There's a hidden wire stretched above Manhattan

Manhattan is just one of hundreds of metropolitan areas in the United States that has an eruv, which is a wire that symbolically turns public spaces into private spaces during the Jewish Sabbath.

From Mental Floss:

On the Sabbath, which is viewed as a day of rest, observant Jewish people aren't allowed to carry anything — books, groceries, even children — in public places (doing so is considered "work"). The eruv encircles much of Manhattan, acting as a symbolic boundary that turns the very public streets of the city into a private space, much like one's own home. This allows people to freely communicate and socialize on the Sabbath — and carry whatever they please—without having to worry about breaking Jewish law. Along with everything else in New York City, the eruv isn't cheap. It costs a group of Orthodox synagogues $100,000 a year to maintain the wires, which are inspected by a rabbi every Thursday before dawn to confirm they are all still attached.

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks for reaffirming my atheism, really. Next up the magic dude in the sky is taking your questions...

  2. For the record, that's $100,000 that isn't being spent on food for the homeless. Good job, religious guys!

  3. Because god is a lawyer.

  4. I actually find this story beautiful and very American.

    Every religion and every culture seem ridiculous when viewed by outsiders. I'm sure someone from another culture looking at a baseball game where everyone cheers because some guy hit a ball looks crazy. Sports, ComicCon, Religions, every culture does stuff that makes more sense if you really understand it, but at first glance means very little.

    Search "Eruv" on Amazon and you'll see multiple books written on the subject, some hundreds of pages long. This is a hugely complex area of Jewish law. Obviously if it were just a "loophole to fool God", most religious people would not do it. The video we watched is just 2 minutes long, obviously they heavily simplified their explanation.

    What's great about America as that while the government doesn't "support" any religion (the maintenance is paid by the Jewish people who use it not the government). The government enables to the extent possible every culture and community to do whatever they need to do, whether it's to put up a tiny wire around the city or have a big festival or parade. It's just another example of the peaceful coexistence that makes America work.

  5. Yeesh, not digging the holier-than-thou* attitude from atheists in this thread. The eruv is a very complicated subject in Judaism, and there are large swaths of Jews that do not respect them, for some of the reasons you illuminate so concisely. They seem like a dodge.

    Here's my perspective on them, as a guy that converted to Orthodox Judaism and has since lapsed quite a bit, ironically somewhat as a result of NOT having an eruv in my community.

    Sabbath is a day of rest, and the Torah says you should not do any malaxot on it. This is translated as "work" but that's not quite right—work, like your job, is avoda. Malaxot is specifically the work forbidden by the Sabbath, which oral tradition teaches is "the stuff you have to do to build the Mishkan, the tent-like structure that served as God's dwelling place before the Temple." So, no skinning animals, for example. Need animal skins, donchaknow. One of the tasks was carrying stuff from here to there, where here and there are separate places. You can move furniture around the house. But you'd want to avoid tasks that look like you're bringing some stuff to help set up the Mishkan, i.e., from your house to another place. Or gathering stuff up along the way to bring. Those both smack of malaxa. So, the eruv. A thin wire, surreptitiously hung, to make a chunk of Manhattan "one place."

    I see folks complaining about the money spent here, as a waste, because it wasn't spent on something they would prefer. I am sure you are freely expressing your opinions on the amount of real estate Catholics reserve for silly cathedrals when low-income housing would be better and the amount of money spent by evangelicals on all that baptism water that would be better used growing fresh vegetables for the needy. Wouldn't prayer rugs' fabric be better used as blankets for the sick?

    At the same time, you will likely not express opinions on the $26B in charity (almost $5B per year going to healthcare and social services) from the Jewish community, nor the countless good works of Christians, Muslims, and others that happen to believe in a "sky man" or whatever other small words you cook up to define thousands of years of philosophy.

    You can and should complain about the bad. You should. We do all the time: the intolerant amongst us are a blight and an embarrassment. You should also look at your own intolerance and see if you can overcome it.

    *this is a burn, you may wish to report to a burn ward for treatment.

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