Hello, world

Hi everyone.  My name is Harpo Jaeger.  I’m a new poster on Jewschool.  I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now at my personal website,  I’m really excited to start blogging here!  Some of the other Jewschoolers I know from the NHC Summer Institute, some I don’t know at all.
At some point in the future I’ll be updating my biographical information, but right now I am here with the intention of posting about something very specific.
Being a pluralistic community, the Summer Institute (which I’m currently at) has some interesting halakhic quirks.  For the members who don’t carry items on Shabbes, we create an eruvbuilding the eruv in 2008, a quasi-physical boundary around the campus that halakically turns the campus into one building, thus allowing those people to carry siddurim, a talit, and so on, between buildings.  For several years, I’ve been a coordinator of this construction process, and I’ve learned a lot from it.  BZ suggested I write a post about this, as a sort of “DIY eruv”, which is a very good way of putting it, so here it is.
The essential idea of an eruv is a series of simulated doors.  To do this, we use a series of lecha’in (singular lechi, which translates as “doorpost”), with string run over the tops, representing the header of the door frame.  There are various other components of the eruv in addition to sticks and string.  For instance, a hill can act as a natural boundary around an area if it is steep enough.  Part of the campus here is on a steep hill, so we can place a lechi at either end and use the hill as a go-between.  Additionally, an existing cable such as a telephone wire can be used if a lechi is placed below it and the cable sags less than about eleven inches (inaccuracy due to conversion from biblical units of measure).
What’s interesting about the process we’ve gone through is that neither myself or my friend with whom I coordinate have a great deal of experience with this halakha.  We’ve learned it from those who do, we’ve internalized it, and at this point it’s become a DIY ritual more than anything else.  eruv building - in a tree!Without having a pre-existing complete grasp of the spiritual and traditional elements of the eruv, we are able to create one that is completely in line with all of the requirements.  Also, it’s pretty fun.  We stay up late drinking tons of caffeinated beverages, drive around in a golf cart with lumber and power tools, drive around the perimeter with one of the halakhic experts to verify the whole thing, and then sanctify it by saying a blessing (al mitzvat eruv) over a “communal meal” (in today’s case, half a bagel left over from yesterday’s sunrise hike up Mt. Monadnock).  That meal is then eaten after the eruv no longer needs to be sanctified (although I anticipate the bagel being rather stale by then).
So, starting from a mere interest in construction, and with the counseling of some persons with more halakhic knowledge, we’ve learned a lot about the practice, had a bunch of fun, and helped some of our co-Institute-goers observe Shabbes more easily.
If you have the opportunity, I’d highly recommend getting involved in the construction of a local eruv.  It’s a fabulous way to learn about some very interesting halakha and its modern implementations, as well as explore a host of pluralistic issues.  Great all around.
That’s all for now.  It is time to light candles here, and I must away.  I hope this first post is food for thought, and I’m really looking forward to writing here.  Shabbat shalom!

10 thoughts on “Hello, world

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