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Shabbat Parashat Va'eira| 5766

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I want to walk to my synagogue, which is 4 kilometers away (within city limits) on Shabbat, but I learned that one may not walk beyond 2,000 amot [almost a kilometer, assuming an amma is 48 centimeters/19 inches]. Do I need an eiruv or multiple eiruvin, and how do I make it?
Answer: Not many people understand the laws of eiruv techumin (=et;the halachic device that allows one to walk where he otherwise could not). Let us summarize the basics, based primarily on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 396,398, & 408.
 The Torah forbids one to “leave his place on the seventh day” (Shemot 16:29). A person’s place is defined as the area of a city, which, regarding the laws of Shabbat, is based on Bnei Yisrael’s encampment in the desert (24,000 amot, squared). Based on smaller city-areas found elsewhere in the Torah, the Rabbis forbade walking more than 2,000 amot (=2Kam)in any direction from his place of inhabitation or base (Rambam, Shabbat 27:1). An et does not increase the distance one is allowed to walk. Rather, it re-determines a person’s base for Shabbat, from which we count the 2Kam that he can walk. (We “draw a box,” north-south/east-west, whose closest points are 2Kam from the end of the base on each side. “Walking diagonally”one can exceed 2Kam.)
 Let us investigate what a person’s base is. Every person’s minimum base is the 4 amot around him. However, if a person is in an area that is fully enclosed for the purpose of human inhabitation, that whole area is his base from which we count 2Kam. When an area is surrounded by a valid eiruv chatzerot (which allows carrying in the streets) the whole area is the minimum base of all within. Even without one, a string of continuous inhabitation is considered a city and is the base of those who start Shabbat within it. They can walk throughout the area and “make the box” outside its boundaries. The complicated things are determining whether someplace is an uninterrupted area and determining its boundaries. The local rabbi(s) should make this determination after studying the area’s layout, as the geometric/halachic rules are difficult.
 We will mention a couple rules, after pointing out that conventional halachic wisdom is that within built up, residential areas of cities, one can usually walk to wherever he has occasion. An adjacent area of 70⅔ amot rings every house, and counts as its extension,. Where the extensions of two houses overlap (i.e. they are separated by less than 223 ft.), they create a link that expands the city. After determining a block of inhabitation, one encloses it (assuming its boundaries are jagged) in a north-south/east-west rectangle. This usually increases the block’s size significantly (and, according to some, connects it to other areas). An “outer box” is “drawn” 2Kam around the rectangle. Even if the “outer box” extends into a new block, one cannot walk further.
 It may be advantageous for one to make his “place,” from where we determine his personal “outer box,” somewhere other than the location where he lives. This can be done either by being physically present in the place he wants when Shabbat begins or by placing food there and making a proper proclamation of intent. The latter is the et. Onecan be based in only one place for Shabbat, and therefore, multiple eiruvin do not work concurrently.Theperson must be physically within the 2Kam radius of his et-created base, or else he cannot walk anywhere. If he puts the et, say, 1500 west of his location, he will be able to walk 3,500 amot to the west but only 500 to the east. In your case, if you put an et in a block that extends within 2Kam of your location on one side and 2Kam of the synagogue on another, you can walk more than 4,000 amot, as the entire middle block, no matter how large it is, is the base that “does not take up space.”
Your local rabbi will tell you whether an eiruv is needed and will work in your situation. If so, he will teach you where and how to place it.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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