Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)

The Sabbath

What is an Eruv?

What is the point of an “Eruv”? and what is it’s historical signifance.

The background information behind the “invention?? of the eruv, and its pertinent laws is beyond the scope of this response. However, I will try to give a basic overview.

The Torah breaks down the world into three basic domains: public, private, and in-between (a “karmalis??- we will not discuss that which distinguishes between these different domains). One of the 39 labors forbidden on Shabbat is “hotzaah??, carrying. This forbids both the carrying of objects from a private or in-between domain to a public domain, vice-versa, and the carrying of objects four cubits in a public domain. No carrying restrictions apply in the in-between or private domains themselves.

The sages of the Mishnah saw the in-between domains as potential legal stumbling blocks, as they seemed somewhat similar to public domains (both were publicly owned). The Sages were concerned that the Torah’s permission to carry in these in-between domains might lead to the people’s carrying in the public domains themselves. The Sages therefore decreed that these in-between domains be treated like public domains (ie. one is forbidden to carry from a public or private domain into these in-between domains, vice-versa, or to carry four cubits in the domain itself).

Along with this decree the Sages noted that this decree would be suspended barring the existence of an eruv, a wall that enclosed any given area. This eruv would eliminate the confusion between the in-between domains and the public domains, as the eruv had in essence made this area into a private domain. With an eruv in place, carrying is permitted in this area, as well as from this area into another private domain. However, one is still bound by the biblical prohibition of carrying from this private domain into a public domain.

Needless to say, the rabbinic enactment of eruv only helps in a rabbinically sanctioned area (“The one who makes the rules breaks the rules?? so to say). A public domain that is sanctioned by Torah law cannot be circumvented by the rabbinic eruv.

Some sources to get you started on some eruv research are: The general introduction to the Artscroll Tractate Eruvin, vol.1. See the section on “hotzaah?? in R’ Dovid Ribiat’s Thirty Nine Melachos. There is also a relatively new book called Contemporary Eruv: Eruvin in Modern Metropolitan Areas.

Yochai Robkin,
Project Genesis

No Follow-ups »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress