Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Secular Essay on Eruv That Cites Me

InfoTrac Web: Expanded Academic ASAP.

AL Academic
AT The political symbolism of the eruv.
AU Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert
CT Jewish Social Studies
DP Spring-Summer 2005 v11 i3 p9(27)
IS 3
LW 9(27)
ND 20051011
PB Indiana University Press
PT Magazine/Journal
RM COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group
SN 0021-6704
VO 11
XX 11910

Source: Jewish Social Studies, Spring-Summer 2005 v11 i3 p9(27).

Title: The political symbolism of the eruv.
Author: Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert

Electronic Collection: A137454249
RN: A137454249

Full Text COPYRIGHT 2005 Indiana University Press

Said R. Joshua ben Levi: "On what account do they prepare an eruv of
courtyards? It is for the sake of peace." There was the case of a woman who
was on bad terms with her neighbor. She sent her [contribution to the] eruv
with her son. The neighbor took him and hugged and kissed him. He went and
told his mother this. She said, "Is this how she loved me, and I did not know
about it!" They thus became friends once again.

--yEruvin 3:2, 20d

The true path leads across a rope that is not suspended on high, but close to
the ground. It seems more intended to make people stumble than to be walked

--Franz Kafka, Aphorismen, 1917

The eruv is perhaps one of the most peculiar ritual systems that the rabbis of
the Mishnah and the Talmud instituted, one that has very little basis, if any,
in biblical law. The term itself is a rabbinic neologism, and the first
textual evidence that we have of anything resembling the practice of the eruv
is the Mishnah itself. (1) Although the Babylonian Talmud attributes the
institution of this ritual to King Solomon early in the tractate devoted to
the topic, this can hardly be read as a historical fact, particularly because
it is attributed to an amora (talmudic as opposed to mishnaic sage) of the
first generation and transmitted by a second generation amora (first half of
the third century c.E.). Given that its hermeneutic dimension with respect to
biblical law is minute in comparison to other ritual practices such as the
dietary laws and menstrual impurity or sexual prohibitions, the institution of
the eruv shows the rabbis at their most creative ritual thinking and law
making. Indeed, the oft-quoted mishnaic statement applies quite saliently to
thinking about the eruv: "The rules about the Sabbath [which include the eruv]
are as mountains hanging by a hair, for [teaching of] Scripture [about these]
are scanty and the rules many; the [rules about] property cases, the Temple
Service, purity and impurity and the forbidden sexual relations have that
which support them" (mHagigah 1:8).

Nonetheless, there is surprisingly little literature on this practice and its
role in rabbinic thinking about the Sabbath. The literature that exists,
mostly in the form of passing reference, assumes that the eruv derives
primarily from the halakhic impulse toward leniency among the rabbis and is
therefore designed to make the observance of the Sabbath prohibitions easier
by circumventing their most stringent legal articulations. (2) Accordingly,
joining an eruv community permits Jews to carry any kind of object out of and
into their houses on the Sabbath, and this is indeed the halakhic function of
the eruv. (3) In contemporary controversies, it is often strollers and
wheelchairs that play a prominent role in arguments promoting the
establishment of an eruv.

However, as I will demonstrate below, these arguments are hardly sufficient to
warrant the creative legal energies devoted to the articulation of this ritual
system. Indeed, I will show that the significance of the eruv points beyond
the specific context of the Sabbath and its prohibitions of certain kinds of
labor. Since the eruv as a ritual system entails forming an eruv community, it
also operates as a tool to structure the relationship between insiders and
outsiders, and it does so in relationship to residential space. In other
words, it operates as a boundary-making device, quite concretely in
relationship to the residential space of the neighborhood that the eruv
community inhabits. As such, the ritual system raises the question of whether
it is designed to function as a mechanism of exclusion and separatism or of
integration. Clearly, these dynamics are prominently at play in the
contemporary eruv controversies, (4) just as they are in the rabbinic texts,
albeit in different ways. It can be useful, therefore, to investigate the
political symbolism of the eruv as conceived by the rabbis.

For purposes of conceptual and linguistic clarification, I would like to make
a few introductory remarks as to the nature of this ritual system. There are
three different kinds of eruvin, each of which involve preparing a symbolic
meal of sorts. This article deals primarily with the so-called eruv hatserot
(the eruv of courtyards) and its companion institution the shituf mevoot
(sharing of the alleyways), to the exclusion of the eruv thumim (the eruv of
distance) and the eruv tavshilin (the eruv of cooking). The latter two rituals
concern primarily an individual's practice, either by allowing him or her to
walk farther than the official Sabbath limit, or by allowing him or her to
prepare in advance a Sabbath meal on the holiday that falls on a Friday. In
contrast, the eruv hatserot and, by extension, the shituf mevoot affect the
community as a whole, or, to be precise, the residential community. (5) These
ritual systems therefore have a collective significance--that is, for building
and circumscribing communities. A neighborhood is thus transformed into a more
or less intentional community by ritualizing it or inscribing it with a ritual
structure. Again, overtly this is for the purposes of the Sabbath. But it is
in this context that the dynamics of belonging and exclusion and of communal
boundary-making come to the foreground: Who can join and who cannot, and on
which terms? The ritual system, therefore, points beyond its immediate
halakhic function.

The halakhic function of the eruv hatserot, as mentioned above, is to allow
those who participate in it to carry any kind of object out of and into their
houses into (or from) the space circumscribed by the eruv. (6) In the
classical rabbinic texts, such a space is primarily envisioned as the enclosed
courtyard (shared by a number of dwellings) that is connected to an alleyway
or smaller street by an entrance way or gate, a wide-spread structure in
Mediterranean urban architecture to this day. The corresponding space, the
next larger unit of neighborhood architecture, is the alleyway itself, to
which any number of courtyard dwellings are connected and which is either a
cul-de-sac or needs to be symbolically prepared for that purpose.

The rabbinic texts, especially those relevant to our project here, are
therefore not primarily concerned with the preparation of the spatial boundary
markers; instead, they are concerned with the social formation of the eruv
community itself. In the contemporary controversies, of course, it is exactly
the spatial boundary markers and their symbolism that have moved to the
foreground, especially the practice of erecting poles connected by wires,
since the contemporary urban scene is nervous with regard to mapping ethnicity
and especially religion explicitly and deliberately into urban neighborhoods.
One way to think about this is that the tensions have become "externalized."
For the rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud, however, the tensions focus more
on the internal aspect of the formation of the eruv community. That is, the
basis for the eruv community is the symbolic food to which theoretically all
members of the residential community have to contribute by way of a
collection. In fact, in rabbinic linguistic habits, the term eruv refers to
the symbolic food rather than to the boundary itself: "if someone put his eruv
in a gate-house, a parlor (akhsadrah) or a gallery [none of which is a proper
residence], it is not a valid eruv" (mEruvin 8:4). By contrast, in
contemporary linguistic habits, the term has come to refer to the method of
enclosure put up to mark the boundary of the neighborhood. (7)

In what follows I will first discuss the ritual collection of food for the
purposes of the eruv as an act of symbolic unification of the community. It
ought to be remembered that the rabbinic texts themselves, especially the
earlier tannaitic texts (that is, Mishnah and Tosefta), hardly ever spell out
the symbolic valences of the ritual practices they establish, since they cloak
themselves primarily in the conceptual language of law-making. However, as we
shall see, the rabbis are very much concerned about the production of
symbolism that is convincing, has a respectable degree of integrity, and will
be transparent to those who participate in its performance. The second part of
the article will then turn to the relationship between insider and outsider,
between (rabbinic) Jews and non-Jews that the eruv designs. What is of
interest here is not primarily the general relationship between Jews and
non-Jews, about which much has been written, but specifically the residential
relationship within the neighborhood. That is, the non-Jew is not just the
generic type of Other but is the next-door neighbor. The questions to be
considered here are what kind of neighborhood and what kind of neighborhood
relations the rabbinic texts construct.

Food Symbolism and the Unification of the Neighborhood

The eruv community is first and foremost established by a collection of food.
It is food, though not a meal per se, that forms the center of the entire
ritual system. The food collected is not consumed but is deposited in a
suitable location within the confines of the neighborhood. Thus, the point is
not actual commensality but a symbolic representation thereof. Indeed, I would
venture to suggest that the food operates as a symbolic representation of the
community itself. As such, the food serves the purpose of unification and
integration of the neighborhood. Various aspects come into play here: not just
the kind of food that is considered to be acceptable, but how it is collected,
from whom, and where it is to be deposited. In the discussion below, we will
follow the relevant texts to trace the symbolic work they carefully craft.

The Mishnah only hints at the symbolic valence of the food that is at stake,
buried in the following dispute:
With all kinds [of food] (8) may an eruv [of the courtyard] or
shituf [of the street] be performed [mearvin u-mishtatfin], except
with water or salt; thus according to Rabbi Eliezer. R. Joshua
disagrees: A whole loaf of bread is a valid eruv [kikar hu eruv].
Even if it is baked from one seah [of flour] (9) but is broken
[prusah], one cannot effect an eruv with it. If it is a loaf the
size of an issar (10) but is whole [shalem], one can effect an eruv
with it. (mEruvin 7:10)

As is the general style of the Mishnah, no further reasons are given, merely a
tannaitic difference of opinion. Although the talmudic discussions often
concern themselves with exploring the underlying reasons of a tannaific
dispute, in this case neither the Yerushalmi nor the Bavli attempt to clarify
the specific reasons for why it should be either food or bread that could
function as an eruv. (11) Still, we can venture to spell out the underlying
symbolic rationale of the disagreement and thus conjecture that, perhaps for
Rabbi Eliezer, food in general has a sufficient unifying force for the
neighborhood community. Food in this case follows a maximal definition:
anything that is recognizably considered to be nourishing. (12) This suggests
that, to him, the eruv perhaps represents commensality in general terms.

Rabbi Yehoshua, by contrast, whose opinion is later codified as the reigning
halakhic practice, (13) insists on the symbolic importance of the collected
food itself. Not only is bread the essential food that establishes
community--and, as we shall see, residence as well but its very form has
symbolic significance as well. His insistence on the latter point is clearly
emphasized by underlining the irrelevance of the quantity of bread, whether
huge or minute amounts of flour were used for baking the bread; what matters
is the wholeness of the loaf.

Among the issues that remain ambiguous in the Mishnah's articulation of Rabbi
Yehoshua's opinion, however, is the question of whether each member of the
shared courtyard should contribute a whole loaf of bread of whatever size, or
whether one loaf of bread for the community as a whole is sufficient. The
medieval interpretations of this mishnah cover a whole range of interpretive
possibilities. For example, Maimonides insists that a whole loaf of bread
(halah ahat shlemah) is collected from each and every individual household
that is to join the eruv community. (14) Others, however, such as Moses
Isserles, claim that it was customary to collect a portion of flour from all
the houses in the courtyard and then to bake a single loaf from it. (15) It is
obvious that the latter practice has a much stronger symbolic valence of
unification than the former.

Post-talmudic halakhic developments move even further beyond the practical
implications of this misbnah in that halakhic authorities eventually allow for
preparing the eruv bread for the entire year, rather than having to do so for
each and every Shabbat. Apparently, the first halakhic text to indicate this
is a compendium of the ninth century, the Halakhot ktsuvot: (16)
And this is the law concerning the making of an eruv: If one wants
to make an eruv for the whole year on the day before Passover, the
sage [hakham] should take from each and every household a handful of
meal, then knead and bake it into a cake or two, making them very
crisp [kasheh], so they will not rot and can be stored away. For as
long as the cakes are stored somewhere, the eruv is considered to be
in force, and carrying on the Sabbath is permissible. If, however,
the cakes are eaten, or if they rot, or perish, or are burned, it
is forbidden to carry unless another eruv is prepared on Friday.

Aside from the halakhic innovation of preparing the eruv bread once for the
whole year, the practice intimated here--collecting meal from the individual
households--is the one that Isserles later refers to. Interestingly, it is the
sage whom the text charges with collecting the meal from the individual
households, incorporating the expert leader into the ritual process of
unification. The contemporary practice, however, is to deposit a box of matzot
in the synagogue. (18) removing the process of collection even further from
the direct involvement of the neighborhood.

Regardless of the specific interpretation of this mishnah and the actual
practice, all later halakhic trends agree on the importance of the whole loaf
of bread, whether it be one or many. The Babylonian Talmud actually attempts
to explicate the reason for Rabbi Joshua's insistence on a whole loaf of
bread: "But why should not a piece of a loaf be admissible?--Rabbi Yossi ben
Saul said that Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nassi] said: On account of possible hostility
[eivah]" (bEruvin 81a), or as Rashi paraphrases: "they will be led to strife,
since one will say: I gave a whole [loaf] and you [only] a slice." (19) The
Babylonian Talmud's approach, by raising the issue of equanimity, makes a
gesture in the direction intended here, namely, what is at stake is precisely
how the community can be unified and how this unification can be represented
believably in a symbolic act. Granted, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi's approach does
not deal with the ritual in terms of the symbolic valence of the contribution
of bread, at least not overtly. Instead, he displays a concern about
collective psychology by worrying about what kind of disruptive reaction the
permission of a piece of bread as a contribution might provoke. But I would
suggest that it requires only a small (though nonetheless significant)
hermeneutic push to read the juxtaposition of whole versus broken loaf in
terms of the symbolic force each has: a broken loaf, a piece of bread cannot
symbolize the community as unified in any believable way.

The Miserly Neighbor

Elsewhere, the Babylonian Talmud provides further support for my effort to
read the discussions of the eruv ritual as developing a theory of symbolic
unification. It considers a potential problem that might disturb the symbolism
of unification, namely a miserly neighbor who betrays his unwillingness to be
integrated into the community by continuing to regard his contribution to the
eruv food as a distinct entity, rather than as part of a whole. This case is
presented in two theoretical scenarios, both attributed to a first-generation

[Case I:] Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: If someone is particular
[ha-makpid] about his [share in the] eruv, his eruv is not a [valid] eruv.
[For] what is its name? Eruv is its name. [But] Rabbi Hanina disagrees: His
eruv is a [valid] eruv, but he is called one of the people of Wardina.

[Case II:] Rav Yehudah said further in the name of Shmuel: If one divides
one's eruv, his eruv is not a [valid] eruv. (bEruvin 49a)

In the first case the neighbor apparently remains particular about his
contribution only mentally, whereas in the second he (or she) actually divides
his contribution. Only the first case is contested in legal terms (that eruv
is valid, after all), albeit not in conceptual terms: the particularist or,
should we say, individualist neighbor is merely called "one of the people of
Wardina," supposedly known for their proverbial miserliness. (20) It seems
that both Shmuel and Rabbi Hanina would agree that the particularist
undermines the project of the eruv conceptually. But it is Shmuel's opinion
that is codified in both cases. (21)

Again, similar to the mishnaic legal language, Shmuel merely provides a ruling
on the "validity" of the eruv. Its symbolic work is not explicated, but I
would contend that it is distinctly hinted at. That is, if someone refuses to
merge his share of the food with the contribution of the other residents, (22)
the very concept of eruv is undermined. The verbal root for eruv connotes
commingling, joining, amalgamation. (23) Significantly, the object of the
commingling always remains unstated, and perhaps deliberately so, since this
lends the concept an even greater symbolic force. Several objects of the act
of commingling therefore suggest themselves: the food is commingled
(representing the community), and the community itself is merged by means of
the food, and ultimately even the individual houses or spatial units (reshuyot
ha-yahid) are integrated into one collective framework, as we shall see. (24)
Clearly, then, Shmuel's theoretical test cases examine the symbolic force of
the food. If a contribution is not truly integrated into the collection, the
symbolism cannot work, since the community it represents is not at one. And
vice versa, the very fact that a neighbor refuses to merge his food with the
collection is a reflection of the fact that the neighborhood has not been
successfully transformed into a community with a common ritual intent.

The medieval commentators underscore this point in their effort to explain the
seemingly tautological phrase "For what is its name? Eruv is its name"--a
statement that assumes or wants to suggest that the term is self-explanatory,
which it evidently fails to be. Rashi suggests that the neighbors in the
courtyard "should all be commingled [meoravin], appeasing each other through
it, so that none should attack his fellow [havero], but rather the partnership
[shutafut] should be pleasant and sweet [arevah]." (25) The Ritba (1250-1320)
expands on the vocabulary and adds other terms of unification: "[Eruv
connotes] the language of complete blending [taarovet] and brotherhood
[ahavah], in which none is particular with respect to the other, and if one is
particular, then an eruv does not exist." (26) Finally, the Meiri articulates
even more strongly that "they should all be commingled even in their minds and
appease each other." (27) The medieval commentators are at pains to translate
the term itself, not just to explain the ritual. They adduce equivalent terms
of unification--partnership, brotherhood, blending--to illustrate the range of
meanings inherent in the term eruv. The term, then, does not just gain
symbolic force by its lack of object--thereby allowing for a number of
possible objects--but by the fact that it remains ultimately untranslatable:
none of the linguistic equivalents can exhaust the meaning of the term,
allowing readers to charge it with their own understanding of community. The
eruv emerges as a theory of community, of collectivity, of neighborhood as a
unified community with collective intent.

The Forgetful Neighbor

So far we have considered the miserly neighbor as one case of an individual
deliberately differentiating himself from the community and therefore
rendering the symbolic unification defunct. In this context we should perhaps
also consider another constellation of individual versus community that the
Mishnah addresses: the neighbor who forgets to join the eruv community before
the Shabbat and did not contribute to the food collection. The rabbinic
consideration of this scenario both provides a contrast to the problem of the
miserly neighbor and gives us further clues about the rabbinic understanding
of the eruv community and the concomitant effort of boundary making.

Interestingly, rather than having the act of forgetting undermine the entire
communal project, the tannaitic texts allow for different options. According
to the first, the shared space of the courtyard remains integrated, whereas
the residence of the forgetful individual--the house itself--is simply
off-limits in terms of carrying in and out of it, or so it seems in the
If one of those who live in the courtyard forgot to join the eruv,
his house is forbidden both to him and to them for carrying
[anything] in and out, but their houses are permitted both to him
and to them. (mEruvin 6:3) (28)

The forgetful neighbor himself can still carry out of the other neighbors'
houses into the courtyard, but his own residential space remains set apart
from the otherwise merged communal space since he did not establish his
symbolic residence in the eruv community. But it seems that forgetting does
not undermine the project of establishing a unified community with a common
intent, because in principle the forgetful neighbor is of one mind with his

This ruling thus adds an additional layer to the integrative symbolic force of
the eruv, this time with respect to the spatial integration of the courtyard
community. Spatial integration in this context is to be understood as a
dissolution of boundaries between spaces (house/courtyard/alleyway) that would
otherwise prohibit a transference of objects. Legitimized carrying or
transferring objects across such boundaries enacts the symbolic integration of
formerly separated spaces. The ability to carry or to transfer objects across
such boundaries, therefore, enacts the symbolic integration of spaces. The
neighbor who forgot about the community and its ritual unification does remain
part of it (since he can carry from their houses into the courtyard) but only
by losing symbolic access to his own house (he cannot carry out of or into it
from the communal space). However, let us not lose sight of an important
distinction here: of course he can still enter his space, and exit from it, as
can others. That ability is not at stake in the establishment of the eruv.
What is at stake is the ability to take something from one spatial context
(the house) and transfer it to another spatial context (in this case, the
shared courtyard). The rabbis understand this ability as a distinct way of
relating to spatial context, of inhabiting space, and of claiming dominion
over it. (29) Indeed, the mishnaic term for a particular spatial context,
reshut--as in reshut ha-yahid (the space of the individual) or reshut ha-rabim
(the space of the many), rabbinic neologisms just like the term eruv--alludes
to this relationship; it refers both to a physically definable space (domain)
and to the rights or accessibility to that space (dominion). (30)

Yet these relationships do not remain stable. The Mishnah institutes an
additional option of rearranging symbolic accessibility in the case of the
forgetful neighbor. Accordingly, the neighbors who had been ritually unified
by the eruv they collected can renounce the right of symbolic accessibility to
their own spaces. They can collectively transfer that right to the one who
forgot to join them: "If they had given him their dominion [natnu reshutan]
(31) he is permitted [to carry out of or into the courtyard] but they are
forbidden" (mEruvin 6:3).

According to the Tosefta, this entire process of reshuffling symbolic spatial
boundaries in the case of the forgetful neighbor is understood to be
established by a speech act: "my reshut is given to you, my reshut is
relinquished to you (reshuti netunah lekha, reshuti mevutelet lekha)" (tEruvin
5:18). (32) With this, someone commits him- or herself to refraining from
transferring objects across the boundaries that demarcate his or her
residential space. (33) In other words, my dominion is now your dominion, and
you can make use of mine by transferring objects into or out of it. This form
of participation in the eruv community by way of a speech act can only be
performed by those known to be committed to the ritual as a whole, namely
those who are subject to rabbinic law and its reinvention of Judaism. The
forgetful neighbor has to be what the early rabbinic texts call a Yisrael,
their category for "authentic" Jew, to be re-joined to his neighborhood
community. (34) According to the Tosefta, it is indeed an obligation (mitzvah)
to relinquish one's dominion if one forgot to join the eruv community
previously (tEruvin 5:1 1). (35)

It is interesting that the tannaitic texts never spell out why those who
already committed themselves with the eruv would want to subordinate
themselves to the person who forgot. Presumably a collective interest would
exist in having something transferred out of the forgetful neighbor's house
into the courtyard. (36) Be that as it may, the forgetful neighbor remains the
only one with dominion in the courtyard, but even in this scenario a sense of
collective intent remains, since the neighborhood acts in unison as an
intangible and therefore extremely fragile symbolic community--fragile
especially in the sense of potential loss to the integrity of the symbolism.
(37) The texts thus reshuffle the symbolic relationship between forgetful
resident, residents, and residential space in curious ways.

Domestication of the Neighborhood

Another aspect to be considered here is the halakhic concern with the question
of where the eruv food is to be deposited for the duration of the Sabbath. On
the face of it, this is primarily a practical question. But again the texts
use the framework of discussing this question to introduce additional symbolic
layers. This eventually leads them to the central logic of the institution of
the eruv food, namely the establishment of the collective household, an act I
will call the domestication of the neighborhood.

The Mishnah determines that the eruv should be deposited in a space that can
be regarded as a residential space. (38) The Babylonian Talmud turns to this
issue in conjunction with Shmuel's test cases discussed above. In this context
the question is how the relationship of the residence in which the eruv is to
be deposited with the other houses in the courtyard is to be understood. Just
as the miserly or the forgetful neighbor may disrupt the ritual unification,
the household that functions as the storage space for the eruv is by
definition distinct from the others. In the halakhic terms employed here, the
issue is whether the household in question actually needs to make a
contribution to the eruv itself. In the talmudic answer to this question we
can again observe how the symbolic valence of the eruv is understood by the
rabbis. The following segment of the talmudic discussion, therefore, deserves
to be cited in full, since this will allow me to demonstrate the concern for
the symbolic integrity of the eruv:

R. Abba addressed the following question to Rav Yehudah at the winepress (39)
of Rav Zakkai: Could Shmuel have said: "If a man divides his eruv, it is
invalid," considering that he has [also] laid down: "The house in which an
eruv is deposited need not contribute its share to the bread?" [How are these
two rulings to be reconciled with each other?] Is the reason for the latter
ruling not because Shmuel maintains that since there is bread [somewhere in
that house] lying in the basket it is regarded as lying in the place appointed
for the eruv? Then why should the same not be said in the former case
[concerning the particularist or individualist neighbor], i.e., since there is
bread lying in the basket it is regarded as lying in the place appointed for
the eruv? (bEruvin 49a)

R. Abba attempts to relate two different cases to each other, both purportedly
pronounced by Shmuel, in order to question Shmuel's logic for invalidating the
eruv of the divisive neighbor. His logic here is the following: What
presumption is the legal opinion based on that the household where the eruv is
deposited does not have to contribute to the collection of bread? Is it the
presumption that there is already bread for regular consumption lying around
in that household, and this could be construed as a hypothetical contribution
to the collection? In other words, it is as if that household were
contributing to the collection, without actually doing so. That household
would therefore theoretically--albeit not actually--participate in the eruv,
rather than merely safekeeping it. A similar logic, suggests R. Abba, should
then be applied to the previous case--that is, the share of the bread
belonging to the divisive neighbor is after all contributed to the eruv,
though cordoned off and separated. But should it not be considered as
resembling a regular contribution, considering that the food contribution was
designated for the eruv? In other words, R. Abba suggests that the presence of
bread somewhere is sufficient for the participation of a household in the eruv
community, even though the bread may not have been intended for the
collectivity. In this case it would be the gesture that matters, not the

R. Abba's suggestion is, however, rejected, and here we are introduced to the
following conceptualization of the eruv community:
He [Rav Yehuda] replied: No, in that case [of the household where
the eruv is to be deposited] the eruv is valid even if there is no
other bread in that house. Rather, what is [Shmuel's] reason [for
freeing that household from the obligation to contribute to the
eruv]? Because all [the residents of the courtyard] live there. (40)
(bEruvin 49a, my emphasis)

Rav Yehuda rejects R. Abba's preceding reasoning by arguing that the rulings
in the two cases of the miserly neighbor and the household in which the eruv
is to be deposited are not at all comparable. Both follow different
rationales, and the rationale for Shmuel's second ruling (that the household
where the eruv is to be deposited does not have to contribute to the food
collection) is the symbolic nature of the eruv community. Namely, because of
the deposit of food in that home, the whole community takes up symbolic
residence in that household. In other words, the entire courtyard community
turns into an extension of that household. Food is the means by which a
residential relationship to place is established, (41) and the boundaries of
one household are extended to include the entire courtyard community. Diverse
and multiple household units are thereby merged and become one. (42)

It is Maimonides, subsequently, who spells out this valence of the food
symbolism most explicitly and programmatically:
And what it this "eruv?" It is the fact that they are all commingled
by means of one food that they deposit from before the onset of the
Sabbath. That is, we are all commingled and there is one [kind of]
food for all of us, and none of us divides his dominion [reshut]
from his colleague. Rather, just as all of us have equal stakes [yad
kulanu shavah] in this place [where the designated food is kept], so
all of us have equal stakes in all the places that everyone claims
for himself and thus we are all one dominion [reshut ehad].
(Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot eruvin, 1:6)

The emphasis on "one" and the dissolution of divisions suggests an almost
messianic rhetoric. But for the symbolic nature of it all, Maimonides depicts
a communalist idyll, and this, too, is implied in the eruv symbolism
instituted by the rabbis.

The Dynamics of Differentiation and Exclusion

All of the foregoing would be relatively straightforward, insofar as that
adjective can apply here, if the rabbis had envisioned a separatist community
somewhere in the desert or in Bnei Brak, where rabbinic-type Jews live among
themselves. As a paradigm for this model, we may think of the group that
withdrew to Khirbat Qumran and who similarly developed ritual and symbolic
strategies to unify their community. (43) In that case, unification was
achieved not only by the exclusion of those considered Others but also by
moving far away from them. The rabbis, by contrast, remained within the urban
or at least semi-urban context. At least, the halakhic texts imagine that to
be the way. As the famous ethical imperative attributed to Hillel puts it: "Do
not separate yourself from the public" (mAyot 2:4). (44) But this in and of
itself does not constitute affirmation of residential diversity or
conviviality. Even a suburban neighborhood can be envisioned as a gated
community with its various mechanisms of exclusion, as opposed to a mixed
neighborhood with more or less amicable relations between various groups. (45)
The question to be considered here, therefore, is how "Others" fare in the
rabbinic theorizing of the eruv community.

As we shall see, the texts are very much concerned about the presence of
others in the neighborhood, since the rabbis locate the eruv community
primarily in the midst of a mixed community. The rabbinic thinking about a
mixed neighborhood includes not only the juxtaposition of Jews and non-Jews
but also of rabbinic Jews, other Jews such as Sadducees, and Jewish
transgressors of either rabbinic or other Jewish provenance. Interestingly,
the extensive discussions of the intra-Jewish distinctions produced by the
institution of the eruv are sometimes echoed in contemporary eruv
controversies, where increasingly the various types of Jews are in conflict
over the establishment of an eruv in the community. What I would like to focus
on here, however, is the kind of the boundary vis-a-vis the non-Jewish
neighbor(s) that the eruv in particular institutes. As I will demonstrate, it
is not sufficient to assume the existence of a self-evident community
boundary, ethnic or otherwise, by which non-Jews are simply ignored or
excluded from the eruv community.

The tannaitic texts in fact institute yet another act as part of the ritual
system that forces (rabbinic) Jews about to establish an eruv to engage the
non-Jewish neighbor(s) rather than to simply ignore them. In other words, one
option could have been to consider the presence of others as simply
insignificant, halakhically and/or symbolically, and just to proceed with the
internal symbolic unification of the community. Significantly, however, the
Jewish residents are made to engage their non-Jewish neighbor(s) ritually, a
unique occurrence in rabbinic halakhah. (46) This act is the peculiar
requirement of renting from the non-Jewish neighbor for the purposes of
establishing the eruv, a requirement that engenders highly charged and
contradictory discussions, especially in the Babylonian Talmud. In the
following pages, I will--again briefly--trace the textual origins of this
requirement, in order to analyze the discussions about it.

According to the Mishnah, initially, it seems that the establishment of an
eruv community is impossible in the presence of non-Jews:
If someone lives with a non-Jew (47) in a courtyard, or with
someone who does not agree with the eruv, (48) then that one
[i.e., the non-Jew] imposes a prohibition [of transferring any
object from his house into the courtyard on the Sabbath] on him.

[But] Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov says: Indeed, he [i.e., the non-Jew,
or the person who does not agree with the eruv] does not impose a
prohibition [of carrying into the courtyard], unless two Israelites
impose a prohibition on each other. (mEruvin 6:1)

This is an extremely enigmatic and elliptic text, giving cause for extensive
discussions in rabbinic literature. Put simply, the difference between the two
opinions propagated in this mishnah is primarily one of numbers, again without
any reasons provided. According to the first opinion, attributed by the
Babylonian Talmud to Rabbi Meir, a non-Jewish neighbor will have an impact on
his solitary Jewish neighbor, whereas, according to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov,
the non-Jewish neighbor will have an impact only if there are at least two
(rabbinic) Jews (Yisreelim). That is, according to the former, the presence of
a non-Jewish neighbor will cause the single Jewish neighbor to be prohibited
from carrying out of his house into the courtyard, but according to the latter
this prohibition only begins to take effect when there are two Jewish
neighbors in the presence of one non-Jewish neighbor. Lest "impact" is
misunderstood here as merely negative (that is, causing the halakhic
prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath to take effect), it should be
understood as "having halakhic significance." (49) In other words, a
non-Jewish neighbor will have halakhic significance just like a Jewish
neighbor: in neither case will the Jewish resident be able to carry into the
courtyard or into the other's house. Regarding the latter, the presumption of
the Mishnah is, of course, that with a Jewish neighbor one can form an eruv
community and then be able to carry. Thus, the two Jews in our mishnah who
"impose a prohibition [of carrying] on each other" would in general be able to
overcome that prohibition by joining an eruv. But now it seems that this is
not the case with the non-Jewish neighbor present. Nowhere does the Mishnah
offer a solution as to how to circumvent the prohibition of carrying with a
non-Jew in the courtyard community. The prohibition remains standing. (50)

The Tosefta takes a significant further step, one that demands our attention.
According to the Tosefta, in addition to making an eruv, "an Israel [i.e.,
rabbinic Jew] can give [his] dominion [noten reshut] [to his neighbor] or
relinquish dominion [mevatel reshut], but with a non-Jew [present, an eruv
cannot be established] until he rents" (tEruvin 5:18). Again, as is the nature
of tannaitic texts, the phrasing is extremely elliptic. It is clear that the
act of renting here is contrasted with the (verbal) act of relinquishing
dominion: a Jew can engage in the verbal act, as we have discussed above, but
with a non-Jew according to this Tosefta one would have to enter a rental
relationship of some kind. (51) But rent what exactly? His space in the shared
courtyard (reshut)? The right to carry? The latter cannot be the case, since
the Jew's right to carry into the courtyard is not something the non-Jew owns
for him to rent out. The same would he true for the right of making use of the
jointly owned courtyard. His space in the shared courtyard then? (52)

Neither the Palestinian nor the Babylonian Talmud address this question.
Perhaps we can approach it by thinking briefly about what the sages intended
with the concept of "renting." The Babylonian Talmud discusses this question
by adducing an amoraic disagreement: "Rav Hisda ruled: A 'healthy' kind of
rent [skhirut briah] [from the non-Jew is required], while Rav Sheshet said: A
shaky rent [skhirut reuah]" (bEruvin 62a). The subsequent discussion of the
Bavli here engenders two suggestions as to the definition of "healthy" versus
"shaky." According to the first suggestion, rejected subsequently, the
definition is monetary. The second suggestion involves substantive matters,
indicated by terms derived from Persian (muharkei ve-aburganei) whose meaning
(and spelling) is no longer clear to the early medieval commentators. They
determine a variety of different referents and translations, whether documents
with seals (per Tosafot) or the right to fill the courtyard with benches and
tables (per Rashi). We do not have to be decisive regarding this particular
problem, because either way it reads as a juxtaposition between a more or less
"realistic" rental agreement and a merely symbolic one. The latter is, of
course, the one that gets codified as reigning halakhic practice, so that in
contemporary practice a Jewish community might pay a municipal authority--such
as the police, the city council, the mayor, or the borough president--a
symbolic amount of, say, $1 for 20 years. (53)

In order to weigh the symbolic significance of the Tosefta's innovation of
renting from the non-Jew in the residential neighborhood, one basic
observation needs to be emphasized, especially in view of the contrary
discussion in the Babylonian Talmud: Whatever else it might be accomplishing
vis-a-vis the Mishnah, renting enables the establishment of an eruv community.
As we have seen, the Mishnah simply does not consider the establishment of an
eruv possible in the presence of a non-Jew. For the Mishnah, residential
diversity or conviviality, if anything, remain obstacles to symbolic
unification. The act of symbolic renting introduced in the Tosefta, however,
allows the (rabbinic) Jews in the neighborhood to establish an eruv community,
and the symbolic unification of the (Jewish) neighborhood can proceed. One
might even think about this ritual innovation as a unification of the
residential neighborhood "with a difference": Jews by (symbolic) food, and
Jews and non-Jews by (symbolic) monetary transfer, and thus they are all
potentially part of the same project of forming a collective ritual intent.

Of course, whether the non-Jewish neighbor (s) would be interested in this
kind of symbolic unification is a different question altogether. And this
question is exactly what the Babylonian Talmud makes use of for its own
purposes. The Bavli, most decidedly and with great effort, works against this
function of the symbolic act of renting as enabling the eruv community. Here
it differs distinctively from the Yerushalmi. In fact, the Bavli puts forth a
rather counterintuitive approach, one that is fascinating in its overt effort
to undermine the symbolic potential of the Tosefta's innovation for enabling
residential community with the non-Jewish neighbor. According to an argument
attributed to Abbaye, one of the great amoraic figures of the Bavli, the
requirement of renting from the non-Jew is actually intended as a hardship
imposed on the Jew, in order to dissuade him from living in a mixed
All [in the mishnaic controversy cited above, mEruvin 6:1] agree
that a non-Jew's residence is not considered a residence [for the
purposes of the eruv]. What they disagree about is the restrictive
ruling [gzerah] "lest the Jew will learn from the non-Jew's deeds."
Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov holds that since a non-Jew is suspected of
murder, it is usually at least two Jews who will live with a non-Jew
and therefore the gzerah applies only to that situation, whereas one
solitary Jew would not live with them, and therefore the gzerah does
not apply to one Jew. Rabbi Meir, however, thinks that sometimes it
happens that one solitary Jew will live with them. It is because
of this that our sages said: An eruv cannot operate in the presence
of a non-Jew, nor can the act of relinquishing one's dominion
operate in the presence of a non-Jew unless he rents from him.
(bEruvin 62b, my emphasis)

This is an extremely convoluted piece of reasoning, even by the standards of
the Babylonian Talmud. But it is central to our understanding of the nature of
rabbinic theory on the eruv community. In his explanation of the stakes in the
mishnaic disagreement cited above, Abbaye argues that indeed, in theory, the
non-Jewish residence has no Jewish legal validity and therefore could simply
be considered a non-presence in the courtyard. Instead, he argues, the
mishnaic disagreement is based on a combination of theoretical Jewish
demography and its relevance for law making, on the presumption that law is
created for likely scenarios and not for impossible scenarios, a well-known
talmudic principle. If we try to untangle the logic, it falls somewhere along
these lines: What Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Meir in the Mishnah really disagree
about is what we might call a demography of Jewish fear. Accordingly, Rabbi
Eliezer would hold that Jews always live in groups among non-Jews, based on
the stereotype--or historical experience--of the non-Jew as intent on
murdering them. Rabbi Meir holds that, even so, a solitary Jew sometimes does
live with a non-Jew by himself, for whatever reason. Either way, both rabbis
deal with the reality that Jews live among non-Jews. Therefore the sages
instituted a gzerah (a restrictive ruling) that the ritual procedures of the
eruv and relinquishing one's dominion cannot work in the presence of a
non-Jew. This is a restrictive ruling in the sense that, theoretically, the
non-Jewish residence is a non-presence but now is endowed with the power to
disrupt the ritual establishment of the eruv-community. The only way to undo
this is to rent from the non-Jew. The ritual requirement of renting from the
non-Jew is part of the gzerah that the Bavli understands to be derived from
the concern about assimilation, "lest he [the Jew] will learn from his [the
non-Jew's] deeds." In other words, the requirement of renting from the non-Jew
is now read as an attempt to dissuade Jews from living with non-Jews
altogether, or--even more succinctly--as deriving from a separatist impulse by
the sages. As Rashi puts it: "The sages imposed a hardship on the Jew living
with the non-Jew and put him at a disadvantage in that it would appear to him
as difficult to give the non-Jew rent each and every Shabbat, and he will
eventually move away from there." (54)

All of a sudden, then, the requirement of renting from the non-Jew is cast in
a separatist light. Accordingly, the ritual requirement of renting from the
non-Jew is designed solely for the negative pedagogical purpose of making Jews
move away from non-Jews. But, paradoxically, even this interpretation cannot
take away the practical function of the institution of symbolic renting, which
is after all to enable the establishment of the eruv community.

The Bavli recognizes that much and proceeds to add one further step in its
effort to disable the conviviality of Jews and non-Jews: although the sages
instituted the possibility of renting, the "fact" remains that "the non-Jew
will never rent out" (bEruvin 62a), a claim that the talmudic editors add to
the very citation which institutes the rent. Almost grudgingly, it seems, the
Bavli here admits that the possibility of renting from the non-Jew does exist
for the purposes of the eruv community. But now, after having cast it as a
tool for negative pedagogy, as it were, the Bavli declares it to be a
nonfunctioning law. According to the subsequent discussion of this claim,
renting from the non-Jew will not work for two reasons, depending on one's
opinion concerning the nature of the rent discussed above. First, if it is
"realistic" rent, the non-Jew will worry that the Jew "will come and take
possession of his dominion." Second, if it is "symbolic" rent, "the non-Jew
will be suspicious because of witchcraft" (bEruvin 62a). In other words, a
ritual community cannot be established with non-Jews even by renting, since
the ensuing symbolic misunderstanding is a fact that cannot be overcome. The
identification of the non-Jew's worry as being about Jewish witchcraft or
magic is an interesting one, since it reveals an anxiety that goes in two
directions: it expresses both the difficulty of conveying the logic of the
ritual system of the eruv to outsiders and the difficulty of explicating to
them how they are needed as ritual participants. Thus, it also reflects a
certain degree a self-perception: if "we" cannot explain to "them" what this
is all about, this is not just "their" fault but is based on the essential
illogic of the ritual system itself. They will think it is magic because it
certainly looks that way. The statement then operates as a double mirror, in
that it deflects onto the Other an implicit self-perception, (55) similar to
when a rabbi today jokingly calls the eruv a "magic shlepping circle." (56)

Be that as it may, the logic of a demography of fear and of fundamental ritual
misunderstanding by the Other permeates the Bavli's entire approach to this
issue. It later adduces a case story proving the point, according to which the
Jewish neighbors ask a certain Lahman bar Ristaq (57) to rent them his
dominion, which he promptly refuses to do (bEruvin 63b). (58) Lahman's refusal
engenders a further discussion between Abbaye and Rava as to how to circumvent
Lahman's refusal, and here the Bavli turns almost against itself with its
previous effort to disable conviviality. Rava's suggestion is particularly
revealing because it attempts to redirect the communication with Lahman, the
proverbial bad neighbor, from ritual to what we may call commonsense
communication. Rava suggests that "one of the Jews should go to him and
approach him to borrow a place from him on which he shall put down something"
(bEruvin 64a) so that he can then serve as Lahman's ritual representative and
rent out the courtyard on his behalf. Rashi explains the Bavli's word choice
for "approaching the non-Jew" (k-r-v) as "he should ingratiate himself with
the non-Jew until he becomes his friend [ohavo] and he will lend him a place
in his courtyard." Friends they may become, but not partners in ritual? Of
course, one could argue that, if indeed they become friends, then
paradoxically the original intent of the eruv community as a community of
common intent has been fulfilled.

I should also emphasize that this insistence on the impossibility of ritual
communication with non-Jewish neighbors in the implied effort to counteract
conviviality, if not to promote at least a certain degree of separatism, is
peculiar to the Babylonian Talmud. The Yerushalmi's discussion never so much
as hints at a worry or consciousness that the non-Jews might not cooperate. In
fact, a case story parallel to the story about Lahman bar Ristaq cites the
case of a Persian woman who rented out her dominion in the courtyard without
her husband's knowledge (yEruvin 6:3, 23c), which raises other halakhic
issues, but not a concern about the non-Jewish refusal to cooperate. (59)
Later halakhic compendia and codes also assume the practical functionality of
the institution of renting. However, the Bavli's discursive analysis of the
ritual retains its impact. We only have to look at a popular halakhic
introduction to the issue for English readers by Rabbi Yosef Gavriel
Bechhofer; there he states in colloquial Yeshivish diction that
to discourage Shomrei Shabbos from living near non-Jews, Chazal
subsequently instituted a new requirement: that the Shomer Shabbos
resident must rent the right to carry from his non-Jewish fellow
resident. Chazal hoped that the non-Jew would regard such a request
by his neighbor as suspicious and dangerous, and deny the request.
The observant neighbor would then be in the uncomfortable situation
of not being able to carry on Shabbos. We would thus induce him to
move away from the courtyard that he had shared with the non-Jew.

Hence, the rabbinic ritual agenda with the eruv is represented as one of
ideological separatism from non-Jews as well as from other types of Jews not
discussed here. This, then, is conjured up by the contemporary polemics
against the establishment of a local eruv that invoke images of the return to
the ghetto and worse. However, Bechhofer fails to identify this approach as
one that is characteristic of only the Bavli's interpretation of the ritual
significance of renting from the non-Jew. This is not to say that we should
dismiss the discussion altogether, but we should contextualize it within the
framework of that corpus, which will then allow us to consider alternative
ways of approaching the logic of the ritual system of the eruv.


Let us consider, then, such an alternative approach. The theoretical intent of
the eruv is unification of the community, the establishment of a peaceful
residential community, of equanimity. All these terms we have seen applied to
the Jewish neighbors, unified by means of the symbolic food. By the same
token, however, we can consider the institution of symbolic renting as a
ritual tool to acknowledge the presence of the Other, of the non-Jew, and
thereby to make him or her part of the symbolic unification. Yet this is not
accomplished by total integration, which would amount to a ritual denial of
existing difference. It is, however, accomplished by a different degree of
symbolic interaction, namely renting with a symbolic amount. Even though this
is an interaction based on a contractual paradigm, rather than a model of
kinship or commensality, it is still designed to achieve a degree of common
intent, however limited that might be. Simply put, the fact that the non-Jew
(or the mayor, the chief of police, and so forth) agrees to the symbolic
interaction ultimately reflects his or her acknowledgment and even support of
the legitimate presence of a Jewish community in the neighborhood or city.

In this manner, the rabbinic theorizing of the eruv community, or the ritual
system of the eruv, can be read as a powerful way to think about the
importance of neighborhood for conceiving of community. This, I would add, has
particular importance in a diaspora situation. That is, a nationalist concept
of collectivity assumes sovereign control over territory, and this control
functions as a guarantee for the construction (or imagination) of national
identity by the population living within the borders of that territory. The
eruv does construct a collective identity with respect to space, but it does
so in the absence of having control or any form of sovereignty over that
space. On the contrary, it maps a collectivity symbolically into space over
which it does not claim control, political or otherwise. It maneuvers around
the existing structures of control. (61) Playing off of Arjun Appadurai's
analysis of the contemporary crisis of the concept of the nation state, due to
the dynamics of globalization, as "sovereignty without territoriality," (62) I
would suggest that the eruv offers a powerful model of a territoriality
without sovereignty and, as such, would have much to offer to the current
discussions about diaspora cultures.

I would like to thank Daniel Boyarin, Martin Jaffee, Ishay Rosenzvi, Jeffrey
Rubenstein, Aharon Shemesh, and Noam Silverman for having read the manuscript
of this article and for providing productive criticism as well as extremely
helpful suggestions to strengthen its argument. I also thank the Stanford
Humanities Center for providing me with the research time during 2004-5 to
allow me to complete this article and to co-edit this issue.


(1) On the question of the origins of the eruv, see my article "From
Separatism to Urbanism: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Rabbinic
Eruv," Dead Sea Discoveries 11, no. 1 (2004): 43-71.

(2) See, for instance, L. H. Schiffman, The Halakhah at Qumran (Leiden, 1975),
133, and Y. Gilat, R. Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus: A Scholar Outcast (Tel Aviv,
1984); the latter assumes a "general tendency to relax the prohibitions
associated with the Sabbath" among the rabbinic sages (219). Lutz Doering,
Schabbat: Sabbathalacha und -praxis im antiken Judentum und Urchristentum
(Tubingen, 1999), 181, follows Gilat. See also the recent discussion of the
institution of the eruv by the folklorist A. Dundes, The Shabbat Elevator and
Other Sabbath Subterfuges: An Unorthodox Essay on Circumventing Custom and
Jewish Character (Lanham, Md., 2002), 45-50. His study, however, is marred by
his reductionist Freudianism, as David Biale points out in his review of
Dundes' book in American Jewish History 90, no. 4 (2002): 458-61.

(3) Carrying is one of the labors prohibited on the Sabbath; this particular
labor is frequently discussed in the classical texts. A significant portion of
the mishnaic tractate on Shabbat (mShabbath 1:1, 5-8, 9:5-7, 10 and 11) is
devoted to the details of which kind of women's jewelry, men's weapons, or
animals' saddles may or may not be carried on the Sabbath. Cynthia Baker
discusses the dynamics of gender in the prohibitions of carrying for women in
her recent book, Rebuilding the House of Israel: Architectures of Gender in
Jewish Antiquity (Stanford, 2002), esp. 122-26.

(4) Rachel Cousineau discusses the controversy about the London eruv in her
contribution to this issue. My student John Mandsager wrote his master's
thesis ("The Eruv: A Space for Negotiating Identity" [Stanford University,
2003]) about the controversy in Palo Alto.

(5) The institution of the eruv and the shituf are not exactly parallel
spatial phenomena in rabbinic thinking. Different rules are applied in each
case. A critical analysis of the relationship between the courtyard--the more
intimate unit of neighborhood--and the street might draw on the concept of
"spatial scales" developed by David Harvey in Spaces of Hope (Berkeley, 2000),

(6) At this point I am deliberately avoiding the conceptual language of
private versus public space, or reshut ha-yahidversus reshut ha-rabim. The
space of the shared courtyard on which I focus in this article is not really a
reshut ha-rabim. In addition, the common English translation of these terms
invokes connotations that are not intended in the rabbinic conceptualization.

(7) See Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, The Contemporary Eruv: Eruvin in Modern
Metropolitan Areas, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem, 2002), 3.

(8) The Babylonian Tahnud discusses briefly what the referent of ba-kol might
be (bEruvin 80b-81a). Two options are considered: food in general, in which
case the disagreement in the mishnah cited here would be about any kind of
food versus bread specifically; or any kind of bread, including pieces of
bread versus Rabbi Yehoshua's insistence on whole loaves. The details of the
talmudic discussion need not concern us here.

(9) Approximately eight kilograms by contemporary standards.

(10) A small coin.

(11) The dispute actually engenders all kinds of complicated problems. First,
for example, the opinion that is attributed to Rabbi Eliezer here is, in fact,
a repetition of an earlier anonymous statement in the Mishnah (mEruvin 3:1).
The earlier context discusses the eruv thumim or eruv of distance, though it
is not clear what the precise referent in the Mishnah there is. The Bavli in
our context is concerned with reconciling the two mishnaic passages. Second,
the commentaries often suggest that Rabbi Eliezer in our Mishnah is speaking
about shituf and eruv, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua is concerned only about the
eruv. The food symbolism for the shituf follows a different logic than the
eruv hatserot, and hence the two opinions are not exactly parallel.

(12) Earlier in the same tractate in the Babylonian Talmud (27a), Ravina adds
morils and mushrooms (kemihin u-fitriyot) as a food group that should not be
admissible for the eruv hatserot.

(13) See Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot eruvin 1:8, where Maimonides emphasizes that
"an eruv hatserot can only be established with a whole loaf of bread [be-fat
shlemah bilvad]."

(14) See Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot eruvin 1:16. Compare Abraham Goldberg, The
Mishna Treatise Eruvin Critically Edited (Jerusalem, 1986), 216, who
misrepresents Maimonides' opinion there.

(15) See Moses Isserles in Shulhan Arukh, Orah hayim: Hilkhot shabat 366:6.

(16) M. Margoliot, the editor of the critical edition (1942), suggests that
this work (which is based on the slightly earlier gaonic compendium Halakhot
psukot) is of Southern Italian provenance rather than being penned by Rav
Yehudai Gaon, to whom it is attributed.

(17) Halachische Schriflen der Geonim (Toratan shel Rishonim), ed. Chaim M.
Horowitz (Frankfurt, 1881), 14. (Unless otherwise indicated, all translations
from foreign-language sources are mine.) See also Israel J. Yuval, "Passover
in the Middle Ages," in Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern
Times, ed. Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman (Notre Dame, Ind., 1999),
142-44, who cites this passage in order to discuss the fascinating controversy
surrounding the custom of displaying the eruv matsah in the synagogue, by
hanging it on the wall. The controversy is one of symbolic misreading or
denunciations, in that apostates identified the matsah as the host.

(18) Moses Isserles refers to this as a custom in his day; see Shulhan Arukh,
Orah hayim: Hilkhot shabat 366:3.

(19) According to the Babylonian Talmud, the problem of potential feelings of
inequity could not be solved by having everyone contribute a piece: "There may
be a recurrence of the trouble [kilkulo]" (bEruvin 81a). This does not quite
make sense to me, nor does the idea that a person who contributes a large loaf
would not also feel slighted by someone who gives merely a small loaf.

(20) On Wardina, see Jacob Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien im Zeitalter
des Talmud und des Gaonats (Frankfurt am Main, 1929), 269-70, 308, and Aharon
Oppenheimer, Babylonia Judaica in the Talmudic Period (Wiesbaden, 1983),
461-64. There are not enough talmudic or extra-talmudic sources to allow for
eliciting more meaning from this phrase.

(21) The medieval commentators discuss the distinction between the two types
of particularists. The Meiri, for instance, raises the point that the Raaved
suggests a halakhic distinction between the makpid and the holek. While the
latter actually divides up his share, the former only exhibits an attitude of
a miser, but in the end still makes his contribution. See also Mishneh Torah,
Hilkhot eruvin 1:18. The Shulhan Arukh codifies both the makpid and the holek
as undermining the eruv; see Orah hayim: Hilkhot shabat 366:4-5.

(22) Rashi paraphrases that he is concerned that "another member of the group
might eat the loaf that he contributed" (bEruvin 49a).

(23) Surely the root e-r-b is multivalent. One of the prominent meanings is to
mix, to (inter) mingle, to combine, such as of food (bPes 89b, bZev 76a),
liquids (bEruv 86a), and people (bSanh 39a). See M. Sokoloff, Dictionary of
Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Period (Bar Ilan, 2002),
879, and the Arukh ha-shalem, ed. A. Kohut (Vienna, 1879), vol. 6, p. 259,
where Kohut translates vermischen but relates it much more closely to
verwirren than Sokoloff does.

(24) It is interesting to observe contemporary explanations that go to great
lengths to define the object of the mixing. An article by Zvi Kaplan provides
a particularly curious object: "The literal meaning of eruv is 'mixing' and it
probably connotes the insertion of the forbidden into the sphere of the
permissible (cf. Maim. Yad, Hilkhot Eruvin, 1:6)" (Eneyclopaedia Judaica, 16
vols., ed. Cecil Roth [New York, 1972], 5: 849). However, to the best of my
knowledge, the reference to Maimonides here provides no basis whatsoever for
such a reading.

(25) Note the wordplay at the end.

(26) Rabbenu Yom Tov ben Avraham Ishbili (Sevilla), Hidushei ha-ritba al
masekhet eruvin, ed. Moshe Goldstein (Jerusalem, 1982), 473.

(27) Menachem ben Shlomo, Beit habhirah al masekhet eruvin (Jerusalem, 1968),
184 (emphasis added).

(28) There are a number of textual problems inherent in this mishnah, such as
the fact that it contradicts a parallel teaching in mEruvin 2:6 by Rabbi
Eliezer. For a textual discussion of the issues involved, consult Goldberg,
Mishna Treatise Eruvin, 167-68.

(29) This is an issue that deserves much more attention than can possibly be
devoted to it within the confines of this article.

(30) See also Seth Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE and 640
CE (Princeton, 2001), who mentions briefly that "the common rabbinic concepts
of reshut harabbim and reshut hayahid refer not to ownership but to
accessibility" (234 n. 59). Clearly, the terminology in English--domain,
dominion--is not always self-explanatory, either, and overlaps. My choice of
the terms is a preliminary effort to capture two of the aspects of the
tannaitic concept of reshut. For dominion, the Oxford English Dictionary
(2002) suggests "the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign
authority, ... control, influence," whereas domain may be understood as
referring to "heritable property, estate or territory held in possession;
land" or "a district or region under rule, control or unfluence, or contained
within certain limits."

(31) Here it remains unclear which spatial boundaries are composed by
reshutan--that is, whether they relinquish their dominion just in the
courtyard or in their houses as well. According to Rashi, they only relinquish
their dominion in the courtyard (bEruvin 69b). The medieval authorities are,
however, divided on this issue. See also Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah,
Hilkhot eruvin 2:1, which is confirmed by the Shulhan Arukh.

(32) The locution of "relinquishing" one's dominion, which in later halakhic
terminology is called bitul reshut, is the Tosefta's. The Mishnah only uses
the locution of "giving" (natan) one's dominion to the other. The Hebrew
terminology (bitul reshut) is rather difficult to render into English: some
translators choose "to subordinate one's ownership."

(33) If someone commits an additional act of forgetting and, in spite of the
collective arrangement, does transfer an object, the entire fragile
institution is in danger of collapsing; see mEruvin 6:4.

(34) On a preliminary study of the role of the eruv in the rabbinic discourse
of Orthodoxy, see my "From Separatism to Urbanism," 62-71. On the use of the
term "Yisrael" as a normative term, see S. Stern, Jewish Identity in Early
Rabbinic Writings (Leiden, 1994), 10-12.

(35) For an extended commentary, see S. Lieberman, Tosefta kifshutah: Part
III, Seder moed (Jerusalem, 1992), 397-98.

(36) The Babylonian Talmud imagines only one scenario, albeit in three
different occurrences: a circumcision coincides with the Sabbath, and the warm
water needed for the baby's or the mother's care accidentally spills out (see
bEruvin 67b bottom and 68a). None of these case scenarios addresses our
situation exactly, but one of them at least considers the act of bitul reshut
by Rava in order to get his warm water to the baby. The Tosafot, another early
medieval commentary on the Talmud, mentions in this context a case scenario
where a hupah was forgotten. The neighborhood had forgotten to establish an
eruv, and they engaged in a repeated bitul reshut to get the hupah from one
house to the next.

(37) Such an anxiety finds expression in the extended talmudic discussion
about the permissibility of repeated bitul reshut. This rearranges various
relations to spatial dominion in order to move objects around within the
courtyard community; see bEruvin 63b-64a and 66b-68a.

(38) As in mEruvin 8:4, cited earlier in this article.

(39) See Sokoloff, Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, in contrast to M.
Jastrow, Dictionary of the Talmud (Philadelphia, 1903).

(40) The text here omits the "as if" but articulates simply: "they all live

(41) Here the extensive discussion of the deposit of food for the eruv thumim
at the Sabbath boundaries around a residential area would need to be taken
into consideration, but this cannot be accomplished within the confines of
this article.

(42) I would like to thank Sacha Stern for his extremely helpful critique of
my previous thinking about this.

(43) In my article "From Separatism to Urbanism," I discuss the relationship
between the Serekh hayahad and the rabbinic eruv in detail.

(44) Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity
(Philadelphia, 2004), 260 n. 182.

(45) For a critical reflection on gated communities, see, e.g., Setha Low,
Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress
America (New York, 2003), and Peter Marcuse, "Walls of Fear and Walls of
Support," in Architecture of Fear, ed. Nan Ellin (New York, 1997), 101-14.

(46) I can think of only one other ritual context in which Jews rely on
non-Jews for their own ritual practice: the selling of the hamets to non-Jews
for Passover. But this act is designed for purposes of individual economic
relief, and in that respect it is similar to the institution of the
Shabbesgoy, about which see Jacob Katz, Shabbes Goy: A Study in Halakhic
Flexibility (New York, 2002).

(47) Manuscript Kaufmann, which contains some of the best readings of the
mishnaic text, and most other versions of the text use nokhri (the most
neutral term for non-Jew), whereas the printed edition of the Babylonian
Talmud has akum (idol-worshipper). For the purposes of this article, I will
consistently use non-Jew.

(48) This locution, unique in the mishnaic taxonomy of others, is missing in
some medieval commentaries and some manuscripts, which has led J. N. Epstein
to argue that it is a secondary emendation; see his Introduction to the
Version of the Mishnah (Jerusalem, 1963), 608-9. For an extensive discussion
on the implication of this phrase in the mishnaic taxonomy of others, see my
"From Separatism to Urbanism," 59-62.

(49) The Tosefta actually considers this possibility, which introduces a
tension into the halakhic discourse that is much discussed in the Babylonian
Talmud but cannot be analyzed in detail here.

(50) See also Goldberg, Mishnah Treatise Eruvin, 162.

(51) The Yerushalmi explicitly asks why the non-Jew should not be allowed to
relinquish his dominion, and comes to the conclusion that this is because he
may retract and therefore requires a more substantive contractual
relationship, namely renting (yEruvin 6:3, 23c).

(52) Later halakhic texts tend to equivocate on this issue. E.g., Bechhofer,
The Contemporary Eruv, states that "the person who would like to carry in an
enclosed area on Shabbos asks the residents or owners of the other dwellings
in the area to rent him the right to carry in the area in question" (105) but
then notes that another rabbinic authority, Rabbi Akiva Kaplan, "points out
that ... specifying this definition is not essential" (n. 220).

(53) See ibid., 105.

(54) bEruvin 62a.

(55) On a similar approach to reading different talmudic texts, see Christine
E. Hayes, "Displaced Self-Perception: The Deployment of Minim and Romans in b.
Sanhedrin 90b-91a," in Religious and Ethnic Communities in Later Roman
Palestine, ed. H. Lapin (Bethesda, Md., 1998), 249-89. She observes: "Viewing
themselves as others viewed them, the rabbis are, at times, uncomfortable with
what they see" (254).

(56) Mandsager, "The Eruv," in which he quotes the Palo Alto Orthodox rabbi
from a local paper and from an interview with him. The phrase has also been
used in London by Jews hostile to the eruv there. In that case it obviously
has an entirely different valence.

(57) It is somewhat peculiar that this person has a name, since in most case
histories characters function as generic examples ("a certain man" or "a
certain woman"). Rabbenu Hananel has a version in which this character's name
is Haman bar Ristaq, or Riftaq; "Haman" suggests that there is symbolic intent
at work.

(58) See also the theoretical cases discussed in bEruvin 65b, where the Bavli
considers the constellation of inner and outer courtyard, and Jew and non-Jew
living in the inner courtyard with a Jew living in the outer courtyard, and
vice versa. The scenarios are discussed under the question of when the non-Jew
would be more likely to kill his Jewish neighbor, and when he would be
deterred by the possibility of other Jews coming and checking up on their
fellow Jew.

(59) This touches on the rather complex problem of comparing the Babylonian
and the Palestinian Talmuds; the halakhic and hermeneutic differences between
them can be reduced to the historical-cultural context in Roman Palestine and
Sassanian Persia. For a rejection of such an approach, at least when adopted
as a general principle, see Christine E. Hayes, Between the Babylonian and the
Palestinian Talmud (Oxford, 1997).

(60) Bechhofer, The Contemporary Eruv, 106-7.

(61) The eruv also maneuvers around existing structures of spatial boundaries,
though the preceding analysis did not address this issue.

(62) See especially Arjun Appadurai's programmatic article "Sovereignty
without Territoriality: Notes for a Postnational Geography," in The Geography
of Identity, ed. Patricia Yaeger (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1996), 40-59.

Charlotte E. Fonrobert, "The Political Symbolism of the Eruv," Jewish Social
Studies 11, no. 3 (Spring/Summer 2005): 9-35

-- End --


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    So, do you agree with any part of the article?

  2. Well, with any part, yes - she quotes many legitimate sources. :-)

    I disagree with her interpretation of Chazal's motive. They intended the eruv to be mechazek Shemiras Shabbos, period.

    The author's contention plays right to the mindset that opposes eruvin.