The History of the eruv
Composed by: Shlomo E. Sofer
The reaction of many in the community upon being informed that we will publish the history of the eruv, is in fact what indicates the importance of relating the sequence of events, from the founding of the eruv until today.
Some of the comments that we’ve heard, accompanied by a community-wide bewilderment, were:
• A history about the eruv?
• What is there to write about?
• What information do they want to relate?
• So, there’s an eruv. What more can be added?
Others simply couldn’t recall what the issue is about:
• What eruv? What history? Oh, they probably mean the Monsey eruv, which I happen to use every Shabbos!….
Unfortunately, very few Monsey residents expressed feelings of personal connection with the local eruv, which is serving our community for a number of years by enabling every individual to carry his possessions on Shabbos. Week after week, we enjoy the convenience of the eruv, by being permitted to carry through the local streets.
This very fact that the eruv has been serving us ever since most of us can remember, usually being faultless and therefore not receiving much attention, is the very reason why we tend to forget the great effort that was invested into this project for our weekly benefit.
In truth, most people are only reminded about the eruv on those extremely rare occasions when inclement weather conditions warrants that the public be notified, either through a written declaration or by a verbal announcement in shul, that the eruv has been torn. Many people roll their eyes at hearing such a proclamation; not the least bit delighted about the inconvenience that this has caused them.
[In a similar vein, the commentaries say about Rashi’s explanation of the first possuk in Parshas VaYeitza, that people usually reminisce about the privilege of having had the presence of a tzaddik in town. Unfortunately, instead of making use of this special opportunity and seeking the tzaddik’s council and blessing, most people realize what a chance they had only after the tzaddik left. The same is true with many privileges that a person benefits from; as long as they are around, they are made good use of without giving it a second thought of appreciation.]
If we groan upon being informed that the eruv is torn, let us ask ourselves: Whom did we thank the previous week when this unwelcome announcement wasn’t made? To whom did we feel indebted and grateful for this extraordinary weekly service that we are provided? Did we ever give the eruv any thought at all, or tried to find out how it came into being and who stands behind it, making sure that it qualifies according to the most stringent halachic standards?
Just as a breach in the eruv is proclaimed publicly, how about introducing a weekly routine of announcing in shul that the eruv is fine and it is okay to carry?… It would surely do us good to be aware of this tremendous favor that a handful of selfless individuals are constantly doing for us.
We now have the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the details of the founding and functions of the local eruv, since it recently became a topic of discussion, as it is going through a series of significant improvements. Now, as the community is being called upon to assist in this important venture, is the most appropriate time to relate to the esteemed Monsey residents, the eruv’s history – which isn’t really a history, as it is a weekly function that we all benefit from.
The local eruv was founded when Monsey started to become populated by heimishe families who moved into this peaceful neighborhood that was just beginning to sprout as a Jewish community. Monsey was considered by many pioneers as the ideal place where to raise pious children with the peace of mind that a tranquil village setting has to offer.
About forty years ago, in 1964, the Viznitzer Rebbe shlit”a settled in Monsey, together with a handful of his followers. The chassidim built a small eruv surrounding their new neighborhood, which included the Bais Midrash and the homes of seven families. As the tiny community expanded, the eruv, too, was extended to include a few more surrounding streets. During 1975, the Viznitz eruv was further extended, and connected with the general Monsey eruv.
While these changes were taking place, many more heimishe families settled in Monsey, turning the quiet hamlet into a bustling Torah community. Many neighborhoods built private eruvin for themselves, primarily on such streets where most residents were Jewish.
For example, one small eruv was made on Edwin Lane, which is located in central Monsey, and another at the border with Spring Valley. In 1985 a new eruv was built in the Francis Place area, as more and more heimishe families moved into that neighborhood.
It wasn’t long before Monsey became a full-fledged Jewish community, with entire neighborhoods being totally inhabited by frum Jews. Subsequently, the eruv question was brought up, as many residents expressed their desire that a united Monsey eruv should combine the multiple private eruvin under one rabbinicaly-supervised management, according to the halachic requirement for the townspeople to build an eruv.
This need was especially emphasized by those pious individuals who feared that the numerous private eruvin are not sufficiently supervised by a rabbinical expert on the laws of eruvin. In order to avoid any possible mishaps, these residents felt that a united eruv under proper supervision is the only answer.
Towards this end, in 1988, a number of prominent rabbonim gathered in the home of HaRav Nosson Horowitz zt”l, Av Beis Din of Beis Yisroel, to discuss this pressing matter. The almost unanimous decision of the rabbonim that were present, was that it is necessary to build an eruv for all of Monsey. Such a venture, they concluded, would certainly be a great improvement in the standard of local Shabbos observance, and will eliminate the unintentional transgressions and problems that the private eruvin inevitably cause.
|In the next issue: The development of the eruv – the growth of the Wesley Hills, Forshay, Pomona and New Hempstead neighborhoods – the explosive expansion of Monsey – the current hardships and difficulties – the vital need to update the eruv – an unsuccessful venture – the struggle to succeed – the dedication of the selfless askonim – tireless efforts finally succeed – fulfilling the dream in practice – the wonderful cooperation and unity of Monsey – the burdensome financial expense – the unbelievable halachic and practical achievement|