Lubavitch Opposition to New York Eruv is 120 Years Old

The topic of eruv in New York City and the Lubavitch view has been much discussed in recent times. But a newly uncovered newspaper clipping shows that the issue was addressed by a student of the Tzemach Tzedek nearly 120 years ago.

By reporter

The topic of eruv in New York City and the Lubavitch view has been much discussed in recent times. But the issue of carrying on Shabbos in New York and the position of Lubavitch rabbonim is quite old.

A newly uncovered newspaper clipping from nearly 120 years ago shows how Harav Chaim Yakov Vidrevitz, a chossid of the Tzemach Tzedek and Rebbe Maharash and a rov in New York, weighed in on the topic.

As a bochur, Harav Vidrevitz was an exceptional ilui and a yoshev by the Tzemach Tzedek. In 5636 (1876), after serving as rov in several Russian towns, he was sent by the Rebbe Maharash to be the Chassidishe rov of Moscow. He served there for 15 years, earning him the title, the “Moskver Rov.”

During that time, Harav Vidrevitz was tasked by the Tzemach Tzedek’s revered children to organize the ksovim and to print the tshuvos of the Tzemach Tzedek. He spent a period of two years toiling over the Tzemach Tzedek’s writing and clarifying his words.

After upheavals in Russia and an attempt on the Czar’s life, a large portion of Moscow’s Jews were expelled, and in 5652 (1892), Harav Vidrevitz decided to head towards the American shores. There he was appointed as rov of the Lubavitcher-Nyezhiner shul on Henry Street on the East Side of New York.

In New York, he began to shine even more and he accomplished much in the realm of strengthening Yiddishkeit, specifically in the areas of kashrus and mikvaos. His wit and genius were well-known throughout the land.

During that time, Rabbi Yehoshua Seigel, known as the Sherpser Rov, created the first eruv in New York, covering the Jewish area of Manhattan. The eruv counted on existing riverbanks and train trestles, and it ignored the large population of Manhattan which, at the time, numbered around 2 million.

In a public letter, published in the Yiddish newspaper Der Teglicher Herald from July 21, 1905, Harav Vidrevitz responds to the “Chevra Shomrei Shabbos” about using an eruv in New York City. In his letter, he writes that carrying in the streets is a “sofek issur d’oraisa” and one who carries is considered a “mechalel Shabbos b’farhesya.”


יום ב’, י”ד תמוז תרס”ה.

כבור “חברה שומרי שבת” בעיר נויארק!

אייער פראגע אויב מעז מעג טראגען אום שבת אין שטאדט ניו יאָרק. גלויבט ניט אז דער שעֶבשער רב האָט געפסק’ט אז מעו מעג. אין דיא האללען טאַר מען אויך ניט טראָגען. מען מוז האבען א עירוב חצרות אוז דאס קען היער ניט זיין ווארום אין יעדע הויז איז בעוה”ר פאראן מחללי שבת ווער רעדט אין סטריט איז א ספק איסור דאורייתא און ווער עס טראגט אום שבת אין סטריט איז ער א מחלל שבת בפרהסיא. המודיע לאפרושי מאיסורא,

חיים יעקב ווידרעוויץ. ממאָסקווא החופ”ק

Special thanks to Rabbi Shmuel Super for sharing this clipping with us.

In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

    1. As requested:


      Monday, 14 Tammuz 5665 (1905)

      To the honorable Chevra Shomrei Shabbos of New York City:

      You have asked whether one may carry on Shabbos in New York City. Don’t believe [the report] that the Shebsher [Sherpser] Rav ruled that one may [do so]. In the hallways [of apartment buildings] one may not carry either; one would have to make an eruv chatzeros, and here that cannot be done because, due to our great sins, there are mechallelei Shabbos in every house. Needless to say, in the street it’s a question of a Torah-level prohibition. Anyone who carries on Shabbos in the street is a public mechallel Shabbos. [Written by] the one who comes to inform [people] to keep them away from a prohibition,

      Chaim Yaakov Viderevitz, from Moscow, residing here

      Below this is a corroborating note from R. Aharon Gordon, later chief rabbi of Rochester, NY:

      What my colleague R. Chaim Yaakov Viderevitz of Moscow has said is correct, that [to carry] in the street is a question of a prohibition carrying the penalty of sekilah, and one must not believe [reports] that the Shebsher Rav ruled that one may carry. Someone ignorant, and who is not familiar with the Shebsher Rav’s ways, wrote this. We therefore are publicizing that it is forbidden to carry, and there is no heter for it; don’t believe it when people say that there is a heter.

      From me, Aharon Gordon, rav here in New York.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package