Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Rachel Newman ’16

Paramus, New Jersey • Psychology View Profile

Putting Up Walls and Opening Possibilities

So, as many of you know, I am an active member of Princeton’s Jewish community. I happen to be Orthodox, meaning that I observe a very traditional version of Jewish practice. This often comes with a whole host of interesting challenges in bringing my Jewish and college lifestyles together.  

People are always especially surprised when I tell them about Jewish law as it pertains to the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. Most notably, I am one of those crazy people who shut down all technology from Friday night until Saturday after sundown. That means no cell phone, no homework, no movies, etcetera. I can talk about how I actually really love that lifestyle (forced break from work!) in a different post, but now I want to talk about one of the more obscure laws.

Among the many laws pertaining to resting on Sabbath, there is a practice of not carrying objects from a private place into the public domain. For example, carrying something from inside your dorm room out into campus would not be allowed.

Of interest, there is a Talmudic loophole that allows for the transformation of a larger public area into a private domain via the construction of a symbolic wall around the region, thereby eliminating the worry of transfer from public to private by making everything “private.” This wall is called an "eruv," and in Princeton's case consists mainly of wires attached to existing telephone poles. Within the eruv, carrying is permissible because everything is considered a single, private space.

The eruv in Princeton was officially completed last week.

Just to give you a picture of how weird life has been without the eruv and how happy I am to have it:

The main issue in a world without an eruv comes in how you carry your keys. If you’re particularly strict, as I am, instead of carrying an object in your pocket, you typically find some way to integrate it into what you are wearing. That way, you're not technically carrying anything. Yet another one of our loopholes. Cute, right? This can include wearing it on a bracelet or necklace, tying it in with your shoelaces, or, if you’re me, attaching it to your hair-tie and wearing it in your hair. Fashionable? Maybe. But definitely ridiculous.

And so, as I write to you, PEL (that’s post-eruv-life), I happily put my keys in my pocket like a normal person and go into the weekend ready to have a restful and much less logistically complicated Sabbath.