Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Why I Do My Utmost To Avoid Relying On Any Metropolitan עירוב

I had a close friend in college who was (is still, actually) a heavy smoker.  I once talked to him about the health risks.  I was pre-med at the time so really thought I probably knew more about the details of the health risks than he did.  I expected him to say something like, "Really?  I don't know that aspect/detail/depth/breadth of the health risks!"  Instead he replied, "I really enjoy smoking."  That, of course, was the end of not only that conversation but all future conversations.  I have no argument that smoking is not enjoyable; I only have data that smoking is a serious (very, very serious) health risk.  If that is taken out of the equation, I have nothing to say.

Given that introduction and the title of this TftD, one can make his own assessment if it is advisable to read further.

Recall that an עירוב can only be effective when you have an area that is only a public domain at the rabbinic level, but private at the Torah level.  There are two opinions in the rishonim about the criteria for a public domain at the Torah level.  One opinion is an area that regularly (daily) has a traffic of 600,000 people (men, women, children; doesn't matter whether the population is Jewish or non-Jewish); that is the opinion of Rashi (and others).  The other opinion is that any area that can support a traffic of 600,000 people regularly -- even though there are not 600,000 people there regularly -- people regularly is a public domain at the Torah level.  That is, it has streets that are 16 cubits wide; almost every street in America fulfills that condition, which makes this quite a stringency for any Metropolitan עירוב.  Whose opinion is this?  The Rambam, Rabeinu Tam, Ramban, Rashba, Ritva, Rahn, T'rumos HaDeshen, and Rashbam.  Oh... and the Shulchan Aruch.

Next we have the wall issue: a private domain needs to be surrounded by a wall made for that purpose.  There is a leniency that allows natural barriers to be used as walls, but then there are those who say that a natural barriers are ineffective when you have a huge throng of people.  Then there are ways to construct halachic walls צורת הפתח/the form of a doorway, for example; all of those have a range of opinions about how much of the wall has to be physical and how much can be halachic.  And then there is the issue of closing it at some point.

As one sees, there are many leniencies that need to be applied to rely on even the best metropolitan עירוב.  Now, since one is talking about a delicate procedure on which his spiritual health relies, is seems to me that this is analogous to evaluating surgical centers before I entrust them with my life.  I found a site that details the standard surgical room procedures.  That page itself is merely a portal to 36 sites that cover each dimension (preoperative skin prep, scrubbing, draping the patient, etc) of preparing the arena for surgery.  I drilled down into scrubbing, and found 17 detailed steps -- including several iterations of exactly how and how many times to scrub the hand and each finger.

As a layman, I can't really evaluate what would happen if one only scrubbed 18 times instead of 20, or for 25 seconds instead of 30.  What I do know is that the experts in the field say that's what you need.  I am sure you can find places that cut corners and offer lower rates.  If a person was at risk of dying and needed emergency surgery, I am sure any licensed surgical center would do.  If he had more time and it was more elective surgery, I think he would think differently.  My body and physical life is important, so I want a place that follows all the rules and doesn't cut corners just to save money/time.  If my soul is just as important to me, I should be at least as careful.  Which is, by they way, how the Mishna Brura finishes (345, sk 23):  It is out of line to rebuke someone who relies on , but everyone who is concerned about his spiritual well-being  (בעל נפש) should certainly be stringent.

I'll just finish with a story.  One Friday night I saw someone sprain their ankle walking down some stairs outside on their way home.  The host happened to have a wheel chair and I went to get a goy to push them.  I called R' Fuerst after Shabbos and told him what I did.  He said I did the right think.  "But," I persevered, "I understand that the rabbi says that there are reliable opinions -- albeit using leniencies we don't usually accept, but appropriate none the less in some circumstances -- that hold the עירוב is acceptable."  He told me yes, but I shouldn't rely on them.  "But," I persevered again, "What if I couldn't have found a goy to push the wheelchair?  What that be a circumstance extreme enough to warrant relying on the עירוב?"  R' Fuerst answered, and I quote: "Michael; you don't live in Bnei Brak."


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…