(N.Morgan) A mysterious fact that is unknown to many is there are translucent fishing lines that create an enclosure around hundreds of cities throughout the world.
Woven high above the heads of pedestrians and roofs of homes and utility poles and lamp posts, these wires are barely visible and have no affect on the lives of the millions that dwell in these cities.
However, for the orthodox Jews, these imperceptible wires that run for several miles to designate an important religious boundary that allowed the devoted to hold on to their faith.
The wires represent the boundary of a ritualistic enclosure called an eruv, a place in which observant Jews can perform certain duties that they are not allowed to do outside of home during Sabbath.
These duties are often mundane, like carrying house keys, tissues, medicines or using strollers to push babies around, but essential to daily functions of life.
Heeding the rules of Sabbath, hence, not only interferes with life but also prevents Jews from fulfilling their religious duties.
For instance, families with small children who use strollers and pushchairs or the physically disabled, who use wheelchairs, are effectively housebound. They are not allowed to attend the synagogue.
A section of an eruv in Manhattan, New York. Photo credit: New York Post
The Jewish will hang wires around their neighborhood to create an enclosed space. In accordance with Jewish law, an enclosed space is considered a private domain.
Within this private domain —the eruv— Orthodox Jews can carry objects or push strollers or use wheelchairs, or otherwise observe the same rules on Sabbath that they would in their homes.
During ancient times eruvs were enclosed courtyards containing several Jewish homes and many times a synagogue.
At times the physical boundaries such as walls, hedges, and roads were considered to enclose an area of land.
Many communities in the past and entire cities were walled, making it possible for observers to carry on with their daily routines for Shabbat, since one is never leaving one’s domain.
As communities began to grow and become more populated, it became impossible to contain them within walls. So the people began erecting poles and strung wires to enclose an area. A piece of string is as good as a wall.
How? A wall can be a wall even if it has many doorways creating large open spaces, which means that a wall does not have to be solid.
So two poles with a string across can be taken as a doorway in the boundary. The entire “wall” is therefore a series of “doorways”.
Eruvs are everywhere, from Melbourne to Manhattan, from Toronto to Tel Aviv. They are regularly checked to ensure their integrity. Organizations who carry out these checks and perform repairs have either a telephone number or a website where anyone can check whether the eruv is in working order. The cost of upkeep of an eruv in often covered by synagogues in the area. In cities as large as New York, for instance, this can amount to a tidy sum.
There have also been some controversies centered around the construction of eruvs. Jewish communities have to seek permission from the city municipality or council before erecting a eruv.
Sometimes these are refused. Then, even within the observant community, there are some who believe that eruvs are just loopholes that the rabbis devised to get around the prohibition against carrying on Sabbath, and question the legitimacy of these flimsy boundaries.
Below are maps and photos of where the Eruvs are located.
Map of eruvs around Brooklyn, New York
Map of the Manhattan eruv
Map of the eruv in Amsterdam
The string of an eruv in Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. Photo credit: waltarrrrr/Flickr
The string of Los Angles Community Eruv runs over a utility pole. Photo credit: waltarrrrr/Flickr
The string of an eruv visible against the blue sky in Lincoln Square, New York. Photo credit: Billie Grace Ward/Flickr
A man attaching a wire to a light pole creates an eruv in Malden, Massachusetts, United States. Photo credit: www.bostonglobe.com
A plastic string of an eruv runs over a neighborhood in Malden, Massachusetts, United States. Photo credit: www.bostonglobe.com
The string of an eruv in New York City. Photo credit: Ella/Flickr