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Whats an Eruv to do with anything ?

William "Bill" Laforet

Mahwah Mayor William “Bill” Laforet

August 27,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Mahwah NJ, the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association got approval from the local utility company to use its poles for the eruv, Mahwah says the materials violate township’s 20 year old ordinance against posting on utility poles. At a meeting on Aug. 18 the council voted to issue summonses if the eruv was not removed.

The Bergen Rockland Eruv association claims the order violates their constitutional and civil rights. The religious group has threatened to sue Upper Saddle River if the town tries to remove the markers. And a federal lawsuit, has already been filed against Mahwah . Mahwah has brought in Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP to represent Mahwah Township in the lawsuit brought upon by the Rockland Bergen Eruv Fund.

Residents and elected officials of both Mahwah and Upper Saddle River have reacted with outrage and concern after seeing the eruv markings given their view that no one asked their permission. Most of Northern Bergen County  has viewed the eruv expansion as a power grab and a threat to their community autonomy .

A group called Mahwah Strong has been establish by local residents who have come together for the purpose of preserving the welcoming, inclusionary lifestyle of Mahwah Township. The group not a fan of the eruv but also distanced it self from recent acts of vandalism , reiterating they do not condone acts of vandalism.

Vandalism of the eruv pushed  Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli to issue a statement saying in the area of East Crescent Avenue  the eruvim was hit with “some type of blunt object” that damaged the piping. The incidents, according to the chief, likely happened on Friday evening. There were no reports of anyone seeing or hearing the vandalism occur.

Chief  Batelli said it “appears that the eruvs were specifically targeted,” and that the department is already investigating similar incidents that happened in July as a hate crime. Mahwah  Mayor Bill Laforet is offering a $1,000 reward for information about the vandalism.

So what is an eruv ,  an eruv, in modern terminology, is a technical boundary that allows Jews to carry in public areas on Shabbat. It is one of those traditions which has blossomed from a basic Torah principle into a highly complicated legal matter.

Under Jewish law on Shabbat, it is forbidden to carry anything–regardless of its weight, size or purpose–from a “private” domain into a “public” one or vice versa, or more than four cubits (approximately 6 feet) within a public domain. Private and public do not refer to ownership, rather to the nature of the area. An enclosed area is considered a private domain, whereas an open area is considered public for the purposes of these laws.

Practically, it is forbidden to carry something, such as a tallit bag or a prayer book from one’s home along the street and to a synagogue or to push a baby carriage from home to a synagogue, or to another home, on Shabbat.

The answer is a technical enclosure which surrounds both private and hitherto public domains and thus creates a large private domain in which carrying is permitted on Shabbat. Colloquially this is known as an eruv. The eruv is usually large enough to include entire neighborhoods with homes, apartments and synagogues, making it possible to carry on Shabbat, since one is never leaving one’s domain.

A wall can be a wall even if it has many doorways creating large open spacesIt is technical, because theoretically the eruv should be a wall. However, a wall can be a wall even if it has many doorways creating large open spaces. This means that a wall does not have to be solid. Therefore, the eruv enclosure may be created by telephone poles, for example, which act as the vertical part of a door post in a wall, with the existing cables strung between the poles acting as the lintel of the doorframe. As such, the entire “wall” is actually a series of “doorways.” Added to that there may be existing natural boundaries and fences.

While there are an increasing number of eruvs being established throughout the world in traditional Jewish communities, support for the practice is not universal.

There is the concern that if there is an eruv in a community, those who rely on it may very easily forget when they travel to communities without an eruv, and carry on Shabbat.

A second concern is that if the eruv breaks during Shabbat, no one will know. As a result, they will conduct themselves as if there still is a functioning eruv, this breaking the rules of Shabbat.

It is imperative that an expert rabbi oversee the construction of any eruv The final and perhaps the major concern is that because an eruv allows an exception to the prohibition against carrying on Shabbat, it is quite natural for anyone regularly using an eruv to forget that this is an exception; forgetting that there is a prohibition against carrying on Shabbat