May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Rabbi Haim Jachter Releases Book on Hilchot Eruvin

Rabbi Haim Jachter, rabbi of the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, a Jewish Link columnist who sits on the Bet Din of Elizabeth as a dayan and is renowned for his expertise on eruvin, has just released a new book titled “Walking the Line: Hilchot Eruvin From the Sources to the Streets.” Learning and mastering Hilchot Eruvin is a daunting challenge and Rabbi Jachter’s book sets forth a practical path to conquer this challenge by bringing Hilchot Eruvin to life. The product of over 30 years of experience helping communities design and maintain their eruvin, Rabbi Jachter demonstrates how the concepts of Hilchot Eruvin are applied in the field. This work is an indispensable guide for anyone interested in eruvin, whether they are learning the masechet, the halacha or are simply interested in helping their community create, expand or maintain its eruv.

The book may be purchased at

Please enjoy the following sample chapter from the book.

Eruv Through the Storm

On Friday, Shushan Purim 5778, calls were pouring in. The calls were coming from rebbeim from communities throughout the northeastern United States when a fierce nor’easter hit their respective communities with winds that exceeded 40 miles an hour. The burning question on everyone’s mind was whether we must announce that the eruv is down due to concern that the eruv might not be able to withstand the storm.

The issue in halachic parlance is whether to view the storm as a rei’uta, a legal detriment, to the chezkat kashrut, the presumptive valid status, of a community eruv. The answer, as Rav Mordechai Willig noted in a personal conversation, depends to a great extent on the community. Some community eruvin rely on dozens of their own wires (fishing line is typically used due to its resilience) strung from pole to pole, while other communities’ eruvin rely almost exclusively on utility wires. The latter group is far less vulnerable than the former. In this chapter, we present how I instructed some of the various communities hit by the storm.

Sharon, MA

This eruv relies, in part, on utility wires, but also consists of many tzurot hapetach constructed through heavily wooded areas. Trees sway more in the wind than utility poles. Therefore, strings that are attached to trees are more likely to break than strings that are attached to utility poles. Rav Cheses of the Young Israel of Sharon informed me that Rav Moshe Heinemann ruled that if the winds exceed 40 miles per hour, the chezkat kashrut of the eruv is removed. While this is not necessarily true for every community eruv, it is a reasonable standard regarding the Sharon eruv. Not only might the wind knock down an eruv wire, it is also not unlikely that a tree branch would fall on one of the eruv lines and render it invalid. Therefore, I advised Rav Cheses to declare the eruv down for that Shabbat. I would advise the same for an eruv whose many wires run along an oceanfront, making the eruv especially susceptible to breakage by severe winds that come from the ocean during a storm. I also would advise a community that has wires running through wooded areas to consider finding an alternative less-vulnerable route to bolster the stability of their eruv.

Southern Washington, DC,
And Fort Lee, NJ

The eruv in southern Washington, D.C., mostly consists of utility wires, with less than a dozen of its own added wires spread throughout the city. These wires are located in non-wooded areas where falling branches are not a risk. The eruv wires have historically withstood even the fiercest of winds, making us confident that the eruv would remain intact through the Shabbat despite the nor’easter. Thus, I felt that there was not a compelling reason for Rav Hyim Shafner to declare the eruv inoperable for the Shabbat. I advised Rav Zev Goldberg to adopt the same approach in Fort Lee, New Jersey, for similar reasons. Only three added wires in Fort Lee are essential to the eruv. Historically, these wires have not broken during storms, and could thus be relied upon to weather a severe storm.

I would like to share one note about a fishing line strung between two light posts. One summer, while conducting a walking review of the Cambridge, MA, eruv, we watched in horror as a very large dump truck had its crane up heading toward an eruv line. The crane ran forcefully into the line and we expected the worst. However, to our surprise, the wire bounced back into a straight trajectory after being stretched quite far. I was surprised to learn the extent of the resilience of a fishing line stretched in such a manner.

Teaneck, NJ

I conferred with fellow Teaneck eruv council member Rav Michael Taubes, who felt that if the utility wires remain up and the power remains on, then we may assume the eruv remains intact. The power remaining on is a reasonable indicator that the wires upon which the eruv relies are still intact. Since the Teaneck eruv consists almost entirely of utility wires and virtually every wire we install has some halachic backup (Rav Willig is particularly enthusiastic about creating backups for the various components of the eruv he administers in Riverdale), we decided that we need not declare the eruv down unless there was a power outage or trees were down.

Stamford, CT

This eruv also consists predominantly of utility wires. However, there was a power outage in Stamford, leading me to suspect that the eruv might not have remained intact. Rav Willig, though, cautions that ideally one need not assume that the utility wires used in the eruv are down just because one power line is down. He reasons that one may follow the majority, and since the majority of wires remain intact, one may assume that the utility wires upon which the eruv relies upon are not broken. I suggested to Rav Daniel Cohen that in such a situation one could write to the community that it is preferable not to rely on the eruv, but those who wish to may rely on the eruv despite the storm.

Allentown, PA

Rav David Willensky told me that an alert congregant noticed that a large tree branch had fallen on a utility wire that constitutes a component of the community eruv. The police had closed the street off to traffic as the branch perched precariously on the wire. In my judgment, this represented a significant rei’uta to the status of the eruv and I felt it best to announce that the eruv was down.

Rav Shlomo Kluger: Shabbat Keivan Shehutrah Hutrah

What if one were confident that the eruv remained intact at the beginning of Shabbat but feared that the intensifying storm broke the eruv in the midst of Shabbat? Rav Shlomo Kluger (Teshuvot Ha’elef Lecha Shlomo numbers 153, 162, and 172) rules that if the eruv was up at the beginning of Shabbat, one may rely on the eruv even if it came down during Shabbat, due to the principle of shabbat keivan shehutrah hutrah (Eruvin 70b).

Perhaps we can rely on Rav Shlomo Kluger as a component of a sefek sefeika, a double doubt. There is a doubt if the eruv is intact, and there is an additional doubt if Rav Shlomo Kluger is correct in applying the principle of shabbat keivan shehutrah hutrah to tzurot hapetach. Unlike Rav Shlomo Kluger, the Tosafot (Eruvin 15a s.v. lo savar and 17a ireiv) rule that shabbat keivan shehutrah hutrah applies only to the eruv chatzeirot, but not to tzurot hapetach and mechitzot.

The story is told of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, the late co-rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, visiting his students during their time of their active military service and being informed that his co-Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yehuda Amital had told the students they may rely on Rav Shlomo Kluger’s ruling. Rav Lichtenstein is said to have reacted in shock in light of the aforementioned Tosafot. When he next saw Rav Amital, he inquired as to the basis of his ruling. Rav Amital replied that in Europe the custom was to rely on this leniency of Rav Shlomo Kluger.1

While I have very deep respect and love for Rav Amital, I find this ruling untenable. It is clear from the Rambam (Hilchot Eruvin 3:25) that he agrees with Tosafot. Moreover, the Gemara (Eruvin 17a) explicitly states that the mechitzot must remain intact in order to apply the principle of shabbat keivan shehutrah hutrah.

The sole apparent basis for Rav Shlomo Kluger’s approach is a responsum of the Mahari Weil (Dinim Vehalachot, number 12) who limits the requirement that the mechitzah remain intact to a mechitzah excludes a reshut harabim from the enclosed area. However, if only a karmelit is excluded, then one may apply the rule of shabbat keivan shehutrah hutrah even if the mechitzot do not remain intact.

The problem is that the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 374:2) explicitly states that the mechitzot must remain intact even if only a karmelit is excluded. None of the major commentaries to the Shulchan Aruch dissent. Thus, it seems that one may not rely upon Rav Kluger’s leniency since it runs counter to a ruling of the Shulchan Aruch and all its commentaries. Even Rav Kluger himself expresses uncertainty about his ruling and uses his approach in two of his responsa only as a prong of a sefek sefeika. Indeed, Rav Hershel Schachter told me that one may not rely on this leniency of Rav Shlomo Kluger even in case of great need. Rav Schachter believes that it cannot even be relied upon as a senif l’hakeil.

Two Practical Points

We conclude with two practical recommendations. Rav Willig advises that whenever an eruv wire needs to be installed, one should install an extra one or two wires as a backup. As Shlomo HaMelech teaches, “Tovim hashanayim min ha’echad v’chut hameshulash lo bim’heirah yenateik—Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings, and a threefold cord is not readily broken” (Kohelet 4:9 and 12).

Our second piece of advice relates to Kohelet 2:14: “Hachacham einav b’rosho”—“A wise man has his eyes in his head.” If one sees a serious storm developing, it is best to alert the community early on Friday that the eruv might be called down for Shabbat. Our communities today are so accustomed to relying upon an eruv that it becomes very challenging to function on Shabbat without one. Thus, everyone should be alerted early when there is concern that the eruv will need to be declared down to give time for community members to adjust their plans to meet the challenge.

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