What is it anyway?
Under Jewish law, carrying on Shabbat is prohibited.
One cannot transfer items into a public domain or carry from a private domain into a public domain or vice versa. An eruv is a symbolic enclosure, making everything within it into a single private space. A single community.
Where does the idea come from?
Going back in history, cities and neighbourhoods were enclosed by walls, and the entire city or neighbourhood was considered as one large private area. Carrying was allowed on Shabbat within these areas. An obvious example is the Old City of Jerusalem. In the absence of a walled city or neighbourhood, many communities throughout the world have established eruvim to surround the community for the sole purpose of permitting carrying on Shabbat.
How is an Eruv made?
The Eruv boundary is formed by using continuous local features such as fences or walls alongside roads, railways or terraced buildings. Any gaps, such as roads and footpaths require the putting up of a notional ‘gateway’, consisting of posts or poles linked on top
by a wire crossing the highway. The posts are very slim and the wire is of very fine gauge.
No signage is required, and their presence is therefore barely noticeable.
So this is a loophole then...
Not at all. Amongst the 63 volumes of the Talmud, one is devoted to the Laws of Shabbat and another is devoted to the Laws of Eruv! It is worth noting that every town in Israel has an Eruv and so do many villages and kibbutzim. The celebration of Shabbat is a communal one. Traditional families walk together to shul for services and then gather to eat and visit with family and friends. The Eruv facilitates this sort of communal unity without discriminating against any one segment.
What does the word 'Eruv' mean?
The Hebrew word eruv means to mix or join together. The purpose of an Eruv is to merge a number of private and public properties into one larger domain. Within the Eruv, we are then permitted to carry anywhere. This also applies to the use of prams, pushchairs and wheelchairs.