Under Jewish law, on the Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night), you’re not supposed to carry any of your possessions between private domains and public domains. You can’t carry things from inside your house to outside of it.
But what if you want to take your baby to synagogue? Or you need to move your car out of the driveway, but it requires taking your keys outside? You can’t do it. Jewish law forbids it.
But Orthodox Jews figured out a loophole. All they have to do is turn a “public” domain into a “private” one and problem solved! They accomplish this by creating what’s known as an eruv (AY-roov).
An eruv is essentially a gated community built using poles and string. You put up the poles all around a city, connect them with a string, and you’ve created a brand new giant private domain. Orthodox Jews can roam and carry items freely within that space, even on the Sabbath!
(We can have a separate debate over whether or not God sees through that little trick…)
Here’s the problem, though: In some communities, Orthodox Jews have been building eruvs on public property. In some cases, they’ve tied the string directly on government-owned utility poles. It’s a religious accommodation that church/state separation advocates say is illegal.
In Hallandale, Florida, rabbis are trying to create an eruv by a beach. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “They want to install nine poles at two beachfront parks so they can encircle the condos where congregants live.”
It’s not all frivolous. One rabbi said his four-year-old daughter is in a wheelchair and eruvs are needed to move her around on the Sabbath. But if it’s so damn important, then just do it. I have a hard time generating sympathy for people who refuse to help themselves because of arbitrary religious restrictions.
In any case, the problem for Orthodox Jews is that local ordinances prevent anyone from installing poles in city-owned parks. And the city has no desire to bend that rule for anybody.
“I’m not telling them they can’t build an eruv,” [City Attorney Jennifer] Merino said. “The commission would have to waive that rule on the books. Once that rule is waived for one party, it makes it more difficult for us to decline other requests.”
Mayor Keith London said waiving the rules for the eruv would set the city up for other religious requests that might not be so tame.
“If we open up public property for one, we open up public property for all,” he said during a recent meeting. “I’m not comfortable with opening it for all.”
That alone is good reasoning. But the city officials have another reason to avoid giving Orthodox Jews an exemption from the law: Chaz Stevens is waiting in the wings.
Stevens is a local Satanic activist who has erected Festivus poles and Distress-ivus poles (that look like Donald Trump). He’s placed an image of an upside-down butt-plugged Jesus outside a local city hall. He hired someone to wear a costume of a giant phallus with Trump’s head before a presidential debate.
He’s a provocateur. And the potential eruv means he’s coming up with his own alternatives:
Stevens said he plans to “come to town with a platoon of giant dongs” should the eruv win approval, one for each of the nine poles.
(Has any reporter ever come to work with the expectation that she would write that sentence before going home?)
Stevens, who also runs an emotional animal support site, says it’s all in the spirit of the First Amendment.
If the eruv is approved, we could soon see a platoon of dongs in addition to lawsuits from groups that work on church/state separation cases.
All the more reason to just let the rules stay as they are. Let the Orthodox Jews deal with the problem they created for themselves.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)