Masechet Eiruvin opens by discussing the methods of “fixing” a mavoi. A mavio is an alleyway onto which shared courtyards open and through which one accesses the public domain. One is not allowed to carry in a dead-end mavoi unless a shituf mavoi is performed. This involves the residents of each chatzer joining together by contributing food to be placed in one of the chatzerot. Prior to the shituf working we have learnt that either a lechi (sidepost) or korah (crossbeam) must be placed at the entrance of the movoi.1 In this article we will focus on the lechi.
The Mishnah (1:6) taught that the lechi must be at least ten tephachim tall, whereas there is no minimum dimension regarding its width or thickness. R’ Yossi however argues that it must be at least three tephachim wide. The Bartenura explains that since the lechi is functioning as a mechitzah (legal partition, closing off the open end of the mavoi) its width must be substantial.
In the Gemara (14b) Rava adds that if the lechi is raised from the ground by three tephachim or is three tephachim from the wall, then the lechi would be invalid. R’ Yehonatan (3a Rif, s.v. R’ Eliezer) explains that if the lechi was three tephachim from the wall, then since there is more airspace on either side of the lechi it would be considered annulled.2 R’ Yehonatan (4a Rif, s.v. R’ Yossi) also explains that it is for this reason that R’ Yossi requires that the lechi be three tephachim wide in our Mishnah. That is so that if the lechi was three tephachim from the wall it would still be valid.
The Magen Avraham (363:5) explains that based on this reasoning, if one did have a lechi that was three tephachim wide then it could be at three tephachim from the wall. The Magen Avraham however cites the Tosfot that disagree. In other words, the issue is simply that the lechi must be close to the wall.
The Shaar HaTzion explains that the issue is that if it is at a great distance, it becomes a “mechitzah that a kid can penetrate” and under those circumstances such a mechitzah is invalid.3
The Chazon Ish (OC, Eiruvin 69:11) however explains that we only say that the airspace on either side of a narrow partition annuled it when we need the space to be sealed, i.e. we need more standing wall then spaces. In the case of a lechi however other than the lechi itself, the side is open. The requirement for a lechi is that it is recognisable to those standing inside of the mavoi. Consequently, the Chazon Ish explains that once it is far from the wall it does not satisfy this requirement.
The Machatzit HaShekel however provides a different approach not related to the laws of partitions per se. He explains that even though the lechi functions as a machitza, it must still function as a heiker (reminder) that one is reaching the end of the permissible area to carry. The issue here is that if the lechi is too far from the wall it will not serve that purpose.
1 See “Introduction to Mavoi”, volume 8, issue 11, for a discussion on the status of the mavoi before and after the lechi or korah has been placed at the entrance.
2 Note that at a distance of less than three tephachim the gap between the lechi and the wall would be considered filled based on the principle of lavud (see volume 1, issue 16).
3 See the Shut R’ Akiva Eiger (18) where he rejects this approach.
4 The source for this article were gleaned from Yalkut Biurim, Eiruvin 11b, Metivta.
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