The Stamford Eruv was constructed to enhance observance of Shabbat. It is important, however, that we use the Eruv correctly, in conformance with Halacha. The Eruv is checked weekly. If you believe you have spotted any difficulty with the Eruv, please call the CAS office immediately.
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A carmelis may be transformed into r'shus hayachid by enclosing it with a continuous series of doorposts and walls. This has been done in Stamford using wires and plastic sticks attached to poles beneath the wires. In order to permit carrying in this r'shus hayachid from people's houses and vice versa, special arrangements have been made within the city to "purchase" the right to consider Stamford as being under one "ownership" for 99 years. Furthermore, in order for us to consider all of the houses owned by Jews as being under one ownership, the rabbis have mandated a symbolic sharing of food. (In fact, the word "eruv" refers specifically to this food.) A member of our community has accepted the food (matzoth) on behalf of the entire community. A blessing on the commandment of making an eruv was recited. The food is kept as a concrete symbol of the unification of the community. It is customary to repeat the process each year before Pesach. An eruv cannot transform a Biblical public domain into a private domain. The construction of the eruv in Stamford is based upon the opinion of a majority of the halachic authorities that cities like Stamford are not Biblical public domains. There are, however, minority opinions that view Stamford as a Biblical public domain. While it is a mitzvah to construct an eruv where possible, there is no requirement to carry during Shabbat just because there is an eruv. An individual who wishes to be more stringent and avoid carrying because of these other opinions should be respected.
Prohibition of Carrying on Shabbat
The Torah prohibits carrying objects between public (r'shus harabim) and private (r'shus hayachid) domains, and within the public domain itself, on Shabbat. An enclosed area is a private domain. However, not every unenclosed area is considered to be r'shus harabim. Carrying in an area which is not a private domain and which does not fulfill the Biblical requirements of a public domain (known as a carmelis) is rabbinically prohibited. The rabbis also prohibit carrying from one person's private domain to that of another.
What does an Eruv Permit?
The eruv allows one to carry outside of one's house only those items which normally may be carried inside on Shabbat. For example, one may carry to or from shul a Tallit, siddur, handkerchief, or house key. The eruv especially benefits families who wish to carry their young ones and/or push a baby carriage or stroller, which is permitted within an eruv. (Please note that one of the great pleasures of having an eruv is that it allows parents to bring their children to shul; however, in bringing young children to shul to fulfill the parental obligation of chinuch (religious training), one should also take heed to properly educate the child in the appropriate synagogue behavior.)
What is not permitted with the Eruv?
All activities prohibited on Shabbat, with the exception of carrying, are prohibited even within an eruv. For example, watering lawns, mailing letters, giving gifts other than food intended for use on Shabbat, picking fruit and flowers, and bicycle riding may not be done on Shabbat even within an eruv. There are a number of common articles with may not be carried, including those which are muktzeh (forbidden to be handled on Shabbat), such as car keys (since a car cannot be used on Shabbat) and umbrellas (even if opened before Shabbat). Similarly, preparations for events after Shabbat (for example carrying chairs next door for a Saturday night party) are prohibited. If you have any specific questions, please ask Rabbi Cohen.