I. WHAT IS AN ERUV?
The Torah permits carrying within an enclosed "private" area on Shabbat and Yom Kippur. Such an area enclosed and considered "private" may vary in size from a small home to an entire community. The Talmud specifies both the definitions of an enclosure and how to render an entire area a private domain. All these conditions have been met in order to create the Boston Eruv, and it will therefore be permissible, within the area described below and according to the conditions herein detailed, to carry on Shabbat and Yom Kippur.
At the same time, it continues to be the responsibility of parents to teach their children the Halakhos and restrictions of carrying on Shabbat. It is only because of the Eruv that we are allowed to carry within the area contained in the Eruv. Everyone, including children, should be aware of the proper Halakhik behavior in areas where there is no Eruv.
II. ERUV GUIDELINES
A. THE ERUV: A SOURCE FOR COMMUNITY ENHANCEMENT
The Eruv will be helpful to families with young children and to individuals who are unable to walk, as carriages, strollers and wheelchairs may be wheeled within the area of an Eruv. Others will find it convenient to bring a Talis or Siddur to Shul, or a Sefer to a class or Shiur, or to carry glasses, house keys or other permitted items necessary for Shabbat. Please note that items required for use after Shabbat may not be carried on Shabbat. Children's tricycles may be used inside the Eruv. Questions regarding the assembly of baby carriages should be addressed to each person's Rabbi.
It is the obligation of each individual who wishes to use the Eruv to ascertain, every Friday, that the Eruv is indeed functional. It is not adequate for one to assume that the Eruv is functional if there have been no storms or major adverse weather conditions during the previous week. Many factors can invalidate an Eruv, and only specific authoritative confirmation on Friday validates the Eruv for use each week.
B. THE LIMITS OF ERUV ENHANCEMENT
The purpose of the Eruv is the enhancement of Shabbat observance, not its diminution. Therefore, the existence of the Eruv should not be considered a dispensation to enter places not consistent with maintaining the sanctity and spiritual character of Shabbat. Whether a community does or does not have an Eruv, one may not enter the following on Shabbat: business establishments, stores, offices, places of entertainment (movies, etc. - even if payment has been made in advance) and libraries. The following activities are never permitted on Shabbos: athletic activities, bicycle riding, tennis, swimming, skating, sledding, ball playing, watering the lawn, gardening, playing with water, putting trash out for pickup, picking flowers, fruits, etc., playing in a sprinkler, playing in a sandbox, bringing gifts to hosts on Shabbat or Yom Tov, mailing letters, etc.
Even within the Eruv there are a number of common articles which, because they are classified as Muktzah, may not be carried or handled on Shabbat at home. Following is a partial catalogue of Muktzah items. All other questions regarding Muktzah should be addressed to each person's Rabbi.
C. THE ERUV MAY BECOME TEMPORARILY INVALID
In order to assure that no joyous event be marred by disappointment or, G-d forbid, inadvertent transgression of Hilkhot Shabbat, no Kiddush, Bar Mitzvah, Aufruf or other Shabbat affair should be planned with the assumption that the Eruv will be operational, as last minute storms, telephone company construction, etc. could render the Eruv invalid. Therefore, since events must be planned far in advance, all celebrations should be planned as if there were no Eruv. Food should be brought to the location of a Simcha before Shabbat, a copy of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah boy/girl's D'rasha should be brought to Shul before Shabbat, etc.
D. WEEKLY ERUV INSPECTION
The Eruv will usually be inspected on Thursday afternoon. Repairs will be made on Friday. An official voice message on the "Eruv Status Line" (781-446-9797) will notify everyone of the Eruv's status each week. In case of a major storm beginning anytime after preparation of the message-generally around 3 PM on Friday, (or after 3 PM on Wednesday, when Yom Tov precedes Shabbat), the Eruv should be presumed to be non-operational. Heavy rains, wind, snow, or other weather conditions can frequently invalidate an Eruv. To eliminate the chance of inappropriate reliance on a damaged Eruv, it is best to assume that the Eruv is invalid in the aftermath of any severe storm.
Multiple dwellings (e.g. two or three family houses, apartment houses, etc.) should have an additional Eruv Hatzairot (merging of courtyards), made without a Bracha, in order to permit carrying from apartment to apartment if the community Eruv fails. An Eruv Hatzairot is appropriate in a courtyard, hall or staircase that is shared by the residents of a two or three family house, condominium, or apartment house because it is forbidden to carry from the private dwellings into the shared area on Shabbat or Yom Kippur. The Eruv Hatzairot is a procedure whereby all the dwellings opening into the shared area are considered as owned by a single consortium. This is achieved by each of the residents placing Matzah in one of the dwelling units, symbolizing that all participants are legal residents of that unit. Guidance and assistance in establishing this type of Eruv is available from each person's Rabbi.
E. ERUV TAMPERING
Because of the complexity of the laws of Eruvin, no one should extend the Eruv, or attach wires or any other addition to the Boston Eruv. The Eruv constitutes a closed and complete entity onto itself; tampering with it could result in its becoming totally invalid.
III. THE ERUV AND THE MAKOM TEFILLAH
The entire community benefits with the introduction of an Eruv. Shabbat social life is enhanced and more people are able to come to Shul to Daven and to learn Torah. At the same time, it is most important that the sanctity and dignity of every Makom Tefillah, whether a Bais haMedrash or the main sanctuary of a synagogue, be properly maintained. With this in mind, the Vaad Ha'Eir of Greater Boston encourages every Shul to create and implement appropriate Shabbos morning programming for young children.
Furthermore, everyone should be aware that the following are not appropriate in a Makom Tefillah: changing of diapers, nursing, permitting a noisy/crying child to remain (the child should be carried from the Makom Tefillah even during the private Sh'moneh Esrai), permitting a child with soiled diapers to remain, bringing carriages or strollers into the Makom Tefillah. Your cooperation in these matters is essential. The Eruv must be an addition to our community of which we are all proud.
IV. THE HASHGAKHA OF THE ERUV
Our Eruv has been constructed according to the highest standards of the Halakhot governing this complex subject, under the supervision of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of Baltimore. Great effort has been made to fulfill even minority opinions among Halakhik decisors in the Eruv's construction. Nevertheless, it is important for those who use the Eruv and for those who choose not to avail themselves of the Eruv, to respect each other's opinions so that the Eruv will truly help to unify our community.
Guidance from each person's Rabbi should be sought to clarify any uncertainty regarding the boundaries or Halakhos of the Eruv.
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