What Is An Eruv?

An eruv, in modern terminology, is a technical boundary that allows Jews to carry in public areas on Shabbat. This allows for a more unified community, where families with young children are able to come to shul and visit each other.

The Torah prohibits carrying anything on the Sabbath from a "private" domain into a "public" one or vice versa, or more than 6 feet within a public domain. 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.

Practically speaking, it is forbidden to carry a tallit bag or a prayer, or to push a baby carriage from home to a synagogue, or to another home, on Shabbat.

Understanding The Eruv Enclosure

The Eruv is technical enclosure which surrounds both private and hitherto public domains and thus creates a large enclosed domain in which carrying is permitted on Shabbat. The eruv is usually large enough to include entire neighborhoods with homes, apartments and synagogues, making it possible to carry on Shabbat, since one is never leaving one's domain.

The Eruv enclosure can be created by either a solid wall or fence with few door openings, OR can be made up of contiguous doorways, which constitute a Halachik enclosure, or a combination of both. Therefore, the eruv enclosure may be made by utility poles, for example, which act as the vertical part of a door post in a wall, with the existing cables strung on top of the poles acting as the lintel of the doorframe. As such, the entire "wall" is actually a series of "doorways."  If existing cables are located on the face of the poles and not on top of the poles, plastic conduits may be mounted to the poles under the cables, which act as the vertical part of the door frame.

What You Can Carry?

The purpose of the eruv is to allow certain basic necessities to be carried, such as a tallit or a prayer book, house keys, clothing which is removed on warm days, and reading glasses.  It also allows the pushing of a baby carriage along with food and diapers. One CANNOT carry any item which may not be handled within one’s own home on the Sabbath.

Eruv Inspection and Maintenance

The eruv will be inspected every week to make certain that it is "operational."  Volunteers are needed to help in this weekly inspection. If any part of the eruv has come down, attempts will be made to make the repairs before Shabbat. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the eruv is lost, since the area is no longer enclosed by a continuous boundary. Our website: www.chabadwmc.org will constantly update the status of the eruv.

We are looking for a committee of 12 volunteers to serve as “inspectors” of the eruv six times a year.  The average inspection time should take about one hour. To volunteer, please call Rabbi Schapiro at 732-972-2718.

Technical Notes

Construction of an eruv is one of the most abstruse areas of Jewish law. An enormous amount of material has been written on the subject and the Talmud dedicates an entire tractate to it. Just because a particular area is enclosed by telephone poles and wires is not sufficient reason to allow carrying within that area. Many areas cannot be included in an eruv, and many telephone poles do not qualify—for reasons beyond the scope of this article.

Furthermore, whenever an eruv includes multiple residences, in addition to the physical (or technical) enclosure encompassing the area, the inhabitants of the eruv must also be "conjoined" into one entity through the joint ownership of some food.

For all these reasons, it is imperative that an expert Rabbi oversee the construction of any eruv.