The London Eruv
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.