The Expert On Eruvs Responds To David May’s Wild Idea

Last week, Mahwah Councilman David May went before the Bergen County Freeholders and requested that they work with various parties to create a county-wide eruv, here in Bergen County.  Despite the serious issues initially identified with the proposal, Mr. May and Mahwah’s Council President, Rob Hermansen, insisted on pursuing it.  They asked for dialogue and questioned why anyone would be against such a plan.

Eruv Litigation went to one of the foremost authorities on eruvin and posed the question as to whether such a plan was even possible.

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechofer*, author of The Contemporary Eruv, was kind enough to evaluate Councilman May’s request for a “county-wide” eruv.

Here is his analysis:

The Ritva (Eruvin 22b) and his Rebbe the Ra’ah hold that walls are not valid when they enclose too broad an area. The Nishmas Adam Klal 49 and the Maharsham 4:1 write that the extent of a person’s unaided eyesight is sixteen mil (mil = 2000 amos). However, scholars have noted that the curvature of the earth prevents one standing at ground level from seeing much further than six mil; and, therefore, that it is questionable whether the source upon which the Nishmas Adam bases his ruling may be applied to the Halachos of Eruvin.
Besides for the issue of size, there is the issue of what the eruv would enclose. Within a large eruv there are likely – nay, there are inevitably – karpeifos (uninhabitable areas that invalidate an eruv) and intercity highways (which are considered reshuyos ho’rabbim – public thoroughfares that invalidate an eruv).
In short, a [Bergen] county-wide eruv is a practical impossibility.
So there it is.  In addition to this idea being bad from a civics point of view, this proposal makes no sense from the perspective of Jewish Law (halacha).  So much for it being “forward thinking“, Mr May.

* Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer is the author of one of the most popular tracts on the subject of metropolitan eruvin, and serves as a consultant to communities across the continent, facilitating the building and maintenance of urban and suburban eruvin.


3 Responses to The Expert On Eruvs Responds To David May’s Wild Idea

  1. adam says:

    I think the whole idea of an Eruv is typical of loopholes in organized religion and the idea that somehow a wire that nobody sees makes certain work prohibited now allowed makes no sense on any level.

    Having said that clearly their is bigotry on those who have opposed this in their reasons and their claims that is the classic bigotry you here or any minority religious group and what you hear about Muslims as well.

    Although I wonder if it is good for part of the town to have an Eruv and part not to.

    In my own view the result is that it is establishment part of the town as the Jewish part of the town even though they may not be the intention.

    Like I said the older i get the more I see how much of Rabbinic Judaism was a result of the exile and identity politics but then went backwords to fit it into the torah.

    But regardless that doesn’t excuse some of the bigotted attacks for groups that themselves are playing identity politics.

    • admin says:

      As the Plaintiffs has argued in their legal papers, the purpose of the eruv on the NJ side of the NY border was purely to enclose the NY side. We have provided maps in this post.

      Because the roads in the area run perpendicular to the border, in order to enclose the entirety of the NY side, it required going to the first street with telephone poles that ran parallel to the border. As you can see on the map, that is the area in blue.

      The issue of whether an eruv is a “loophole” is handled in our FAQ.

  2. adam says:

    Although now thinking about it I guess that is likely not true. Which I am sure there are area’s with an Eruv that maybe 10-20% are Jews who follow Orthodox Judaism and the Eruv among the population in the Eruv and the rest don’t.

    Although certainly repressing them may have the effect that people who would move elsewhere live in a certain area that has an Eruv increasing the percent.

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