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This article discusses the eruv for carrying. For other types of eruv, see Eruv (disambiguation).

An Eruv (Hebrew: ערובmixture, also transliterated as Eiruv or Erub, plural: Eruvin) is an enclosure around a home or community. It enables the carrying of objects out of doors for Jews on the Jewish Sabbath which would otherwise be forbidden by Torah law (Halacha). Without an eruv, Torah-observant Jews would be unable to carry keys or tissues in their pockets or push baby carriages on the Jewish Sabbath thus making it difficult for many to leave home.

The enclosure must be made of walls or doorways at least ten tefachim in height. A tefach is approximately 10 cm (4 inches) in length for a total of approximately 1 m (40 inches). In public areas where it is impractical to put up walls, doorways are constructed out of wire and posts. It is these doorways, which often serve no other practical purpose, that are usually referred to as an Eruv.

If the properties enclosed are owned by more than one person, then all the properties must be combined by the acquisition or rental of some right to the properties and the designation of a meal that is shared by all property owners. The designation of the meal is called an Eruv Chatzeiros (combining of courtyards) and it is from this that the term Eruv is derived.

A community Eruv refers to the legal aggregation or "mixture" under Jewish religious property law of separate parcels of property meeting certain requirements into a single parcel held in common by all the holders of the original parcels, which enables Jews who observe the traditional rules concerning Shabbat to carry children and belongings anywhere within the jointly held property without transgressing the prohibition against carrying a burden across a property line on the Jewish sabbath. The legal aggregation is set up to have effect on the Sabbath day only; on other days of the week, including Yom Tov (with the exception of Yom Kippur), ordinary property ownership applies. A valid aggregation has a number of requirements including an agreement among the property-holders and an aggregation ritual.

One of the requirements of a valid aggregation is that all the parcels must lie within a chatzer, or walled courtyard. For this reason, this type of aggregation is more properly known as an eruv chatzerot (Hebrew: ערוב חצרות‎), an "aggregation of courtyards," to distinguish it from other types of rabbinically-ordained mixture procedures which also have the name eruv.

In modern times, when housing is not typically organized into walled courtyards, rabbinic interpretation has permitted this requirement to be met by creating a continuous wall or fence, real or symbolic, surrounding the area to be aggregated. The fence is required to have certain properties and consist of structural elements such as walls or doorframes. When the fence is symbolic, the structural elements are often symbolic "doorframes" made of wire, with two vertical wires (often connected to utility poles) and one horizontal wire on top connecting them (often using utility wires). The use of symbolic elements permits an eruv to make use of utility poles and the like to enclose an entire neighborhood of a modern city within the legal aggregation. In contemporary Jewish discourse, "an eruv" frequently refers to this symbolic "fence" which creates and denotes the boundaries of a symbolic "walled courtyard" in which a halakhicly (religiously) valid property aggregation can take place, rather than to the aggregation or legal status of the properties.

Introduction: Eruv for carrying

There are 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat. On Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), the Torah forbids moving an object from one domain to another, no matter its weight or purpose. According to Torah law as understood by the Talmud, this encompasses three actions:

  1. Moving an object from an enclosed area (such as a private home, public building, or fenced-in area) to a major thoroughfare,
  2. moving an object from a major thoroughfare to an enclosed area, or
  3. moving an object more than four cubits within a major thoroughfare.

To prevent confusion over exactly what constitutes a major thoroughfare, the rabbis expanded the ban to any area that was not fenced or walled in.


An eruv surrounding a community in Jerusalem

An additional, rabbinic prohibition, which Jewish tradition ascribes to the religious court of King Solomon, prohibits carrying in any area that was shared by the occupants of more than one dwelling, even if surrounded by fences or walls. But in this case of areas surrounded by walls, carrying was allowed through the use of an eruv. The eruv consists of a food item - generally bread - that is shared by all dwellers. By means of this shared meal, all the dwellers are considered as if they were living in a common dwelling, thus exempting them from the added prohibition.

The prohibition against carrying on the sabbath received special mention in the prophecy of Jeremiah, who warned the people of Jerusalem to "beware for your souls and carry no burden on the Sabbath day" (Jeremiah 17:21).

And it shall be if you hearken to Me, says the Lord, not to bring any burden into the gates of this city on the Sabbath day and to hallow the Sabbath day not to perform any labor thereon, Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on David's throne, riding in chariots and with horses, they and their princes the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and this city shall be inhabited forever. ((Jeremiah 17:24-26)[1]

The Radak, a medieval Jewish commentator on the Prophets, opined that the reason Jeremiah referred to carrying a burden through the gates of the city was that Jerusalem had an eruv and its walls formed the boundary, so carrying within the city was permitted.[1] This view that an entire city could have an eruv influenced later views that an eruv could encompass a "courtyard" covering a wide area. The Radak also held that the reference to "kings" rather than a single king refers to future kings yet to come, and hence that this prophecy, with its stress on the importance and redemptive power of observing the prohibition against carrying a burden on Shabbat outside an eruv, remains available to this day.[1] The Talmud, in Tractate Shabbat, opined that consistent observance of Shabbat could bring redemption to the Jewish people.

Eruv chatzerot

The eruv chatzerot, or "mixed [ownership of] courtyards/domains", operates so that all the residents treat the entire area as their common "home". In other words, it is a religious-legal mechanism that transforms an enclosed shared living area (e.g. a courtyard) into a common one. In order to be enclosed, the area must be surrounded by a wall, fence, or tzurot ha-petah, "doorframes". Otherwise carrying is still prohibited in accordance with the earlier prohibition, as above.

In many cases — for example, within a hospital, nursing home, school campus, apartment complex, or a walled city, the demarcation of the shared area consists of real walls or fences.

These fences can also be made symbolically, using stakes and a rope or wire to demarcate doorframes. When an eruv is made to demarcate a contemporary Jewish neighborhood, a symbolic fence is typically constructed in this fashion, using utility poles and wires as well as any solid walls available. Thus, a modern eruv is commonly composed of a series of "doorframes," with the poles forming the doorposts (lechi, pl. lechai'in)and the wire forming the lintel (korah). A natural wall such as a river bank or steep hill can also be used as part of the eruv, as can an actual wall of a building.

As mentioned above, the term "eruv" in modern Jewish usage often refers to the rope or string that creates a symbolic "walled courtyard". However the term, in formal use as a legal term of Jewish law, refers to the process of sharing ownership within the enclosed domain. This is conducted using the norms and procedures of Jewish law, which has a law of property ownership and transfer distinct from the law of the surrounding society. The property transfer needed to create a shared domain on Shabbat under Jewish law is formally effected today by having one resident give some "bread" to another resident to keep, to create a joint ownership of food for the whole community. This is usually done by the rabbi of the community to ensure that it is done correctly, and the bread is usually matzo to ensure that it will be edible and usable for a long time. (It is usually replaced once each year.) In the Talmud and other classic rabbinic sources, the term eruv refers to the bread itself. Because the domains are enclosed and legally transferred to shared ownership, carrying objects within an eruv keeps them within a single domain, and hence does not break the prohibition of transferring objects from a private to a shared domain on Shabbat. Creating an eruv that involves public property requires the local government to permit a limited transfer of its domain (in addition to government permissions for placing markers on government property that may be required as a matter of local government law.)

No rabbis dispute the concept of an eruv. However, in practice, some rabbis do disagree about the technical requirements of a valid eruv, and might therefore instruct their followers that certain eruvin are not valid and should not be used.

Authorities generally agree that an eruv cannot be located anywhere or be of indefinite size and is subject to a number of limitations. For example, a prohibition against walking too far outside city boundaries (techum, see Eruv techumin) limits the possible size of an eruv. Similarly, a prohibition against carrying in a "public" area has traditionally been interpreted narrowly to cover only the busiest of thoroughfares. Nonetheless, this prohibition limits an eruv to including only neighborhoods and streets that can be characterized as "private" or "semi-private". There are disagreements among authorities about the extent and correct interpretation of some of these limitations. In addition, the size of an eruv can be limited by a number of practical considerations. For example, the requirement that the eruv boundary be thoroughly checked each week and any needed repairs made before sunset on Friday limits the area that can be practically covered by a manageable eruv. The sensitivity of utility and public works crews about disturbing eruv-related attachments when making repairs can vary widely. Political and institutional differences, or differences about the correct interpretation of the relevant Jewish law, can also result in separate areas maintained by separate organizations.

Coping without an eruv

Those living in areas without an eruv are regularly accustomed to life without one, and are able to function on Shabbat easily. But those who live in a place that has an eruv who are visiting a place without one, or if the eruv is temporarily out of service, may have difficulty making adjustments.

Even without an eruv, there is no problem with wearing clothing outside, provided that it is normal clothing and being worn in its normal manner, as it is considered secondary to, and "part of," the person himself. The same is true for most medical items which are attached to the body and can be considered secondary to it, such as a cast, bandage or eyeglasses.

Rabbinic authorities historically have differed about the use of a cane, wheelchair, or other similar devices by the disabled. Some have allowed their use even without an eruv and others have not. In recent years though, the majority of poskim have leaned toward allowing these devices since if they were prohibited, a disabled person may attempt to leave their house on Shabbat without the device and therefore risk serious injury.

Loose medicines may not be carried; most authorities have agreed that it is preferable that one who constantly needs medication remain at home rather than transgressing Shabbat by carrying medication. But if such a person leaves home, then comes in need of medication, it is permissible under the laws of Pikuach nefesh to break Shabbat and bring the medication to the person. A small number of authorities in recent years have been permitting carrying the medication, though, since such a person may be tempted to leave home without it, and then his/her life may be endangered thereafter.

Most authorities also allow the wearing of jewelry by women. There are differing customs regarding the wearing of jewelry watches by men. As men's jewelry for the purpose of adornment has become more common in recent generations, the wearing of a watch by a man is accepted, provided that the watch is visible to others and is not covered by a sleeve.

In communities without an eruv, it is customary to create belts, bracelets, necklaces, or similar wearable objects incorporating housekeys so that the keys can be worn rather than carried when going outdoors. To be validly "worn" rather than "carried", the key needs to be an integral part of the belt, bracelet, or other item rather than simply attached to it. It may either be an adornment if worn in a manner visible to others, or a component needed to keep the wearable object fastened. Special "shabbos belts" and similar items that incorporate this property are sold in religious stores.

A tallit may be worn while walking to/from the synagogue. Prayer books and other books may not be carried; they must either be brought to the synagogue prior to Shabbat, or else the congregation's prayer books must be used.

Communities with eruvin

In Israel almost every Jewish community is enclosed by an eruv. Outside Israel there are over 150 community eruvin, as well as thousands of private ones enclosing only a few homes, or linking a synagogue to one or more nearby homes. Most major cities in North America have at least one, often surrounding only the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods rather than the entire city. Outside North America, there are eruvin in London, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney,Gibraltar, Antwerp, and Strasbourg.

Checking the eruv

The boundaries of an eruv must be checked regularly. If the boundary is not complete and contiguous in every element (i.e. one of the elements of the boundary is missing or broken), no valid eruv can exist that shabbat and carrying remains prohibited. Eruv associations generally maintain hotlines or web sites informing communities of the status of the Eruv on Friday afternoon.

Activities prohibited even within an eruv

Though a valid eruv enables people to carry or move most items outdoors on Shabbat, all other Shabbat restrictions still apply. These prohibitions include:

  • Objects that are muktzah may not be handled anywhere on Shabbat, indoors or outdoors.
  • Opening an umbrella is analogous to erecting a tent, which falls under the category of construction.[2] Since umbrellas may not be opened, they are muktzah and may not be handled.
  • To protect the sanctity of Shabbat, one may not perform typical weekday activities (uvdin d'chol). The precise scope of this prohibition is subject to a wide range of rabbinic opinion.
  • One may not carry or move items in preparation for a post-Shabbat activity (hakhana), unless one has a legitimate use for them on Shabbat itself.
  • Sports involve several issues. Many authorities consider balls muktzah; others do not.[3] Sports that generally result in holes or ruts being carved into the playing surface may only be played on surfaces that are not subject to such damage. Exercise of any kind is forbidden on Shabbat unless it is done solely for the pleasure of the activity itself, rather than for health or some other reason.[4]


The installation of eruvin has been a matter of contention in many neighbourhoods around the world, classic examples are the London Borough of Barnet; Outremont, Quebec; Tenafly, New Jersey and Westhampton Beach, New York .

Because it is a property-owner as the owner of the public streets and sidewalks and the utility poles on which symbolic boundaries are to be strung, some authorities have interpreted Jewish law as requiring the local governmental entity to participate in the Jewish-law aggregation of property as one of the property owners by agreeing to creation of the eruv, and to give permission for the construction of a symbolic boundary on its property. In addition, because municipal law and the rules of utility companies generally prohibit third parties from stringing attachments to utility poles and wires, the creation of an eruv has often necessitated obtaining permissions, easements, and exceptions to various local ordinances. These requirements that government give active permission for an eruv have given rise to both political and legal controversy.

In the Elstree and Borehamwood neighbourhoods of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, a petition was circulated in 2007 condemning the proposed eruv on the grounds that it would constitute the establishment of a "Jewish state". [5]

Legal status

In the United States, controversies about an eruv in a community are often characterized and conducted in the form of legal disputes, focusing on provisions of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States addressing relations between government and religion. Opponents of an eruv typically take the view that government participation in the eruv process violates the First Amendment's prohibition of a governmental establishment of religion. Proponents take the view that it constitutes a constitutionally permissible accommodation of religion rather than an establishment. Proponents have also argued that the Free Exercise Clause affirmatively requires government acceptance, on grounds that government interference with or failure to accommodate an Eruv constitutes discrimination against or inhibition of the constitutional right of free exercise of religion.

In Tenafly Eruv Association v. Borough of Tenafly, 309 F.3d 344, Judge Ambro, writing for the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, held that Eruv Association members had no intrinsic right to add attachments to telephone poles on Borough property and that the Borough, if it wished, could enact a general, neutral ordinance against all attachments to utility poles that could be enforced against the eruv. However, Judge Ambro held that in this case the Borough had not enacted a genuinely general or neutral ordinance because it permitted a wide variety of attachments to utility poles for non-religious purposes, including posting signs and other items. Because it permitted attachments to utility poles for secular purposes, the court held, it could not selectively exclude attachments for religious purposes. [6] The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It was subsequently cited as precedent by a number of other Federal courts deciding disputes between an eruv association and a local government.

In Outremont, a neighbourhood in Montreal, Canada, the city adopted a policy of removing eruv wires. The Hasidic community obtained an injunction preventing such action by the city authorities.[7]

Secular law has generally dealt with whether and to what extent government can permit or assist the erection and maintenance of boundary demarcations on public property. It has not generally dealt with the nature of the aggregation agreement or recognized an eruv as having legal effect or as implementing a meaningful change in real property ownership or tenancy with respect to secular law. For purposes of accident liability, trespass, insurance, and other secular matters occurring on Shabbat, secular law generally treats the properties within an eruv as continuing to be separate parcels.

Disagreements between Orthodox groups

There are instances where various Orthodox groups, headed by their rabbis, dispute both the validity of an eruv or if an eruv can in fact be built in a neighborhood.

File:Rabbanim Supporting the Manhattan.jpg
LES Eruv Issur (2)

Prohibition by the Agudas Horabonim, 1962

One of the oldest halakhic disputes in the United States revolves around the issue of an eruv in Manhattan (which is an island bordering an estuary that is connected to the Atlantic Ocean), in New York City. Some halakhic opinions refer to an island's reinforced walls against an ocean as contributing to and forming an eruv, and this view had been relied upon by rabbis in the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1950s a proposal by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher to establish an eruv in Manhattan gained the support of many prominent rabbis, including Rabbis Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Dovid Lifshitz, and Ephraim Oshry, and the Kopishnitzer, Novominsker and Radziner Rebbes. Other authorities, such as Rabbis Aharon Kotler and Moshe Feinstein, raised objections, and a major controversy ensued. In the end the opponents Agudas Horabonim issued a declaration opposing it.[8][9].

In June 2007, the East Side portion of the internal Manhattan Eruv was completed, offering an eruv within Manhattan to Orthodox Jews living on the East, Upper East, and Upper West Sides[10]. There are also two eruvs in Manhattan's Washington Heights, one covering the Yeshiva University area[11] and another covering the Fort Washington area[12].

Another ongoing dispute is the status of two inter-connected eruvin in Brooklyn: The Flatbush eruv and the Boro Park eruv. The Boro Park eruv was built and accepted by some of the so-called Hasidic community but rejected by most of the Hasidic and non-Hasidic "Lithuanian yeshiva" communities. The Flatbush eruv was originally built with the support of the Modern Orthodox community and was later enhanced with the support of some local so-called non-Modern Orthodox yeshiva families. It was totally rejected by the many "Lithuanian yeshiva" communities led by the rosh yeshivas ("deans") of the large yeshivas Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Mir yeshiva, and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas that are based in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Eruv techumin

An eruv techumin (Hebrew: עירוב תחומין "mixed borders") for traveling enables a Jew to travel on Shabbat or a Jewish holiday. He prepares a food prior to Shabbat or the holiday on which he plans to travel farther than is normally allowed on such days. Orthodox Judaism prohibits motorized transportation, although the presence of an eruv for carrying permits certain types of non-motorized transport, such as strollers and wheelchairs, for people unable to walk.

Conservative and Reform Judaism

Although Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards enacted an exception to the general rules of sabbath observance to permit driving to attend a synagogue, it otherwise formally requires the same rules of Shabbat observance as Orthodox Judaism with respect to carrying a burden. Therefore, Conservative Judaism's rabbinate requires the use of an eruv for ordinary carrying outside of this exception. Compliance with the formal requirements varies. Conservative authorities and organizations have generally not attempted to build or develop rules for eruvin distinct from ones established by Orthodox authorities and organizations.

Reform, Reconstructionist, and other more liberal branches of Judaism do not call for observance of the underlying traditional rules against carrying, and hence the issue of an eruv is not relevant.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Translation and Radak commentary from Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg. Mikraoth Gedoloth: Jeremiah Vol. 1. Judaica Press, 1985 (2005 printing) p. 152.
  2. Rabbi Daniel Schloss. "Laws of Shabbat: Building and Demolishing". Aish Hatorah. 
  3. Shulchan Aruch OC 308:45
  4. Shulchan Aruch OC 301:1-2
  5. "New London Eruv", Dateline World Jewry, World Jewish Congress, September, 2007
  6. Tenafly Eruv Association v. Borough of Tenafly, 309 F.3d 144, March 21, 2002
  7. "Rosenberg v Outremont (city), Quebec Superior Court". Lex View. 2001-09-06. 
  8. Handbill by 5 rabonim reaffirming the Agudas Horabonim's prohibition on the Manhattan Eruv
  9. NYTimes, Ritual Fence Set for Jews In Manhattan Is Extended, By Sewell Chan and Ethan Wilensky-Lanford, June 16, 2007
  10. NYTimes, A Translucent Wire in the Sky, By Sewell Chan, June 15, 2007
  11. YU Eruv
  12. Hudson Heights Eruv

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