Tzurot Hapetach – A Report from the Field - Part Two by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Last week we noted (in an essay available at that constructing a Tzurat HaPetach (sym­bolic doorways, which constitute the bulk of most community Eiruvin) seems to be a simple and straight­for­ward process. The Gemara (Eiruvin 11b) states that a Tzurat HaPetach consists of two vertical poles (Lechis) with a horizontal pole directly on top of them (Kaneh MiKan VeKaneh MiKan VeKaneh Al Gabeihen). How­ever, the laws of Tzurot HaPetach are actually complex, particularly when con­structing a community Eiruv. Community Eiruvin commonly use preexisting struc­tures, which can significantly stabilize the Eiruv and also reduce the costs of building and maintaining an Eiruv. These struc­tures, such as utility poles, were not built for use in Eiruvin and often introduce Halachic challenges. We began to address some of the challenges in our last issue and we conclude our discussion this week.


Last week we discussed the issue as to whether the Lechis must extend all the way to the horizontal wire. This week we address yet another major area of debate in constructing Tzurot HaPetach - the status of “Tachuv,” when the horizontal wire does not rest atop the vertical poles, but is drilled through them instead. Cases of Tachuv frequently arise today, as many wires on utility poles, especially those used for cable television and ten­sion wires, are attached to bolts that pass into holes in the poles (utility line workers commonly refer to Tachuv as “bolt through”). The issue of Tachuv arises dozens or even hundreds of times in most community Eiruvs. If Tachuv is acceptable, many preexisting poles and wires already satisfy the Halachic requirements for a Tzurat HaPetach without requiring the additional installation of a Lechi to the utility pole.

The Gemara relates that, in a valid Tzurat HaPetach, the horizontal pole is placed atop the vertical poles. Furthermore, if the vertical poles are not under the horizontal one, but to its side (Tzurat HaPetach Min HaTzad), the Tzurat HaPetach is unacceptable (Eiruvin 11b). The Talmud does not specifically address a situation in which the horizontal pole passes through the vertical poles.

The Acharonim debate the acceptability of such a Tzurat HaPetach. The Mishnah Berurah (362:64) notes that the Pri Megadim was uncertain regarding this issue and therefore was inclined to rule strictly. On the other hand, Rav Shlomo Kluger (HaElef Lecha Shlomo, Orach Chaim 164), the Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 362:32), the Chazon Ish (O.C. 71:9), and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Teshuvot Har Tzvi, O.C. 2:18:3) rule that such Tzurot HaPetach may be used. They argue that, as long as the horizontal pole passes through the vertical poles at a point higher than ten Tefachim off the ground, the portion of the vertical pole that is above the horizontal pole is ignored (Dal MeiHachah, see Sukkah 2a for an example of this Halachic concept). The Chazon Ish notes that if a horizontal pole was placed on top of a vertical pole and then another vertical pole was placed on top of the first one, the original Tzurat HaPetach remains ac­ceptable. Similarly, a horizontal wire that passes through a hole in a vertical pole should be acceptable.

On the other hand, one could argue that a Tzurat HaPetach must replicate an actual door­way (as we discussed last week). Accordingly, since people do not create doorways using Tachuv, a Tzurat HaPetach that is built using Tachuv does not constitute a proper Tzurat HaPetach. None­theless, just as we mentioned last week that the Halachic construct of Gud Asik can legitimately create a Tzurat HaPetach that resembles a doorway, so too can the rabbinic tool of Dal MeiHachah create an acceptable Tzurat HaPetach that fully resembles an actual doorway.

This issue has not been resolved; some rabbis rely on the lenient opinion, while others follow the strict one. Rav Dovid Feinstein has told this author that the leniency of Tachuv should not be employed in community Eiruvin (Rav Yitzchok Frankel told me that this was the position of Rav Moshe Feinstein). Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 2:35:25) writes that Tachuv is undoubtedly acceptable. Rav Yehuda Amital told this author that the practice in Israel is to be lenient on this issue.

In North America, Eiruvin made by Rav Shimon Eider and (Yibadeil LeChaim) Rav Moshe Heinemann do not rely on Tachuv while Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig agree that Tachuv may be relied upon. The Teaneck Eiruv relies upon Tachuv as do many Eiruvin in North America built by Rav Schachter and Rav Willig’s Talmidim. Rav Michael Taubes, the administrator of the Teaneck Eiruv, once told me that it is difficult to imagine how a very large Eiruv (such as the Teaneck Eiruv, which has a perimeter of approximately twelve miles) could be properly maintained if Tachuv is not accepted. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment, based on my experience administering the Englewood Eiruv and advising many other communities regarding their Eiruvin. Relying on Tachuv avoids the need to install dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of Lechis and allows the community to focus their attention to inspect and maintain the existing essential Lechis.

Flimsy Wires

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 362:11) codifies the Gemara's (Eiruvin 11b) requirement that the vertical poles be sufficiently strong that they could theoretically support a door made of straw. The Shulchan Aruch adds that the horizontal wire connecting the vertical poles does not have to be as strong and can even be made from a very light material, such as reed-grass (Gemi).

Nonetheless, some suggest that the string may not be so flimsy that it sways in the wind. The Mishnah Berurah (362:66) presents two opinions regarding this issue. One focus of the argument is whether the horizontal wire has to be sufficiently sturdy that it can withstand "conventional" winds (Omeid BeRu’ach Metzuyah). He quotes the well-known rule that for a Halachic wall (Mechitzah) to be valid, it must be sturdy enough to withstand ordinary winds. This rule undoubtedly applies to the vertical poles of a Tzurat HaPetach, but one opinion claims that it does not apply to the horizontal strings (or poles). Another objection to flimsy wires is that normal doorframes are not constructed in such a manner (see Eiruvin 94b). The Aruch HaShulchan (362:37) rules leniently regarding this concern, while the Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 71:10) rules strictly. This issue, similar to the Tachuv debate, hinges on the issue of to what degree must a Tzurat HaPetach replicate an actual doorframe.

Zigzagging Wires

In a true doorframe, the horizontal beam goes straight from one vertical beam to the other. When constructing a Tzurat HaPetach, it happens sometimes that the wire will wrap around things, such as trees or poles, which it does not pass over. Consequently, the wire, which should parallel the top beam of a doorway, will zigzag between the vertical poles rather than going straight from one of them to the other. This issue always arises with telephone wires as the poles are very often not aligned in a straight line, thereby causing the horizontal wire to run in less than a straight line. Does Halachah tolerate the Eiruv’s horizontal line not running in a straight line?

Many argue that the status of such a wire depends upon the same dispute as the status of a wire which is blown from side to side in the wind, for both wires move horizontally from being directly between the vertical poles. Eiruvin created by Rav Shimon Eider and (Yibadeil LeChayim) Rav Moshe Heinemann require the Eiruv wire to be perfectly straight. They argue that only a completely straight horizontal replicates an actual Tzurat HaPetach.

In defense of the lenient position, Rav Mordechai Willig (Am Mordechai, Shabbat) claims that a minor zigzag is permissible, because the Gemara (Eiruvin 11a) describes Tzurot HaPetach that use grapevines as the “horizontal wire”, and grapevines are not completely straight. He adds that the Shulchan Aruch’s mentioning the use of Gemi (reed grass) as the horizontal wire also bolsters this approach, since reed grass will not necessarily be completely straight. The grapevine and reed grass examples seem to demonstrate that Halachah does not require the complete replication of an actual Tzurat HaPetach. As we noted last week, Rashi (Eiruvin 11a s.v. UMatach) states that a Tzurat HaPetach is MeiEin Tzurat HaPetach (resembles an actual Tzurat HaPetach) which might imply that a Halachic Tzurat HaPetach is not required to completely resemble a true doorframe.

There is a sub-dispute among Posekim who adopt the lenient approach that the horizontal wire need not need be perfectly straight. Rav Yosef Adler reports that Rav Dov Soloveitchik ruled (for the Teaneck rabbis who consulted him in the early 1980’s for guidance regarding the creation of the Teaneck Eiruv) that Halachah tolerates a curve up to twenty-two degrees. Rav Willig, however, advocates accepting a much smaller change of direction. The dispute hinges upon how much of a deviation from a true doorframe we tolerate of a Tzurat HaPetach to qualify even as MeiEin Tzurat HaPetach.

Rav Meir Arik (Teshuvot Imrei Yosher 2:133) offers a compromise that the wire is valid only if it does not sway or veer more than three Tefachim in any direction. Rav Yitzchok Frankel told me that he recalls this as the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein. This approach fundamentally agrees that the Tzurat HaPetach must completely mimic an actual doorframe. However, the Imrei Yosher and Rav Moshe believe that the Halachic concept of Lavud renders the wire as if it were straight, just as the concept of Gud Asik could render the ten Tefach Lechi (aligned under the horizontal wire) as if it extended all the way to the horizontal wire.

This issue is not a matter of only theoretical interest, as the lesser the tolerance of change of direction of the horizontal wire, the greater the number of Lechis are required to be installed on the utility poles. This does not only involve increase cost (as only a professional should install Lechis all the way to the wire) but also adds to the difficulty of monitoring the Kashrut of the Lechis. Experience teaches that for some communities that have very large Eiruvin, maintaining a very large numbers of Lechis makes the Eiruv unwieldy and unmanageable if just one or two people inspect the Eiruv on a weekly basis.

In practice, many communities are strict and tolerate no change of direction in the horizontal wire while many others tolerate a modest change in direction in keeping with either Rav Moshe or Rav Willig’s standards. Some communities might rely on Rav Solovetichik’s standard in case of great need, such as the discovery of a problem with the Eiruv shortly before Shabbat begins.


We hope the discussion of the past two weeks have enlightened those who studied Masechet Eiruvin with this introduction to a few of the many issues involved in the creation of community Eiruvin. Even if those who have not yet had the privilege to learn Masechet Eruvin can appreciate the seriousness in which Rabbanim and lay leaders of all generations take the practical application of the holy words of the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch to the realities of life.

Hacham Ovadia Yosef – The Most Accomplished Rav of Recent Generations - Part One by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Tzurot HaPetach – A Report from the Field - Part One by Rabbi Chaim Jachter