The Kotel And The Mall
Our daf concerns the subject of eruvin. Let us apply some of the halachos of eruvin to contemporary situations.
Two types of reshus harabim discussed in the Gemara are sratya and platya. Rashi (Shabbos 6a s.v. “sratya u’platya”) explains that a platya is a town square where merchants gather to sell their wares while a sratya is a public road. The Chacham Tzvi writes (Teshuvos 37) in the name of the Rashba that although the Gemara permits carrying in a reshus harabim if it is closed off by gates at night, this leniency does not apply to a platya. He explains that a sratya is mostly used by its residents. Therefore, it loses its reshus harabim status when it is closed off. A platya, however, is used equally by anyone who wishes to gather there. Therefore, it retains its reshus harabim status even if it is closed off by gates.
Private or Public?
The Chacham Tzvi regarded this ruling as an astounding chiddush which was not mentioned in any of the other commentaries he had available to him. Since the Chacham Tzvi’s time, however, the commentary of the Meiri (a rishon) has been printed, and he writes that closed gates do not permit carrying in a platya (Shabbos 6a). Furthermore, in his commentary to the Mishnayos, the Vilna Gaon also concurs with this opinion (introduction to Shnos Eliyahu). According to these opinions, an eruv does not permit carrying in a public square.
Based on this halachic position, one would seemingly not be able to carry in an enclosed shopping mall even if an eruv surrounded it. The Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchosa, however, rules that enclosed shopping malls cannot be considered a reshus harabim since they’re covered with roofs. Therefore, one is permitted to carry within them.
City streets in shopping districts are also not examples of a platya since the stores in which people make their purchases are considered separate from the street.
Carrying at the Kotel
Based on the Rashba’s opinion, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, thought that the kotel should perhaps be considered a platya and therefor a place in which one is not allowed to carry – despite the Jerusalem eruv. Unlike a shopping mall, the kotel plaza has no roof. Rabbi Auerbach concludes, however, that the designation of “platya” only applies to commercial areas. Since the kotel plaza is not a commercial town square, G-d forbid, carrying there is permitted (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchosa 17).
The above discussion is based on the interpretation of the Rashba that carrying in a platya is always forbidden. The Chayei Adam, however, interprets the Rashba otherwise. He writes that even the Rashba would agree that a platya surrounded by four walls loses its reshus harabim status (Nishmas Adam 49:2). Since the kotel is surrounded by Jerusalem’s walls, we have another reason to permit carrying there.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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