Shabbat is a day set apart by Jewish law from the working week. Family time and spiritual pursuits are emphasised and weekday activities associated with work are prohibited.
The Torah prohibits one from transferring an object from a private domain/zone to public domain/zone or vice versa on Shabbat. This prohibition is commonly referred to as carrying. Public and private domains/zones are not defined by their usage or ownership; rather it refers to all areas whether public or private that are/nt surrounded by valid boundaries or enclosure.
An Eruv is a boundary or enclosure recognised by Jewish law, within which carrying is permitted.
In reality most publicly accessible areas are not enclosed. It therefore is essential for the area to be adequately enclosed thereby rendering it a single private domain/zone in which carrying is permitted.
Many of the laws of Eruvin concern the condition and methods of creating this enclosure which can be either actual partitions or the Halachic equivalent.
There are very specific guidelines for these partitions including size and strength requirements. Additionally there are many laws pertaining to partitions that have deficiencies. Deficiencies can usually be corrected by an array or corrective devices defined by either the Torah or by Rabbinic enactments. Some corrective devices are more effective than others.
King Solomon instituted that even after all partitions / boundaries with their corrective devices are in place it is necessary to establish an Eruv Chatzeiros. This means the inhabitants of the domain/zone join to form a single entity. An Eruv Chatzeiros is accomplished by taking food (usually Matzoh) and transferring ownership of it, to all the residents in the enclosed area. This jointly owned food in conjunction with a short recitation effectively merges the multiple residents into a single entity.
The word Eruv literally means a mixture or combination and refers to the Eruv Chatzeiros that combines the multiple residence into a single entity. Since this procedure is the final step in permitting carrying in a domain/zone, the entire process including the complex and technical aspect of enclosing the domain/zone is called making an Eruv. While not linguistically accurate, in common usage, the word “Eruv” refers to the individual corrective devices as well.
An Eruv makes Shabbat observance more pleasant in many ways as it enables many thousands of Jewish people living in the area to enjoy Shabbat to the full.
Eruvin are especially helpful to families with young children who want to use a pram or baby buggy outside their home on Shabbat and to people who use a wheelchair or walking frame. Others will find it useful to be able to carry house keys, reading glasses or books to a Shiur.
Before the Eruv, families with young children were home-bound each Shabbat. Many couples who had children too young to walk to synagogue could not attend a Shabbat service together, nor a Kiddush or Simcha. Grandparents are now able to host their younger grandchildren on Shabbat. Shabbat events are available to all families – young and old, mobile and less mobile.
Everyone can now join in the Shabbat religious and social life of the community.