On Place and Space: The Ontology of the Eruv

In Christian Kanzian (ed.), Cultures: Conflict – Analysis – Dialogue. Ontos. pp. 403-416 (2007)
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‘Eruv’ is a Hebrew word meaning literally ‘mixture’ or ‘mingling’. An eruv is an urban region demarcated within a larger urban region by means of a boundary made up of telephone wires or similar markers. Through the creation of the eruv, the smaller region is turned symbolically (halachically = according to Jewish law) into a private domain. So long as they remain within the boundaries of the eruv, Orthodox Jews may engage in activities that would otherwise be prohibited on the Sabbath, such as pushing prams or wheelchairs, or carrying walking sticks. There are eruvim in many towns and university campuses throughout the world. There are five eruvim in Chicago, five in Brooklyn, twenty three in Queens and Long Island, and at least three in Manhattan. The US Supreme Court is (like most other major US Federal Government buildings) located within the eruv of Washington DC. In many cases, not all of those living within or near the area of an actual or proposed eruv will themselves be Orthodox Jews, and this has sometimes led to protests against eruv creation. It is such protests which triggered the writing of this essay.

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Barry Smith
State University of New York, Buffalo


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