Sister cities (Daf Yomi Eruvin 57)

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“And one may measure the limit only at the level of one’s heart.”

The continued discussion in the Daf Yomi of measuring city boundaries examines on a deeper level what is the sum total of a city. Today’s text attempts to quantify it through considering open space at its edges. We are told that the total measure of a city can be eight million square cubits. The Rabbis appear to consider the dynamics of urban planning when they determine that open space is one quarter of the total extended boundary to be considered when one is measuring a city’s boundaries for purposes of Shabbat limits.

Today’s reading considers the joining of cities through the concept of a karpef, which we have been introduced to through previous readings as a physical structure that joins two areas. The karpef under discussion today is not a physical structure, but rather a measured spatial dimension. If the measurements work out correctly and there is seventy cubits and some extra space on the vacant side of each city, they can become one. This reminded me of the concept of sister cities that may not be aligned in a straight line or have a middle village between them as described in today’s reading, but they are joined through common values and a mission to “create global relationships based on culture, education, information and trade exchanges.” (see The Sister Cities Organization’s mission is to promote peace through global outreach among cities around the globe and sponsored exchanges

Unlike other times of crisis that I have experienced during my adult life, including the events of September 11th and Hurricane Sandy, this current period is unique because it is truly a global pandemic and sister cities across the globe are coping with its disastrous impact. Cities in the United States are dealing with many of the same consequences from the pandemic as their sister cities in Brazil, Mexico and China. I worry when I see how we are struggling in the United States, with our mature scientific establishment and healthcare system — albeit one that is not equally available to all citizens and a failed national strategy — how other cities are coping with fewer resources and if possible, even more dysfunctional governments.

We cannot solve this problem for one city or one county, state, or nation. We have learned through coping with the coronavirus that the world is linked through our global economy. The virus will remain a threat until it is under control globally. We will never be safe from its effects in the United States until it is eradicated in Israel and China and Brazil, and every corner of the world. And in the middle of the worst global pandemic that the world has ever seen, the United States president announced that he is terminating funding to the World Health Organization, which is the one organization that can mobilize a coordinated attack on this disease globally. There have been so many missteps in the US’s response to the pandemic, that I fear this decision has been lost among everything else.

The World Health Organization’s response to the pandemic has not been without challenges which has led to criticism, and this is all the more reason for the United States, which is its largest source of funding, to assume a leadership role. But then the country that should have been a shining example of how to marshal resources in response to the worst global health crisis ever, has not been able to offer much hope to its own citizenry, let alone the world. In the end, we have lost many more people than we should have, and I fear are nowhere near bringing to an end the suffering and misery that are linking sister cities in ways previously unimagined.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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