Eruvin 14: The Best Evidence
The Alter of Kelm advised that one should not focus on intellectualizing his Judaism. Instead, he should cleave to simple emunah.
“We have a mesorah that was very carefully preserved for many, many centuries. It only makes sense to reject the mesorah if one had very compelling proofs. In fact, there are no counterproofs whatsoever. In every area of life, someone who rejects a well established historical fact – believed by all for millennia – would be heaped with well-deserved ridiculed. Regarding our mesorah, however, the thoughtless manner in which the non-affiliated reject the evidence of centuries shows deep bias and is very telling.
“Take, for example, the exodus from Mitzrayim. This historical fact has been carefully safeguarded through the long years. It is not some obscure myth which later became popular as with other religions. We mention the exodus at least twice a day in Shema and countless other times. On Pesach, we spend the Seder night recounting this miraculous time. Every Shabbos and Yom Tov commemorates it. So does tefillin, tzitzis, mezuzah, redeeming every firstborn son, and so on. There can be no doubt about such a system that was designed to reinforce collective memory. Once we establish, and carefully consider, the truth of the exodus and the revelation at Har Sinai, we understand that the supreme truth is the Torah, certainly more than anything human intellect can understand.”
The Bnei Yissoschor makes a similar point: “One should go with simple emunah over his own intellect. This is clear from Eruvin 14. There we find that the source that something with a circumference of three tefachim is one tefach wide is from a verse. Why should we bring a verse that teaches a simple fact of geometry? The answer is that simple emunah in the Torah is superior to the evidence of our limited intellect” (Bais Kelm, Emunah; Otzar Sichos Tzaddikim, p. 220).
Eruvin 15: The Garden
Rav Yitzchok Itche Ehrlich was a bochur in Bnei Brak. He enjoyed going to visit a beautiful garden that was filled with aromatic flowers and fruits on their trees. What better place to spend the day learning during bein hazemanim?
One day he realized that he may well have to make a bracha before smelling the flowers or fruits. He wrote his rebbi, the author of Shailos Uteshuvos Eretz Tzvi, and asked whether he was required to make a bracha. His rebbe responded as follows: “Although on the surface this appears simple – why not make a bracha – it is actually quite complex. The Magein Avrohom and the Pri Megadim both rule that one may not make a bracha on a scent if the item with the good smell wasn’t placed there to be smelled. For example, if it is there to dispel a bad odor, one may not make a bracha. Now, when the garden was planted, it had no smell. Later, when the flowers grew and it acquired a smell, it may well be that one need not make a bracha,since the flowers grew alone and may not be considered as though they were placed there for smelling.
“One of my students brought a proof that if something happened by itself it is the same as being placed there from Eruvin 15. There we find that a lechi, a vertical post used as part of an eruv, must be placed there for this purpose and cannot be used if it happened to get positioned that way with no intention to use it for an eruv. Nevertheless, if one planted a tree or the like to be used for this purpose, it is considered to have been placed there, not to have grown on its own. The same is clearly true in our case.
“This proof is correct. Therefore, it really depends why the garden is there. If the flowers are grown there to be cut and sold or the fruit will be cut and sold, one makes no bracha on them before smelling. But if they were planted for people to stroll through the garden and enjoy them, you must make a bracha before smelling them” (Shu”t Eretz Tzvi, Part II, #13).
Eruvin 16: The Intent of the Verse
Regarding eruvin and sukkos we find an interesting halacha leMoshe miSinai known as lovud. Although a mechitzah must be at least ten tefochim high, if one built a wall slightly taller than seven tefochim high and placed it slightly less than three tefochim off the ground, it is as if the wall is actually ten tefochim high.
One man purchased a home with a fairly large roof. Since he wanted to use the roof which was readily accessible, he began constructing a ma’akeh, a barrier on his roof, as required by the Torah. The fence had to be at least ten tefochim high, but this man was learned and wanted to limit expenses. He made a wall of slightly over seven tefochim and placed it less than three tefochim off the ground. All in all, the fence was ten tefochim high but the lowest third was completely open. He joyously made the bracha on a ma’akeh but was disconcerted when a neighbor asked whether his strange fence was really sufficient.
When he asked Rav Alfiah about this, he confirmed that this mechitzah was sufficient, just as it is for a sukkah or an eruv.
But the Tzitz Eliezer wondered whether this truly sufficed. “There is an essential difference between a ma’akeh and other mechitzos. The Torah explicitly tells us that we must put up a ma’akeh to prevent people from falling off the roof. It seems difficult to understand how a roof from which a baby could fall, chas veshalom, could really be considered protected. This p’sak therefore requires further examination. How can we say that lavud helps in this situation if it fails to do what the verse requires?” (Tzitz Eliezer,Part 19, 64:3).
Eruvin 17: All in Good Fun?
A certain talmid chochom was invited to light a Lag Ba’omer bonfire which children in his neighborhood had been preparing for quite some time. He thought deeply about this and realized that he was unsure of whether this was permitted. After all, the children brought the wood from all sorts of places. Who could tell if they hadn’t raided a site where a contractor was building to find readily accessible wood? If they had, could he light a fire with this wood, destroying it? On the other hand, was he required to spoil the children’s fun in this manner? After all, it is likely that whoever had owned the wood previously had given up on it long ago.
When this question was presented to Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, he ruled that this could indeed be problematic. “Anyone invited to light a Lag Ba’omer bonfire prepared by children should scan the wood and see if it appears to have come from building sites or stores. If it does, he should not be the one to light the fire. Although it may be that the owner’s yi’ush is enough in this case since it is usually impossible to return the wood to its rightful owner, it is still forbidden to light such a fire. One must teach the children to refrain from taking another’s property. If the talmid chochom lights the fire, they will have no idea that they have done something wrong that must be corrected. But if it is gently explained to the children that taking wood from others is a serious problem, they will refrain from doing so in the future” (Chashukei Chemed, Eruvin, p. 155-156).
Eruvin 18: Patient Perseverance
Rav Nosson of Breslov offered the following powerful insight based on this daf.
“In Eruvin 18 we find that after Adam Harishon sinned, he separated from his wife for one hundred and thirty years in a valiant attempt to do teshuvah. It is striking that during those years, we find that he fell very deeply into certain sins. Just imagine if a person were to fall day after day, month after month, year after year. Surely he would have a very hard time persevering despite the many falls that he sustains. Nevertheless, Adam kept at it, until he rectified whatever he could and eventually bore Sheis, from whom the world was established. The progeny of Sheis, the Jewish people, would eventually fix Adam’s sin.
“The lesson here is that one must keep at it even if he sustains terrible falls while involved in the struggle to improve. This is a normal part of spiritual growth which should never cause one to give up. Quite the contrary, when one sustains a spiritual fall, he should redouble his efforts to learn Torah, daven, do mitzvos and grow in any way possible. In this manner, he will rectify his sins and fulfill his mission in the world” (Otzar Hayirah).
Eruvin 19: The World of Pleasure
Rav Mordechai of Slonim explains the importance of simcha in avodas Hashem. “Once, Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk asked some avreichim, ‘Why aren’t you happy?’ Their reply was very brokenhearted. ‘How can we be happy? We are so far away from Hashem. Where are the Torah and mitzvos in our lives that would impart joy?’
“The rebbe did not agree with this excuse. ‘You know that our sages say that even the sinners of Klal Yisroel are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate is filled with seeds. This seems difficult. If they are filled with mitzvos, why call them sinners? The answer is that they are sinners because they don’t rejoice in the mitzvos that they do.’”
Rav Mordechai of Slonim commented, “He meant: how did it come about that they became sinners despite their many positive points? Because they were not happy in the mitzvos that they had fulfilled. The reasoning behind this is that the souls of the Jewish people are rooted in the olam hata’anug, the world of pleasure. If a Jew receives pleasure from Torah and mitzvos, he feels fulfillment through them. But if he doesn’t feel joy in Torah and mitzvos, his nefesh seeks other modes of pleasure. It is only because a Yid doesn’t work to feel the pleasure in Torah and mitzvos that he falls to lowly things, becoming a sinner” (letter at the end of Pri Ha’aretz; Maamar Mordechai, Part I, p. 80).
Eruvin 20: The Failed Eiruv
Once, part of the eruv in Teveria fell down, rendering it invalid. The failure was discovered with enough time to fix it before Shabbos, so the person in charge consulted a certain rov and fixed it according to his instructions.
When the talmidei chachomim of the town heard about this, they figured that the rov had erred in his judgment about how to make the repair and went to Rav Moshe Kleiers, the official rov of the city, to complain. He stated emphatically, “For this week only, I declare that the eruv is kosher and you need not protest. I do not want to discuss why just yet,” he explained.
After Shabbos, Rav Moshe went to the rov who had ruled about the eruv and asked him to learn a certain sugya with him on the topic. Although the other rov was puzzled – Rav Moshe was a much greater talmid chochom and had never asked his assistance before – he eventually acquiesced. They learned the relevant sugya that touched upon the questionable repair to the eruv. When they learned it through carefully, the rov realized his error and immediately exclaimed. “Oy, I mistakenly permitted a repair that was invalid!”
“That is why I came here – to show you your mistake. People came to me last Shabbos and told me the whole story,” said Rav Moshe.
“What did you do?”
Rav Moshe responded, “I ruled that the eruv was valid just for that week. In our town, the eruv is only derabbonon according to all authorities. Kavod haTorah and kavod habriyos are Torah obligations. How could a rabbinic requirement override a Torah obligation?” (Bepikudecha Asichah, Part I, p. 293).