Weekly Freebies: City Eruvin in America

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Rabbi Dr. Adam Mintz is a Modern Orthodox rabbi in Manhattan and a popular lecturer on Jewish history. He has posted on his website his recently completed doctoral dissertation (NYU) — Halakhah In America: The History Of City Eruvin, 1894-1962: link

Description: This dissertation will address the evolution of the community eruv from the days of the courtyards of Roman Palestine to the cities of North America. It will explore and analyze the halakhic arguments that enabled the rabbis to adapt a rabbinic concept that originally had limited application into a broad practice that allowed tens of thousands of Jews throughout the centuries to carry on the Sabbath. How did these rabbis, through their adaptation of the original rabbinic sources and their creative ingenuity, apply the traditional sources to the new geographic realia that they found in each city?

See prior posts here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

22 comments

  1. I haven’t finished reading this, but something of interest stood out to me. I grew up in a small town, we have no Eruv. Nobody carried things either, and we had many discussions about how to get around not having an eruv. However, I doubt anybody would ever be able to find any documentation of these facts. It’s not something we had shiurim on, it’s not something that became a topic of debate etc etc.

    Now that the town does have an eruv, one might think that nothing changed, or that people were just carrying on Shabbat before the eruv was established, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, most people now could not imagine living in a town without an eruv, even though they did 10 years prior.

    I.e., if there is little talk in the newspapers before the 1970s about towns without eruvs, then why would the writer assume that carrying on shabbat was not important or wasn’t kept as a halacha in America? The community has a nicer feeling when guests and others have to arrive on Friday to bring over things they will need during Shabbat, and planning around the eruv is done.

    To me, this is a big problem with academic thinking in general, and I wish there was a way around it.

  2. Avi, I think it is a matter of age. You are probably young. Speak to anyone who can remember before the 1980s and they will tell you that most people going to Orthodox shuls routinely carried on shabbos.

  3. Avi, I think it is a matter of age. You are probably young. Speak to anyone who can remember before the 1980s and they will tell you that most people going to Orthodox shuls routinely carried on shabbos.

  4. Clarification: I am referring to places with Modern Orthodox communities out of the big cities, not yeshivish towns. I can speak about Los Angeles.

  5. I’m not young and it’s not so simple. For example, my parents lived in the first Bronx and moved to Far Rockaway in the early 1950s. They told us later that in the bronx parents routinely wheeled baby carriages on shabbat but did not do so in FR. So it seems that it was a mixed bag.

  6. Avi,

    Why note read the dissertation and see if he takes that into account. I’m sure he does.

  7. It’s interesting to note the similarities between R. Dr. Mintz’s treatment of the St. Louis eruv and the one found on eruvonline:
    http://eruvonline.blogspot.com/2006/03/history-of-city-eruvin-part-1-eruv-in.html

  8. “Avi, I think it is a matter of age. You are probably young. Speak to anyone who can remember before the 1980s and they will tell you that most people going to Orthodox shuls routinely carried on shabbos.”

    Most people going to orthodox shuls were also driving there. But I’m talking about the people who in general kept paid attention to the details of shabbat.

    “Avi,

    Why note read the dissertation and see if he takes that into account. I’m sure he does.”

    It’s over 300 pages. But the section where this is relevant, he did not take that into account, and in general you can’t take that into account in an academic setting. If it’s not written, or you don’t have recorded eyewitness testimony, you can’t use it.

  9. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: You are simply way way off here. There were many many people before your time who would never in their lives have even dreamed of driving to shul on Shabbat, and who “in general paid attention to the details of Shabbat,” but who carried handkerchiefs or wheeled baby cariages.

  10. Having grown up in the1970s and 1980s in modern orthodox communties in new jersey and then attended college in Boston, I don’t recall people carrying. Much of the impetus for the eiruv in west orange was women who couldn’t come to shul as they couldn’t push baby carriages. And I still remember tie clip keys from the 1970s and belts with keys as buckles in the 1980s that were widely used to avoid carrying. In contrast, my kids have no clue about carrying because they’ve always had an eiruv.

  11. “Avi: You are simply way way off here. ”

    I don’t think I am. I think it was very dependent on where you lived and what the community was like.

  12. “And I still remember tie clip keys from the 1970s and belts with keys as buckles in the 1980s that were widely used to avoid carrying”

    I used tie clips and belts from the 60s-BTW-including at YU.

  13. Hirhurim Reader

    Avi: To me, this is a big problem with academic thinking in general, and I wish there was a way around it.

    This is not a problem fundamental to “academic thinking”. In fact, academics generally cast their net as broadly as possible looking for evidence. If the author was discussing modern communities, he should have also interviewed members of those communities. (He might have done so – I did not read the dissertation.) Of course, the historical reliability of personal recollections is also a question, but the methodological issues involved in using interviews have been addressed in decades of scholarship in the social sciences.

  14. ” In fact, academics generally cast their net as broadly as possible looking for evidence. If the author was discussing modern communities, he should have also interviewed members of those communities.”

    But he isn’t writing about modern communities, and isn’t able to interview people. Just because a person can not gain access to knowledge does not mean that the reality is depicted by the evidence that is left behind. This is clearly a problem with academic thinking, or more properly, methodologies.

  15. In Park Slope, which is culturally “out of town” even if it’s in the heart of Brooklyn, we had trouble getting sponsors for eruv repairs, because “people here don’t hold by the eruv.” In Flatbush, that means they don’t carry, despite three concentric eruvs. In Park Slope, it means that most people carry whether the eruv is up or down.

    Ironically, Park Slope used to be the center of Jewish Brooklyn before WWI, before Flatbush and Boro Park and Brownsville and Bensonhurst were all built up.

  16. Lawrence Kaplan

    avi: Of course, there were many people who never carried. The point I made, which you seemed to deny, is that in the 50s and 60s there were plenty of people who were generally careful about Shabbat and would never drive, but nevertheless carried. IIRC, Rabbi Yosef Blau made a similar point about his parents’ generation in Boro Park.

  17. abba's rantings

    i hate to sound like an am haaretz, but what’s the difference between carrying and driving? don’t both involve deoraysas?

  18. Back in the day there were many who for some reason did not view pushing a stroller or carrying an infant as carrying.
    KT

  19. Having grown up in KGH NY before there was eruv and lived there as well as in the Catskills for summers,

    I can state that shomer shabbos people were … shomer shabbos … and thus did not carry when there was no eruv. No if ands or buts.

    I recall vividly sbabbos morning the precession of the men from Partners bungallo colony down the road in Harris NY walking in their taliesim to join us at the Stechiner Rebbe’s porch shteibel for the shabbos morning davening.

    Of course there were non shomer shabbos people in those days who attended shomer shabbos shuls but no one thought of them as exemplars of shomer shabbos behaviour.

    Even though Americal is and was an open society in those days, people are typically slow to “leave home”. We were dealing with a first generation after immigration and people from religious families who had grown up in the US and been in the US army and WWII and or the korean war – In those days the people whose random walk was taking them away from their religious roots were still found closer to it then they might be today. All the members of religous shuls were not all religious. Don’t expect to learn normative halacha from what some remember as their deviant behaviour. The rabbanan taught them the halacha. If their were some who did not listen, they knew it as a deviation.

    No one claimed that “talmud torah” judaism was authentic orthodoxy – but that was the orthodoxy of people who attended talmud torahs as their jewish education.

    Just the same today with people who attend day schools and might not practice orthodox judaism. They may have some more education then their historical forbears who simply learned at talmud torahs for their bar mitzva, but unless they make a commitment to orthodoxy, it all falls by the wayside when push comes to shove and under pressure as they get older.

  20. Meshulum is correct-the KGH eruv and subsequently built mikvah were two major elements in the growth of the neighborhood along with an element of Achdus among all of the rabbonim, despite their various hashkafic backgrounds. One cannot deny that the growth of many Orthodox communities today is due in no small part to a communal superstructure predicated on the existence of an eruv, mikveh, shuls, yeshivos, and shopping geared to the needs of a kosher consumer.

    Like it or not, Hotzaah is a Melacha that the Ritva in Eruvin describes as a Melacha Gruah that has always required extra attention because one can mistakenly conclude that the basic elements of the Melacha do not involve a Meleches Machsheves. That could be very well why Masecta and Hilcos Eruvin are considered a continuation of Masecta Shabbos and Hilcos Shabbos both in Shas and SA.

  21. Abba, almost any place you carry is a derabbanan. Driving is deoraisa.

  22. No one is saying, I think, that carrying was okay. The point is that there were a not insignificant number of members of the Orthodox community who were shomer shabbat for everything except carrying. And I’d go further than that. There was also a group who didn’t carry except for pushing baby carriages and, perhaps, a handkerchief or keys. As Steve would say. like it or not, that’s the fcat. How that came about is a different story.

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