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An eruv ([ʕeˈʁuv]; Hebrew: עירוב, "mixture", also transliterated as eiruv or erub, plural: eruvin [ʕeʁuˈvin]) is a ritual enclosure that some Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox Jewish communities, construct in their neighborhoods to work around the religious prohibition against Jewish residents or visitors carrying certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. An eruv accomplishes this by symbolically integrating a number of private and public properties into one larger "private domain", thereby avoiding restrictions on carrying objects from the private to the public domain on Sabbath and holidays.
An eruv allows Jews to carry, among other things, house keys, tissues, medication, or babies with them, and to use strollers and canes. The presence or absence of an eruv thus especially affects the lives of strictly observant Jews with limited mobility and those responsible for taking care of babies and young children.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Specific laws of eruv
- 3 Coping without an eruv
- 4 Communities with eruvin
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Other forms of eruv
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The prohibition of transferring between domains
In Jewish tradition it is commonly said that "carrying" is forbidden on Shabbat. Specifically, "transferring between domains" (הוצאה מרשות לרשות) is considered one of the 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat.
The halacha of Shabbat divides spaces into four categories:
- Private domain (reshut hayachid), such as a house
- Public domain (reshut harabim), such as a very busy road
- Carmelit, which includes most other places
- Neutral domain (makom patur), such as the flat space on top of a pole
A domain is defined as public or private based on its degree of enclosure, not its ownership. The rules here are complex, and expertise is needed to apply them.
On Shabbat, it is forbidden to transfer an object from one domain to another, including from one person's house to another adjacent house. The only exception is transferring to or from a neutral domain (which is rarely relevant).
In addition, it is also forbidden to transfer an object for a distance of 4 cubits (approximately 2 metres) within a public domain or carmelit.
The term eruv is a shortening of eruv chatzerot, literally a "merger of [different] domains" (into a single domain). This makes carrying within the area enclosed by the eruv no different from carrying within a single private domain (such as a house owned by a single person), which is permitted.
The eruv typically includes numerous private homes, as well as a semi-public courtyard whose ownership is shared by them. To enact the merger of the homes and courtyard into a single domain, all home owners as well as owners of the courtyard must pool together certain foodstuffs, which grants the area of the eruv the status of a single private domain. As a precondition for this merger, the area must be surrounded by a wall or fence.
In many cases (for example, within an apartment complex or walled city) the demarcation of the shared area consists of real walls or fences. Building walls may also be used, and in some cases so may a natural wall such as a river bank or steep hill.
Walls may include doors and windows. As such, the wall may even consist of a series of "doorframes" with almost no wall between them. Poles in the ground form the "doorposts" of the doorframe, and rope or wire between the poles forms the "lintel" of the doorframe. In modern cities, it is typical for the majority of an eruv to consist of such doorframes, using utility poles and wires.
When a "doorframe" is used as part of an eruv, it is required that the "lintel" rest on top of the "doorpost", rather than being attached to the side of the "doorpost". Since the "lintel" is frequently a utility wire which runs along the side of the utility pole, the pole cannot be used as "doorpost". In this case, an additional "doorpost", known in Hebrew as a lechi (pl. lechai'in), is attached to the side of the utility pole. This typically takes the form of a thin plastic pipe attached to the side of the utility pole, and the wire runs directly overhead of this pipe.
Within the walled area, a property transfer is needed to create the shared domain. This is formally effected today by having one resident give some "bread" to another resident to keep, to create a joint ownership of food for the whole community. This is usually done by the rabbi of the community to ensure that it is done correctly, and the bread is usually matzo to ensure that it will be edible and usable for a long time. (It is usually replaced once each year.) In the Talmud and other classic rabbinic sources, the term eruv refers to the bread itself.
A typical modern eruv encloses public streets as well as private houses, and thus requires agreement from the government authorities controlling those streets. Creating an eruv that involves public property requires a government entity to grant permission in order to be valid. This is often done by issuing a symbolic proclamation which has no weight in secular law (see Legal status).
In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:21–22 calls on Jews "not to bring any burden into the gates of this city", suggesting that carrying a "burden" within the city was permissible, even though the city consisted of numerous separate private domains. The commentary of Radak suggests that such carrying was permitted because Jerusalem had an eruv and its walls formed the boundary, so carrying within the city was permitted. This view that an entire city could have an eruv influenced later views that an eruv could encompass a "courtyard" covering a wide area.
Specific laws of eruv
In general, authorities agree that eruvin are subject to certain restrictions. For example, they can be located in only certain places, and may not be of indefinite size. A prohibition against walking too far outside city boundaries (techum, see Eruv techumin) limits the possible size of an eruv. Also, the eruv walls or doorways must be at least ten tefachim (about 1 meter) in height.
The laws of eruv differ depending on whether the eruv contains only private domains and carmelit, or else public domains (reshut harabim deoraita) as well. If public domains are not included, the eruv wall may include "doorways" constructed out of wire and posts, with no actual door in them. If public domains are included, the wall must be an actual wall – every "doorway" must have a door in it, and these doors must be closed each night. This situation was common in ancient walled cities, but is rare nowadays. So in practice, eruvin are only built in areas that do not include a public domain.
What constitutes a "public area" is debated. The strict opinion holds that any road more than 16 cubits wide is a public domain, while the lenient opinion holds that a public domain must have both 16 cubits of width and 600,000 people passing through the road on a single day. In practice, communities that build eruvin accept the lenient opinion. However, in a few large cities such as New York City, it is possible that more than 600,000 people pass through certain roads in a single day. This would prevent building an eruv there even according to the lenient opinion. This possibility is the source of debates in New York City over whether a particular eruv, or any eruv is valid.
In addition, the size of an eruv can be limited by a number of practical considerations. For example, the requirement that the eruv boundary be thoroughly checked each week and any needed repairs made before sunset on Friday limits the area that can be practically covered by a manageable eruv. The sensitivity of utility and public works crews about disturbing eruv-related attachments when making repairs can vary widely. Political and institutional differences, or differences about the correct interpretation of the relevant Jewish law, can also result in separate areas maintained by separate organizations.
Checking the eruv
The boundaries of an eruv must be checked regularly. If the boundary is not complete and contiguous in every element (i.e., one of the elements of the boundary is missing or broken), no valid eruv can exist that shabbat, and carrying remains prohibited. Eruv associations, in general, maintain hotlines or web sites informing communities of the status of the eruv on Friday afternoon.
Activities prohibited even within an eruv
Though a valid eruv enables people to carry or move most items outdoors on Shabbat, all other Shabbat restrictions still apply. These prohibitions include:
- Handling (or, according to some, moving) objects that are muktzah, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Opening an umbrella, which is analogous to erecting a tent, and falls under the category of construction. Since umbrellas may not be opened, they are muktzah.
- Typical weekday activities (uvdin d'chol), 'to protect the sanctity of Shabbat'. The precise scope of this prohibition is subject to a wide range of rabbinic opinion.
- Moving or carrying items in preparation for a post-Shabbat activity (hakhana), unless one has a legitimate use for them on Shabbat itself.
- Many sports and sport-related activities: Many authorities consider balls muktzah; others do not. In general, sports that result in holes or ruts being carved into the playing surface may be played only on surfaces that are not subject to such damage. Exercise of any kind is only permitted on Shabbat if done for the pleasure of the activity itself, rather than for other reasons such as health.
Disagreements among Orthodox groups
No rabbis dispute the existence of the concept of eruv. However, in practice, some rabbis do disagree about the technical requirements of a valid eruv, and might therefore instruct their followers that certain eruvin are not valid and should not be used. There are instances where various Orthodox rabbis dispute both the validity of a particular eruv, and whether any eruv can in fact be built in a certain location.
One of the oldest halakhic disputes in the United States revolves around the issue of an eruv in Manhattan, New York. In 1905, Rabbi Yehoshua Seigel created an eruv on Manhattan's Lower East Side, bounded by seawalls which once protected the island as well as the Third Avenue El; however some other rabbis ruled the eruv to be invalid.
In the 1950s, a proposal by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher to establish an eruv in Manhattan gained the support of many prominent rabbis, including Rabbis Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Dovid Lifshitz, and Ephraim Oshry, and the Kopishnitzer, Novominsker and Radziner Rebbes. Other authorities, such as Rabbis Aharon Kotler and Moshe Feinstein, raised objections, and a major controversy ensued. In the end, the opponents Agudas Horabonim issued a declaration opposing it.
In June 2007, the East Side portion of the internal Manhattan Eruv was completed, offering an eruv within Manhattan to Orthodox Jews living on the East, Upper East, and Upper West Sides. There are also two eruvin in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood, one covering the Yeshiva University area and another that is part of Mount Sinai Jewish Center and covers the Fort Washington area.
Another ongoing dispute is the status of two inter-connected eruvin in Brooklyn: the Flatbush and Boro Park eruvin. The Boro Park eruv, from its initial construction, was rejected by most of the Hasidic community (though acceptance there has increased over time), and was rejected by most of the non-Hasidic "Lithuanian yeshiva" communities. The Flatbush eruv was originally built with the support of the Modern Orthodox community, and was later enhanced with the support of some local "non-Modern Orthodox" families. It was totally rejected by the many "Lithuanian yeshiva" communities led by the rosh yeshivas ("deans") of the large yeshivas Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Mir yeshiva, and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas that are based in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. In the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, there is some dispute over the making of an eruv, with Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg leading the opposition to an eruv.
Eruv in Conservative and Reform Judaism
Although Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards enacted an exception to the general rules of Sabbath observance to permit driving to attend a synagogue, it otherwise formally requires the same rules of Shabbat observance as Orthodox Judaism with respect to carrying a burden. Therefore, Conservative Judaism's rabbinate requires the use of an eruv for ordinary carrying outside this exception. Compliance with the formal requirements varies. In general, Conservative authorities and organizations have not attempted to build or develop rules for eruvin distinct from ones established by Orthodox authorities and organizations.
Reform, Reconstructionist, and other more liberal branches of Judaism do not call for observance of the underlying traditional rules against carrying, and hence the issue of an eruv is not relevant.
Coping without an eruv
Many of those living in areas without an eruv are accustomed to life without one and have adapted their Shabbat practices accordingly. However, those who live in a place that has an eruv and are visiting a place without one, or if the eruv is temporarily out of service (perhaps due to wind or snow damage), may have difficulty making adjustments. Equally, those with young children, certain medical complaints and certain disabilities often feel trapped during Shabbat.
Even without an eruv, there is no problem with wearing clothing outside, provided that it is normal clothing and being worn in its normal manner, as it is considered secondary to, and "part of," the person himself. The same is true for most medical items that are attached to the body and can be considered secondary to it, such as a cast, a bandage, or eyeglasses.
Rabbinic authorities historically have differed about the use of a cane, wheelchair, or other similar devices by the less-able-bodied. Some have allowed their use even without an eruv and others have not. In recent years, however, the majority of poskim have leaned toward allowing these devices, since, if they were prohibited, disabled individuals might attempt to leave their homes on Shabbat without the device(s) and therefore risk serious injury.
Loose medicines may not be carried; most authorities have agreed that it is preferable that one who constantly needs medication remain at home rather than transgressing Shabbat by carrying medication. But, if such a person leaves home, then comes in need of medication, it is permissible under the laws of Pikuach nefesh to break Shabbat and bring the medication to the person. A small number of authorities in recent years have been permitting carrying the medication, however, since such a person may be tempted to leave home without it, and then his/her life may be endangered thereafter.
Many authorities allow the wearing of jewelry by women. As for a wristwatch, it could be seen either as an adornment (permitted to wear) or as a tool (forbidden to carry); therefore opinions are divided on whether men may wear wristwatches.
In communities without an eruv, it is customary to create belts, bracelets, necklaces, or similar wearable objects incorporating housekeys so that the keys can be worn rather than carried when going outdoors. To be validly "worn" rather than "carried", the key needs to be an integral part of the belt, bracelet, or other item rather than simply attached to it. It may be either an adornment if worn in a manner visible to others or a component needed to keep the wearable object fastened. Special "shabbos belts" and similar items that incorporate this property are sold in religious stores.
A tallit may be worn while walking to/from the synagogue, as it is considered clothing. Prayer books and other books may not be carried; either they must be brought to the synagogue prior to Shabbat or else the congregation's prayer books must be used.
Communities with eruvin
In Israel, almost every Jewish community is enclosed by an eruv. Outside Israel, there are over 150 community eruvin, as well as thousands of private ones enclosing only a few homes, or linking a synagogue to one or more nearby homes. Most major cities in North America have at least one, often surrounding only the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods rather than the entire city. Outside North America, there are eruvin in Antwerp; Amsterdam; Bury, Greater Manchester (Whitefield); Johannesburg; London; Melbourne; Perth; Strasbourg, Sydney; Gibraltar; Venice; Vienna and Rio de Janeiro.
The installation of eruvin has been a matter of contention in many neighbourhoods around the world, with notable examples including the London Borough of Barnet; Outremont, Quebec; Tenafly, New Jersey; Westhampton Beach, New York; and Bergen County, New Jersey.
As the property-owner is the owner of the public streets, sidewalks and the utility poles on which symbolic boundaries are to be strung, some authorities have interpreted Jewish law as requiring the local government to participate in the process as one of the property owners by agreeing to creation of the eruv, and to give permission for the construction of a symbolic boundary on its property. In addition, because municipal law and the rules of utility companies, in general, prohibit third parties from stringing attachments to utility poles and wires, the creation of an eruv has often necessitated obtaining permissions, easements, and exceptions to various local ordinances. These requirements that government give active permission for an eruv have given rise to both political and legal controversy.
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In the United States, legal controversies about an eruv in a community often focus on provisions of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which addresses relations between government and religion. Opponents of an eruv typically take the view that the government participation in the eruv process necessary to approve its construction violates the First Amendment's prohibition of governmental establishment of religion. Proponents take the view that it constitutes a constitutionally permissible accommodation of religion rather than an establishment. Proponents have also argued that the Free Exercise Clause affirmatively requires government acceptance, on the grounds that government interference with or failure to accommodate an eruv constitutes discrimination against or inhibition of the constitutional right of free exercise of religion.
In the 2002 decision on Tenafly Eruv Association v. Borough of Tenafly (309 F.3d 144), Judge Ambro, writing for the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, held that Eruv Association members had no intrinsic right to add attachments to telephone poles on Borough property and that the borough, if it wished, could enact a general, neutral ordinance against all attachments to utility poles that could be enforced against the eruv. However, Judge Ambro held that in this case, the Borough had not enacted a genuinely general or neutral ordinance because it permitted a wide variety of attachments to utility poles for non-religious purposes, including posting signs and other items. Because it permitted attachments to utility poles for secular purposes, the court held, it could not selectively exclude attachments for religious purposes. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It was subsequently cited as precedent by a number of other federal courts deciding disputes between an eruv association and a local government.
In Outremont, a neighbourhood in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the city adopted a policy of removing eruv wires. In 2001, the Hasidic community obtained an injunction preventing such action by the city authorities.
Between 2015 and 2018, there were ongoing issues with eruv markings extended on utility poles in a section of New Jersey. The adjoining municipalities of Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Montvale, all border the state line on the other side of which is Rockland County, New York, where there are large communities of Orthodox Jews. After some eruvin were extended into Bergen County, allowing travel in the area, the municipalities took action in 2017 to dismantle the lechi markings. The matter was taken to court, and in January 2018 the presiding judge in the lawsuits made it clear he felt the municipalities did not have a strong case, and urged them to settle. The three municipalities have settled with the eruv association, allowing the eruv borders to remain in New Jersey, reimbursed the association’s legal fees, received agreement from the association to adjust the color of the lechi mounted on local utility poles, and agreed to work through a few remaining route details.
In general, state law has dealt with whether and to what extent government can permit or assist the erection and maintenance of boundary demarcations on public property. It has not dealt with the nature of the aggregation agreement or recognized an eruv as having legal effect or as implementing a meaningful change in real property ownership or tenancy. For purposes of accident liability, trespass, insurance, and other secular matters occurring on Shabbat, State law treats the properties within an eruv as continuing to be separate parcels.
Other forms of eruv
The term eruv is also used to refer to other, unrelated concepts in halakha. These include the eruv techumin which enables one to travel beyond the normal travel restrictions on Shabbat or holidays, and the eruv tavshilin which enables one to cook for Shabbat on a holiday which immediately precedes that Shabbat.
An eruv techumin (Hebrew: עירוב תחומין "mixing of borders") for traveling enables a traditionally observant Jew to travel by foot on Shabbat or a Jewish holiday beyond the 2,000 cubit (one biblical mile) limit imposed by rabbinic restriction.
An eruv tavshilin (Hebrew: עירוב תבשילין, lit. 'mixed cooked food items') is made in the home on the eve of a holiday with a work proscription that directly precedes the Sabbath. It is made by taking a cooked item and a baked item, and placing them together. It is common to use a piece of cooked egg, fish, or meat as the cooked item and a piece of bread or matzah as the baked item. It is needed because while it is allowed to cook and transfer fire on holidays (unlike the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, when these activities are forbidden), these activities are allowed to be done for use on only the holiday, and not for the next day. The eruv tavshilin makes it possible to begin preparing for the Sabbath before the holiday, and continue doing so. The foods of the eruv tavshilin are traditionally eaten on the Sabbath day following the holiday.
- "About Eruv". Chabad of West Monmouth County. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
Private and public do not refer to ownership. An enclosed area is considered a private domain, whereas an open area is considered public for the purposes of these laws.
- Maimonides, Mishne Torah (Hil. Eruvin 1:5).
- Olin, Margaret (2015). "Introduction to the Eruv". Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion. doi:10.22332/con.coll.2015.2. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
If an electric wire were to extend from the top of a pole, it could act as a koreh. More commonly, however, wires extend from the side of poles, or there are none and fishing line (monofilament) affixed above a pole serves as the koreh. It is also possible to attach to the pole directly below the wire or filament a lechi composed of a rubber cable protector, indistinguishable from those used by the electric company.
- Schlaff, Shira J. (2003). "Using an Eruv to Untangle the Boundaries of the Supreme Court's Religion-Clause Jurisprudence" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. 5 (4): 833.
- Translation and Radak commentary from Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg. Mikraoth Gedoloth: Jeremiah Vol. 1. Judaica Press, 1985 (2005 printing) p. 152.
- "ח – רשות הרבים מן התורה - פניני הלכה". ph.yhb.org.il.
- Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, "The Contemporary Eruv" (Feldheim, 2002), page 89, footnote 181: "It is customary to inspect municipal eruvin weekly. See Yesodei Yeshurun, ibid., pp. 331–32 for a discussion of the sources upon which the custom is based. I am indebted to Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky for the information that there are some communities that are very stringent when it comes to this inspection, to the extent that when Yom Tov falls on a Friday and precludes an effective inspection, these communities will not rely on an inspection conducted on Wednesday or Thursday before Yom Tov, and will assume the eruv to be invalid for the following Shabbos. Thus, the parameters of inspections are very subjective, and it is not necessarily possible to extrapolate from the guidelines of the community with an eruv that is subject to frequent manipulation by utility companies, etc., to a community with an eruv that is rarely disturbed, and vice versa." (Source)
- Rabbi Daniel Schloss. "Laws of Shabbat: Building and Demolishing". Aish Hatorah.
- Shulchan Aruch OC 308:45
- Shulchan Aruch OC 301:1–2
- Dunlap, David W. "Exposing the Wall Between the River and New York City".
- Butler, Menachem (February 26, 2007). "the Seforim blog: Adam Mintz -- The Manhattan Eruv".
- "Ritual Fence Set for Jews in Manhattan Is Extended". The New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- "High wire strewn through city lets Jews keep the faith". May 24, 2015.
- "A Translucent Wire in the Sky". The New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- "Map". Yueruv.org. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- "Eruv". Retrieved November 12, 2016.
- "Rabbi Adam Mintz: A Chapter in American Orthodoxy: The Eruvin in Brooklyn" (PDF). Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- Cohen, Martin S.; Katz, Michael (2012). "Carrying on Shabbat". The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly. ISBN 978-0916219499.
- Jacob, Walter (1988). "178. Eruv". Contemporary American Reform Responsa. CCAR Press. pp. 268–69. ISBN 978-0881230031.
- Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature, Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought vol. 16 (1977) No. 5, pp. 88–91.
- Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff: Carrying Nitroglycerin on Shabbos Yeshiva.co.
- "Weekly Hilchos Shabbos Series". www.shemayisrael.co.il.
- "Is It Permissible For Ladies To Wear Jewelry In The Public Domain On Shabbat". www.dailyhalacha.com.
- "A Wristwatch On Shabbat - Ask the Rabbi - Yeshiva.org.il". www.yeshiva.co.
- Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld: Carrying Keys on Shabbat Aish.com.
- Katz, Nathan. Strasbourg : Le erouv de la capitale de l’Alsace. Actualité juive Hebdo, Oktober 17, 2013.
- "Wiener Eruv: Status". Eruv.at. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva. "Installations of Jewish Law in Public Urban Space: An American Eruv Controversy". Chicago-Kent Law Review. 90 (1): 68–71.
- Tenafly Eruv Association v. Borough of Tenafly, 309 F.3d 144, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, October 24, 2002
- "Rosenberg v Outremont (city), Quebec Superior Court, File No 500-05-060659-008, 2001-06-21". Lex View. September 6, 2001.
- Yudelson, Larry (July 25, 2017). "Mahwah mayor wants to talk with eruv association". The Jewish Standard. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- Shulhan Arukh (Orach Chaim § 397:1–3); Maimonides, Mishne Torah (Hil. Shabbath 27:1); ibid., Mishne Torah (Sefer HaMitzvoth, s.v. Negative Command # 321); Maimonides’ Mishnah Commentary, on Eruvin 3:5; Rabbi Isaac Al-Fasi, Halakhot (BT, Eruvin, end, 5a, s.v. ומלערב); Sefer HaChinukh, s.v. בשלח, section # 24; Babylonian Talmud (Eruvin 17b; 51a; Sotah 27b; 30b); Mekhilta on Exodus 16:29; Targum pseudo-Yonathan Ben Uzziel on Exodus 16:29
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eruv.|
- Eruv.org – Eruv Info, FAQ, and Global Eruv Directory
- BBC Eruv FAQ
- Eruvonline Blog
- Boston Eruv FAQ
- Introduction to the Modern Eruv – a detailed halachic overview by R' Hershel Schachter
- String Theory article, Harpers Magazine (paywalled)
- Barry Smith, The Ontology of the Eruv, from C. Kanzian (ed.), Cultures: Conflict – Analysis – Dialogue, Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag, 2007, 403–16.
- Adam Mintz, The History Of City Eruvin, 1894–1962
- Jennifer Cousineau (Spring–Summer 2005). "Rabbinic Urbanism in London: Rituals and the Material Culture of the Sabbath". Jewish Social Studies. 11 (3): 36–57. doi:10.1353/jss.2005.0021. Retrieved June 13, 2007.