Without an Eruv

This past Shabbat, my little boy was a prisoner of Jewish law.

The DC Eruv was down, which meant that my son, who doesn’t walk yet (so according to Jewish law cannot be carried by an adult on Shabbat outside an eruv) had to be kept in our apartment building for the full 25 hours. It raised a lot of interesting issues for me, including, how far are you willing to go when halakhah gets really, truly inconvenient? 

This weekend also just so happened to be the DC Minyan’s Scholar-in-Residence Shabbaton, featuring Yitz and Blu Greenberg. Which reminded me of a great piece by Blu Greenberg, from How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household, which just happens to be excerpted on MJL. Recalls Blu:

For most of my early married and childraising years, I lived in a community that had no eruv; and therefore, if I didn’t plan ahead for a babysitter to mind the babies at home or take them out in the carriage, there was no way that I could go to shul or take an afternoon walk with [my husband] and the bigger children. For the most part, I took it with great equanimity.

When I look back on those times, I can only wonder in amazement why it didn’t bother me more and why I didn’t organize a huge rally of all Orthodox mothers of young children. Although no eruv has come out of a women’s protest group, I think the increase in eruvin has something to do with the new perception women have of themselves, their needs, and their place in community life.

It’s not until the eruv goes down that you realize how important it is to family religious life—from the baby’s exposure to Shabbat to the mother’s participation in public Jewish life. 

How you deal with the eruv outage can be telling—in our case, my husband went to the hashkama (early morning) minyan and then took over babysitting so that I could go to DC Minyan to pray and hear Rabbi Greenberg speak. The boys had a nice afternoon in while Ima went out to be a public Jew.

Now that’s egalitarianism.

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