Eiruvin 7: The Open Plaza
Going to the Kosel is certainly part of the spiritual pleasure of living or visiting Yerushalayim, especially on Shabbos. It is not unusual to see families walking to and from the Kosel, wheeling babies and small children in assorted carriages.
Although there certainly is an eiruv that extends to the Kosel, one man wondered if it was permitted to wheel a carriage into the large open area in front of the Kosel. This plaza sounded very much like a platya discussed in Masechtos Shabbos (6) and Eiruvin (7). Rashi in Maseches Shabbos explains that a platya is an open place where people gather to do business. The Rashba maintains that it is forbidden to carry in a platya even if it is fenced in and has doors on either side. The Me’iri in Maseches Shabbos holds like the Rashba, as does the Vilna Gaon.
The Chacham Tzvi explains that a covered marketplace is not a problem, since a platya has no roof, unlike the markets of his day, which were all covered. The plaza in front of the Kosel is a large open space, much like a market. Perhaps, according to the Rashba, one should refrain from carrying in it.
When this question was presented to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, he ruled very clearly. “The Kosel plaza does not resemble a platya for another reason. A platya is used for business and therefore has a special halacha. It is an uncovered market where people mill around and purchase various wares or foodstuff, and an eiruv indeed does not help for it according to the Rashba. The Kosel plaza, however, is set aside for tefillah and not commerce. An eiruv helps for it, just like it works for any other open space not used as a market” (Shenos Eliyahu, Shabbos;Shu”t Chacham Tzvi, siman 37; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah).
Eiruvin 8: The Disputed Wall
In the city of Rezhnitz, there were three walls surrounding the block housing the Jewish quarter. On the fourth side was a river. The people there relied on the shelf of the riverbed beneath the water as the fourth wall of the eiruv. A descending wall must have an incline no less than four amos of lateral extension to ten tefachim of vertical drop in order to qualify as a wall, and this riverbed was within that ratio of incline. They deemed this eiruv kosher and carried on Shabbos.
When a certain rov observed this custom, he was dismayed. When he heard that the Chasam Sofer had been there during the summer and had failed to protest, he was shocked. He wrote to the Chasam Sofer, asking for an explanation: “Surely we cannot rely on this river as the fourth wall of an eiruv. After all, perhaps the bank of the river will alter due to erosion or new deposits of debris. If it alters enough, it may not be ten tefachim within a four amos span, which would render the wall invalid. The Rama (siman 364:29) explicitly forbids using the sea as a fourth wall for an eiruv, since if the wall becomes invalid, no one will notice this. Another reason to invalidate this wall is that this river ices up every winter, rendering its bank invalid as a wall for the eiruv, since it is temporarily a solid lateral surface. The Taz there proves that an iced up river invalidates such a wall and explicitly rules that this wall is worthless even when the river is not iced up. How can you say that Rezhnitz has a kosher eiruv?”
The Chasam Sofer disagreed: “The Gemara you quote – and the Rama too – discusses the sea, which tends to alter drastically due to dirt and stones that are dragged in or changed by the tide. This is irrelevant to most rivers. We only worry that a river bank will alter significantly if some very drastic change takes place in its topography or flow.
“As far as the river icing up during the winter, although the Taz you quote is correct – we rule that the wall constituted by the shelf of a frozen river may not be used for an eiruv – most poskim argue with his chiddush that such a wall is invalid year round. Since there are three full walls in this city, one can definitely use this wall for the fourth. This eiruv is kosher even during the winter, as long as the river is not iced up. I don’t even believe that it is a middas chassidus to refrain from using this eiruv” (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, #89).
Eiruvin 9: Strangers in a Strange Land
The Maharal points out that geirim and talmidei chachomim are often placed right next to each other in the Torah.
“We see this juxtaposition in the verse in Parshas Kedoshim (19:32-33). It is also apparent in the bracha of ‘Al Hatzaddikim’in Shemonah Esrei. Geirei tzedek immediately follows pleitas sofreihem, the remnant of the scribes, an allusion to talmidei chachomim. The reason for this is known to the wise. Talmidei chachomim have activated and applied their seichel. Someone with this understanding is a ger, a stranger, in this material world.”
The Satmar Rov quoted a similar teaching: “At one point in Eiruvin 9 it appears that one may not carry in a courtyard that opens out to a karmelis, various domains in which the rabbonon forbade carrying because of their indeterminate status. Yet, it seems that when it comes to a courtyard that opens out to a definite reshus horabim, one may carry because the sages did not forbid such a transfer. The Gemara concludes that this cannot be – a reshus horabim is de’oraisa and must be treated more stringently than a karmelis – with a rhetorical question: ‘Yatzivah b’arah vegiyorah b’shmei shmaya? Will the native born be on the ground, while the stranger is in the highest heavens?’
“The Aryeh D’vei Ila’ah explained a lesson in avodah from this singular statement. If one feels that he is permanent in this world, he will feel like a stranger when he gets to heaven. Our job is to lack a sense of permanence in the material world. Only this attitude while on earth enables a sense of permanence and belonging in the next world” (Gevuras Hashem,Chapter IX; Divrei Yoel, Parshas Vayeishev).
Eiruvin 10: A Communal Resource
The Aderes was appointed rov of Yerushalayim in 5661. One of the first things he did was check whether the eiruv was serving the community in an optimal manner. He found that although until then the main Jewish community was in the old city of Yerushalayim, the yishuv had begun to expand to various places outside the city walls that were not included in the eiruv. He immediately began overseeing an eiruv outside the city so that anyone who relied on an eiruv could carry as needed.
He made sure that the eiruv was made of poles and string, never using telegraph poles and the like as part of the eiruv. When it was finally ready, signs about the eiruv were put up throughout the city. The signs began with: “Besuros tovos for those who live in Yerushalayim!”
Interestingly, the Aderes paid money out of his own pocket for the upkeep of the eiruv. When Rav Asher Zussman noticed this, he asked the Aderes about it. “After all, you are certainly entitled to submit the expenses of the eiruv to the city vaad for reimbursement,” he said.
The Aderes gave an astounding reply: “Chazal warn that most people stealin one way or another. If one is unsure from whom he stole, he should pay for something that the rabim requires and will use. Surely there is no need greater than that of an eiruv, which allows people to carry. By paying for the eiruv from my own pocket, I repay those I may have cheated or stolen from, since they will derive benefit from the eiruv. Even if the person I accidentally stole from has no personal benefit from the eiruv, his children likely do, constituting hashavah” (Shnos Dor Vador, Part I, p. 141).
Eiruvin 11: “I Should Have Walked!”
On Eiruvin 11, we find that Rav Yehoshua went to Rav Yochanan ben Nuri to learn Torah. The rebbes of Kretchnif would say, “It is preferable to ride to one’s rov in a wagon than to go by foot. After all, if one walks, he only sanctifies the ground his foot touches. But if one rides, the wheels of the wagon touch the road the entire way, sanctifying every millimeter.”
The Hafla’ah had a different view. Once, a person from his kehillah in Frankfurt approached him with a question: “You are such an accomplished talmid chochom. Don’t you regret the many hours spent in a wagon traveling to the Maggid of Mezeritch? Think of all the bittul Torah!”
“I do regret it,” the Hafla’ah wistfully replied. “Instead of riding in a wagon, I should have walked!” (Me’oros Hadaf Hayomi; 1,000 Short Stories About Anoshim Gedolim).
Eiruvin 12: The Walkway
When the Rivash was asked about making an eiruv, he set out a few important rules. “Know that a mavui, an alleyway that leads to the public domain on one side, is never permitted merely with three walls, unless there is a fourth wall that is acceptable al pi halacha. Even if all those whose houses face into the alleyway join together and make a loaf of bread – the way one makes an eiruv between neighbors – their eiruv is invalid if there are only three walls. This is clear from Eiruvin 12. There we find: ‘Does this loaf of bread make it a reshus horabim or a reshus hayochid? It is clear from the context that it does no such thing. Only the mechitzos or lack thereof determines whether one can make an eiruv. Yet, even if there are four valid walls, they at least put up a lechi, a vertical post, or a korah, ahorizontal post. Depending on the mavui walls alone does not make an eiruv if different dwellings lead into the walkway. Shlomo Hamelech decreed that if more than one person owns rights in an alley courtyard or the like, they must make an eiruv. They must join together and make a loaf of bread for all of them. Even a mavui with four full walls requires joining together and a loaf of bread to be valid” (Shu”t HaRivash, siman 427).
Eiruvin 13: A Child of Hashem
The Zohar states that if a person could really grasp how much Hashem loves him, he would faint. The Nesivos Shalom writes that this is relevant to every single Jew. “Rav Meir and Rav Yehudah argue as to whether a sinner is considered a child of Hashem. Rav Yehudah holds that he is not. Rav Meir disagrees: ‘Bein kach ubein kach kru’im bonim – Either way, they are called children.’
“In Eiruvin 12, we find that Rav Meir’s name was really Rav Nehorai. He was called Rav Meir because he illuminated the eyes of the sages in halacha. Our sages are referring to the halacha that every Jew is considered a child of Hashem no matter what. Although, usually, when Rav Yehudah and Rav Meir argue we follow Rav Yehudah, in this instance the halacha follows Rav Meir. This is clear from the Rashba (Part I, #242). Hashem’s love for every single Jew is unconditional. He will never allow even the smallest spark to be lost” (Nesivos Shalom, Parshas Va’eira,p. 64).