The greater good (Daf Yomi Eruvin 75)

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We joined with you to our benefit and not to our detriment.”

This whole eruv construct of courtyards within courtyards and homes nestled in cul-de-sacs that require passage through other courtyards is a lesson in the interdependence of neighbors on each other. The system falls apart if one neighbor forgets to pay his dues into the eruv home association (in the form of a loaf of bread which in the time of the Talmud was a currency worth something). If one homeowner fails to either establish an eruv or renounce his rights to his courtyard and cede them to a neighbor, everyone’s mobility could be limited on Shabbat.

Today’s Daf Yomi portion analyzes the complexities of what is allowed when there is an inner and an outer courtyard. There is an opinion put forward by a clan of Rabbis that states if the residents of an inner courtyard need to pass through an outer one, and they are permitted to carry in their own courtyard, they can do so in the outer one as well. But the terms and conditions are complex and there is a contradictory view among other Rabbis who say this is not the case and the residents of the inner courtyard would not be able to carry in the outer courtyard unless a joint courtyard is established.

If the resident of the outer courtyard forgot to contribute to the eruv, he can only carry on Shabbat in the inner courtyard but not the outer one. If the resident of the inner courtyard forgot and did not contribute to the eruv, then carrying in both courtyards is prohibited.  We are told that “the right of way enjoyed by the members of the inner courtyard through the outer courtyard renders the outer one prohibited as well.

Stay with me because there is more complexity to consider. If residents of an inner and outer courtyard put their eruv in one place and someone forgets to contribute to the eruv bread fund, regardless of which courtyard he is associated with, then everyone is prohibited from carrying. This is a reminder to look after the forgetful among us, like Rav Yosef who has memory issues, and make sure they remember to contribute their share, so that everyone does not get locked out of the courtyard.

The best solution for all is for the residents of both courtyards to get together and form a single eruv. When neighbors work together and form a single eruv and all pay their fair share into the eruv bread fund, the system works as designed and everyone can move about a bit on Shabbat in the inner and outer courtyards. But one neighbor who forgets to pay his dues can jeopardize the whole system.

The lesson through all these pages of inner and outer courtyards and renunciation of rights and declarations that we have joined together for our mutual benefit (I am taking some liberties because the text says “to our benefit”), is that we are interconnected through our immediate and greater neighborhoods. This is what we are learning from the pandemic: if we all follow the rules we can move around through each other’s courtyards as businesses are able to open, but if get too lax the disease spreads and all non-essential services shut down again.

We are all in this together, which has never been more evident than during this time, when what we do and how we behave can impact our lives and those who we interact with. In essence, I am in contact with every person who has come into contact with every person who they have come into contact with and so on down the line. We need to trust that each of us are doing what we can to keep this disease at bay so that we do not infect our neighbors and their parents and their parent’s friends and someone’s immune compromised sister or daughter.

A large event on the other side of the country that includes thousands of people shoulder-to-shoulder and without masks, can result in someone dying in my city if one person who attended the event travels across country and is a silent spreader of disease.  He has in essence traveled through my courtyard with his infection. We are seeing numbers rise across the world because of pandemic fatigue and people just wanting to return to life as it once was. But we are at best only halfway through the pandemic and must stay the course for the benefit of each other. We may be getting fatigued, but the disease is not and if we want to travel through each other’s courtyards we all need to do the right thing.

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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