March 9, 2010

Can You See It?

It is there. I went looking for it when I read this article in the New York Times this past week. "It" is the eruv that acts as a symblic border for the Orthodox Jewish community in Manhattan (in this case made of fishing wire and suspended from the traffic light, up there, crisscrossing Third Avenue).

Eruvim (plural) date back far into ancient Jewish history and act as an extension of the home on the sabbath, a necessary extension - for without an eruv, an Orthodox Jew should not carry anything outside the house (house keys, babies, umbrellas, even clothing). It was once the stone walls that encased a whole population, but today it is more often fishing wire suspended from telephone poles and traffic lights in modern cities. In Manhattan, the eruv extends far and wide (but does not encompass the entire city).

Orthodox Jews check announcements about the eruv every week before the sabbath and find guidelines (like this one) that accompany the map below: "On 56th Street, between Broadway and Tenth Avenue (Amsterdam), only the north side of the street is in the eruv," or "The eruv is up - Shabbat March 5-6" (after snow storms like we've had that compromise the integrity of the circle formed).

The eruv must be inspected in its entirety each week, since the assumed position is that it is down unless verified. I love the image of the rabbi who walks along the wire hem of this community space, scrutinizing its absoluteness.

(Map and more information on the Manhattan eruv here).
(And here is a good link to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, written by Lacey Nadeau).


lacey said...

Emilie--i agree! I love the idea, and was so intrigued by it. I wrote an article on the eruv in San Diego:

(this is Lacey, Jake Miller's fiancee. Jake told me I would probably like your blog, and he was right. i do love your blog!)

tasflowrance said...

Thank you for this good topic

Emilie said...

I received an email this morning and wanted to post the person's thoughts anonymously, because I really appreciated their perspective (and have corrected my post as a result):

I enjoyed your thoughts and openmindedness about something so esoteric and unusual.

Two minor points that I will take the liberty of calling to your attention, for accuracy's sake:

Observant Jews who utilize eruvim (not the more latin-sounding 'eruvium') would be carrying house keys, not car keys on the Sabbath; they don't drive on that day.

Thomas said...

I have heard of this idea of extending one's house for practical considerations during the Sabbath, but this is the first time actually seeing it.

Did you ever observe this in the Marais?

Emilie said...

i did a little research and there is no eruv in paris; there are several private eruvim, but none that cover areas of the city streets. interesting question, since le marais is indeed a jewish center. you know, the eruv in manhattan is almost invisible, literally, and that is what made it so fascinating to me. had i not read that article in the times, i would have walked the streets of new york forever without knowing it was there...

D1Warbler said...

I've known of the custom, but have never actually seen one. At least now I've seen a picture of one!

D1Warbler said...

I didn't know they needed to be inspected constantly, and I didn't know they were changed, so that people had to have updated maps so they could know what the current boundaries were. Interesting.

We have friends who are observant and who do walk to Church on the Jewish Sabbath. (Hence no car keys!) They also have timers to turn their lights and appliances on and off during that time as well.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...