Ongoing construction on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles is impacting the Sabbath activities of the city’s Jewish community, according to an interesting report from the Los Angeles Times. To understand the problem the community faces, it’s helpful to first understand why the roadway under construction is so important to them.
The 405, and two other freeways, form what is known as the Los Angles Community Eruv. In Jewish culture, an eruv is a collection of boundaries that form an enclosure that allows observant Jews to perform certain activities outside of their home on the Sabbath.
On the Sabbath, or Shabbat, Jewish law prohibits carrying certain items outside of the walls of their property. That includes carrying them outdoors or to other areas of a shared dwelling. These items include house keys, medicines, canes, strollers and even babies.
However, an eruv, which in the past has been as simple as a string or fence, creates what is essentially one large communal dwelling when constructed around a community. The Los Angeles Jewish Eruv uses freeways rather than fences or string.
But whenever a piece of the eruv is disconnected, observant Jews are severely limited as to how they are allowed move about on the Sabbath, which begins Sundown Friday and lasts 25 hours until Saturday night, according to Jewish law. And according to the Times, “construction on the 405 ramps at Wilshire Boulevard will make it impossible to replace about 200 feet of fencing that makes up part of the enclosure.”
Jewish community leaders are conflicted over the eruv being down. On one hand they feel it’s unfortunate that people won’t be able to move outside of their homes and socialize with one another during the Sabbath. But on the other hand, they say it’s likely a good thing to remind the community of the law and its importance.
Community leaders expect the construction will make things “problematic” for the next three weeks.