Friday, January 22, 2010

Eiruv

Because carrying an object on Shabbat in a public domain a distance of 4 cubits (approximately 6-8 feet) or more is one of the 39 melachot (creative actions prohibited on Shabbat), it is common for communities to erect an eiruv in order to transform the public domain into one large private domain.

Creating an eiruv is a complex task. In simple terms, an eiruv is created by enclosing a public area with walls at least ten tefachim high (approximately 40 inches). Practically, most eiruvim today consist of a series of symbolic “doorframes” constructed of wire/string connected to utility poles or strung between buildings, that “wall in” the entire area to be enclosed.

Because an eiruv will often use utility poles and will almost always cross actual public areas, it is necessary to have the permission of the local authorities to create an eiruv.

The eiruv makes it possible for all of the enclosed public property to be considered a single private property. However, one’s own private property is still more private, and therefore an eiruv chatzairot must also be created in order to connect actual private property to the newly-formed “public/private property.” This is done by collecting food (or money for food) that is regarded as a “common meal” for those wishing to participate in the eiruv chatzairot. This “common meal” enables all the participants’ homes (and the connecting streets) to be considered as one communal private property. The “common meal” is often a box of matzah kept in the synagogue.

Please note, that an eiruv must be checked every week, usually on Friday. If even a single wire is disconnected (or the “communal meal” is missing) carrying in the public domain is not permitted.

These are just a few of the many complicated laws that apply to the creation of an eiruv.

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