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What is an Eruv?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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There are three types of eruvs. When most people say plain "Eruv" they are actually referring to a "Shitufei Mevo'ot."

[The three are:

1) Eruv Tavshilin: Which allows one to cook on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat.

2) Eruvei Techumin: Which allows a person to walk more than 2000 cubits outside of a city on Shabbat or Yom Tov.1

3) Eruvei Chatzairot: Which allows one to carry from one house to another within the same courtyard, or within the shared courtyard outside the houses.]

A Shitufei Mevo'ot (is similar to an allows on Eruvei Chatzairot, but it) allows one to carry from house to house, and from courtyard to courtyard, and can even include an entire city.

According to the Torah one may carry on Shabbat in a "reshut hayachid" (enclosed domain), but not in a "reshut harabim" (unenclosed, public domain). It is possible, though, to enclose an entire city with a gate, which would permit carrying throughout the entire city [this is actually the case in most cities in Israel and many cities (or parts of cities) in the Diaspora]. Our sages were concerned that people would entirely forget about the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat, so they established the concepts of (Eruvei Chatzairot and) Shitufei Mevo'ot.

According to the Torah one may carry on Shabbat in a "reshut hayachid" (enclosed private domain), but not in a "reshut harabim" (unenclosed, public domain). It is possible, though, to enclose an entire city with a gate, which would permit carrying throughout the entire city
Shitufei Mevo'ot means that everyone in the city (or area of the "eruv") contributes food (or (what is normally done,) one person in the city can supply the food for everyone) and this food is kept in one of the houses. [Today, eruvim are normally done with Matzah, because it lasts a long time and doesn't have to be replenished very often.] This symbolizes that all the people who dwell within the eruv are now 'sharing' food, and are therefore one big happy family, and can, therefore, carry between all their properties.

The words "eruv" and "shituf" actually mean "mixing." For its purpose is to blend and mix the entire community together.

This only works, however, if the city (or area) is enclosed. According to Halachah it is sufficient for the area to be enclosed by poles with a string or cable running around the tops. Erecting these poles and running the cable is significantly more difficult than making the actual (food) eruv.

So to make it simple: the eruv, really, is the food which is designated for that purpose. However, 99% of the time when the average person says "eruv" it is a reference to the poles and strings. So when someone runs into the synagogue and says, "the eruv is down," it doesn't mean that the matzah fell off the shelf, it does means that a strong wind snapped the string...

Although this may sound fairly simple, the laws of eruv are, in fact, of the most complicated laws in the Talmud. So if you intend on erecting one you must be in contact with a competent rabbi who is proficient in these laws.

There are many laws involved in making an eruv, and it is impossible to ensure that the eruv will be Kosher unless a rabbi checks it over.

The basic eruv is made of poles which have a string attached to their tops surrounding the entire site. The string must be attached run atop the poles, not wrapped around them or attached to their sides. The easiest way to do this is to knock nails into the top of the poles, and tie the string to the nails.

Footnotes

  • 1. See "How far am I allowed to walk on Shabbat?" . (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/208,2837/What-is-an-Eruv.html)
TAGS: Eruv

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Eruv
Eruv has multiple meanings. Most commonly the word is a reference to an enclosure which allows carrying on Shabbat in an area which would otherwise be considered a public domain.