How to Carry the Day
In a famous teshuva, Reb Moshe Feinstein zt”l permits the use of what has become known as chalav stam, i.e. milk that was not supervised by a Jew at the time of milking, but nevertheless may be considered kosher. The basis of the heter is the Anan Sahadi ("we bear witness") that the milk was obtained from a cow, as opposed to being a product of a non-kosher animal. The fact that the dairy that produced the milk is subject to scrutiny by government inspectors, who can levy fines if animals other than cows are found being used, provides evidence of the purity of the milk. This level of evidence, says Reb Moshe, is equivalent to that ordinarily provided by the testimony of two valid Jewish witnesses, and the milk is fit to drink. It should be noted, that this heter, for those who rely on it, applies only in the United States where government inspectors are expected to honestly perform their duty. In other countries where there are neither government regulations nor inspectors, or even if there are regulations, where bribing inspectors is more the norm than the exception, the veracity of the anan sahadi is insufficient to permit consumption of chalav stam. It is important that this be kept in mind when traveling outside the country.
Reb Moshe zt”l was once asked whether a certain Yeshiva could be allowed to save a substantial amount of money by serving chalav stam to its students. Reb Moshe zt”l responded that an institution that is charged with educating its talmidim, must also teach them the important lesson that it is often appropriate to adopt a chumrah even if a heter is available. The Yeshiva would not be fulfilling its mission of chinuch if the students came away thinking that one should always follow the exact letter of the law, when there are reasons to be machmir. Reb Moshe felt that this was an essential lesson for the talmidim to learn even though teaching it by example placed a great financial burden on the Yeshiva.
Shemiras Shabbos is a core observance of the Bnei Yisroel. An observant Jew is not characterized as a “Shomer Kashrus” or a “Shomer Sha’atnez”, but rather as a "Shomer Shabbos". Shabbos is the "ois" (sign) between Hashem and His people. As Rabbi Miller zt”l has pointed out, Shabbos is the weekly Holiday that proclaims our belief in Hashem, His creation of the universe, and His dominion over it. Our celebration of yetsiyas mitsrayim occurs once a year on Pesach, but our remembrance of Hashem’s creation of the world must be reinforced on a weekly basis. The centrality of Shabbos observance behooves us to take Shemiras Shabbos very seriously and dissuades us from indiscriminately relying on Heterim.
The importance of Shabbos observance is evident in the way our Chachomim have ruled how we should observe Rosh Hashana when it falls on Shabbos. The Shofar is a very important ingredient in our Tefilas Rosh Hashana. As we are told, "Say before me pesukim of malchiyos so that your remembrance will come before Me, and with what? With the shofar". So it seems quite surprising that the Chachomim should prohibit the use of the Shofar on Shabbos due to the remote possibility that someone would carry a Shofar precisely in a reshus harabim de’oraysah in order to bring it before a Rav. Obviously, the exceptional significance of Shemiras Shabbos dictates our very stringent adherence to its precepts.
Boruch Hashem we have finally completed an Eruv in Los Angeles that is Halachically valid. Based on the majority opinion of the great Torah authorities, such an Eruv is valid even in a city with the large population that we have here in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, our Poskim have suggested that unless necessary, the best practice is to follow the more stringent minority opinion whenever possible. Although it is impossible to make a blanket ruling on when it is appropriate to rely on the L.A. Eruv, a rough guideline is to use it when there is a "Tzorech" - a situation of important need. Many years ago, Reb Moshe zt”l wrote a letter of approval for an Eruv whose construction was never completed, but which bore Halachic similarities to our own Eruv. His guideline for the use of that Eruv was that it be relied upon by "the elderly, the infirm, and by women who have small children". As is common in Eretz Yisroel, though many are machmir regarding the use of the Eruv, nevertheless, the wives will utilize the Eruv to allow themselves to "get out of the house" with their small children. Their enjoyment of the Shabbos will be greatly enhanced by their ability to go out and not be "trapped in the house" for the many months or years that they have infants who are unable to walk outside. This does not mean, chas veshalom, that these women take the observance of Shabbos more lightly than their husbands! In fact it is usually quite the contrary! It is merely an application of the use of the Eruv in a case of a true need. For specific questions as to when to use our own Eruv, one may wish to consult your Rav.
Inasmuch as the L.A. Eruv is Halachically sound, it is not right to look down on those who use it, however indiscriminately. Still, when considering personally relying on the Eruv in a given instance, one should ask oneself if its use satisfies an important need of the moment. Those who are particular about Shemiras Shabbos will certainly merit great reward BE”H.
© Congregation Kehilas Yaakov 5771/2010