The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.


The View from a Drawbridge

Okay, this is fascinating. I’ve been passing under Eruvin all my life, often multiple times a day, and I never knew they existed. That is most likely the case for you, too. The only reason I know about Eruvin now is that I stumbled across an article entitled, “There’s a Wire Above Manhattan That You’ve Probably Never Noticed. It’s 18 miles long.”

That got my attention. How can there be something that’s 18 miles long that goes unnoticed by people in such a densely populated city? I had to learn more.

It turns out that an eruv (which is the singular for eruvin) is a symbolic, ritual enclosure that one encounters in some Orthodox Jewish communities. These enclosures once consisted of walls or fences. Now they’re usually a wire or string between posts to create imaginary walls. In essence, they religiously enclose an area.

If you are inside this enclosure, there are things that you can do on Shabbat that are usually prohibited. This includes carrying things, which is considered work on the Sabbath. Imagine how difficult it would be to avoid carrying groceries or house keys or medication or children in public places one day a week. Imagine if you couldn’t use strollers or walkers or canes if you needed them.

So an eruv converts public places into private holy spaces. A Rabbi is tasked with inspecting these eruv every Thursday to make sure there are no gaps. It turns out that over 200 eruvin currently exist in the United States.

The Manhattan eruv, the largest, most expensive one in the world, costs 100,000 dollars a year to maintain. But it is worth it to the devout if it allows them increased functionality without fear of breaking Jewish law.

If you’re interested in seeing if there’s an eruv in your city, check out the list here. You can also see these eruvin on Google Maps. There are several in my city of Seattle.

I plan to look up more often to see if I can spot one. They frequently utilize utility poles, but the wires have to go across the top of a post (which sometimes requires a post to be attached to a pole) to be considered legitimate. It’s fascinating to think these eruvin have been hiding in plain sight all along.

By the way, I am not Jewish, so please accept my apologies for any inaccuracies in this post. It is not my intention to offend or mislead anyone. I just happen to find this subject interesting.


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5 thoughts on “Eruvin

  1. Lyn says:

    Mystery solved. Thankyou. Last year, as I was traveling home from yet another doctor’s appointment, I noticed a thin line overhead that seemed out of place. My driver looked at me like I was foolish for questioning its existence and purpose. Maybe she’s the type who only questions a thing if it’s having an obvious direct impact on her somehow. I suspect that is the average norm, but I’ve always questioned everything and it seems abnormal to me not to. Now you’ve got me curious about all the restrictions and requirements the Orthodox Jewish faithful must abide by.

    1. Yay! I’ve set you off on a learning adventure!

      1. Lyn says:

        You usually do. Here’s something I ran across, right after posting my comment, while looking up covid updates. I just love synchronicity. Will have to watch this series to learn more. I know it’s a lazy way to research, but these eyes get more tired reading text than watching TV. I have to preserve them for reading your valuable words. 🙂

  2. Helen says:

    Fascinating! Who woulda thunk!?

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