Carrying on Shabbat

December 6, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, December 6, 2013. 

Carrying on Shabbat

Of the 39 labors forbidden on Shabbat, one important one to traditional Jews is the prohibition against “carrying in a public place.” The concept is that it’s “kosher” to carry anything within your own home, but outside you cannot carry ANYTHING... not a key, not a book, not even a baby! That would be considered transferring something from a private to a public place. The rabbis two thousand years ago developed a way of allowing people to carry outside of their homes on Shabbat by constructing an “Eruv.” An Eruv is essentially a fence around a larger area which transforms the area from a “public” place to a “private” place. Many Orthodox communities have an eruv surrounding the area where they live which includes the synagogue, allowing them to carry things to schul (the synagogue) or to each other’s homes.

The Eruv is usually a wire that is attached to the top of poles which define the boundaries of the Eruv. There is no Eruv in Shorewood, for example, because there are no electric telephone poles or electrical poles in Shorewood (everything is underground), and the Village will not permit the construction of an independent Eruv. The entire city of Jerusalem is surrounded by a high tension electrical wire which serves as the Eruv! Every Friday during the day, the Eruv must be checked to make sure that it is unbroken, otherwise it is forbidden to carry outside the home.

There are Eruv experts who can come to a community and explore the possibilities of building an Eruv. The image of Rabbi David Fine, who was the rabbi of Lake Park Synagogue, driving around the East Side and Shorewood with his Eruv expert in an open convertible looking up to see the possible constructions for an Eruv, is one of my unique memories. Often, the Eruv wires have flags on them so one can see if the Eruv is functioning.

A map of Brooklyn, New York City, showing the Eruv

An Eruv Flag

Repairing the Eruv

Shabbat Shalom.