Thursday, July 31, 2008

Part 2: The Truth About Rav Chaim Michoel Dov Weissmandel Zt”l and a Eruv in New York City

Continued from part 1

In the books Yalkut Michtavim and Ish Chamudos, the anti-eruv group claims that Rav Michoel Dov withdrew his support for city eruvin because of the Satmar rebbe’s strong objection to eruvin. [Regarding the speciousness of the claim that the Satmar rebbe objected to eruvin, see Part 1: The Truth About the Satmar Rebbe and a Williamsburg Eruv.] Besides for the consequences of believing allegations that surface some fifty years after the fact ― if we were to believe these allegations, every teshuvah can then be questioned see Noda B’Yehudah, Tinyana, Y.D. 29-30 ― these claims do not follow chronologically. As is typical of their approach, the anti-eruv group gathered bits of information and created tall tales. The following will illustrate the fallacy of their allegations.

1. The allegation:
They claim (Di Tzeitung, November 26, 1999 p. 44 and Yalkut Michtavim, pp. 35-36) that when Rav Michoel Dov wrote (Toras Chemed, siman 2, dated August 19, 1951) that he was not issuing a p’sak and stated that from the time he wrote his first teshuvah, the issue has since been presented to the great poskim, Rav Michoel Dov was deferring to the Satmar rebbe’s wishes that an eruv cannot be established.
These are the facts:
• Even from Rav Michoel Dov’s first teshuvah (ibid., siman 1, dated April 13, 1949) we see that he was not issuing a p’sak. Therefore, when he wrote in the later teshuvah (ibid., siman 2, dated August 19, 1951) that he was not issuing a p’sak, Rav Michoel Dov was not indicating that he was deferring to anyone; he was only reiterating what he said from the beginning.
• From Rav Michoel Dov’s first teshuvah written on April 13, 1949, we see that he advocated that they enlist Rav Yonasan Stief to issue a p’sak regarding an eruv for Brooklyn because he considered Rav Yonasan the ideal posek. Consequentially, there can be no doubt that Rav Michoel Dov in his August 19, 1951 teshuvah was referring to Rav Yonasan when he stated that the issue has since [the time he wrote his first teshuvah on April 13, 1949] been presented to the great poskim because by now Rav Yonasan had become involved in the Brooklyn eruv (Mahari Stief, siman 68 was written on May 25, 1950).
• Way after Rav Michoel Dov wrote his last teshuvah, it was well known that he supported an eruv in New York. Even in 1956 and 1959, the Shatzer rebbe, published in his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York.
• In 1960, the rabbanim who backed an eruv for Manhattan included Rav Michoel Dov on a kol korei of rabbanim who supported an eruv there. Clearly even after Rav Michoel Dov’s passing in late 1957, it was an accepted fact that he supported an eruv until the very end. (Isn’t it strange that until 1999 there is not one written word about Rav Michoel Dov withdrawing his support for eruvin in Brooklyn?)
• Even after Rav Michoel Dov wrote this letter stating that the issue has since been presented to the great poskim (Toras Chemed, siman 2, dated August 19, 1951) he penned an additional letter supporting an eruv in Brooklyn (ibid., siman 3, dated September 8, 1951). There can be no doubt that Rav Michoel Dov continued to support the establishment of a Brooklyn eruv to the very end.

2. The allegation:
They state (Yalkut Michtavim, pp. 34-35; see also Ish Chamudos p. 420) that many people claimed to have heard the following story from Rav Avraham Chaim Spitzer shlita. In the year 1949 or 1950, the Satmar rebbe was at a bris in the Yeshivah of Nitra in Mount Kisco, NY. Later the Satmar rebbe locked himself in the Yeshivah’s seforim room with Rav Michoel Dov and debated the merits of a (Williamsburg) eruv the entire night. Rav Spitzer relates that at approximately three o’clock he awoke and overheard the conversation. After some debate regarding a Tosfos in Eruvin, the Satmar rebbe declared that he would never permit an eruv here (Williamsburg) since roughly sixty years ago an eruv was established (in Manhattan by Rav Yehoshua Seigel zt”l) with approbations from Gedolei Yisroel that utilized bridges (elevated train tracks). These elevated tracks were later demolished, but nevertheless people continued to carry (in Manhattan). Following this, the Satmar rebbe repeated that he would never agree to an eruv here (Williamsburg). They add that Rav Spitzer claimed that he remembers the story as if it happened today. This tale in Yalkut Michtavim is cited as primary testimony that the Satmar rebbe was opposed to eruvin anywhere in New York.
These are the facts:
• This story is pure fiction. Rav Seigel utilized the natural riverbanks for three sides of the boundaries of the eruv and on the fourth side, the Third Avenue El. The only mechitzah that the Satmar rebbe could have been referring to that was later demolished was the Third Avenue El. However, the Third Avenue El was not demolished prior to 1950 as this story charges but actually August 3, 1955, as reported by the New York Times (see Part 1: The Truth About the Satmar Rebbe and a Williamsburg Eruv; see also The Subway, p. 249). Just as this fundamental tale regarding the Satmar rebbe in Yalkut Michtavim is a fabrication so too all stories contained therein should be treated as such.
• As stated above way after this supposed story happened it was well known that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York. Even in 1956 and 1959 the Shatzer rebbe, published in his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York.
• As mentioned above, even after this supposed story took place Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.
• Rav Michoel Dov wrote a letter (Toras Chemed, siman 3, dated September 8, 1951) in support of an eruv even after this supposed story happened. Clearly he continued to support an eruv after this imaginary story happened.

3. The allegation:
They state (Ish Chamudos, p. 420), without attribution, that at a conference of rabbanim regarding establishing an eruv in Williamsburg, the Satmar rebbe expressed his objection to an eruv. After hearing the Satmar rebbe’s opposition, Rav Michoel Dov, then and there, acceded to his wishes.
These are the facts:
• Even the Yalkut Michtavim, which has added many fictional rabbanim conferences regarding the Willamsburg eruv, never claimed that Rav Michoel Dov participated in any assembly regarding eruvin. The first fictional conference mentioned in Yalkut Michtavim (I will prove that this is a tall tale when I post Part 2: The Truth About the Satmar Rebbe and a Williamsburg Eruv) in which the Satmar rebbe participated was around late 1957 to 1958, and they did not mention that Rav Michoel Dov was present. (It’s important to remember, as well, that Rav Michoel Dov was no longer alive by late 1957.) Clearly this conference, as stated in Ish Chamudos, is fiction.
• As mentioned above, even after this supposed conference took place, Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.
• In allegation number 2, they claim that Rav Michoel Dov was apprised by the Satmar rebbe himself, somewhere between 1949 and 1950, that he objected to a Willamsburg eruv. Why would Rav Michoel Dov need to accede to the Satmar rebbe’s wishes at this later conference of rabbanim if he previously desisted from being involved with eruvin?

4. The allegation:
In Yalkut Michtavim (p. 188), there is a letter from one of the Gabbaim of the first Satmar rebbe. He claims that in the year 1950, he was present when Rav Michoel Dov came to the Satmar rebbe to discuss the matter of a New York and Brooklyn eruv, and the rebbe declared that he was fervently against eruvin in both New York and Brooklyn for many reasons.
These are the facts:
• This story never happened. From Rav Michoel Dov’s teshuvos, we can discern that he did not end his involvement with these eruvin in 1950 as this story would have us believe since he continued to write teshuvos regarding eruvin at least to the end of 1951.
• In allegation number 2, they claim that Rav Michoel Dov was apprised by the Satmar rebbe himself in the Nitra Yeshivah in Mount Kisco, NY, that he objected to a Willamsburg eruv. This does not jive with this argument that Rav Michoel Dov first acceded to the Satmar rebbe’s wishes when he came to the Satmar rebbe to discuss these eruvin.
• As mentioned above, well after this supposed story happened, it was well known that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York. Even in 1956 and 1959, the Shatzer rebbe, published in his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York.
• As stated above, even after this supposed meeting took place, Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.

5. The allegation:
In Yalkut Michtavim (p. 36), there is a letter from a rav stating that when Rav Michoel Dov initially wanted to establish an eruv, the Satmar rebbe told him that the harm would be greater than the gain. Rav Michoel Dov immediately desisted from his involvement with eruvin.
These are the facts:
• According to the dates on Rav Michoel Dov’s teshuvos, his involvement in the Brooklyn eruv spanned approximately a year and a half, from April 13, 1949, until September 8, 1951 (Toras Chemed, siman 1-3). Clearly, Rav Michoel Dov did not immediately cease to be involved with eruvin. There is no doubt that this story is a work of fiction.
• As stated above, well after this supposed story happened, it was well known that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York. Even in 1956 and 1959, the Shatzer rebbe, published in his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York.
• As mentioned above, even after this supposed story took place, Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.

6. The allegation:
They state (Ish Chamudos, p. 420), without attribution, that one of Rav Michoel Dov’s talmidim was driving his rebbe from Mount Kisco to New York, and in middle of the journey, Rav Michoel Dov saw that a bridge [elevated track] that could have been used for an eruv [through pi tikra] was being removed. At that time, Rav Michoel Dov acknowledged that the Satmar rebbe was correct when he declared that since in America they are constantly altering the infrastructure, we cannot use these structures for the boundaries of an eruv.
These are the facts:
• It is curious that the editor of Ish Chamudos left out the name of this talmid, and I think I know why. This story was originally published in Di Tzeitung (November 26, 1999 p. 45),[4] and the talmid’s name was given as Rav Libush Gottesman shlita. However, in Chai Anochi LeOlam (p. 72) Rav Libush was cited as declaring that this story never happened. What is even more telling is the fact that Rav Libush was quoted in Ish Chamudos ― that his rebbe gave him the responsibility to write a protocol of all the shitos that would allow an eruv to be established in Brooklyn ― on the same page where this tale is mentioned, but yet they failed to associate him with the story. Clearly the editor knew that this story is fictional, but nevertheless chose to mention it to further his own personal agenda against eruvin.
• As stated above, even after this supposed story took place, Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.

7. The allegation:
In Di Tzeitung (November 26, 1999 p. 44), there is a mention of a story from a rav in Williamsburg. He claimed that, in 1954, Rav Michoel Dov gave a public drasha stating that he had planned to establish an eruv in Manhattan and in Williamsburg, but that once he was apprised that the Satmar rebbe objected to an eruv, he retracted his ruling. In Yalkut Michtavim (p. 36), there is an additional allegation from this rav that, in 1955, he was at a shiur on Meseches Eruvin given by his rebbe Rav Michoel Dov who mentioned that he wanted to establish an eruv in New York but retracted after he heard that the Satmar rebbe objected. There is an additional story from this rav in his letter published in Yalkut Michtavim (p. 139) where he writes that, in 1956, his rebbe mentioned that he wanted to establish an eruv in Brooklyn, but the Satmar rebbe opposed it. Rav Michoel Dov added that one of the reasons why the Satmar rebbe refused to support an eruv was that people were carrying in California because of the Manhattan eruv without recognizing that there was any distinction between the two locales.
These are the facts:
• The Shatzer Rebbe ― the only person to mention something regarding the Satmar rebbe and eruvin in the Satmar rebbe’s lifetime ― wrote that, in 1955, he spoke to the Satmar rebbe (see Hamaor, Tishrei 1955) and discussed with him all of his concerns. The issue that people were carrying in California because of Manhattan was never mentioned.
• No other talmid of Rav Michoel Dov’s knows about this supposed drasha and shiur where Rav Michoel Dov retracted.
• Even after these supposed stories happened, it was a well known fact that Rav Michoel Dov was involved in establishing a New York eruv. Even in 1956 and 1959, the Shatzer rebbe published in his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York.
• As mentioned above, even after this supposed drasha and shiur took place, Rav Michoel Dov was included on a kol korei of rabbanim [1960] who supported a Manhattan eruv.

While I realize that my debasing of all these allegations seems so fantastic considering that there are many people who claim to have heard that Rav Michoel Dov retracted his support for an eruv out of deference to the Satmar rebbe, I would suggest that one take into account that all these people are alleging something even more fantastic. These people are arguing that Rav Michoel Dov, Rav Yonasan Stief and all twelve rabbanim ― members of the Hisachdus Harabbanim who knew the Satmar rebbe’s opinion better than all the contemporary rabbanim and would not go against his wishes ― who wrote letters in support of the Ratzferder rav’s Williamsburg eruv (between the years of 1972-1981 Otzros Yerushalayim, 298-300 and Al Mitzvas Eruv, p. 159-194) retracted their opinion. This unprecedented claim, many years after the fact, with no written proof is indicative to the length the authors of Yalkut Michtavim and Ish Chamudos would go to support their personal agenda against eruvin. In light of this, my argument is not anywhere near as fantastic as their allegations are.

The biography Ish Chamudos (at least regarding the issue of eruvin) is a redaction of history and is an embarrassment to Rav Michoel Dov’s name. As can be discerned from the above, Rav Michoel Dov considered the establishment of a Brooklyn eruv of extreme importance and campaigned to bring his plan to fruition. Instead of embracing this fact, the writers of this book capitulated to the current trend to be anti-eruv and rewrote their ancestor’s true desires.

In summation, regarding the allegations set forth in Yalkut Michtavim, the shoddiness of their revisionism is beyond belief and should be discernable to all. There is no doubt that Rav Michoel Dov was one of the great proponents of eruvin for both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Unfortunately, since the issue is eruvin, it is not surprising that there are people who want to believe that this is anything but a work of fiction.
_____________________
[4] This allegation was made by the well known writer in Di Tzeitung who goes under the penname Yisroel M. Sofer. This writer is a notorious redactor of history and can’t be trusted regarding any matter and much more so when the issue is eruvin. His whole series regarding eruvin in New York, that ran from November 26, 1999 through December 31, 1999, was cut out of whole cloth as can be determined from the fact that they do not follow chronologically at all.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Opinion of the Chacham Tzvi, the Bais Ephraim, and the Mahari Asad Regarding London

שיטת החכם צבי, הבית אפרים, והמהר"י אסאד – לענין לונדון

הנה בשו"ת בית אפרים או"ח סי' כ"ו כתב וז"ל: ולענ"ד דאף הפוסקים דתלו טעמייהו שאין רשות הרבים משום שאין רחב י"ו אמה ולא הזכירו ששים רבוא, לפי שהיו מצוי שם כמה עיירות גדולות במדינת אשכנז וצרפת ואינגלטירא (-ענגלאנד) שהיו בו ס' רבוא, כגון עיר הגדולה פאריז לונדון ווינא פפד"מ (-פרנקפורט דמיין) ועוד רבים כהנה כרכים גדולים אשר המה רוכלי העמים ומרובה באוכלוסין מאד, והיו גם ישראל הרבה דרין שם וכו', ואמנם עיירות שבמדינות אלו רחובותיהם קצרים ואין בהם רוחב י"ו אמה, וגם אין מכוונים משער לשער, ולכך נקטי טפי הנך שהם כוללים יותר אף לכרכים גדולים, עכ"ל.

והנה פשוט שכוונתו, שיש "מקומות" בעיירות ההם שבקעו בהם ששים רבוא, דהא הוא סובר דאין כל העיר מצטרף רק צריך ששים רבוא ברחוב אחד (עיין שם בדף מו סוף טור א בד"ה ונפלאתי, וע"ש בקטע הקדום ד"ה ומה שהאריך, שצריך ששים רבוא בקירוב הרחוב כדי שיהיה מצוי הששים רבוא "בדרך ההוא").

וכן הבין בשו"ת מנחת אלעזר ח"ג סימן ד' ד"ה עוד ראיתי, וז"ל: בעיירות הגדולות כמו לונדון פאריז ווין וברלין וכהנה, "ברחובות הגדולים מקום המסחר ביותר", דבודאי ששים רבוא בוקעין בו ביום, ועיין בתשו' בית אפרים סימן כ"ו אשר העמיק והרחיב בזה בארוכה, עכ"ל.

וכ"כ בשו"ת ישכיל עבדי (ח"ב קונטרס אחרון או"ח סימן ו' אות ח') וז"ל: ואף במקומות שיש רה"ר גמורה כמו לונדון פריז, ודאי דאין זה אלא ברחובות הגדולים מקום המסחר, לא במקומות הדיירים ומכל שכן בשכונות היהודים, שבודאי שרק שם נזהרין לעשות הכשר עירוב, ודאי דאין שם ס' רבוא בוקעים בכל יום ואינו אלא כרמלית, עכ"ל.

וממילא מובן שזהו כוונת המהר"י אסאד באו"ח סימן פ"ז ד"ה וראיה לזה, שהעתיק דברי הבית אפרים הנ"ל. [ואגב, מה שסיים שם: "ובתשו' בית אפרים האריך לברר דדעת רוב הפוסקים דבזה"ז איכא נמי רה"ר דאורייתא ולא צריך סמ"ך רבוא בוקעים בו", הוא תמוה, דזהו שיטת השואל שם (המשכנות יעקב), וכל אריכות הבית אפרים הוא לדחות דבריו.] וזה ג"כ כוונת המנחת יצחק שהעתיק מהבית אפרים דעיר לונדון הוי רשות הרבים, וכוונתו שיש "מקומות" בתוכו שהם רשה"ר, וממילא יש להזהר שם יותר לענין הוצאה ע"ש, (ועיין עוד שם ח"ח סימן ל"ב אות א' ד"ה והשאלה הב', שהעתיק דברי הבית אפרים הנ"ל שצריך ששים רבוא "בדרך ההוא", וא"כ מוכח שכוונתו כמהמנחת אלעזר והישכיל עבדי הנ"ל).

והנה סיים שם הבית אפרים, שלכך נקטי הראשונים טפי הטעם של אין בהם רוחב י"ו אמה וגם אין מכוונים משער לשער, "שהם כוללים יותר אף לכרכים גדולים", היינו שכוונת הראשונים לומר דאף במקומות שבוקעים בהם ששים רבוא אין להם דין רשות הרבים מטעם זה, ואם כן בשכונה שידוע שהרחובות אינם מכוונים משער לשער מותר לכו"ע.

ולענין החכם צבי, זה לשון השואל בשו"ת חכם צבי סימן ל"ז:

קשה בעיני ביותר, איך יתכן שארץ רחבת ידים (-אינגלטיר"ה, ענגלאנד) ויש עליה "כמה סרטיות ופלטיות" בתוכו דדרסי בה רבים ואולי ס' רבוא בלא עיכוב כלל, תיחשב לרשות היחיד בכח גוד אסיק לחודיה (-ממחיצות הים) בלא מחיצות (-בני אדם) כלל, ואם תאמר כך הוא בטלה תורת רשות הרבים מינה, עכ"ל.

וע"ז השיב החכם צבי וז"ל:

ואני אומר, אם התורה אמרה כך תיבטל, ומה בכך, ואלו היתה אינגלטיר"ה מוקפת מחיצות כל סביבה אז ישר בעיניך ביטול רשות הרבים ממנה, ולא יוקשה לך על "סרטיות ופלטיות שבתוכה", וכיון דמחיצות העומק והרום דין אחד להם מה לי מחיצה בגובה או בעומק. זהו לפי הודאת ההנחה. אמנם לפי האמת אומר אני... דאינגלטיר"א ואיסכוסי"א וכיוצא בהם שהים חומתן, חייבין עליהן משום רשות הרבים, דאתו רבים ומבטלי "מחיצה שאינה עשויה בידי אדם".

הרי דקאי על מה שכתב השואל שיש "כמה סרטיות ופלטיות" בתוכו דדרסי בה רבים "ואולי" ס' רבוא, ועל "מקומות ההם" השיב דמחיצת הים אין מבטלים דין רשות הרבים, דאתו רבים ומבטלי "מחיצה שאינה עשויה בידי אדם". [ומוכח מלשון השואל והחכם צבי שאין דנין על העיר, דא"כ הול"ל שיש בענגלאנד "עיירות" שיש בהם ששים רבוא, ולא "כמה סרטיות ופלטיות" ש"אולי" יש בהם ששים רבוא.] ונמצא, דרק מקומות מיוחדים יש שאולי בוקעים בו ששים רבוא. ואף שם מהני מחיצה ביד אדם.

היוצא לנו מכל זה, דבשכונת היהודים שעושים שם עירוב, אין בו שום שאלה של רשות הרבים לפי הגדולים הנ"ל, שאינם במקום "רחובות הגדולים מקום המסחר ביותר", ובודאי אין בוקעים בו ששים רבוא בכל יום. וגם שהרחובות בשכונה זו אינם מכוונים משער לשער.

ובאמת אפילו אם היה שם חשש רשות הרבים, הרי השכונה מוקף בשלש מחיצות עומד מרובה על הפרוץ (וגם בצד הרביעי כיון שהרחובות עקומים יש שם מחיצות הבתים), ועי"ז נפקע ממנו דין רשות הרבים לכו"ע.

ואין לדאוג ד"אם תאמר כך הוא בטלה תורת רשות הרבים", כלשון השואל בחכם צבי הנ"ל, דעל זה כבר השיב החכם צבי הנ"ל "אם התורה אמרה כך תיבטל ומה בכך"!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Stamford Hill Eruv Imbroglio Continues

While at this point I won’t divulge all the information that I was made privy to, I feel that there is a need to expose at least some of the terroristic tactics being employed against those who support the establishment of an eruv. Additionally, I think there is a need for certain people to realize that the velt iz nisht hefker, and there is din v’chesbon. I was told by people who are documenting all the dirty tactics that are being practiced in this controversy that they will eventually expose all of them. I will just mention, without much commentary, a few incidents that just happened lately.

One rebbe in Eretz Yisroel is being pressured by a Kedassia rav from Golders Green to compel his dayanim in Stamford Hill not to support the eruv. This Chassidus is also being blackmailed that if they don’t sign against the eruv, their members who own stores in the neighborhood will be boycotted. They are also being enticed with offers that Kedassia will start using this kehilla’s hechsher if they join against the eruv. [Until now Kedassia claimed that the reason why they did not use this hechsher was that it was not mehadrin enough, but I guess once they sign against the eruv, the hechsher will automatically turn into a mehadrin one.]

The main rav opposing the eruv protested to a rebbe in Eretz Yisroel that one of his chashuva Chasidim, a resident of Stamford Hill, is the main supporter of the eruv and was bringing in outside rabbanim to give a hechsher on the eruv. This rav argued that the Chasid was undermining his rabbanus and that the rebbe should rein him in. Great pressure was imposed on this Chasid to desist in his actions.

As I predicted, the fight against the eruv in Stamford Hill will make all the other instances of machlokas there pale in comparison. The extent to which some are willing to go to be mevatel a mitzvah d’rabbanan is astounding. I will add that since they are impeding a mitzvah d’rabbanan there is no greater chillul Hashem, and b'mokom sheyeish chillul Hashem ein cholkim kovod l'rav (Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. siman 242:11).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Eruvin in the News: Eretz Yisroel 2

Meretz Activists Burn Poles Used for Sabbath Observance

(IsraelNN.com) Left-wing Meretz party activists were caught burning poles that are used for the establishment of the "Eruv" on the Sabbath, according to a Kol Chai radio report quoted by Yeshiva World News. Meretz is generally considered a secular party with anti-religious elements. Read on...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Part 1: The Truth About Rav Chaim Michoel Dov Weissmandel zt”l and a Eruv in New York City

Since the establishment of the current Boro Park and Williamsburg eruvin, there has been much debate regarding the opinion of the Nitra Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Michoel Dov Weissmandel zt”l (1903 - 1957). A great deal has been alleged in Rav Michoel Dov’s name regarding eruvin, much of which is clearly inaccurate and was concocted way after the fact, particularly in the book Yalkut Michtavim. Moreover, these fairy-tales have gained credibility since they are now cited in the newly published biography on Rav Weissmandel called Ish Chamudos (it is fascinating that the authors of this biography did not cite the source of these tall tales possibly because they realize that Yalkut Michtavim has little integrity). As usual, in their haste to prove that all the poskim were against establishing eruvin, the anti-eruv group concocts fictional stories that, upon closer examination, do not hold water. Therefore, I would like to set the record straight and present the facts chronologically.

In 1939, when Rav Michoel Dov was in London, he wrote a letter to his father-in-law stating that it would be easy to establish an eruv there, and it would only require twenty-one delasos reuyos l’hinael. He added that it would be ideal if he would be able to erect tzuras hapesachim, and that he hoped to write a kuntres regarding the matter (Toras Chemed, letter 53; see also Kovetz Toras Chemed, vol. 1 p. 18-19 and Alei Deshe, year 2 issue 1).

In the introduction to Rav Michoel Dov’s sefer, Toras Chemed, they write that one of the issues that he was involved with prior to his coming to America was eruvin. It is also well known that, after coming to America in 1946, Rav Michoel Dov gave many shiurim on Meseches Eruvin.

On April 13, 1949 at the behest of Rav Tzvi Eisenstadt zt”l, Rav Michoel Dov wrote a teshuvah, in support of an eruv for Brooklyn (Toras Chemed, siman 1). The issue was so important to Rav Michoel Dov that he commenced to write the teshuvah on Erev Pesach, and since he was concerned that he would not have time to conclude it after Yom Tov, he stated that it was a davar ha’aveid and that he was allowed to finish it even on Chol Hamoed.

Rav Michoel Dov supported Rav Eisenstadt’s drive to institute an eruv and stated:


ומאחר שלפע"ד הדבר נוגע במצוה רבה הנני כותב מכתב זה וכו', ואשרי חלקו דמר אם יעלה בידו להוציא הוראה לפועל בדבר הזה בהסכמת גדולי תורה המכוונים הוראה לשם שמים


Rav Michoel Dov ended this teshuvah by encouraging Rav Eisenstadt with the following words:


כשבאתי לכאן בגזירת עליון חשבתי תמיד מי יתן וזכיתי לכך וכו', נא במטותא מיני' דמר נ"י, בזכות אבותיו הקדושים, כיון שהתחיל במצוה זו אל יתרשל


At the outset, Rav Michoel Dov stated (ibid.,) that he did not write the teshuvah to establish the halachah; for this matter, he argued, Rav Yonasan Stief zt”l should be enlisted:


לא לברר הלכה אני כותב, כי מה מני יהלך, אלא לדבר דבור הנוגע למעשה, ובענין זה יש לי עצה טובה. ידענא בי' בגברא רבא, זקן ויושב בישיבה, ובעל הוראה מפורסם ע"פ דרכי הוראה של מרן הח"ס ותלמידיו זי"ע, הגאון האמתי וצדיק תמים, מוהר"ר יונתן שטייף נ"י שיש לו כח דהיתרא לשם שמים. טוב הדבר למעשה להכניסו בהוראה זו. גם אנכי אדבר עמו אי"ה, אמנם למעשה, טוב הדבר שגם מעכ"ת נ"י כה יעשה ... מלבד שהגאון הנזכר הוא בקי גדול ומצויין בהוראה גאון וצדיק וישיש, יש כאן טעם גדול אחר להטיל עליו זאת ההוראה לפי שהוא ענוותן שלא נמצא כמוהו בדור הזה לפע"ד, שפל ברך, שייף עייל שייף נפק, שלא יורה הוראה אלא בפלפול חברים ושאילת פה כל הגדולים וכל הקטנים בכל מיני כבוד והדור וזה עיקר גדול להוציא את ההוראה הזאת לפועל, ודי בזה למבין בשפלות הדור הזה בעקבתא דמשיחא, ומנהיג לפי הדור


In a later teshuvah (August 19, 1951), Rav Michoel Dov reiterated (ibid., siman 2) that he was not issuing a p’sak and added that from the time he wrote his first teshuvah, the issue had since been presented to the great poskim:


ועיקר הדבר מה שאני רוצה להגיד בדגש חזק הוא, כי כל מה שכתבתי אז כמו עתה, לא כתבתי אלא לפלפולא דאורייתא בעלמא ... וגם זה מעט שכתבתי אז, הי' זמן זמנים טרם שנתלה הדבר להלכה באשלי רברבי אשר מפיהם אנו חיים


From Rav Michoel Dov’s first teshuvah we discern that he planned an eruv that would encompass a large portion of Brooklyn:


והנה העיר ברוקלין הים והנהר חומתה מג' רוחות כו', ולא נשתייר אלא לדון על רוח צפונית כי מצפון תפתח העיר, אמנם לעומת זה כמעט על פני כל צד צפון משוך הגשר של העלעוועטעד ליינס, המתחלת מקרן צפונית מערבית, להתמשך מן גשר של וויליאמסבורג, כמעט עד צפונית מזרחית עד חוף הים. ואין כאן רק מעט פרצות, כמו שלושים רחובות.[1] ואלו אפשר לתקן בצורת הפתח מאחר שכבר יש כאן שלש מחיצות, או בדלתות הראויות לנעול. כי אולי מצד ממשלת העיר יותר יסכימו על דלתות הראויות לנעול משיסכימו על צורת הפתח


From the refutation of Rav Michoel Dov’s teshuvah, written by Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, it is evident as well that Rav Michoel Dov was proposing an eruv for a large portion of Brooklyn (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:138).[2] Rav Moshe stated:


והנה מה שרוצה הרב הגאון ר' [מיכאל] בער ווייסמאנדעל שליט"א והאריך בקונטרסו לדון על העלעוואטאר בדין פי תקרה יורד וסותם להחשיב חלק גדול מעיר ברוקלין כמוקף מחיצות משום שבג' רוחות כותב שמוקפת ים ונהר וגידודי הים והנהר נעשו בבנין ע"י אדם


However, in Rav Michoel Dov last teshuvah (Toras Chemed, siman 3, dated September 8, 1951) regarding eruvin, we can discern that he was only proposing an eruv that would have merely encompassed the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg:


נסעתי דרך ברוקלין כו', ודרך העברה ראיתי כי אותו הגשר שבא מקווינס אל
הוויליאמסבורג גשר,[3] קרוב להגשר ואינו חסר אלא מעט, כשיגמר זה הגשר יהי וויליאמסבורג מוקף מג' מחיצות שלימות, נעשות בידי אדם, ומחיצה הרביעית יהי' פי תקרה שיש בה משום כמה שמות של היתר. ואפילו עתה שלא נגמרה, לא חסר אלא להתיר איזה פרצות במקום שיש ג' מחיצות שלימות


The above demonstrates that Rav Michoel Dov followed Rav Yonasan Stief’s suggestion (in 1950) that it would be less difficult to erect an eruv for a single neighborhood (Mahari Stief, siman 68; see also Yeshiva University Archives, MS. 1300A for the original teshuvah written to Rav Eisenstadt). Rav Yonasan stated:


ביחוד העיר ברוקלין אפשר לתקן שכונות שכונות דהיינו אותם השווקים שדרים בהם לרוב מהיראים, בקל יש לתקן אותם בצוה"פ, כי אפשר להשגיח ולבדוק בכל ע"ש אם לא נתהווה איזה שינוי או פירצה


This corresponds with what is cited in the name of Rav Libush Gottesman shlita, a talmid of Rav Michoel Dov (Chai Anochi LeOlam, p. 72). Rav Libush states that his rebbe mentioned to him that the Satmar rebbe zt”l only objected to an eruv encompassing a whole city (borough) but not to an eruv enclosing just a single neighborhood such as Williamsburg. Moreover, Rav Michoel Dov added that the Satmar rebbe’s objection was more of a recommendation that it would be better to just include a neighborhood and that the rebbe’s objection was not regarding halachic issues at all. Additionally, there are three alternate maps from Rav Michoel Dov that were published in Chai Anochi LeOlam (p. 149-151; see below) depicting his plan for an eruv encompassing only the neighborhood of Williamsburg.

Moreover, Rav Libush Gottesman stated (ibid., p. 72) that the fact that, at the time, Rav Michoel Dov did not established an eruv in Williamsburg was not because the rabbanim withdraw their support only that they were not able to do so. It is discernable as well from Rav Michoel Dov’s teshuvos, that he attempted to minimize the need for tzuras hapesachim by making use of many existing structures for the boundaries of the eruv. In his first teshuvah, he even suggested that delasos reuyos l’hinael would possibly be more agreeable to the city government than tzuras hapesachim. This is a clear indication of how difficult it was until that time to establish an eruv and why the plans never materialized since they always required some modifications requiring tzuras hapesachim.

In a letter of Rav Michoel Dov’s published in Chai Anochi LeOlam (p. 148 dated May 20, 1949), he disagreed with Rav Eisenstadt arguing that it would be more logical to first establish an eruv in Brooklyn and then in Manhattan. A Brooklyn eruv, he declared, involves the erecting of some tzuras hapesachim. Consequentially, uninformed people would recognize that an action was needed to establish the eruv. On the other hand, the proposed Manhattan eruv did not involve any physical action such as erecting tzuras hapesachim but only required a p’sak that would allow the eruv to be established. Consequentially, uninformed people might question what concrete steps were taken by the rabbanim to alter the existing conditions that had precluded the establishment of an eruv earlier. However, Rav Michoel Dov did allow an eruv in Manhattan and was posthumously included on a list of rabbanim who supported an eruv there (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, p. 10).

In 1956 and 1959, the Shatzer rebbe, Rav Yosef Dovid Moskowitz zt”l, published his sefer Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan (Divrei Menachem, O.C. vol. 2, summary) and stated that Rav Michoel Dov supported an eruv in New York (Kuntres Tikkun Eruvin Manhattan, p. 169).
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[1] Rav Michoel Dov is possibly referring to the Broadway El which runs from the Williamsburg Bridge and connects via the Broadway Junction to the Canarsie Line (L) and then terminates at the Rockaway Parkway station.
[2] For a defense of Rav Michoel Dov’s position see Minchas Yitzchok, 7:24; Pri Temarim, 6:1 p. 27 and Sha’ashu’ie Oraisa, 1 p. 158.
[3] Rav Michoel Dov is probably referring to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway which was under construction at the time.

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The following maps were published in Chai Anochi LeOlam, p. 149-151 without the descriptive text that follows each image. Click on image to enlarge.