We are so proud of our three alert TABC students who noticed an eruv wire had come down when they went to play tennis on the last Friday of their summer vacation. Jacob Becker, Zachary Becker and Eliezer Friedbauer sent me a WhatsApp message informing me of the problem. They even snapped a picture to help clarify that this is a wire utilized by the eruv.
The three boys were correct! I immediately notified Rav Micha Shotkin, the eruv administrator, who rushed to fix the eruv, and it was intact in time for Shabbat.
There are manifold lessons to be learned from this incident. First is that if you see something, say something! Do not assume that the rabbanim inspect the eruv and that all must be all right. If it does not seem right, give your rabbi a call!
A similar incident happened in another eruv a few months ago. A golf course fence upon which the eruv relies serves as the back fence of a community member’s backyard. He notified his community rabbi, who passed along the information to the eruv administrator. The problem was corrected immediately.
Our eruvin are quite large, and it is quite a challenge to maintain the eruv. While our weekly inspections are thorough, the inspectors are human beings with limitations. Therefore we need community members to help fill the gaps and let us know if we miss something. These corrections can happen only if people are aware of the eruv boundaries and conscious of the possibility that there could be a problem with the eruv.
The same applies to many areas of Halacha. If you see a product in a rabbinically certified store that seems improper, inform the mashgiach. He will be glad you told him. Of course, good judgment and tact are always appreciated, but please feel encouraged to speak up!
The second lesson is the importance of teenagers taking responsibility for the community. It is an empowering feeling for the three boys to know that their concern was respected and that they were correct in their assessment. The boys’ yirat shamayim and care for the community is to be celebrated. They are a credit to their families and their community. We take great pride in them.
Finally, the local eruv committee drew appropriate conclusions from this incident. The eruv in this community is inspected, as is quite typical, on Thursday. Although it is preferable to check the eruv on Friday, this does not allow sufficient time for eruv repairs in case of a problem. Halacha permits us to rely on the chazaka, presumption that the status quo remains intact, if the eruv is a relatively stable one.
However, the Thursday evening before the boys discovered the problem there was a significant storm, which most likely was the cause for the downed eruv wire. Such a storm is a rei’uta, disturbs the chezkat kashrut of the eruv, and its most vulnerable portions should be reinspected before Shabbat. The wires the community installs to complete the eruv (as opposed to the preexisting utility wires that comprise the overwhelming majority of most eruvin in North America) are usually the most vulnerable to storms and should be re-inspected. Wires in forested areas, in the case of the wire near the tennis court, are even more vulnerable as falling limbs occasionally break eruv wires.
In Israel, a popular aphorism is ערנות מונעת אסון, being alert prevents disasters. A great yasher kochachem to Jacob Becker, Zachary Becker and Eliezer Friedbauer, whose alertness prevented a spiritual disaster!
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.