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Creating an Eruv Acceptable for Sephardic Jews—Part II

Last week, we noted that according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, an amah is 21.25 inches, according to Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh it is 18.9 inches and according to the Chazon Ish it is 24 inches. Ashkenazim and Sephardic poskim resolve this issue differently. Sephardim follow the ruling of Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh. In fact, Rav Na’eh’s conclusion is based to a great extent on the Sephardic tradition regarding the size of an amah.

In Eretz Yisrael, the custom among Ashkenazic authorities is to apply the stringencies resulting both from the Chazon Ish and Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh’s opinion. Thus, they will require a fence to be 40 inches high but would not permit a gap greater than 15 feet and 9 inches. In the United States, both Rav Herschel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig follow Rav Moshe’s ruling in Teshuvot Igrot Moshe and they require a fence to be 36 inches high and permit a gap of up to 17 feet and 8 ½ inches. The Laws of an Eruv (p.264) reports that “many poskim” in the United States adopt a similar approach.

There is no problem for Sephardim to rely on eruvin created by Ashkenazic rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael since they accommodate the opinion of Rav Na’eh when it results in a strict effect. Thus, it is not surprising to find numerous places in Yalkut Yosef (such as O.H. 584, Hanhagot Rosh HaShanah number 2) where reliance on the community eruv is permitted without any provisos that the eruv conform to Sephardic standards. Hacham Ovadiah finds it acceptable for Sephardim to rely upon eruvin built according to Ashkenazic specifications without adjustments to accommodate Sephardim.

However, this might not apply to eruvin created in the United States under the auspices of Ashkenazic rabbanim. Since many of the eruvin in this country do not accommodate the stringent result of Rav Na’eh’s measurements, it would seem improper for a Sephardic Jew to rely upon such eruvin, unless the eruv conforms to Rav Na’eh’s measurements (i.e. all gaps do not exceed 15 feet and 9 inches).

Thus, any community that has a Sephardic kehilla should endeavor to comply with Rav Na’eh’s measurements and ensure that gaps do not exceed 15 feet and 9 inches. For example, the Teaneck eruv has no gaps wider than 15 feet and 9 inches in the eruv.

Other reasons to accommodate Rav Na’eh’s stringent result include the fact that Chabad-affiliated Jews follow the opinion of Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh. Thus, if an eruv includes a Chabad community, it behooves the broader community leaders to ensure that there should be no gaps in the eruv wider than 15 feet and 9 inches. Another reason to adopt this standard, is the shiur of the hadasim that are mostly sold in the United States. The only two options that are sold in this country are the hadasim that conform to Rav Na’eh’s opinion (they are meshulash—all three leaves are on the same level—on a majority of the rows of three tefachim, at least 9.45 inches, of the hadasim) and those that conform to the shiur of the Chazon Ish, at least 12 inches. Many, if not most, of the members of many Orthodox synagogues nationwide rely upon Rav Na’eh’s view in a lenient direction regarding fulfillment of the Torah obligation to take hadasim on the first day of Sukkot.

Thus, if all or most of a community relies upon Rav Na’eh’s opinion in a lenient direction regarding fulfillment of a Torah obligation, then it seems logical that Rav Na’eh’s opinion should be accommodated in a strict direction regarding the community eruvin, even in a completely Ashkenazic community.

I presented these arguments to Rav Mordechai Willig and he responded that he makes every effort that the Riverdale eruv (the eruv he supervises) satisfies Rav Na’eh’s opinion when it results in a stringent direction. Rav Willig, though, proceeded to defend those communities whose eruv does not satisfy Rav Na’eh’s point of view but only that of Rav Moshe. He argues that since the situation involves two converging rabbinic laws (trei derabanan), there is room to adopt the lenient approach. The first is that the prohibition to carry in an area which is suitable for an eruv (consisting significantly of tzurot hapetach such as almost all citywide eruvin today) constitute only a rabbinic prohibition due to absence of 600,000 people living in the area, and the second is that a gap of more than 10 amot (but there is “omeid merubah al haparutz”—a majority of that side of the eruv is enclosed) constitutes only a rabbinic prohibition (Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky,Teshuvot Achiezer 4:8; the Chazon Ish, cited ad. loc. and O.H. 107:5-7; and Rav Moshe Feinstein Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.H. 2:90).

Conclusion:

Ashkenazic eruv planners should bear in mind Sephardic and Lubavitch psak halacha and accommodate Rav Na’eh’s opinion when it results in stringency. This is especially the case since there are compelling reasons that even Ashkenzim should now be sure to accommodate the opinion of Rav Na’eh. If this is impossible to achieve, or if no effort was made to conform to Rav Na’eh’s approach, a Sephardic Jew may nonetheless utilize the eruv.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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