacha from sforim and our rebbeim, many of them perhaps, as well as from many rabbis who give shiurim and lectures, and we listen to Torah tapes, CDs, and special webcasts. Normally intelligent and educated frum Jews can often, and do often, and should often, go in accordance with what they learn through these mediums [ given that they have adequate intuitive knowledge as to when their moreh Horaah would have no objections to their reliance on the rabbis responsible for these mediums in question.] Also, it stands to reason that they were given a sort of “pep” talk from their moreh Horaah on how to go about making day to day decisions, as not all shailos are brought by an individual to the table of their own moreh Horaah.

Additionally, and most fundamentally, we all take it for granted that all agree that a non-gadol hador can pasken shailos. Indeed, that is the structure of psak. There are local poskim who do render their own decisions. Of course, we trust them since we expect them to apply the principles and precedents of the Greatest Torah Authorities in the world in the arena of rendering psakim –

But the main point of this article is that if the [ vast (?) majority of ] the greatest authorities in the world were to one day contradict what we took to be a "pedestrian psak", [ a psak from a bone fide rav who poskins for his talmidim or congregants who however is not one of the Greatest Torah Authorities of the generation], or some other normative practice in thought or action, then we would have to give it up and shift into a mode that is normative Torah practice for three thousand years, which is to ideally ….

[1] go ask for a psak on the matter from our moreh horaah [ e.g. rebbe muvhok ] – the one we tend to ask most of our shailos to, who is either one of the “Greatest” of the generation [ rare indeed ], or who will surely seek out the psak of their own moreh horaah that he himself goes to for shailos of this type, who in turn goes to one of the gedolei hador [ if he is not one himself- and so on and so forth ( i.e. again, to be clear, the the type of shailah discussed is one that has arisen because of a new reality of the majority of the greatest ones maintaining a position- as described above- that by default requires one of the “Greatest” of the generation to answer. ) The Bennett Avenue Eruv is an excellent example of such a case. The reason this is such a good example is that it has in it all of the criteria for which such a shailah needs to go to the “best and the brightest” ( the gedloei hador ) ( this will be explored more below).
[ see Rosh Hashana 25, “chiyuva hu” , for an uncontested Gemara espousing this principle.]

The alternative to [1] is
[2] we default to the majority of the greatest Torah authorities of the generation who paskined on the matter at hand. [ e.g. examples of when we would find ourselves defaulting to the majority may be in the event that {a} we happened not to have a moreh horaah, or {b} we didn't have access to him for this shailah, or {c} he indicates he cannot render a decision on this shailah and doesn't know whom to direct you to for the shailah, or {d} he is ill, or {e} we just haven’t solidified our avodas Hashem [ e.g. Torah Practice ] to the point where we have “ found ourselves yet” and consequently, we haven’t found a moreh horaah who is a legitimate decisor of Jewish laws and values and norms.]

[ side note: of course we sometimes have different rebbeim for different types of questions: sometimes we have a poseik we ask most of our shailos to, and sometimes we go to another for advice in certain inyonim of our lives, etc… this article is covering the basic black and white shailah. For instance, this article is not discussing a {A} shaas hadchak or {B} emergency situation , or {C} a case of a troup of wanna be baalei teshuva , etc….where there isn’t a “moment to turn “ and a decision is required immediately. ]

So the following two grossly simplistic examples of what we can’t do are described just to form the outline of the intuitive argument to make the proof for the srgument easier to understand- these examples are given to make the cases vivid.

An example of what we aren’t allowed to do is pick a gadol we don’t go to for psakim in general but for this case we decide to rely on him – a minority opinion, because we want a leniency, or because in this instance we are fond of his position, or because we “just like to go around and try out knew poskim” for kicks” [ e.g. an example that doesn’t fall within this example is that we have an emergency of some sort and don’t have the time to reach our moreh horaah or to determine what the majority holds, or we aren’t sure if our particular urgent situation is the same as the pronouncement of the majority, etc….]

Another example of what we aren’t allowed to do is put put 15 names of gedolim that asur something into a hat and then put the names of 7 gedolim that matired the same thing into the hat, and then pick a psak from the hat. [ this case is given just for the sake of pointing out simple and vivid cases to make the intuitive argument ]

Question- How do we know – outside of the intuitive factor- that this is in fact the halachic policy and procedure klal yisroel must follow for the specific category of shailah discussed above?
Answer- Because the answer is empirically determined—this procedure is the unanimously held halachic policy position of all of the universally held of Greatest Torah Authorities in the world, the contemporary chachmei hamesorah, the chachamim basrai, the ones to whom “Hashem showed Adam and Moshe, “dor dor vedorshav… manhigav”- these are the names on that list. Our Mesorah tells us throughout that their siyatta diShmaya in knowing what is good for Klal Yisrael is unimaginably greater than ours. [ see again Rosh Hashana 25 -" chiyuvah hu" as a comment- not as the lomdus behind the proof]

Again, The fact is that the halacha can be ascertained by asking them- it’s empirical. You can know this firsthand yourself…. simply ask them [ but you’ve gotta ask the precise question under discussion]. They will all tell you the same thing, you don’t just go around and choose a leniency, and you don’t just go around and pick a psak of a gadol since you think that in this case the psak of Gadol A makes sense, and in that case the psak of Gadol B makes sense…especially when the {vast majority of } gedolim of the generation say “asur.”
[ Not to mention that so many ehrlich yidden misapply a past psak to a case they think is exactly the same but in fact is not. ]

Of course there is no implication here that an individual should get all depressed if they can’t bring themselves to abide by this principal. Living up to the Torah’s Truth is life’s challenge. It is a goal those of us unable to live up to should make as one of their lifelong goals. Certainly don’t get down or despondent, but at the same time don’t make up for the feelings you have that prod you to justify inappropriate behavior by creating or believing in a newfangled theology that you have either made up or have come to believe in from irresponsible [ even very smart] people who aren’t in the category of authorities --- Remember….“Hashem showed Adam and Moshe, “dor dor vedorshav… manhigav”- the names on the list are the ones to whom we look toward for our path to strive for truth.”

(The precise lomdus behind why this is 3,300 years of Halachic practice is not dealt with in this article. Also, the lomdus of each authority may not be identical to another one’s lomdus. This article is simply reporting the reality- that all of he universally recognized greatest authorities (would) tell us – in the specific generic case described above, that we need to go with the shailah to our ( legitimate) moreh horaah [ rebbe muvhok ] the one we ask most of shailos to…or, as stated above, defer by default to the majority in a scenario like this one.

That is the thrust of this article.

Now we will simply make some comments:

Background regarding the Torah Greats positions regarding an eruv covering a street in Manahttan: The majority of the Greatest Torah Authorities of this generation who have poskined on Manhattan Eruvs have said that its prohibited to use this type of Manahttan eruv [ all things considered].
Amongst these top authorities who prohibited its use are ....

Rav Moshe Bick
Rav Moshe Feinstein
Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky
Rav Ahron Kotler
Rav Ahron Soloveitchik
Rav Yosef D Soloveitchik
Rav Gedaliah Schorr

This is a Shailah of an isur skilah { Torah Prohibition } according to the above [ though the precise lomdus behind the psakim of these individuals may [ and do] differ, and, according to a minority position, ( not the ones listed above ), it's a shailah of an isur malkos { Rabbinic Prohibition, on account of the construction }.

From an adam chashuv who is a rav currently living in NY comes this report as to what a number of talmidim of Rov YD Soloveitchik reported: ‘A group of Manhattan rabbis came to meet with the Rov in the 1960's in his apartment in Washington Heights - on the YU campus. These rabbis came armed with a list of arguments formulated by Rabbi M. Kasher to demonstrate that Manhattan was not a reshus ha-rabbim d'Oraysa. Before the rabbis were able to finish their presentation to the Rov, the Rov stopped them and indicated that he could not accede to their point, commenting that it seemed like the rabbis felt that the eruv issue was of the same level as a question of one forgetting to recite Ya'aleh V'yavo on Rosh Chodesh. The Rov's intent was to indicate his surprise that these rabbis were willing to advocate leniency in a question of an issur chamur me'od - a very grave prohibition (Chillul Shabbos) - whereas in other matters of far less gravity, everyone is extremely careful. The Rov felt that this was inconsistent and very wrong. And so as one person summed it up, RYDS basically communicated that this is not a shailah of forgetting Ya'aleh V'yavo on Rosh Chodesh. This is a sofek s'kilah, and we cannot be maikil on it.’

This very day, Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Willig, Rav Bleich, Rav Genack, Rav Meyer Twersky, Rav Dovid Feinstein Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, and Rav Yisroel Belsky ( just to mention a number of prominent names ) do not poskin " go ahead and use the Bennett Avenue Eruv if you want to- some of them actually asur its use. This last sentence means that this shailah is very serious.

We're being painstakingly explicit in saying that some do not " allow " its use; we're not saying they have all paskined that it is 'asur' to use the Bennett eruv. Some will not poskin on the issue. The vast majority of the greatest, in America at least, asur an eruv on a manhattan street. They do so for a VARIETY of lomdishe reasons not all of which are precisely Reb Moshe's complete reasoning found in his teshuvas. [ for instance, we know that RAK and RMF differed on points in hilchos eruvin, but they both asured them in Manhattan. ] The status quo of the great ones all currently niftar mentioned above has been maintained by the contemporary ones [ for one lomdus or another].


So far this is all just background information. [ of course there are Top authorities who teach their talmidim that there are positions in the sources that may permit such an eruv- but we go according to the chachamim basrai- our contemporaries, almost all of whom will not allow an eruv in Mahattan.

At this point let's mention that a few weeks after the use of the eruv began and some people started carrying on Bennett on Shabbat ( not because most [ did even 10? ] of them asked their [ legitimate] moreh horaah [ the one they go to for most of their shailos] ) one of the shul's in the community, the Mt. Sinai Shul, inserted this text in their FAQs section of their web site, which reads:
"...everyone is encouraged to decide whether to use any eruv based on a discussion with his or her personal posek....''

This statement is a communication by the inserter of this line of the web site that the permissibility or prohibition of using this eruv is not decided by the de facto construction of it by a rav hamachshir; but rather it's decided by one's poseik ( actually the wording on the web site could be read in a way that is misleading, though I am sure the writer didn't intend as such: Really, the halachic permissibility of using the eruv is not "based on a discussion with his or her personal posek..." but rather, based upon receipt of permission to use it BY one's poseik].

We found it quite astounding that while most people we speak to take the "above" as something totally obvious and known to all, there are nonetheless a number of people - quite a number of people- who do not. To some we have communicated with, this is the first time they have ever heard of [ sic] anything like this, or they "kinda" heard something like this, but never knew how it really went. No one has ever presented a single gadol hador [ universally recognized ] who disagrees with what has been reported above about the policy and procedure of klal Yisroel in the specific type of scenario described above. Most people in klal yisroel who were brought up frum with a traditional chinuch who read this are just rolling their eyes because this article is just all too obvious.

Where did this mantra come from that we're hearing from many people in the Heights and elsewhere that you and I can just use this eruv? Answer: The people spreading the idea do so on account of the fact that the Rav of a shul instructed a Rav Hamachshir, who makes many eruvim, to make an eruv surrounding Bennett Avenue- and it's inferred from this that the very fact allows any individual to use it. That is some people's self- justification for using it.

So is that assumption at all valid? No. Of course it isn't. It isn't valid because the vast majority of the Generation's Greatest Torah Authorities who HAVE poskined on the matter have asured it's use.

So the fact that a rav hamachshir made an eruv doesn't give us the authorization to use it. Rather, what would allow us to use it could only be the employment of the procedure described above. [ *** this of course doesn't imply that the rav hamachshir himself can't use the eruv, or that the rav who allowed the rav hamachshir to make the eruv can't use it- no such suggestion is being made. The opposite of course is taken for granted....that the rav hamachshir of an eruv and the rav of the shul of an eruv who permit its use does so because they themselves employed the 3,300 year old process reported above. This article will not deal with the minority of ruffian laity of the shul that forced this eruv on someone who didn't want to break the consensus of the community and had not done so for decades.
All we will comment upon is that the word, "Baryonim", comes to mind. Hameivin Yavin]

[ Final Note:
Some irresponsible people are clamoring to others regarding rabbis in the community that don't permit the eruv, saying that ' the eruv issue on Bennett is all politics and has nothing to do with halacha and I therefore don't have to concern myself with these rabbis politics and I decided [ sic ] that they really permit its use [ meikur hadin ], and/or the above listed Great Torah Authorities who prohibited it are not relevant' . Also it's been passed around regarding some of these rabbis " They are lenient with some halachic positions on eruvin and not others and haven't explained themselves to us as to why they poskin differently in cases that appear to us [ naively] to be similar, and so they are fraudulently communicating that this issue is a shailah of being machallel shabbes bifarhesiah , etc....[ hameivin yavin]"

The statements above infer that there are Rabbis who are poskining improperly on this issue because their positions are not based on halacha but because of something that doesn't fall into halacha. [ implying that values or halachos outside of isur/chiyuv, tamei tahor questions are not halachic and are thereby invalidated as matters of Torah by calling them "politics" ] - or that these rabbis are making mistakes or being hypocritical by saying the questions are questions of isurim when they really are not. A warning: to say such a thing, to impute ulterior motives to qualified rabbis when they make a particular halachic announcement, charging that the rav isn't being honest with the psak, doesn't truly hold by the psak, but is only using it as an excuse for other non Torah motives is an isur of Mach'chish Maggideha'. To cite Rav Hershel Schachter:

http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2003/parsha/rsch_mishpatim.html

Did the Rabbi Distort the Psak? [excerpted] by Rav Hershel Schachter

"Rav Soloveitchik zt"l pointed out on various occasions that when the Rambam speaks of the various heretics, he puts together the "one who denies the (Divine origin of the) Torah shebaal peh, and the one who contradicts its teachers ['Ma'ch'chish Maggideha'-blogger's note ]." One who imputes ulterior motives to the psakim (halachic decisions) of an honest bona-fide rabbi, and says that Rabbi X was a convert, so that's why he always favors converts, and Rabbi Y didn't like women, so that's why in his decisions he will always put down women, and Rabbi Z is a Zionist, so that's why he will always pasken lehokel in matters regarding Eretz Yisroel, is in violation of this Ikar (principle) of faith. We not only believe that there existed at one time a Torah shebaal peh which was Divinely ordained; but rather we believe that Hashem continues to assist the G-d fearing qualified rabbis so that they should pasken properly. Emmunas chachomim is the foundation of all Orthodox Tradition!"

another piece of Rav Hershel Schachter:

THOSE FEW QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS.....
Rav Hershel Schachter on the Reliability of the Ba'alei HaMesorah http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2004/moadim/rsch_shavuos.htmlexcerpted from "Why Was the Torah Forced Upon Us?" by Rav Hershel Schachter.

4 Comments:

Blogger lineman said...

I would recommend not giving this character any airtime. His whole premise is simply wrong. There is no such thing that a rav has to go up the chain of command and ask the Gedolei Hador. Any rav, large or small, is entitled to pasken as he sees fit. Additionally, there is no difference regarding eruvin or any other issue. If this was any other matter besides for eruvin, you can be sure that this character would not care. Of course each person should ask his posek for advice.

23 July, 2006 14:09  
Blogger ginsbu said...

I agree with you, as I've argued in preview posts, that his basic premises are wrong. Under other circumstances, I would not have made a point of publicizing his rants. However, since these rants were originally circulated to only some members of the community, and this spawned many rumors and worries, I thought it best to air them publicly so their content would be publicly known. My interest is primarily in trying to expose these claims to open examination. My conviction is that open examination will reveal them to be baseless.

Furthermore, while I have contributed own criticisms, I am convinced that the best way to diffuse any concerns about these e-mail/posts is to allow anyone and everyone to read the author's own words: his poorly written, poorly reasoned rants impugn himself and the position he espouses. This author is truly his own worst enemy, and I will happy allow him to use his own words to do himself in.

24 July, 2006 01:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lower east side eruv controversy once more should be looked into. Are the issues that Rav Moshe O"H different or ot today as before?

06 November, 2006 19:27  
Blogger ginsbu said...

I don't think I'm qualified to say much about the possibility of an eruv on the LES, or on Rav Moshe's position on the matter. But, in general, I agree that issues of this sort warrant reexamination.

A question that needs frank examination is this: does the Washington Heights eruv differ in halachically significant ways from the eruvs that many people accept in their home communities? For those who have psak to carry in the eruvs of Chicago or Brookline or wherever else, does the WH eruv differ from those eruvs in which they have psak to carry in ways such that their psak does not apply? A version of this question should be asked regarding a potential LES eruv as well.

The fact is that, while community eruvs remain controversial in the NY area (more so than in most others, at any rate), they are widely accepted by many poskim and in many communities. The mere sociological fact that eruvs are controversial in NY does not necessarily have any halachic consequence in and of itself. What is halachically relevant is what positions various poskim take and how they apply in particular situations. As new halachic authorities emerge and older ones pass away, these sorts of questions need to be continually asked anew.

08 November, 2006 19:24  

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