“A window between two rooms are all one and the same.”
Windows represent the borders between our inside world and the one we look out into and the inner courtyard of our dreams and the outer one where we live our public life. During the darkest period of the pandemic they were my entire world as I was shut inside a small one-bedroom apartment. I lived through my rear-view window that looked out on West 19th Street where I could observe ambulance after ambulance responding to the calls of the crisis.
Today’s Daf Yomi discusses windows that reside in walls that separate courtyards and the intricacies of the role they play in establishing eruvs. We are told that a window in a wall that measures four by four handbreadths and separates two courtyards and is also ten handbreadths off the ground requires two eruvs. The residents can come together and create a single eruv if they merge their two courtyards.
The conditions are quite specific, and the residents of the courtyards will need their measuring hands ready because if the windows measure less than four by four handbreadths, or are above ten handbreadths from the ground, the residents may not come together and establish a single eruv. This determination is driven by the concept of lavud, which is the principle that two objects are connected if they are located within three handbreadths of each other. In the instance of windows that are in a wall that separate two courtyards, they are considered sealed if they are less than four handbreadths and not suitable for a single eruv.
Rava contradicts an opinion rendered by Rav Nahman: “A window between two courtyards, and a window between two houses, and a window between two attics, and a window between two roofs, and a window between two rooms are all one and the same to me; they all must be four by four handbreadths and within ten handbreadths from the ground.” In other words, there are many views into the world through many windows.
This is the time of year when I think a lot about the two worlds I live in: the inner world where I am alone and can just be my authentic self and the outer world where I often feel like someone else. Halloween is almost upon us. I learned when I was a student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies that it is the time according to Celtic tradition when the boundaries between this world and the otherworld are especially permeable and spirits can slip through.
As I child I loved Halloween. It was an opportunity to dress up as a someone I could never be in real life and walk around the neighborhood with a plastic pumpkin that I would fill up with candy as I went door to door. There was always that one house at the end of the block where an older single woman lived that seemed especially scary and my brother and I would tiptoe up the driveway in fear that when the door opened spirits would emerge and swallow us up.
And this year, my heart goes out to the children of the world who have a terrible spirit to contend with: the coronavirus that can be suspended anywhere in the air. It is as though it slipped through from the otherworld in order to prey upon all of us. And although the children may not be as vulnerable to the physical effects of the virus, I worry about the aftereffects they will live with the rest of their lives. And sadly, the virus is ruining the magical night when spirits are in the air for the children, including those that live inside us.
This post is in memory of Hamish Henderson, who died in 2002. I studied with Hamish at the University of Edinburgh in the last 1970s. He inspired me with his poetry and folk songs and instilled in me respect for the mysteries of the otherworld.