By the time Orange County Jews have removed the last piece of chametz from our homes, we will have achieved a new milestone. A filament, actually made of fishing line, will literally and symbolically define Shabbat boundaries in my Irvine neighborhood.
On Shabbat, observant Jews refrain from doing 39 categories of activities. Because the Torah prohibits carrying on Shabbat, except in an enclosed “private” area, observant Jews – especially those with small children – are faced with a dilemma. If the children want or need to be carried or pushed in a stroller, the adults are unable to take them to Shabbat services or to attend the services themselves.
Dr. Sean Samuels, a chiropractor, realized that his then-pregnant wife would be in that situation. Together with fellow Beth Jacob congregants, he worked at developing a solution that ultimately brought together officials from the city of Irvine, CalTrans, Southern California Edison, and the local golf course. The project has taken about two years to complete, according to Dr. Samuels.
Talmudic rabbis came up with a way to consider an area as a private domain by surrounding it with an enclosure called an eruv. The Hebrew word eruv means to mix or join together. The eruv integrates a number of private and public properties into one larger private domain. Consequently, individuals within an eruv district are then permitted to move objects across the pre-eruv public domain-private domain boundary.
“Everything within the boundary is considered to be in a private area, like the Jerusalem wall,” Dr. Samuels explained.
Typically, an eruv is designed by encircling a community with a continuous string or wire. There are numerous regulations concerning the placement of this wire. In the case of the University Park section of Irvine, one natural boundary of the eruv is the wall separating the neighborhood from the I-405 freeway. The rest of the eruv is made of the filament, and permission to string up every segment had to be obtained from various organizations, a process that Dr. Samuels described as “very time-consuming.”
Technology is meshing with tradition in this venture. People who live in and use an eruv have an obligation to ensure that the eruv is intact before taking advantage of its presence. It needs to be checked weekly, according to tradition, because if the filament breaks, the eruv would not be useable. A group of people will rotate the duty of maintaining the eruv, conducting weekly inspections to make sure the lines are intact, and posting the information on the website (www.irvineeruv.org).
Eventually, the proponents of the Irvine eruv would like to extend the enclosure to the Woodbridge and Westpark neighborhoods, where other Orthodox families live. There would, of course, be additional costs and negotiations, but Dr. Samuels and others think it would be worth pursuing.
“Eruvim are typically found in traditional communities,” Dr. Samuels added. “Every major Orthodox community throughout the country has one, and now we do too.”
As I look at the eruv, I am reminded that Shabbat gives all Jews the opportunity to create a private space around themselves. Just as the filament surrounding the neighborhood is delicate and in need of periodic inspection, the boundary between Shabbat and the mundane is fragile and in need of quality introspection.
Similarly, Passover is a week set apart from the rest of the year. The effort of the preparations is well worth it when we sit down at the seder table year after year.
This issue of Orange County Jewish Life will help you to find the food and the recipes to enhance your seder at home or to find a community seder at a local synagogue. We’ll also tell you where to get Kosher and Kosher for Passover meals outside of your house and what other activities are going on in Jewish Orange County in April. Finally, we’ll tell you about some of the movers and shakers who provide programs that nurture your mind and inspire you to action.
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