Eruv Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use an eruv?

Good question. For some women, being stuck in a house with 4 small, bored and unhappy children while Abba spends his 9 hours at shul davening and learning on Shabbes is close to torture. She is supposed to enjoy shabbos. If she isn’t enjoying Shabbes under those circumstances, that is a serious problem. If her husband isn’t dealing with the issue, that is a bigger problem. Oneg shabbos is important. And so is Shalom Bayis.

My opinion, in case anyone cares, is that while conceptually (to me) an eruv is a leniency, it is a leniency the Rishonim, Gaonim, Amoraim, and Tanaim accepted. For me to call those Chachamin, Makilim would be chutzpah if it wasn’t so foolish. By that definition, not waiting 24 hours between meat and milk might be a leniency, having a retirement fund is a demonstrable lack of Emunah in Ha-Shem’s providence, and far too much of my life is leniencies which are much worse than using an eruv. I suspect that, unfortunately, I have lots of company. I have lots of other things to work on before I consider not using an eruv. But if you are at that level, you shouldn’t accept a Psak on a question like this from a website.

Talk to your Rav.

Some people don’t hold by an eruv, why would it be okay for them to use it?

This is two separate issues which should be separated. The first question is: “Is the eruv kosher?” The second question is: “Should I use it on Shabbos?”

If a Jew carries wine in a broken eruv on shabbos then neither he nor other Jews should drink the wine on Shabbos. If the eruv isn’t kosher, then you shouldn’t drink the wine. On the other hand, most people who “don’t hold by eruvim” merely have decided to refrain from themselves using the eruv. That person, if the eruv is up and the wine is brought to them on Shabbes, very well might decide to drink the wine so that they can make kiddush on Shabbos morning and so that they won’t embarrass the person who carried it.

Do I need to check every week to see if the eruv is up?

Yes. The telephone company, the power company, the broadband company, the cable company, and the traffic signal people are at work on those poles every day. Very few of them are rabbis knowledgeable about eruvim. Even when they mean well, sometimes workers break things. Sometimes things break all by themselves, sometimes cars or trucks knock down poles, and occasionally the owner of the pole will replace it with one a few feet away and the new one doesn’t work for us.

Rabbi Shimon Eider zt”l, the noted eruv expert told me that if someone told him that there hadn’t been any problems with an eruv in several months that he would not rely on it.

Okay, I understand that the eruv can break, but won’t the guy who checks make sure it’s up?

On a very basic level, here is the answer: if he makes a mistake and you carry, it’s his fault; if he makes a mistake and you didn’t ask, it’s your fault; if he didn’t bother to check and you didn’t ask, it’s your fault. One well-respected rabbi holds that if the eruv is up and you didn’t find out from a trusted source, then you aren’t allowed to carry.

What if I see the eruv is down on Shabbos?

First of all, you should not be relying on a website for the answer to this question. But just for the sake of learning Torah, the authorities I have discussed this with have recommended this answer. Most people don’t know enough to decide that the eruv is down. Many of the others may not be aware of the exact boundaries of the eruv. The part you are looking at may not be the real boundary.

That being said, you should refrain from carrying yourself, but you should not tell anyone. If someone is in a situation where they have a strong need to carry, better they violate Shabbos by mistake than on purpose.

May I put up my own eruv?

Yes, but you need to understand what you are doing.

If I’m in a hotel, do I need an eruv?

Good question. In a hotel where you have purchased the right to sleep in your room, but you have not purchased a meal in the dining room, you need to have an eruv (assuming there is no eruv in the city which includes the hotel). The way you do this is you ask hotel clerk to accept $1 in return for the right to carry in the halls. If you ask insistently, he will accept the $1. But without the transaction, you may not carry except in your own room.

Are there areas which may not be included in an eruv?

Yes. The general idea is that if a place is not habitable and is larger than 5000 square amah (cubits), it may not be included. Depending on your rabbi, that is between 12,000 and 20,000 square feet.

Doesn’t putting up an eruv violate the boundary between church and state?

The First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof……” The government should neither put up an eruv nor forbid putting up an eruv, except as it relates to other public policy questions. Just as the city allows the cable TV people to string lines over the public right of way, so they must allow an eruv to string lines over the public right of way. The rules have to be applied in a religion-neutral manner.

Are we allowed to use the poles for free?

Sometimes. If the poles are privately owned, then the owners have the right to charge rent and they usually do. They also have the right to inspect to make sure that the eruv line isn’t dangerous, and then charge for the inspection. These charges can amount to thousands of dollars a year for an eruv.

Can anyone do the repairs?

The owner of the pole and the owner of the street have the right to specify how and when someone may do the repairs. There is a set of rules for doing repairs on the street called the NUMTCD manual.

I meant, can the work be done by a non-Jew?