Jewish law says that Jews may not work on our Sabbath. One of the distinctive features of Judaism is
that we get very specific about our terminology. One of the things we define as “work” is
carrying things around unless we are inside our houses or fenced yards. What things are we not allowed to carry around?
This of course, makes it difficult for families with young children to get together on the Sabbath. So the rabbis decided that we could have a big “yard” that included many homes as long as it was properly enclosed.
We wanted to create a boundary around the Jewish neighborhood so that we could carry. Since putting up fences is expensive and frequently impractical, around 2,500 years ago, great rabbis came up with a method of putting up a symbolic fence that would serve to create boundaries for us that would not be needlessly intrusive.
For centuries now, Jewish communities have, where possible, created this kind of unobtrusive boundary around each community so that we could socialize on our Sabbath.
An eruv attracts religious families. Typically, these are couples who plan to have children and want to build a responsible life for themselves in a comfortable community.
How is the boundary made? We use existing fences, overhead wires, hillsides, buildings, bridges, and a variety of other mechanisms that can serve to indicate boundaries. For reasons of getting along with our neighbors and to avoid vandalism the practice has been to make it as unobtrusive and unnoticeable as possible.
In many places, the existing landscape and elements are insufficient for our needs. In those places, after securing permission from the appropriate authorities and property owners, we repair, upgrade, or add ornamental or functional elements. We work with local governments, power, telephone, and cable TV companies.
Each week the boundary is checked by religious observers to ensure that it hasn’t been damaged during the week. If it has been damaged, then repair crews are dispatched.
There are eruvs in literally
hundreds of cities around the