The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

The London Eruv

with 15 comments

1. For the last few years I have relied on the London Eruv without any qualms. As my Rav whom I first consulted about the matter remarked, “Dayan Ehrentreu is a reasonably orthodox gentleman …”.

2. This week I received, unsolicited, a glossy booklet called “The Eruv HaMehudar in NW London” published by Friends of the North West London Eruv. Everything about it suggests spin worthy of a dodgy double-glazing firm. The result of its pages of selective quotations, questionable translations and effusive peroration is that for the first time ever I am seriously doubtful about the kashrus of the eruv. If it needs this kind of advertising propaganda, I seriously wonder whether there is not something wrong with it.

3. Before receiving this booklet it would never have occurred to me to try to assess the issues surrounding the eruv: that is a matter for rabbonim mumchim b’hilchos eruv, not for me. But this booklet purports to explain the reasons for the eruv’s kashrus b’hiddur and in effect invites me to consider them. So I have read it, and contrasted it with the commendably measured responses published in this week’s Jewish Tribune (a publication which I bought for the first time in many years for this purpose) from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and a world-renowned Rov whose letter is printed in the booklet.

4. My conclusion is that this is clearly an eruv: but to call it mehudar, and to suggest that it is endorsed by the gedolei Torah generally, is seriously misleading: the kashrus of the eruv depends in essence on reliance on a single minority opinion of the Chazon Ish.

5. So those who rely on the eruv have something on which to rely, as well as Dayonim on whom to rely; and those who regard it as insufficient also have much on which to rely. I am now clear, which I was not before, that this is not a question of divisive politics on behalf of those who reject the kashrus of the eruv: they have strong grounds for believing that carrying within the eruv is genuine chillul shabbos.

6. In other words, we are in territory of eilu v’eilu divrei elokim chayim. Many who wish to be machmir in their shabbos observance will choose not to rely on the eruv; those who have particular family or other reasons to wish to rely on an eruv will probably continue to do so. The important thing is to ensure that both groups treat each other with sensitivity, understanding, respect and love.


Written by Daniel Greenberg

March 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm

15 Responses

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  1. A subject as political & as complex as the nwl eruv clearly requires outside expert opinion. This it would seem to me is provided amply by the booklet which in particular has two letters (in the hebrew side, only one in english) signed by Rav Moshe Berlin who is regarded in Israel as the leading practical posek in eruvin today. (Check with Rabbanim & Roshei Yeshiva in Israel!).
    In the first letter Rav Moshe together with Rav Rochman the man in charge of the Bedats eruvim in Yerushalayim for 20 yrs (so he ought to know a thing or two about eruvim) and Rav Eisenstein (who has written 3 major seforim on eruvim) say the eruv is “b’tachlis hahidur v’hakashrus just like in Yerushalayim”. In the 2nd letter (dont know why they didn’t put it in the english side too) Rav Moshe reiterates his view that the eruv is mehudar “not only for baalai batim but also for bnai torah”.
    Yes theres lots of glossy pics and quotations about eruvim generally which are neither here nor there, but those letters from Rav Moshe are seriously powerful. That to me is the outside hechsher the eruv needed all along. Most of the other letters from gedolim merely endorse Rav Moshe and Rav Rochman as experts who know their stuff and can be relied upon.
    As a barrister Im sure you would agree, in complex areas of law you get Counsel’s opinion and dont rely on the local solicitor however passionate his view may be!

    Danny Cohen

    March 23, 2008 at 1:52 am

  2. On the comment above, the important point is that the letter from Rabbis Berlin, Eisenstein and Rochman contains an important qualification which is not included in the English excerpt translated – they say it is kosher l’mehadrin “according to the opinion of the Chazon Ish” – which means that according to a large majority of the gedolei Torah it is only kosher bdi eved at best. The hidurim refer to hidurei mechitzos, but not to the underlying issue of reshus horabim d’oraiso.

    Daniel Greenberg

    March 23, 2008 at 8:03 am

  3. “In complex areas of law you get Counsel’s opinion and dont rely on the local solicitor however passionate his view may be!”
    But when the other side calls an expert witness, you cross-examine him very carefully to find out what they’re not telling you!
    Indeed, I am of the opinion that the point my father mentioned is indicative of the problems inherent in the booklet – the eruv may be kosher, but the booklet clearly is not.

    Yisroel Greenberg

    March 23, 2008 at 8:59 am

  4. Why would Rav Moshe Berlin say the eruv is “kosher l’mehadrin even for b’nai torah” if according to you its only kosher bdieved according to the majority of gedolei torah .

    Besides the eruvim in every major metropolis LA Toronto J’berg Sydney Melbourne New York Washington etc etc (some say Yerushalayim too has more than 600K population) is based on exactly the same principles.

    So you have to say that all these eruvim are only bdieved too!

    Danny Cohen

    March 23, 2008 at 10:16 pm

  5. On the previous comment:
    (1) I cannot find the phrase that he quotes in my copy of the eruv booklet in either of the two printed letters from Rabbi Berlin.
    (2) In the second letter of Rabbi Berlin he mentions that some people have been saying that he has retracted his first letter and that he believes that the eruv is not mehudar for bnei Torah, only for ba’alei batim – he refutes that and says “anyone who wants can rely on it lechatchiloh according to the opinion of the Chazon Ish that there is no reshus horabbim inside a city” – so once again the haskomoh of the eruv is limited expressly by reference to the single opinion of the Chazon Ish, not followed by the majority of the poskim in his day or since.
    (3) Yes, other large cities have similar problems – but everything depends on whether the eruv needs to incorporate a major arterial road that serves more than 600,000 people: so in some large cities there is no problem because of where and how the eruv is constructed.

    Daniel Greenberg

    March 24, 2008 at 9:40 am

  6. What are your criteria for comments, they have to agree with you?


    March 25, 2008 at 12:28 am

  7. 1. The previous question probably refers to the fact that of the comments received on this posting not all have been added to the page (which is under my control).

    2. The answer to the question is that no, my criterion is not whether someone agrees with me. On this and other posts there are comments shown that do not agree with my point of view.

    3. But I do sometimes not post a comment if I do not like the way in which it is expressed. In one case (not on this posting) that was because it used improper language. In other cases it has been because I thought the comment was unhelpful, either because it took the debate in an irrelevant and unhelpful direction or because it might mislead people.

    4. I do understand that people with un-posted comments may feel aggrieved, and I apologise for hurting their feelings.

    Daniel Greenberg

    March 25, 2008 at 9:52 am

  8. You are obviously entitled to allow or disallow any comment in what is your own ‘reshus hayochid’, but pleaase respect the fact that a commenter may have spent time and effort in composing what he/she believes to be a contribution to the issue under discussion.


    March 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  9. I agree with both parts of the last comment – I respect people’s time and am grateful for their interest: but it is for me to decide what goes on.

    Daniel Greenberg

    March 25, 2008 at 6:20 pm

  10. I agree entirely with Daniel Greenberg’s original comment.
    I also consider that this issue illustrates an age old feature of the world of Torah Judaisim and how the Orthodox world should behave.
    The last Mishneh, in the whole of Shass (the 6 Orders of the Mishneh) Massches Uktzin Chapter 3 Mishneh 12 says:-
    Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: The Holy One Blessed be He will in the future cause every righteous one to inherit 310 worlds…” In Hebrew the word for righteous (Tzaddik) is repeated. Why? According to Tosfos Yom Tov the repetition is intended to include as “righteous” both those Rabbis who rule Lechumroh (stringently) and those who rule Lekuloh (leniently) because both are motivated by their love of Torah and their intentions are pure and for the sake of Heaven.
    So with the Eruv, as Daniel says, each side should recognise that the other side have respectable authorities upon whom to rely and neither should those who do not wish to use the Eruv villify those who do nor should those who do use it villify those who wish to follow their authorities and refrain from using it. In regard to all issues in the Torah world where some follow a stricter authority and some follow a more lenient authority (but of course provided always that they accept Torah Min Hashamayim) (Torah from Heaven) mutual respect must be shown by each to the other. I believe that this is essential if we are to hasten the coming of the Moshiach!

    David Levy

    March 29, 2008 at 9:56 pm

  11. Please give one example of where:

    “…those who do use it [the eruv] villify those who wish to follow their authorities and refrain from using it.”

    You won’t find one, it’s never happened.


    March 31, 2008 at 4:11 pm

  12. To lawyers who know about eruvs:
    Horav Eliashiv’s objection to Sechirus Reshus [renting premises from the authorities] would not apply if there is unconditional right of entry. One Sefer about the Antwerp ?Eruv states that the Belgian army can enter premises at will in all circumstances.

    What is the legal situation in England. In the Terrorism Act 2000 par. 42 right of entry depends on “reasonable grounds” that a terrorrist etc. is in the premises. Are there other acts governing such a situation and conferring wider powers upon the police even in the absence of “reasonable grounds” ?


    May 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

  13. The situation at UK law is that there is a wide range of public and semi-public bodies who have rights of access to homes and other private places, but in each case the right is conditional on the actual or possible existence of specific circumstances.

    Daniel Greenberg

    May 13, 2008 at 3:56 pm

  14. Your response about eruvs in other large cities.
    The Toronto Eruv was overhauled by Rabbi Shlomo Miller [recently interviewed in Mishpacha and considered one of the major American halachic authorities]. He operates in the opposite direction from the “glossy booklet”. He says that those who really listen to him should know that it is far better not to utilise the Eruv.


    May 16, 2008 at 4:59 pm

  15. What is the legal status of CPO’s nowadays. Does a local council still have rights to purhase property against the express will of the owners


    July 21, 2008 at 12:14 pm

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