Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Just stumbled across these guidelines


Rabbinical Council of America 

Guidelines  
for Creating and Maintaining a Kosher Eruv 

as presented to the Executive Committee April 29 2009 

by 
Rabbi Chaim Jachter 
Dayan, Beth Din of Elizabeth;  
Member, Vaad Halacha of the Rabbinical Council of America 
Chairman, Agunah Committee, Rabbinical Council of America 

This document has received the approval of 
Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig. 

In this outline we present protocols for community Eruvin to be maintained at an 
appropriate Halachic standard, based on experience.  Proper standards can be met by 
strictly adhering to the outlined protocols.  We shall focus our discussion on four 
components that are crucial to the success of a community Eruv - the Posek, the 
community Rav, the weekly inspectors, and the community. 

The Posek

Creating and maintaining proper Eruvin involves complex Halachic issues.  A Posek of 
eminent stature must be consulted to issue Halachic rulings regarding a community Eruv.  
The qualifications of someone to serve as a Posek for a community Eruv are as follows: 
1. He must be expert in Gemara and Rishonim as well as the many 
Acharonim (especially the Chazon Ish, who is widely regarded as 
having great authority perhaps even more than the Mishna Brura in this 
are of Halacha) who discuss the practical details of Eruv design and 
construction.   
2. He must have extensive practical experience in dealing with
community Eruvin such as working in the field with utility poles. 
3. He must be widely recognized in the Orthodox community as an 
authority in the field of Eruv. 
4. He or his delegate must be available to visit the Eruv and field 
questions as they arise.   
The Posek must set standards and protocols for the community.  He must set optimal 
standards as well as emergency (Sha’at Hadechak) standards such as when a problem
arises shortly before the onset of Shabbat.  He must establish protocols in determining the 
standards for both the creation of the Eruv and maintaining the Eruv.  For example, he 
must establish how often utility wires be inspected and if river banks or used, how often 
1they must be checked to insure that they remain at a proper angle and height to serve as 
part of an Eruv.  Rav Gavriel Bechoffer, author of the Contemporary Eruv, has suggested 
that the Posek should be asked to review the Eruv twice every seven years (following the 
Mezuzah model, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 291:1).   
No change in the Eruv should be made without consulting the Posek.   

The Local Rav 

1. He must have extensive training and knowledge of Hilchot Eruvin both in 
theory and practice.  We cannot rely solely upon the fact that a Rav of eminent 
stature designed and once inspected the Eruv.  Eruvin are quite vulnerable to 
weather, vandalism, and utility company workers reconfiguring utility poles 
and wires.  Eruvin become disqualified quickly and often, especially if it is a 
very large Eruv.  The community depends on the local Rav to facilitate and 
supervise repair of the Eruv in a proper manner.   
2. He must insure that there is an extensive and clear written record of every 
detail of precisely how the Eruv is constructed.  Every change in the Eruv’s 
construction must be duly noted in writing.   
3. He must be intimately familiar with every detail of the Eruv.   
4. He must be involved in the inspection of the Eruv on a regular basis.  Ideally 
(although it is most often impractical), the Rav should be the one who inspects 
the Eruv each week as did the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak reportedly did every 
Friday morning even in the most inclement weather (Pe’eir HaDor 2:136 and 
285).  Similarly, the Chafetz Chaim’s son (Dugma MiDarkei Avi zt”l 63:14) 
writes that his father “scrupulously supervised the Eruvin in his city”.  
Experience teaches that when community rabbis do not attend to the 
community Eruv, the Kashrut of the Eruv deteriorates.  The community Rav 
should conduct a full walking inspection of the Rav at least once a year.  The 
best (though not always practical) way to conduct a yearly inspection of an 
Eruv is to inspect it on foot.  One notices things on foot that one does not 
notice while being driven.    
5. He must understand when it is appropriate to consult the Eruv’s Posek. 
6. He must insure that the Eruv adheres to the highest standards of ethics and 
safety.  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik insists (heard directly from the Rav 
speaking to community rabbis visiting him in 1985) that any portion of the 
Eruv should not be constructed without obtaining the necessary permission.  
Eruvin must be a source of Kiddush Hashem in the community.  Rav Hershel 
Schachter believes (personal conversation, 1989) that claiming “Zeh Neheneh 
V’Zeh Lo Chaser” (Bava Kama 20) is an inadequate excuse to defend placing 
a Lechi on another individual’s property without permission.  He explains that 
in a case of “Zeh Neheneh V’Zeh Lo Chaser” Beit Din does not compel 
payment, but that it does not imply that one is permitted L’chatchilah to 
benefit from another’s property without permission (see Pitchei Teshuvah 
Choshen Mishpat 363:6 and Aruch HaShulchan C.M. 363:16).   
27. Alternative routes to the Eruv must be explored in case of recurrent problems 
in specific portions of the Eruv. 
8. He must insure that Sha’at Hadechak standards do not evolve into becoming 
the conventional standards for the Eruv.  For example, a “Lechi” that was 
attached to a utility pole shortly before Shabbat in a less than optimal fashion, 
should not remain a permanent component of the Eruv (see, for example, the 
citation of a conversation with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in Gray Matter 
1:183). 
9. He must insure that the Eruv Chatzeirot and Sechirat Reshut remain updated 
and cover the entire Eruv encompassed by the Eruv (whenever the Eruv is 
expanded one must be sure that the area is included in the Sechirat Reshut).  
Rav Schachter recommends that Sechirat Reshut should not be made for 
longer than twenty years (see Mishnah Berurah 382:48 and Netivot Shabbat 
37:28 and note 20 for other opinions).  The Sechirat Reshut should be 
conducted with every municipality that is encompassed by the Eruv.  Rav 
Elazar Meyer Teitz of Elizabeth, New Jersey reports in a 2007 conversation 
that he conducted no less than seven Sechirot Reshut since the Eruv in his 
community is located in seven different municipalities.                     
10. There is great pressure on a Rav to insure that the Eruv encompass all 
members of the community.  He must insure that expanding the Eruv does not 
compromise its Halachic standards and integrity and/or become too large to 
properly supervise.  
11. Experience teaches that a community that does not yet employ a Rav should 
exercise great caution before it establishes an Eruv.  Although there is great 
motivation to establish an Eruv in order to attract people to the community, 
without on-site rabbinic supervision Eruvin easily and quickly fall into 
disrepair.  The involvement of a rabbi from a neighboring community might 
be a solution to this problem.  
12. When a community is “in between rabbis” the Eruv should not be relied upon 
unless other rabbinic supervision of the Eruv can be insured.  
13. Network and familiarize himself with the challenges and strategies of rabbis 
of other communities in regards to their Eruvs.   
14. Be sure that the rabbis in the community agree to the Eruv in general and all 
its specifics (see Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Orach 4:86). 
15. Dealing sensitively and effectively with those who wish to be strict and not 
rely on a community Eruv based on Biur Halacha 345:7 s.v. V’Yeish Omrim
and Mishnah Berurah 362:59. 
16. Educate the community about what does an Eruv permit and what it does not 
permit such as carrying umbrellas and ball playing.   
17. Insures that the community is well-informed about the boundaries of the Eruv 
and that members know to avoid those streets where one can easily stray out 
of the Eruv.   
18. Makes a great effort to insure that the Eruv is designed in a manner that 
community members will not be confused and mistakenly carry outside the 
Eruv.  When feasible try to follow Rav Mordechai Willig’s practice to include 
3“back-ups” for the Eruv (especially for somewhat “unstable” or “fickle”
portions of the Eruv) in case of failure.   
19. Note:  The Chezkat Kashrut of an Eruv can be disturbed (Rei’uta) in many 
situations, such as a flood, car accident, construction or utility pole repair.  In 
all such cases the areas affected must be carefully inspected as perhaps the 
contours of the banks of rivers, utility poles, fences and the like very possibly 
have changed.   
20. MOST IMPORTANT – the Rav needs to educate himself in the area of 
Eruvin and seek an appropriate mentor who can share practical insight 
to enable him to reach the level of expertise necessary to maintain a 
Kosher Eruv.   
21.  Any suspicion or concern the Rav has regarding the Eruv should be raised 
with the Posek.  If something seems to be wrong it very likely is wrong.  One 
should not assume that the Posek reviewed the Eruv and thus there is no need for 
concern – the matter may simply have escaped the notice of the Posek.   
22.  Rav Schachter has commented that as time goes along, efforts should be 
made to insure that if possible, Hiddurim should be introduced to the Eruv. 
23.  Rabbanim should insure that over time the opposite of #22 not occur – that 
the Kashrut level of the Eruv deteriorate. 

Eruv Inspectors 

1. Optimally the Eruv inspectors should be Talmidei Chachamim who are wellversed in the theory and practice of Hilchot Eruvin.  At minimum, they should 
be God fearing Jews who are highly scrupulous in their observance of Jewish 
Law who will inspect the Eruv meticulously (see Rav Asher Bush’s Teshuvot 
Sho’el BiShlomo number 12, based on Rama Y.D. 127:3).   
2. They should never make any changes or repairs to the Eruv without consulting 
the local Rav.    
3. They must have a through knowledge and understanding of every detail of the 
Eruv so that they should be able to spot a potential problem in the Eruv.  Their 
knowledge of Hilchot Eruvin should be sufficient for them to know when to 
alert the local Rav to a problem.    
4. Experience teaches that when Eruv inspectors do not know exactly how the 
Eruv works the Eruv falls into disrepair.  They cannot inspect that which they 
do not know what to inspect!  This regrettably happens in “complex” portions 
of Eruvin.  Rabbanim must insure that Eruv inspectors know how each portion 
of the Eruv works.   
5. They must record where the Eruv is most vulnerable and must inform the Rav 
of recurrent problems in specific locations. 
6. They must be alert to specific Halachic issues that arise for time to time, such 
as entangling of wires in trees during springtime, cable wires becoming pulled 
out of alignment when they are attached to homes and that the appearance of a 
brand new utility pole often signals that the Eruv has been compromised. 
47. They must not (except for unusual circumstances) drive a car and inspect the 
Eruv simultaneously.  They will either not drive properly or not inspect the 
Eruv properly (or both) if they inspect the Eruv while driving.     
8. Candidates for Eruv inspectors should be tested to determine competency in 
this task. 
9. The Rav and Posek should be consulted as to whether the Eruv can be 
inspected earlier than Friday in case of great need (see Teshuvot Doveiv 
Meisharim 2:28 who states that Eruvin must be inspected on Friday).   

The Community of Users 

1. It must realize that the maintenance of a community Eruv requires a very 
significant amount of time, resources and effort devoted to the Eruv on an 
ongoing basis.  The price of a kosher Eruv is eternal vigilance.  All too often 
communal enthusiasm regarding an Eruv wanes after it is constructed.  
Ongoing attention insures that the Eruv does not fall into disrepair.   
2. It should, as suggested by Rav Hershel Schachter, be aware of the route of the 
Eruv so that they can alert potential problems such as utility pole construction 
to their Rav and Eruv committee.  The following illustrates the astuteness of
Rav Schachter’s recommendation.  I once heard on a traffic report on a 
Thursday night that there was a downed utility pole in a community that is 
located twenty five miles from where I reside.  I happened to know that the 
Eruv in that community ran along the street mentioned on the radio report and 
informed the Rav of that community.  It turned out that the Eruv was 
disturbed by this incident and my call enabled the community to repair the 
Eruv in time for Shabbat.   
3. Might consider adopting the practice of the Elizabeth, New Jersey Jewish 
community, initiated by Rav Pinchas Teitz, to declare the Eruv not to be in 
operation once a year to educate the community that carrying is forbidden on 
Shabbat.  Otherwise a generation is raised not knowing the about the 
prohibition to carry on Shabbat (see Eruvin 59a).  For example, a woman who 
grew up in a community surrounded by an Eruv told me that she never knew 
that there is a difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov with regard to 
Hotza’ah.  In Elizabeth, each year the Eruv is declared to be down on the 
Shabbat following Parashat Zachor.  This Shabbat would be a fine opportunity 
for Rabbanim in a community to discuss the basic rules of the Eruv and the 
precise borders of the Eruv.  Not all Rabbanim, though, favor this practice.     
4. Network and familiarize themselves with other communities’ challenges and 
strategies with Eruvin  
5. Deal with the broader community (both Yisrael and Nochri) with intelligence 
and sensitivity. 
6. A good notification system needs to be put in place to inform the community  
of a problem, especially at the last minute. 
7. An Eruv map should be posted on the web as well as in a prominent place in  
the shuls of the community.   
8.   Must be prepared to assist the Rav in various tasks such as charting the details  
5    of the Eruv route.  
9.   Makes sure that the Eruv is properly funded and properly insured. 
10.  Properly manages, in cooperation with the community Rav, issues concerning 
potential expansion of the Eruv and those who are not included in the Eruv (problem: 
some people purchase a house just outside the Eruv since the price will be significantly 
lower and then hope to successfully pressure the local Eruv committee to expand and 
include them in the Eruv). 

Partial List of Issues to be Discussed with the Posek 

1. Is the area encompassed defined as a Karmalit or Reshut HaRabim (Gray 
Matter 1:165-180)?
2. Are Delatot required and how should they be constructed (Netivot Shabbat 
chapter 23)? 
3. Are Delatot suitable to be closed sufficient or are Tzurot HaPetach required to 
supplement them (Beit Yitzchak 25:76-77)?
4. The acceptability of Delatot that are opened on Shabbat but are suitable to be 
closed (Beit Yitzchak 25:73). 
5. Are any of the highways encompassed by the Eruv classified as a Reshut 
HaRabim (Gray Matter 1:166)?
6. Excluding highways and bridges from the Eruv (Beit Yitzchak 25:81-83). 
7. The issue of “ground levels” (Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 
5:21-23). 
8. Are any areas included in the Eruv defined as a Karpeif (Gray Matter 1:192-
194)?
9. Relying on “Tachuv”, horizontal wire that passes through the vertical pole 
(Gray Matter 1:184-185). 
10. Precise Definitions of “Tachuv” (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 2:35:25). 
11. Wires that sag and/ or sway in the wind (Gray Matter 1:188-189). 
12. The maximum distance between Lechis (the different views of Rav Moshe 
Feinstein, Rav Schachter and Rav Eider-Rav Heinemann)?
13. Maximum size of a Lechi (Netivot Shabbat 19:17). 
14. Size and strength of a Lechi (Imrei Baruch).   
15. Lechis that are “Mei’achorei HaKotel” (B’Ikvei HaTzon number 12).  
16. What types of materials are acceptable for use as a Lechi (Sha’ar HaTziyun
363:22 and the Contemporary Eruv p.70 note 141 – ask about a thick paint in 
case of very great need).
17. The use of stop signs and other “non-rabbinic” structures as Lechis (Rav 
Heinemann’s approach based on Rav Aharon Kotler).   
18. Lechis that serve “L’Achzukei Tikrah” (Beit Yitzchak 25:94-96). 
19. What precisely is defined as a legitimate extension of both a horizontal pole 
and the vertical pole (Rav Heinemann based on Rav Kotler)?
20. Relying on “Lavud” and “Gud Achit Machitzta” in regards to the vertical pole 
(Chazon Ish O.H. 79:11 challenging Chatam Sofer and see Netivot Shabbat 
19:26). 
21. Must Lechi extend all the way to the wire (Gray Matter 1:182)?
622. How often must utility wires and other “non-rabbinic” or “preexisting” 
components of the Eruv, such as buildings, fences or river banks, be inspected 
(judgment call of the Eruv’s Posek)? Note comment above regarding a 
Rei’uta to the Chezkat Kashrut of such components of an Eruv.  
23. How to determine the precise location of the Lechi – eyesight or plumb line 
(Gray Matter 1:182:184)?
24. Must the surface area beneath a Tzurat HaPetach be flat (Beit Yitzchak 25:98-
99)?
25. Be certain that “Gud Asik Mechitzta” is measured straight up and not 
according to the angle of the Lechi (Chazon Ish 71:6).  This is a very 
common problem!
26. Are obstructions between the Lechi and the Eruv wire acceptable (Gray 
Matter 1:185-186 and Imrei Baruch)?
27. How much change in direction of the Eruv wire is acceptable (Gray Matter 
1:189)?
28. How slanted may the vertical or horizontal wires be (Gray Matter 1:191)? 
29. Placing a Tzurat HaPetach in a Reshut HaYachid (Gray Matter 1:187-188 and 
Imrei Baruch). 
30. The issue of Tzurat HaPetach that one cannot easily walk through (Teshuvot 
Har Zvi O.C. 2:18:10, Netivot Shabbat 19:9 and note 25 and Imrei Baruch). 
31. Using a tree as a Lechi (Rav Schachter permits placing the horizontal wire on 
the primary “V” of the tree).   
32. Relying on the bottom of a tapered pole in case of extraordinary need (Chazon 
Ish O.C. 71:12 rejects this option). 
33. The location of the Eruv Chatzeirot (in the Shul or in a private home or both, 
see Gray Matter 1:196). 
34. Precise placement of the Lechi at a point of a wire changing direction (and 
when to place two Lechis on one pole to catch the change of direction). 
35. How precisely to conduct the Sechirat Reshut and with whom to conduct it 
(Gray Matter 1:197-199 and Imrei Baruch). 
36. The appropriate length of time for a Sechirat Reshut (Mishnah Berurah 382:48 
and Netivot Shabbat 37:28 and note 20).   
37. The issue of “Siluk Mechitzot” (B’Ikvei HaTzon 13:8).   
38. Usage of highway overpasses as “Pi Tikrah Yored V’Sotem” (Teshuvot Igrot 
Moshe O.C. 1:140 and Imrei Baruch). 
39. Be on guard for situations that are defined as “Nifratz B’Milu’oh” and 
“Nifratz L’Makom HaAssur Lo” (Netivot Shabbat 14:6 and Journal of 
Contemporary Society 5:21). 
40. Managing a “Pitcha B’Keren Zavit” and precise definitions of what 
constitutes a “Pitcha B’Keren Zavit” (Netivot Shabbat 14:4 and Imrei 
Baruch). 
41. The gap allowed in a place where people commonly pass and how to correct 
that gap, if the gap is less than ten Amot does one Lechi suffice (Mishna 
Berurah 363:111 and Teshuvot HaElef Lecha Shlomo number 159)?
42. The gap allowed in an Eruv composed of Tzurot HaPetach (Bi’ur Halacha 
363:6 s.v. Tzarich). 
743. Minimum area that a Tzurat HaPetach or Mechitzah must cover (Rav 
Schachter, personal conversation in 1989, is concerned when there is a wall 
within four Tefachim of a Tzurat HaPetach in the direction that is 
encompassed by the Eruv). 
44. Precise definitions of a “Tel HaMitlakeit” (Beit Yitzchak 25:83-84).   
45. Definitions of an Amah and a Tephach (Encyclopedia Talmudit 20:659).   
46. May the Eruv be inspected earlier than Friday (Teshuvot Doveiv Meisharim 
2:28 and the Contemporary Eruv p. 89 note 181)?
47. Inspecting the Eruv for Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch O.H. 618:1). 
48. Asking a Nochri to fix the Eruv on Shabbat (Mishna Berurah 276:25).   
49. Informing the community if on Shabbat it is discovered that the Eruv is down 
(Rav Ezra Schwartz’s essay in the Spring 2004 issue of the Journal of Halacha 
and Contemporary Society).   
50. Relying on leniencies accepted by the previous Rav of the community 
(B’Ikvei HaTzon number 12). 
51. Maximum amount of area that may be encompassed by the Eruv (Teshuvot 
Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:139:6). 
52. One side of the Eruv ending with beach (Ba’eir Heiteiv 363:9 and Imrei 
Baruch). 
53. Managing a sea wall and beaches (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 363:29).     
54. Relying on utility workers to report a wire being fixed (Ne’emanut of an 
Uman and/or Milta D’avidi L’galuyei).     
Highly Recommended Reading 
1. Netivot Shabbat by Rav Yaakov Blau. 
2. Hilchot Eruvin by Rav Elimelech Lange. 
3. Halachos of the Eruv by Rav Shimon Eider. 
4. The Contemporary Eruv by Rav Gavriel Bechhoffer. 
5. Rav Hershel Schachter’s essay in the Spring 1983 edition of the Journal of 
Halacha and Contemporary Society, and Teshuvot number 12 and 13 in his 
B’Ikvei HaTzon. 
6. Rav Mordechai Willig’s essay in volume 25 of Beit Yitzchak.
7. Dr. Bert Miller’s (of Baltimore) Eruv Manual. 
8. Gray Matter Volume One (pages 165-199). 
9. The Mekorot cited in each of these works especially from the Mishna Berurah 
and Chazon Ish.   
10. Rav Baruch Simon’s Imrei Baruch on Eruvin.      
A Parting Thought 
In contemporary Orthodox communities in North America an Eruv is an expected 
amenity and the responsibility falls on the community Rav to properly maintain the Eruv.  
Indeed, the Halacha expects that an Eruv should be established whenever it is possible to 
do so (see Eruvin 67b-68a, Mordechai Eruvin number 515, Teshuvot HaRosh 21:8, 
Teshuvot Chatam Sofer Orach Chaim 89 and Teshuvot Har Zvi O.C. 2:24).  However, 
8not all community members are sufficiently sensitized to the time and effort that is 
necessary to achieve the goal of maintaining a kosher community Eruv.  Many if not 
most Rabbanim are severely overburdened and cannot in most cases be expected to 
maintain the Eruv without abundant and generous communal support.  The support must 
be both financial and willingness to devote time to insure its success.  On the other hand, 
community members cannot be expected to successfully maintain an Eruv at an 
appropriate Halachic level unless the local Rav is involved with the Eruv on an ongoing 
basis.  The synergy of Rav and community will insure that our Eruvin remain at the same
high standards it was at the time of its creation.   
__________________ 
Rabbi Jachter is frequently consulted regarding the construction and maintenance 
of community Eruvin.  He has built Eruvin from scratch, redesigned Eruvin and 
improved existing Eruvin.  Among the communities he has assisted are Allentown, 
Pennsylvania; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Bayside, Queens; Bradley Beach, New Jersey; 
Camp Dinah; Englewood, New Jersey; Linden, New Jersey; Longmeadow, 
Massachusetts; Mount Freedom, New Jersey; Overland Park, Kansas; Oakland, 
California; Pelham Parkway, Bronx, New York; Roslyn Heights, New York; 
Sacramento, California; San Francisco, California; Scarsdale, New York; Stamford, 
Connecticut; Teaneck, New Jersey; Tenafly, New Jersey; Vancouver, Canada and 
West Orange, New Jersey.
9

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No More Heroes, from yesterday's WSJ



Who were your heroes growing up? That answer will depend on your age. But if you are male and over 50, the type of men you most wanted to emulate seem to be quickly disappearing. In their place we see a parade of diminished character.
Consider the past two weeks in sports. Lance Armstrong has gone from cancer-stricken superman on two wheels to performance-enhancing confessor on Oprah. And for only the second time in 40 years, voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame elected not a single player. The steroid scandals apparently did in the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
"After what has been written and said over the last few years," tweeted Mr. Clemens, "I'm not overly surprised."
Neither are we. The would-be heroes of today seem to do an excellent job of knocking themselves off pedestals. For the stubborn few who don't, there are armies of Hollywood writers, university professors and cultural commentators who have, since the 1960s, delighted in undermining the very idea of heroism, present or past. Call it putting heroes in their place, or social egalitarianism—the idea that nobody should be better than anyone else.
It wasn't always this way. Boys were encouraged to look up to heroes such as Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison. And they were encouraged to aspire to success themselves, no matter how modest their roots.
In 1867, two years after the Civil War, a struggling writer published a book called "Ragged Dick." It was the story of a poor shoeshine boy who, through hard work, honesty and perseverance, pulled himself up to respectability and a middle-class life. The book became a huge success with boys across the country. By today's standards it would appear hokey, but its author, Horatio Alger, would go on to publish dozens of popular books with similar themes.
image
Getty Images/SuperStock RM
Almost 200 years earlier, an English writer named John Bunyan wrote an allegory called "Pilgrim's Progress" about the quest of a boy who travels through sin, despair and most of the evils known to man. Thanks to good fortune and guidance, he makes it to salvation on the other side. The religious metaphors would be chucked out by today's standards, yet the book has been translated into 200 languages. Perseverance and good triumph over evil—a familiar story that has captivated generations of kids. Versions of it apparently still do, considering Harry Potter's success.
Even the fallen hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" had a boyhood filled with dreams of accomplishment. The daily schedule he set for himself reads like a Horatio Alger novel:
"Rise from bed . . . 6.00 A.M.
Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling . . . 6.15-6.30
Study electricity, etc. . . . 7.15-8.15
Work . . . 8.30-4.30 P.M.
Baseball and sports . . . 4.30-5.00
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it . . . 5.00-6.00
Study needed inventions . . . 7.00-9.00"
Boys were fascinated by motivational stories not least because they watched them being played out every day. It was their fathers who drove home the point of these books by getting up every morning and coming home every night. And that is what has changed—the father once came home.
The heroes of my own Midwest boyhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s weren't all that different from those of the distant past. Television had arrived, but most of the shows back then centered on a wise and helpful father. Hollywood was still portraying American heroes drawn from World War II.
That was fine, but the men we truly looked up to weren't fictional versions like John Wayne playing Sgt. Stryker. The real heroes were all around us every day. They were the fathers of my classmates—my Boy Scout leader (Marine-Pacific), the grocer (Army-Philippines), my own Dad and uncle (Army-Europe), and the quietest and kindest teacher I ever had (second wave on D-Day). Not one of them walked with a swagger. They were the most understated men, who rarely, if ever, talked about their experiences. That reticence, and the constancy of their lives, taught us volumes.
Today, out-of-wedlock births in America surpass 40%. In some quarters, this fact is not even lamented. But when the father is missing because he has left or was never there in the first place, a boy will fill that vacuum with whomever his young mind can latch on to. The hero possibilities these days give boys—and girls, for that matter—some pretty bleak choices to fill the void.
Mr. Kozak is the author of "Presidential Courage: Three Speeches That Changed America," an eBook published in October 2012.
A version of this article appeared January 22, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Lance Armstrong and Our Unheroic Age.
Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Disputation on YouTube

Worth watching!


  • Full English translation of the Ramban's and Brother Pablo's transcripts:


  • The Disputation of Barcelona (1263): the Hebrew Report of Moses Nahmanides.
  • Portions of the disputation that are on the video have been highlighted (bold).
  • OUR LORD THE KING commanded me to dispute with Friar Paul in his palace before him and his advisors in Barcelona. I replied: "I will do as the king commands, if you permit me to speak freely. I hereby request the permission of the king and the permission of Friar Raymond of Penaforte and his associates who are here." Friar Raymond of Penaforte replied: "So long as you do not utter blasphemies." I said to them: "I wish to observe your law in this regard. But I also wish to speak freely in debate, as you speak freely. I have the wisdom to speak properly in debate as you indicate, but it must be according to my will." They all gave me permission to speak freely.
  • I then said: "The debate between Christians and Jews concerns many matters of custom which are not essential. In this revered court, I wish to debate only matters that are essential.", They all said: "You have spoken properly." Thus, we agreed to speak first about the messiah -- whether he has already come as the Christians believe or if he is yet to come as the Jews believe. Subsequently, we shall discuss whether the messiah is divine or fully human, born of man and woman. Afterward we shall discuss whether the Jews observe the true law or whether the Christians do.
  • Then Friar Paul began, saying that he would prove from our Talmud that the messiah concerning whom the prophets testify has already come. I replied: "Before we debate this, I ask that he tell me how this is possible. Indeed while he was in Provence and in many other places, I heard that he said this to many Jews. But I am most surprised. Would he answer me in this regard? Does he mean to say that the sages of the Talmud believed in Jesus as the messiah and believed that he is both human and divine, as held by the Christians? However, it is well known that the incident of Jesus took place during the period of the Second Temple. He was born and killed prior to the destruction of the Temple, while the sages of the Talmud, like R. Akiba and his associates, followed this destruction. Those who compiled the Mishnah, Rabbi and R. Nathan, lived many years after the destruction. All the more so R. Ashi who compiled the Talmud, who lived about four hundred years after the destruction. If these sages believed that Jesus was the messiah and that his faith and religion were true and if they wrote these things from which Friar Paul intends to prove this, then how did they remain in the Jewish faith and in their former practice? For they were Jews, remained in the Jewish faith all their lives, and died Jews -- they and their children and their students who heard their teachings. Why did they not convert and turn to the faith of Jesus, as Friar Paul did? He understood from their words that the faith of the Christians is the true faith -- Heaven forbid -- and he went and converted as a result. But they and their students who learned Torah from them remained and died Jews, as we are this day. . . If these sages believed in Jesus and in his faith, how is it that they did not do as Friar Paul, who understands their teachings better than they themselves do?"
  • Friar Paul responded: "These are lengthy observations, intended to cancel the debate. Nonetheless, you shall hear what I have to say." I said to them: "But this is clear proof that he shall not say anything of substance. However, I shall hear his claims, because our lord the king wishes so."
  • He began: "Behold Scriptures say, ‘the sceptre shall not pass from Judah, nor the staff from his descendants, until Shiloh comes,' meaning the messiah. Thus the prophet says that Judah shall have power forever, until the coming of the messiah who will descend from Judah. Thus today, when you Jews have neither sceptre nor staff, the messiah has already come, and he is of the seed of Judah, and his is the power."
  • I responded and said: "It was not the prophet's intention to say that the rule of Judah would never be suspended. Rather, he said that it would not pass away and be annulled completely. This means that, so long as there be a monarchy in Israel, it should belong to Judah. If because of their sins it should be suspended, it would ultimately return to Judah. This is proved by the fact that, prior to Jesus, there was a long period during which ruling authority was suspended from Judah but not from Israel and a long period during which rule was suspended both from Israel and Judah. For during the seventy years of exile in Babylonia, neither Judah nor Israel enjoyed ruling authority. During the period of the Second Temple, only Zerubabel and his sons ruled briefly from Judah. There remained, however, 380 years to the destruction, during which priests of the Hasmonean family reigned."
  • Friar Paul replied: "Through all these times, even though the Jews had no kings, they did have authorities. For thus they explained in the Talmud: 'The sceptre shall not pass from Judah' these are the exilarchs in Babylonia who control the people; 'Nor the staff from his descendants' these are the offspring of Hillel who teach the Torah publicly. Today, however, you do not have the ordination known in the Talmud. Thus even that authority has been annulled, for there is no one among you worthy of being designated 'rabbi..' That they call you 'magister' is an error, and you use that title deceitfully. . .
  • I responded and said: "I shall show you that it was not the intention of the rabbis to explain this verse other than meaning actual kingship. However, you do not understand law and halakhah; you only understand a little aggadah, with which you have made yourself familiar. The matter which the sages mentioned concerns the fact that properly no man should judge a case on his own and be free of liability to pay in case of error, unless he receives permission from the patriarch, who is like a king. They said that during the period of exile, since these are those of royal descent who have some authority from the Gentile kings, such as the exilarchs in Babylonia and the patriarchs in Palestine, they have the right to confer permission and ordination. This, however, took place among the sages of the Talmud, more than four hundred years after tile death of Jesus. For it was not the view of the sages of the Talmud that this would constitute tile sceptre and the staff which come from the seed of Judah. Rather.the prophet promised Judah that kingship over Israel would be his. He promised him actual kingship. Nonetheless this promise was suspended for. a long period, as I have mentioned. During the period of exile in Babylonia there was no sceptre or staff whatsoever, neither exilarch nor patriarch, for authority was held by the priests, the judges, the officers, or whoever they chose."
  • Then Friar Peter of Janua responded: "This is true. The verse only says that kingship shall not cease entirely, but there might be a suspension . . ."
  • I said to the king: "Behold Friar Peter rules according to my view. "
  • Friar Peter said: "I have not made a ruling. For the seventy years in Babylonia constitutes a short time. There were still many who remembered the First Temple, as is written in the book of Ezra. This might be called a suspension ... However now that you have remained more than a thousand years without kingship, that is complete abolition.
  • I said: "Now you change your mind. However, the term 'abolition' cannot be used with a recurring phenomenon. Moreover, there is no distinction in the words of the prophet between a long suspension and a short suspension. Moreover, the period that I mentioned was lengthy. Moreover, our forefather Jacob did not promise Judah that he would hold the sceptre and staff over his tribe only. Rather, he accorded Judah kingship over all Israel; as is written: 'Judah, your brothers shall praise you.' It is also written: 'Judah held the leading place among his brothers and fathered their rulers.' However kingship over all Israel was suspended from the time that Solomon died, as is written: 'The tribe of Judah alone followed the house of David.' Thus it is clear that the prophet said only that kingship would not pass completely, The truth is that, during the period of exile, it is not to be called annulment or abolition at all, for it does not involve Judah but the entire nation. For the prophet did not promise Judah that the people of Israel would never go into exile, so that he might be king over them at all times."
  • Friar Paul then claimed that in the Talmud it is said that the messiah has already come. He adduced the story in Midrash Lamentations concerning a man who was ploughing and whose ox lowed. An Arab passed and said to him: "Jew, Jew, unhitch. your ox, unhitch your ploughshare, unhitch your plough for the Temple has been destroyed." He unhitched his ox, unhitched his ploughshare, and unhitched his plough. The ox lowed a second time. The Arab said to him: "Hitch up your ox, hitch up your ploughshare, hitch up your plough, for your messiah has been born."
  • I responded: "I do not believe in this story at all, but it is a proof for my view."
  • He then cried out: "Behold he denies their books."
  • I said: "Truly I do not believe that the messiah was born on the day of the destruction of the Temple. Thus this story is not true or else it has another meaning drawn from the secrets of the sages. However I shall accept it at its simple meaning as you claim, for it is a proof for my case. Behold it says that on the day of destruction, after the Temple was destroyed, the messiah was born. Thus Jesus was not the messiah, as you claim. For he was born and killed prior to the destruction of the Temple. In fact he was born about two hundred years prior to the destruction of the Temple. According to your reckoning, he was born seventy-three years prior to the destruction of the Temple." Then he was silent.
  • Master William, the royal judge, then said: "The dispute does not now concern Jesus. The question is whether the messiah has conic or not. You say that he has not come, and this book of yours says that he has come."
  • I said to him: "You choose, as is your custom, to respond craftily. Nonetheless I shall answer you. The sages did not say that the messiah has come. Rather they said that he was born. For on the day that our teacher Moses was born, he did not come and redeem us. However, when he came before Pharaoh at the command of God and said to him: 'these are the words of the Lord -- Send forth My people!' then he may be said to have arrived. Likewise the messiah -- when he shall come before the pope and shall say to him at God's command: 'Send forth My people,' then he may be said to have come. However, to this day he has not yet come and is in no sense the messiah. For King David on the day that he was born was not the anointed one. Only when Samuel anointed him was he the anointed one. On the day that Elijah will anoint the messiah at God's command may he be called the messiah. On the day that he will subsequently come before the pope to redeem us, then he may be said to have arrived."
  • Friar Paul claimed: "Behold the passage in Isaiah, chapter 53, tells of the death of the messiah and ho he was to fall into the hands of his enemies and how he was placed alongside the wicked, as happened to Jesus. Do you believe that this section speaks of the messiah?
  • I said to him: "In terms of the true meaning of the section, it speaks only of the people of Israel, which the prophets regularly call 'Israel My servant' or 'Jacob My servant.' "nly of the people of Israel, which the prophets regularly call 'Israel My servant' or 'Jacob My servant.' "
  • Friar Paul said: "I shall prove from the words of your sages that it speaks of the messiah."
  • I said to him: "It is true that the rabbis in the aggadah explain it as referring to the messiah. However, they never said that he would be killed at the hands of his enemies. For you will find in no book of the Jews, neither in the Talmud nor in the Midrash, that the messiah, the descendant of David, would be killed or would be turned over to his enemies or would be buried among the wicked. Indeed even the messiah whom you made for yourself was not buried. I shall explain for you this section properly and clearly, if you wish. There is no indication that the messiah would be killed, as happened to your messiah. They, however, did not wish to hear.
  • Friar Paul then said that, in the Talmud, it is indicated that R. Joshua b. Levi asked Elijah when the messiah would come. He answered him: "Ask the messiah himself. " He said "Where is he?" He said: "At the gate of Rome, among the sick." He went there and found him. He asked him ... Thus the messiah has already come, is in Rome, and is in fact Jesus who rules in Rome.
  • I said to him: "Isn't it clear from this that he has not come? For he asked Elijah when the messiah would come Likewise he asked the messiah himself: 'When will you come? Thus he has not yet come. Rather, according to the simple meaning of these stories, he was born already. But I do not believe this."
  • Then the king responded: "If he were born on the day of the destruction of the Temple, which was more than a thousand years ago and has not yet arrived, how will he arrive? For it is not human nature to live for a thousand years."
  • I said to him: "Conditions were set that I not debate with you and that you will not participate in the debate. However, already among early man Adam and Methusaleh lived almost to a thousand years and Elijah and Enoch more than that, Methusaleh lies in the hands of God." He said: "Where is he now?" I said: "This is not a necessary element in the debate, and I shall not respond. Maybe you can find him at the gates of Toledo, if you send there one of your couriers." I said it jokingly. They then rose, and the king set a time for resuming the debate, on the following Monday.
  • On that day the king went to the cloister in the city, where all the men of the city gathered, Gentiles and Jews. The bishop, all the clerics, and the sages of the Franciscans and Dominicans were there. Friar Paul rose to speak. I said to our lord the king: "My lord, hear me. " He said to me: "Let him speak first, since he is the interlocutor." I said: "Allow me to clarify my view concerning the messiah. Then he can reply to the clarification."
  • I rose and said: "Listen all you people. Friar Paul asked me whether the messiah of whom the prophets spoke has come. I said that he has not come. He then cited an aggadah which said that, on the very day the Temple was destroyed, the messiah was born. I then said that I do not believe this, although it is a proof for my view. Now I shall explain to you why I said that I do not believe this. Know that we Jews have three types of books. The first is the Bible, and we all believe it completely. The second is called Talmud, and it is a commentary on the merits of the Torah. For in the Torah there are 613 commandments and there is not one of them that is not explained in the Talmud. We believe in the Talmud concerning explanation of the commandments. We have yet a third book called Midrash, that is sermons. This is analogous to the bishop standing and giving a sermon, with one of the listeners deciding to write it. In regard to this book, those who believe it well and good, but those who do not believe it do no harm. We have sages who wrote that the messiah will not be born I until close to the time ordained for redeeming us from exile. Therefore I do not believe in this book, where it says that he was born on the day, of the destruction of the Temple. We also call this book aggadah, that is, stories, meaning that these are only things which one person tells another. However, I shall accept this aggadah literally, as you wish, because it is an explicit proof that Jesus is not the messiah, as I said to you, because he was not born on that day. Rather, by that time, everything related to him had already transpired long before.
  • "Now you, our lord the king, asked and objected properly that it is not human nature to live a thousand years. Now I shall explain to you the answer to your questions. Behold Adam lived a thousand years minus seventy. Moreover, it says explicitly in Scriptures that he died because of his sin; had he not sinned, he would have lived much more or even forever. Both the Gentiles and the Jews agree that the sin and punishment of Adam will be annulled during messianic times. Thus after the messiah comes, it will be annulled from all of us, but with the messiah himself it will be completely annulled. Thus the messiah is capable of living thousands of years or even forever. Thus Psalms says: 'He asked of Thee life, and Thou didst give it him, length of days for ever and ever.' You further asked, our lord the king, where he is now. It is already indicated in Scriptures. For Adam lived in terrestrial paradise. When he sinned, it is said: 'So the Lord God drove him out of the Garden of Eden.' Thus, one who is free from the punishment of Adam's sin lives there in paradise. Thus said the sages in the book of aggadah which I mentioned. The king said: "Did you not say in the same aggadah that he was in Rome." I said to him "I did not say that he lived in Rome, only that he appeared in Rome on a particular day. For Elijah told the sage that he would find him there on that day . . ."
  • This is the content of the debates. I have not consciously altered a detail. Subsequently, on that same day, I stood before our lord the king and he said: "Let the dispute be suspended. For I have never seen a man whose case is wrong argue it as well as you have done."
  • The Disputation of Barcelona (1263): Anonymous Latin Report
  • Portions in which the reports can be directly compared are highlighted (italics).
  • ON JULY 20, 1263, in the presence of the lord king of Aragon and many other barons, prelates, clerics, and knights, in the palace of the lord king at Barcelona, Moses the Jew, called "rabbi," was summoned from Gerona by the lord king, at the request of the Dominicans, and was present there, along with many other Jews who seemed and were reputed among other Jews more learned. Deliberation was undertaken with the lord king and with certain Dominicans and Franciscans who were present, not that the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ -- which because of its certitude cannot be placed in dispute ?? be put in the center of attention with the Jews as uncertain, but that the truth of that faith be made manifest in order to destroy the Jews' errors and to shake the confidence of many Jews. Since they could not defend their errors, these Jews indicated that the said rabbi could sufficiently reply to each and every question which would be placed before them.
  • Friar Paul proposed to the said rabbi, that, with the aid of God, he would prove from writings shared and accepted by the Jews the following contentions, in order: that the messiah, who is called Christ, whom the Jews anticipate, has surely come already; also that the messiah, as prophesied, should be divine and human; also that he suffered and was killed for the salvation of mankind; also that the laws and ceremonials ceased and should have ceased after the advent of the said messiah. When the said Moses was asked whether he wished to respond to these contentions which have been indicated, he said and affirmed that he would and that, if necessary, he would remain at Barcelona for that purpose not only for a day or a week or a month, but even for a year. When it was proved to him that he should not be called "rabbi," because no Jew should be designated by that title from the time of the Passion of Christ, he conceded at least that this was true for the previous eight hundred years.
  • Then it was indicated to him, that when Friar Paul had come to Gerona for the purpose of conferring with him on these matters, which pertain to salvation, and had expostulated carefully concerning the Holy Trinity, both about the unity of the divine essence and about the trinity of beings, the beliefs which Christians hold, he had conceded that, if Christians believed in the manner explained to him, he would believe indeed that so it should be held. When this was repeated before the king, he did not contradict. Rather he was silent, and thus by remaining silent he conceded.
  • Then in the palace of the lord king, the said Jew was asked whether the messiah, who is called Christ has come. He responded with the assertion that he has not come. He added that the messiah and Christ are the same and that, if it could be proved to him that the messiah had come, it could be believed to refer to none other than him, namely Jesus Christ, in whom the Christians believe, since no one else has come who has dared to usurp for himself this title nor has there been anyone else who had been believed to be Christ. It was then proved to him clearly, both through authoritative texts of the law and the prophets as well as through the Talmud, that Christ has truly come, as Christians believe and preach. Since he was unable to respond, vanquished by proper proofs and authoritative texts, he conceded that Christ or the messiah had been born in Bethlehem a thousand years ago and had subsequently appeared in Rome to some. When he was asked where that messiah who he said was born and appeared at Rome might be, he replied that he did not know. Subsequently he said that the messiah lives in a terrestrial paradise with Elijah. He also said that, although the messiah has been born, he has still not come, since the messiah may be said to have come when he achieves dominion over the Jews and liberates them and when the Jews follow him. Against this response was adduced the authority of the Talmud, which clearly says that the messiah would come to them daily, if they would hear his voice and not harden their heart, as is said in Psalms: "Today if you will listen to his voice."
  • It was added that the messiah was born among men, that he came among men, and that he could not otherwise be or be understood. To this he was unable to respond. Also among the proofs presented concerning the advent of the messiah was that from Genesis:, "The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the staff from his descendants." Since therefore he must acknowledge that there is neither scepter nor staff, he acknowledges that the messiah who was to be sent has come. To this he responded that the scepter has not been removed. It is merely temporarily absent, as happened during the time of the Babylonian captivity. It was proved to him that in Babylonia the Jews had exilarchs with jurisdiction, while after the death of Christ they had neither a staff nor a prince nor exilarchs according to the prophecy of Daniel nor a prophet nor any jurisdiction, as is manifestly obvious every day. It is thus certain that the messiah has come. He then said that he would prove that the Jews had the aforesaid exilarchs after Jesus, but he was able to show nothing in these matters. On the contrary he confessed that they have not had the aforesaid exilarchs for the past 850 years. Therefore it is clear that the messiah has come, since an authoritative text cannot lie.
  • The said Moses claimed that Jesus Christ should not be called the messiah, since the messiah, he said, should not die, as is said in Psalms: "He asked of thee life and thou didst give it him, length of days for ever and ever." Rather he should live eternally, both he and those whom he would liberate. It was therefore asked of him whether chapter 53 of Isaiah -- "Who could have believed what we have heard" -- which according to the Jews begins at the end of chapter 52, where it is said: "Behold my servant shall prosper," speaks of the messiah. Although he consistently claimed that this passage in no way speaks of the messiah, it was proved to him through many authoritative texts in the Talmud which speak of the passion and death of Christ, which they prove through the said chapter, that the aforesaid chapter of Isaiah must be understood as related to Christ, in which the death, passion, burial and resurrection of Christ is obviously contained. Indeed forced by authoritative texts, he confessed that this section must be understood and explained as relating to Christ. From this it is clear that the messiah was to suffer.
  • Since he did not wish to confess the truth unless forced by authoritative texts, when he was unable to explain these authoritative texts, he said publicly that he did not believe these authoritative texts which were adduced against him -- although found in ancient and authentic books of the Jews -- because they were, he claimed, sermons in which their teachers often lied for the purpose of exhorting the people. As a result he reproved both the teachers and the scriptures of the Jews. Moreover, all these issues, or almost all, which he confessed or which were proved to him, he first negated; then confuted by authoritative texts and confused, he was forced to assent. Moreover, since he was unable to respond and was often publicly confused and since both Jews and Christians insulted him, he persistently claimed before all that he would in no way respond, since the Jews prohibited him and Christians, namely Friar P. de Janua and certain upstanding men of the city, had sent him messages advising that he in no way respond. Concerning this he was publicly refuted by the said Friar P. and by these upstanding men. Whence it is clear that he tried to escape the disputation by lies. Moreover, although he promised before the king and many others that before a few he would answer concerning his faith and his law, when the said lord was outside the city, he secretly fled and departed. Whence it is clear that he did not dare nor was he able to defend his erroneous belief.
  • We James, by the grace of God, King of Aragon, Majorca and Valencia, count of Barcelona and Urgell, and lord of Montpellier, confirm and acknowledge that each and every statement and action took place in our presence and in the presence of many others, as contained above in the present letter. In testimony of this we have caused our seal to be appended as a perpetual memorial.