I recently read this year’s Hugo-winning novel, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. (Getting it sent to my local branch library from Malmö cost me one euro!) It’s a hard-boiled detective story set in an alternative present where Israel was squashed by irate Arab neighbours in 1948 and much of the world’s surviving Jewry ended up in a small reservation in south-west Alaska. An exciting read, and very lyrically written. Full of badass Hasidic gangstas.
One detail in the story was so silly that I had to look it up. And whaddya know — eruvin are real.
There are a lot of things orthodox Jews are not allowed to do outside their homes on the Sabbath. This is inconvenient, and so they have come up with a way of temporarily re-defining “home”. Explains Wikipedia:
A community eruv (Hebrew: ערוב, “mixture”, also transliterated as eiruv or erub, plural: eruvin) refers to the legal aggregation or “mixture” under Jewish religious property law of separate parcels of property meeting certain requirements into a single parcel held in common by all the holders of the original parcels, which enables Jews who observe the traditional rules concerning sabbath to carry children and belongings anywhere within the jointly held property without transgressing the prohibition against carrying a burden across a property line on the Jewish sabbath. The legal aggregation is set up to have effect on the sabbath day only; on other days of the week ordinary property ownership applies. A valid aggregation has a number of requirements including an agreement among the property-holders and an aggregation ritual.
One of the requirements of a valid aggregation is that all the parcels must lie within a chatzer, or walled courtyard. For this reason, this type of aggregation is more properly known as an eruv chatzerot (Hebrew: ערוב חצרות), an “aggregation of courtyards,” to distinguish it from other types of rabbinically-ordained mixture procedures which also have the name eruv.
In modern times, when housing is not typically organized into walled courtyards, rabbinic interpretation has permitted this requirement to be met by creating a continuous wall or fence, real or symbolic, surrounding the area to be aggregated. The fence is required to have certain properties and consist of structural elements such as walls or doorframes. When the fence is symbolic, the structural elements are often symbolic “doorframes” made of wire, with two vertical wires (often connected to utility poles) and one horizontal wire on top connecting them (often using utility wires). The use of symbolic elements permits an eruv to make use of utility poles and the like to enclose an entire neighborhood of a modern city within the legal aggregation.