What is an Eruv
An Eruv is an halachically approved enclosure of a district that serves the sole purpose of relieving the prohibition of carrying outside of one’s home on the Sabbath, on Yom Kippur and any Festival that occurs on the Sabbath. Carrying from domain to domain is one of the 39 primary activities that it is forbidden on the Sabbath.
A Philosophy of Prohibited Labors
Maimonides (12th cent.) in his Guide for the Perplexed, ch. 31, states “Thus G-d commanded us to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and to rest, for two purposes, (1) That we might confirm the true theory, that of Creation, which at once and clearly leads to the theory from the burden of the Egyptians. The Sabbath is therefore a double blessing: it gives us correct notions, and also promotes the well-being of our bodies.”
Source for Prohibited Labors
In Exodus, 31:1-11, G-d tells Moses to order the Tabernacle-construction administrative committee to begin “...according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.” Immediately after, sentences 12 and 13 issue a warning “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying: Verily, you shall keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Other phrases, here and elsewhere, speak of Shabbat Shabbaton - Sabbath of solemn rest, and Lo Taaseh Kol Melacha - ye shall not do any manner of work.
From the immediate proximity of the order to build the Tabernacle and the directive to keep the Sabbath, the Sages derive that even the building of a holy sanctuary to G-d shall not supersede the observance of the Sabbath. The Sages have determined that the construction entailed 39 primary categories of labor. These are termed Av Melachot - primary labors. Activity that resembles an Av Melacha, but was not directly represented in the construction of the Mishkan - G-d’s dwelling place, is termed Toldah - a derivative act, and is also prohibited on the Sabbath by the Torah. The number and list of the Av Melachot are stated in the Talmud Tractate of Shabbat, chapter 7, page 73a.
Note that the 39th labor is “hamotzi mereshut l’reshut” - carrying from one domain to another, - that is, from public domain to private and vice versa. There is no prohibition of carrying inside of one’s home on the Sabbath. For example, one may carry a family room, which requires moderate exertion. One may not, however strike a match, though effortless, as “kindling” is number 37 of the 39 Av Melachot. Therefore, the term “labor” is defined by its relevance to the Mishkan construction and not to any personal definition of labor.
Why Do We Need the Eruv?
On the Sabbath, Yom Kippur and on Festivals that occur on the Sabbath, observant Jews do not push baby carriages, strollers, or carry a house key. Mothers of infants are unable to attend the synagogue and families are unable to visit each other’s home for Sabbath sociability. The Eruv makes all of these permissible. Community welfare and harmony are enhanced. The Eruv district is seen as an advantage by young families that live in Skokie or consider moving to Skokie.
The word Eruv means “mixture.” A properly completed Eruv mixes or pools all private and public property rights within its boundaries for the sole purpose of creating a Sabbath domain called a Reshut HaYachid, the equivalent of one’s own home. Specifically, the Eruv cancels the Reshut HaRabbim? - the public domain, wherein, carrying - hotza’ah on the Sabbath is forbidden.
Eruv districts have been used for 2,500 years by countless Jewish communities, including ancient Israel, Eastern European centers of Judaism, such as Warsaw, Lvov and Vilna, and present day cities which include Paris, Jerusalem, Toronto, New York (30 existing Eruv domains in the New York area), Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Silver Spring, Maryland, Detroit and North Dallas.
Where - How
A community must be researched extensively to determine how it might qualify for the construction of an Eruv. A partition in the form of an almost invisible continuous boundary line must be constructed that will completely enclose the designated area. In Skokie, this includes among other considerations, the following steps:
- The use of existing power lines
- The cooperation of utility agencies and the paid use of an electrical contractor firm to attach wires and special structures, to utility poles and other sources
- The formation of “Tsurat HaPetach” - door outlines,
in making valid partitions:
The essential difference between a Reshut HaYachid and a Reshut HaRabbim is an enclosure. Valid partitions creating this enclosure include chain link fences, walls, and Tsurat HaPetach (literally, “the configuration of a door frame”). These partitions must measure at least 40 inches in height and be free of breaches.Tsurat HaPetach - In cities today, the most frequently used partition is the Tsurat HaPetach. Most doorways consist of two vertical posts which support a horizontal beam, the lintel. According to Jewish Law, two vertical posts with a lintel fitting over their tops have the full status of a partition despite the open expanse within. This type of partition can make an area into a Reshut HaYachid. Large portions of the Eruv in Skokie will be made by using Tsurat HaPetach.
an “eruv chatzeirot” as a focal point for the Jewish Community to jointly share:
The sages were concerned that if one is permitted to carry in a courtyard or a city enclosed by partitions, he might think that it is always permissible to carry from a Reshut HaYachid to a Reshut HaRabbim even if the Reshut HaRabbim is not enclosed. Therefore, the sages enacted that an Eruv Chatzeirot be made. This is done by transferring ownership of a quantity of bread to all the residents within the Eruv perimeter. For this purpose our Eruv will use a box of matzot which will be kept in one of the local Synagogues. Since a person’s main dwelling is where he eats, it is as if all the Jews of the city have one joint eating area and in effect, the distinctions between individual domains have been removed. Because the city in some sense appears as one domain, people will not err and think it is permissible to carry from a private domain to an unenclosed public thoroughfare. The Eruv Chatzeirot will be renewed every Erev Pesach. Before an Eruv Chatzeirot may be made, however, all properties belonging to those who are not Shomrei Shabbat must be leased by Shabbat observing Jews. It is not necessary to lease this right from each individual.
- Petition the Skokie government to “rent” to the Skokie Eruv Corporation, for the one-time payment of one dollar, the “right” to join all the properties in the domain for the sole purpose of carrying on the Sabbath and Festivals, in keeping with Orthodox Jewish law, receive the Skokie government’s Proclamation that specifies that this right has been leased and which further includes wording to the effect that this does not infringe on the rights and welfare of the general citizenry.
Note: no cost or liability accrues to the Skokie government in the construction and maintenance of the Eruv.