2006-07-19

More on the eruv: another e-mail and a letter

In comments to one of my previous posts about the Washington Heights eruv, it has been pointed out that the second of the anonymous mass e-mails regarding the eruv has been revised and is now available on a handy-dandy blog: http://maalot-eruv-psychosis.blogspot.com/. The blogger has given it an inviting subtitle/description, as follows:
A MUCH NEEDED REPORT ABOUT A VERY MISUNDERSTOOD PART OF NORMATIVE TORAH PRACTICE THAT IS BEING IGNORED IS REARING ITS HEAD IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS WITH REGARD TO AN ERUV. HASHEM YIRACHEM. THANKFULLY THIS UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT WAS BROUGHT ABOUT BY A MINORITY OF LAITY WHO KNEW NO BETTER DUE TO THEIR UPBRINGING. THEREFORE SINCE THAT'S THE CASE THEY WILL NOT CH"V BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILLUL HASHEM CREATED BY HOW THEY BROUGHT IT ABOUT ( HAMEIVIN YAVIN).
[The all caps are part of the blog style-sheet; in fairness to the author, he isn’t screaming. The grammatical mistakes, however, are his.]

I hope to have more to say about the revised version soon, but for now I’ll just make a few comments:

  1. I think it is counterproductive to include “psychosis” in the name of this new blog, regardless of who created it. As the blog represents itself as being by the author of the e-mails, this is all the more true: if you are genuinely trying to educate and persuade those you believe to be ignorant of “normative torah practice”, how does attributing to them a “psychosis” make them more receptive to your efforts? On the other hand, if you are trying to needlessly sow hatred and mistrust within the Washington Heights jewish community, your language is well-chosen. The same goes for the blog’s subtitle/description.

  2. The article has been seen some significant revisions, some of which appear to by responses to my criticisms. Others, however, might be responses to my criticisms, but I can’t be certain as the author has not returned the courtesy of a direct response. While his language seems to indicate he is attempting to reply to me, he does not directly address my argument. I challenged the basic picture of the halachic system as a determinate, unified hierarchy of authority present in the previous version of the e-mail; this picture is still wholly present in the revised version. Moreover, the author has neither supported nor argued for his previous claims, but merely asserted them again using more prejudicial language. If he intended to reply to my criticisms, in failing to do so (while introducing indecorous language in the process) he has only increased the burden he must discharge if he wishes to be taken seriously.

  3. I have previously commented on what appears to me to be a disrespectful attitude by the author to Rav Schnaidman. In the revised version, the author includes the following remark:
    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
    The italics are mine; in the original the italicized portion is in hard-to-read dark grey (why?). The author may say he takes for granted that Rav HaMachshir and the Rav of Mt. Sinai (Rav Schnaidman) may use the eruv, but his final remark betrays his disrespect towards Rav Schnaidman, for he insinuates that Rav Schnaidman’s decision to seek the building of the eruv was not done honestly and l’shem shamayim but was forced upon him by a “ruffian laity”. The implication is that he was pressured to betray his judgment and the established halachic process. Were that true, of course, he would certainly not be permitted to use the eruv. As someone who gives the following lecture, the author should be ashamed of himself:
    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’.


The comment just made leads nicely to the letter Rav Schnaidman has sent out the the Mt. Sinai membership, which I received yesterday. In it he clearly endorses in his own words the building of the eruv: “The recently completed Washington Heights Eruv represents the realization of a dream in our synagogue and community going back many years.” Later, he makes the following gracious remarks of which the author of the e-mails should take note:
In undertaking the Eruv project, we know that there would be congregations that would not accept it. We were well aware that there are Halachic authorities who are opposed to an Eruv in Manhattan, and others who would invalidate an Eruv in any metropolitan setting. However, we also know that a majority of Halachic decisors among the Acharonim would approve of our Eruv.***
        We respect the right of those congregations that will not utilize the Eruv. But, we believe that in constructing the Eruv we have raised the levels of oneg, which is a crucial element of the Shabbat experience, and diminished the desecration of Shabbat through prohibited carrying, which may even involve some members of other congregations who have a need for carrying medications on Shabbat.
        We would hope that just as we respect the pathway of those who choose not to use the Eruv, they, in turn, will respect our acceptance. We would suggest that if a person should direct derogatory remarks upon seeing use of the Eruv, then the wisest reaction is to say something like: “I respect your view; please note that there is a valid Halachic basis for mine.”
It is particularly unfortunate that Rav Schnaidman feels the need to give advice on responding to derogatory remarks, but such incidents have in fact occurred.

*** Rav Ovadia Yosef — who you might know as The Gadol HaDor — (in the responsa I have cited previously) judges that the majority of Achronim countenance metropolitan eruvin. Rav Ovadia himself has relied upon this judgment to permit the use of a large eruv in Brooklyn. Whether he, or the majority of Achronim, would permit the use of the Washington Heights Eruv is an open question, however, Rav Schnaidman certainly has good grounds for making his claim.

2 Comments:

Blogger R. Scott Buchanan said...

It's nutters like the Eruv Psychotic who have basically driven me away from the frum world. I have little doubt that this episode of outright chillul hashem will encourage other people to seek rabbinical and spiritual guidance elsewhere.

I hope he's proud of himself.

20 July, 2006 08:48  
Blogger ginsbu said...

Sadly, I have little doubt that he is.

20 July, 2006 13:05  

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