Did you see the four rabbis last week walking along certain Teaneck streets, carefully examining utility wires? Often they were reviewing the poles and wires from different vantage points and perspectives, sometimes spending quite a while in certain spots. What was this all about?
This unusual sight was none other than the Teaneck Eruv Vaad (consisting of this author, Rav Larry Rothwachs, Rav Zvi Sobolofsky and Rav Michael Taubes), who devoted no less than 14 hours (!) to walking (!) the entire perimeter of the Teaneck Eruv during the past two weeks. Every nook and cranny of the eruv was inspected with an eye to maintaining the Teaneck Eruv’s culture of continuous improvement. The Eruv Vaad, while having some recommendations for enhancement, marveled at the tremendous work of the new eruv administrator Rav Micha Shotkin.
At every section of the eruv the rabbis inspected the wires to ensure that the proper utility wires are intact, that they ran sufficiently straight, that a reshut ha-yachid does not exist beneath the wires (following Rav Hershel Schachter’s approach) among a myriad of other halachic concerns. Does a particular pole require two lechis or does one lechi suffice?
Moreover, each crossover of Route 4 was carefully examined to ensure that the eruv is not halachically exposed to Route 4. Any gaps are less than 10 amot even by the stringent standard of Rav Avraham Haim Naeh. Extraordinary efforts are made to satisfy even the most challenging of Rav Schachter’s chumrot, such as avoiding the use of lavud in a tzurat ha-petach.
All of this painstaking and time-consuming effort raises a very fundamental question in the minds of many. Does Hashem truly care about all these details? Does it matter to Hashem if the wire runs over the pole or ever so slightly to the side? Why the obsession with the minuscule details?
The answer is very simple. In every area of serious concern, details matter. To the physician, tiny details often spell the difference between life and death. The same applies to an airplane mechanic. A businessman who does not devote proper attention to the details of his business is doomed to fail. To the scientist, attention to detail can make the difference toward the development of a breakthrough and world-changing product.
Even in the world of sports, details are profoundly important. Imagine the following scenario: A running back carries the football approximately 10 yards, very close to a first down. In such situations, the referees will bring out the chains to carefully measure if indeed the first down has been achieved. However, in our imaginary case, the referees decided to make a quick estimate whether the first down was achieved, without bothering to take a careful measurement. They then announce to the fans that it looks as if a first down has been reached, and signal the first down sign.
Even the most moderate of a sports enthusiast would be outraged at such behavior. If a referee acted in this manner, his very life would be placed at risk. A referee who does not devote proper attention to the game’s details disrespects the sport. Disregarding the sport’s details shows he does not treat it seriously.
L’havdil, we Jews are the heirs of a great legacy, the greatest and noblest of legacies. We have the responsibility and privilege of observing and preserving God’s law. How can we not take halachic details seriously? Moreover, just as a sports fan revels in the details of the game, we who love Hashem and His Torah revel in the details of Torah observance. Far from being a burden, it is the greatest source of happiness and joy in our life.
Just ask the four rabbis who devoted 14 hours to inspect our eruv. Each rabbi very much enjoyed applying the holy words of the Gemara, Rishonim, Shulhan Aruch and Poskim to the mundane infrastructure of Bergen County. Transforming the mundane to holy and bringing the Torah to life in its many glorious details is one of the most joyous and satisfying experiences of life. Maintaining the excellent halachic standards of our eruv for our community is a labor of profound love.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter
Rabbi Haim Jachter is spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.