In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 13 Dec 2019 08:17 PM and ends Sat 14 Dec 2019 09:18 PM
כ"ה שבט ה' אלפים תש"ע
THE MELBOURNE ERUV
P. M. Kloot
ADMINISTRATOR, MELBOURNE ERUV
There are three types of Eruvin that were introduced by Chazal to facilitate different aspects of Shabbat observance. Two of these procedures are beyond the scope of this article, which is restricted to discussing aspects of Eruv Chatzerot - the merging of boundaries, which is used for the Melbourne Eruv. This procedure was introduced by the Beth Din of Shlomo Hamelech to enhance Shabbat observance and it has continued to do so for thousands of years. The basic principle is that each house and its adjacent courtyard, in Melbourne terms, its garden, is a separate Reshut Hayachid - a private domain. It is permitted to carry within a private domain, but not from a private domain to a public domain (a Reshut HaRabim) nor within a public domain itself. Actually almost all the public areas of suburban Melbourne i.e. the streets, parks and so on, are not actually Reshut HaRabim midoraita, i.e. according to the Torah itself, so it is relatively simple from a Halachic perspective to construct an Eruv in Melbourne, or in at least part of the metropolitan area.
The elements of an Eruv
The Eruv is made by fencing in the whole area by some sort of Halachically acceptable wall, by gaining permission from all the people within that wall and by placing a food supply on behalf of all Jews participating in the Eruv in a public place. This is obviously a very simplified listing but those are the three key elements. Incidentally strictly speaking, it is the common food supply which is really the Eruv, because it consists of a mingling of food from different people, which will be explained later.
How do we wall off a large section of the Melbourne metropolitan area? This is the same explanation that we provide to the various authorities with which we have to deal. Imagine that you have a solid wall five metres high. That is clearly a wall. Now imagine a door in the wall, a standard door 2.2 metres high and a metre or so wide - we still have a wall. Now assume the door is much bigger - there is still a wall. Now go to the extreme and make the door so large that all you have left of the wall is a narrow beam on top and two narrow doorposts. In other words the door occupies 99% or more of the wall. This is called a Tzurat HaPetach - the form of a door or an opening, and this is still a wall, halachically speaking, merely being a wall taken up almost completely with a doorway. We can get this construction with two electricity poles that have a wire stretching from the top of one pole to another. In Victoria, the preferred way that the power authorities string their high tension wires is to have a crossbar close to the top of the pole with two wires fixed to the end or close to the end of the crossbar and the third attached to the top of the pole. Therefore in Melbourne our first preference for setting the route of our Eruv boundary, is to follow high tension wires. Where that is not possible or where the high tension wires are strung in a different manner, we have to use other means to create the same form. This could involve Optus television cables or using other existing wires, but may also require us to string up dummy wires. There wires usually require us to erect our own poles which we do by attaching a plastic conduit directly under the selected wire, to an existing pole. There are almost 1000 of these constructions in the Melbourne Eruv and checking the integrity of these constructions is a major responsibility performed during the weekly inspections.
This is the usual way of making Eruvin nowadays in Chutz L'Aretz. In Israel they use special thin metal poles with a V on top through which a wire is strung.
The above remarks are a very brief review of a complex topic.
Sechirat HaReshut (obtaining permission)
How do we gain permission from all the residents within the Eruv? This would be impossible, so we use the police. Police have the right of hot pursuit onto any property and halachically that is sufficient to give them the authority to be able to agree on every property owners' behalf to give our community the permission required to build the Eruv. So we have in our files an agreement with a member of Victoria Police, who by virtue of his right to enter all properties in the metropolitan area has leased us permission to have an Eruv for ten years for the princely sum of one dollar.
The Eruv itself
As I mentioned earlier, the term "Eruv" actually refers to the mingling of food because in restricted situations, all the householders involved would contribute a loaf of bread which would be mixed or mingled with all the others to create the Eruv - the common food supply.
For the Melbourne Eruv, the common food supply is a box of matzoth. Each year a new Eruv is made and the box of matzoth is kept at Mizrachi, being a public facility which is open to everyone. As is the custom, the new Eruv is made just prior to Pesach each year by Rabbis Beck and Sprung in conjunction, using a box of fresh Pesachdik matzoth.
The development of the Melbourne Eruv
The Melbourne Eruv exists because of Mizrachi. Rabbi Boruch Zaichyk, who was the Mizrachi Rav from 1986 - 1994, soon after his arrival here, responded to the very real need and desire for an Eruv in Melbourne. In fact, it is understood that building an Eruv was written into his terms of employment. Nothing had been done in this matter previously because all the Rabbanim in Melbourne, or certainly the more senior ones who could have done something, had been convinced to sign a letter that there could be no Eruv in Melbourne. Rabbi Zaichyk, apart from feeling that such a document was wrong in principle, did not feel constrained by it as he was not a signatory.
So when Rabbi Zaichyk started to construct the Eruv he immediately ran into tremendous opposition and criticism from certain quarters. However he received strong backing from the late Hans Bachrach z"l, which included funding the project. Apart from Mizrachi, there was strong support from the COSV, which was most encouraging and from many members of other mainstream Shules. Knowing his limitations in the highly specialised area, the Rabbi relied on a posek in America who had been involved in building Eruvin in various places. This Eruv was inaugurated on Shabbat Shuva 1988.
After Rabbi Zaichyk left Melbourne in 1994, Rabbi Feitel Levin was asked to take over responsibility for the Eruv. He agreed on condition that he inspects it first and checks any problems with an overseas posek. As a matter of record, Rabbi Zaichyk strongly recommended that Rabbi Levin make a thorough inspection as he (Rabbi Zaichyk) had concerns himself. Rabbi Levin found a number of issues which troubled him and he discussed them with Rabbi Zaichyk in the first instance and then with his own posek. Rabbi Levin contacted Rabbi Zaichyk's posek but he, more or less, washed his hands of it. It seems that Rabbi Zaichyk was given approval for a number of things on the basis of a Da'at Yachid i.e. an individual opinion, which was not accepted by the mainstream let alone the machmirim.
Rabbi Levin decided that he could not take responsibility for the original Eruv as he ruled that it was now passul and he reported his opinion to the late Rav Boruch Abaranok ztz"l who had resumed his former position as Rav of Mizrachi, in an acting capacity until a successor to Rabbi Zaichyk had been appointed. Rabbi Abaranok advised the Mizrachi leadership that there was no alternative but to abandon the Eruv. This decision generated a tremendous negative reaction and the Mizrachi leadership resolved to build a new Eruv as soon as possible. It was decided to proceed with Rabbi Levin as the local Rav HaMachshir and using the late Rav Shimon Eider ztz"l of Lakewood as the Posek. At the practical level, Rav Eider was arguably the most renowned Eruv posek at that time. Rav Eider was a talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz"l and his Eruvin were built according to Rav Moshe's shita. Rav Eider's approach was extremely machmir and while that increased the complexity of our task, it had the benefit that his Eruvin were beyond Halachic criticism by any sector of the community.
Jeff Herz drew attention to the fact that by 1995 when we came to build the Eruv, the old SEC, a government instrumentality had been privatised. This was clearly Hashgacha Pratit, because it was much easier to deal with the commercial power companies than with the old rigid bureaucratic SEC. It should be noted that the support and co-operation that we received from the power companies and Optusvision then and which continues up to the present has been phenomenal.
As noted earlier the late Hans Bachrach funded the original Eruv. Mizrachi started work on the new Eruv by itself but it soon became evident that the project was too expensive for Mizrachi to bear the cost alone. As the construction proceeded, a deal was negotiated with Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV) and the present Melbourne Eruv Board was formed being a 50:50 relationship between Mizrachi and the COSV. As part of the arrangement, the COSV agreed to pay Mizrachi $100,000 to cover part of the $250,000 that the Eruv construction had cost them. The COSV also undertook to provide the funds for the ongoing inspection and maintenance of the Eruv. An appeal was held and, not surprisingly, a large proportion of the funds were raised from the Mizrachi community.
The Adass Israel community agreed to co-operate in this project to make it one of the few endeavours that are truly supported across the board. However they only became fully involved once an Eruv expert from Eda Charedit in Yerushalyim had inspected the Eruv and gave it their Haskama. Danny Lamm remembered that there was a Shalom Zachor in the Adass community on the particular Friday night and the story goes that they ran out of some sort of drinks. The Eruv expert who happened to be in Melbourne on other business was present, and he immediately offered to go over the road and bring more drink. When he was asked how could he do such a thing he said there was a completely kosher Eruv in Melbourne which he could vouch for, as he had inspected it himself a few days earlier. After that the Adass community led by Rav Beck became an integral part of the story.
The partnership between COSV and Mizrachi called for both parties to nominate a Rav Hamachsir. People may remember that up to his departure from Melbourne, Rabbi Yonoson Abraham was nominated by the Rabbinical Council of Victoria to be the COSV Rav, and in fact, he was very heavily involved in the week by week operation of the Eruv while Rabbi Simcha Cohen of Mizrachi played a strong role behind the scenes, dealing with Rabbinical queries and other issues raised by his local colleagues.
At present, the Rabbinical Council's nominee is Rav Yaakov Sprung, so he wears two hats, those of Mizrachi and the COSV as the Rav Hamachshir of the Melbourne Eruv. The Rav discusses Halachic issues with Rav Beck as required, and consults with Poskim overseas when necessary.
Since its inauguration on Shabbat Parshat Ekev 1997, there have been a number of changes to the boundaries.
The first took in the block bounded by Alma, Kooyong, Dandenong and Orrong Roads (See Section 1 on the attached map.).
The second extended the boundary through St Kilda Junction and along Barkly Street which simplified access to both St Kilda and Elwood Shules, and brought the Chevra Kadisha building in Inkerman Street within the Eruv.. (See Section 2). The Chevra Kadisha provided most of the funds required for this extension.
The third was a reroute in Brighton that was forced on us by the undergrounding of cables in Bay Street. (See Section 3.)
The latest and biggest was the extension which took in parts of Moorabbin, Highett, Carnegie, Bentleigh and East Bentleigh. (See Section 4.)
A further communal appeal was held to finance this change and once again the power companies, Citipower and Alinta (United Energy) and Optusvision made in-kind contributions as they had done in the initial construction.
At present we are working on an extension to cross Dandenong Road which will give access to Malvern Chabad, Cabrini Hospital and The Avenue hospital among other places. This is the most challenging project we have done as Rav Eider ruled that Dandenong Road is safek Rishut HaRabim midoraita and therefore special constructions are required to cross such a space.
How is the Eruv managed on a weekly basis? Usually the Eruv is inspected around Thursday lunchtime. There are two teams consisting of a driver and a mashgiach who each inspect about half of the Eruv. One team is provided by the COSV and the other team is provided by Adass Israel. They report to the Administrator of the Eruv, or in his absence Yossi Aron, or on occasions Jeff Herz, and key personnel are advised immediately if the Eruv is OK. A telephone message is recorded and the COSV email sent out on Friday morning. If, on the other hand, one or more repairs are required, then our contractor is contacted on Thursday afternoon and he schedules the repairs to be carried out and completed no later than by Friday lunchtime. Once the completion of repairs have been notified and inspected, then the notices and telephone recording are prepared. Our experience is that repairs are required on average about once every three or four weeks.
The Eruv is managed by the Board of Melbourne Eruv Pty Ltd. The Board has two Directors nominated by the COSV - Paul Korbl and Romy Leibler. Two Directors are nominated by Mizrachi - Jeff Herz and Danny Lamm. Others who regularly attend Board meetings are Rav Sprung, the Rav HaMachshir; Tom May, the Honorary Solicitor, and the administrative staff, Yossi Aron and Peter Kloot. The board meets about four times each year unless a major matter requires extra meetings.
So I close by making two points of which our community should be very aware.
Firstly, this is not a bedieved Eruv. It has been constructed on a Lechatchila basis to the highest Halachic standards. I cannot claim that we are the best in this regard. I actually suspect that all of Rav Eider's Eruvin throughout the world would be similar in this regard.
Secondly, the Melbourne Eruv is possibly the largest Eruv in Chutz L'Aretz and almost certainly the best. Our Eruv is constructed and maintained by professional linesmen who construct everything we need according to industry standards. In that regard the late Rav Eider said that this was the best Eruv with which he was involved. It must be added that we are blessed that Melbourne is not subject to snow, nor tropical cyclones or hurricanes, natural phenomena which play havoc with Eruvin in other places. I found out recently that the Eida Charedit in Yerushalyim regard this as the best Eruv in Chutz L'Aretz. From what I have seen it would probably give most Eruvin in Israel a run for their money, but they are not going to admit that.
As datiim, we should make it our business to learn the relevant Halachot and to be as familiar with them as with any other area of observance. And as responsible and concerned members of the Melbourne community we should lend our support and encourage others to support the Eruv as well, to ensure that this vital communal facility will always remain an asset to us all.
I am happy to acknowledge the assistance of Jeff Herz and Danny Lamm in the preparation of the brief historical overview of the development of the Melbourne Eruv presented above. The history of the Melbourne Eruv is a worthy subject for a detailed study which deserves to be written.
Yossi Aron, Jeff Herz and Danny Lamm read an earlier draft of this article and made very useful suggestions that increased its readability and its informativeness. Nevertheless the views expressed here are my own and I take full responsibility for them.
"The Contemporary Eruv" by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer (Feldheim 1998)