Monday, August 03, 2009

Boynton-area eruv gives Orthodox Jews options on the Sabbath

For the past six Saturdays, Ari Sonneberg has held the hands of his two preschoolers as they walked a mile to their synagogue west of Boynton Beach.

His wife, Erin, stayed home with their 1-year-old, since the little one can't walk and Jewish law prevents her from carrying him on the Sabbath.

But today, the Sonnebergs feel a freedom they had almost forgotten: They can push all three kids in their strollers as they walk to temple because the Jewish community's new, expanded eruv, or symbolic wall, is up and running.

"We were impacted enormously by the closing," said Ari Sonneberg, 34, who moved west of Boynton Beach with the family almost three years ago from Boston. "My wife was stuck at home, and she loves to go to synagogue to pray and see friends. I almost had to bribe my two older children to walk with me."

The Boynton Beach-area eruv -- a series of boundaries that allow observant Jews to push strollers or carry objects on the Sabbath -- is functional after almost six weeks of disrepair. Jewish law prohibits the carrying of objects outside the home on the Sabbath.

The prohibition against carrying comes from the Torah and is also mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah: "Beware for your souls and carry no burden on the Sabbath day." Talmudic scholars explained the law to mean objects may not be carried between thoroughfares.

The eruv is considered an extension of each congregant's home, where families are permitted to carry things during their day of rest.

When the boundaries of the old eruv, which measured about 10 square miles, began to break on a regular basis a few months ago, Rabbi Sholom Ciment of Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Boynton said he consulted with fellow rabbis to create expanded boundaries that would allow even more Jews to walk unimpeded. They surveyed the area and examined every inch of the proposed perimeter to make sure they could maintain an unbroken boundary.

The perimeter must be inviolate for the length of the eruv; natural barriers such as canals and security walls make up most of it, with strings put up by the rabbis filling in the gaps. These strings often break during rainstorms or construction and are inspected each week to make sure they are undisturbed.

The new eruv measures 84 square miles, extending from Florida's Turnpike on the west to Interstate 95 on the east, and the Boynton Canal on the north to the L-30 Canal to the south.

Ciment said he is thrilled that the new eruv is larger, symbolizing, he believes, the expansion of the Boynton Beach area's Jewish community. A 2005 study showed the number of Jewish households in the area grew 63 percent from 1999 to 2005, to about 60,000, although Ciment says the number has since grown to more than 80,000.

About 175 families walk to the Boynton Chabad each weekend, Ciment said.

"It's like we have made one large home or one large tent that will ingather the whole Boynton area," Ciment said.

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