Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where I learn what an eruv is and feel sad.

The UK’s largest eruv is to become operational affording thousands of Manchester Shabbat observant Jews life-changing facilities.
The 13-mile halachic perimeter, under the Manchester Beth Din, will be operational from January 11. It is slightly larger than any London eruv and covers Salford, Prestwich and Crumpsall, the major centres of Manchester Jewry. - THE JEWISH CHRONICLE ONLINE
'Oh', I thought, 'that sounds interesting. I wonder what an eruv is?'. I clicked the link and spent several seconds in brow frowning confusion. Then my jaw hit the keyboard.

An eruv is a series of wires hung upon poles that enclose an entire community. The 13 mile Manchester eruv cost £350,000 over a ten year period and required a ten day inspection by eruv experts from Jerusalem.  The yearly maintenance costs are £30,000.

David Aaronovitch explains the thinking behind this colossal waste of time and money:
It is certainly true that the idea of an eruv is not an easy one to explain. For a start, it means dealing with what a peculiar deity the God of the Orthodox Jew really is. It is one thing to be omniscient and omnipresent. Creating universes is a big activity; populating them with everything from microbes to Madonna requires detailed work on an unimaginable scale. But to then become side-tracked by the minutiae and trivialities of human behaviour, down to worrying about whether one human has stepped outside its own front door carrying a baby during Shabbat, suggests a super-picky celestial Jobsworth. Like an old-time, cane-happy, public-school teacher on the hunt for pubescent sinners, this God is a minor sadist and it rather follows that those who choose to believe in this version do so out of masochism
So to temper that divine sadism - as an eruv does - seems problematic. The Great One has told you to rest on Shabbat and by that He means DO NOTHING. Zip. Carry nothing. Go nowhere. Rest even if the result is utterly unrestful. Or else. But if you stick a wire up between some poles, then the Eternal will bend the rules for you. Somehow He agrees to be fooled into thinking that you're still at home, when in fact you're a mile away, festooned in babies.  - Link
In summary, Orthodox Jews construct an imaginary private space to bypass inconvenient imaginary laws from an imaginary god. I have nothing by sympathy for people who languish under such nonsense.

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