Moshe Ronen  Letter 16  23-Jul-2001  Is eruv proliferation a real-estate scam?
When he was asked how he could do such a thing, since asking a goy is forbidden, he replied "asking a goy is forbidden, but nobody said anything about a jackass." — Attributed to Rav Chaim David Halevi by Morris Podolak Moshe Ronen

Further information on the Shabbos goy can be found in Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, pp. 45-47, with the accompanying footnotes 19 to 21 providing interesting reading.

Further information on eruvs is available online not only at the URLs within the body of the letter below, but also at:

23 July 2001

Moshe Ronen
Chair Board of Governors
Canadian Jewish Congress
100 Sparks Street, Suite 650
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5B7

Moshe Ronen:

Judaism is Impracticable

From what I can gather, although the pious Jew is permitted to physically lift or carry certain objects within his own home on Shabbos, he might not be permitted to lift or carry these same objects outside his home, which presents him with certain difficulties.

For example, if the pious Jew sets out for shul on Shabbos, he may wish to lock his house, yet his religion does not permit him to carry the key.  The walk may be hot, but he may not remove his jacket, as he would then be carrying it rather than wearing it.  He is not allowed to carry his prayer book.  He is not permitted to carry his reading glasses in his pocket.  He may wish to bring his children, but he is able to do this only if they are able to walk the round trip themselves, as he is allowed neither to pick them up, nor to push them in a carriage or stroller.  He may wish to bring his invalid father, but is forbidden to push his wheel chair.  If his hair gets mussed along the way, he'll have to pat it back into place with his hand, as his religion forbids him to transport his comb beyond the walls of his house.  He would have liked to bring a bottle of wine to a friend's house for kiddush, but this too is forbidden.  In short — as even the most pious Jew recognizes — he adheres to a religion that is impracticable, and which needs to be circumvented in order to make life livable.

Circumventing Judaism by Employing Shabbos goys

One method of circumventing the Talmudic laws against Shabbos labor is to hire a non-Jew — a Shabbos goy — to perform all the work that is forbidden Jews.

Let us begin by divesting ourselves of any notion that the expression Shabbos goy (SG for those who use the term so frequently as to benefit from abbreviation) is derogatory or provocative — rather, it is so innocuous, at least to Lubavitchers, as to be considered suitable for incorporation into the children's game of Find The Shabbos Goy, and its more challenging variant, Find The Lying Shabbos Goy, games which implant alertness to the possible presence of infiltrators of a different religion, and which teach the skill of ferreting them out (and which raise the question of whether it would be acceptable to teach non-Jewish children to play games like Find the Assimilated Kike and Find the Lying Assimilated Kike):


From: Shaina Shevin <[email protected]>

hey there. a game idea for elementarty age children.

This game is called Shabbos Goy, but you can call it whatever you like.  I play it with my Bnei Akiva kids, but I learined it by running the Shabbos groups in my Lubavitch neighborhood.  This game can be played with as many people as you want, but 15-20 is the best.  To start the game, set the chairs up in a circle.  have one person leave the room.  While this person is gone, choose another player to be the Shabbos Goy.  That person stands up and turns a couple of times so that all the other players can see what he or she looks like and is wearing.  Details are very important in this game!  After the SG sits down again, call back in the person who was sent out of the room.  That person then has to go around the circle, asking each player a question.  Questions can be of any sort.  "What color hair does the SG have?"  "Is the SG a boy or a girl?"  Anything goes.  The person goes around the cirlcle once, and at the end must guess who the Shabbos Goy is.  If he or she is not correct, the questions begin again.  Usually, it only takes one time around.  The kids I have played this with have loved it.  It gives them a chance to get creative in their answers.  Oh!  One small twist to the game!  The Shabbos Goy must lie when questioned.  This makes it a little more difficult.  Enjoy!

Shaina Shevin Detroit, MI
Idea Net, The Ultimate Program Bank for the Jewish Youth Professional, at www.jewishyouth.com/issues/idea009.htm

If we are agreed on the inoffensiveness — at least in some Jewish circles — of the expression Shabbos goy, along with its efficient acronym SG, we may go on to note that the expedient of employing a Shabbos goy is awkward partly because a Jew is forbidden to hire or command anyone to perform Shabbos labor which is prohibited to the Jew himself.  However, this awkward detail can be circumvented in any of several ways:

The danger that employment of Shabbos goys to circumvent Judaic law concerning Shabbos labor may get out of hand is treated in the following excerpt from a widely-repeated joke:

The local rabbi developed quite a reputation for his sermons; so much so that everyone in the community came every Shabbos.

Unfortunately, one weekend a member had to visit Long Island for his nephew's Bar Mitzvah.  But he didn't want to miss the rabbi's sermon.  So he decided to hire a Shabbos goy to sit in the congregation and tape the sermon so he could listen to it when he returned.

Other congregants saw what was going on, and they also decided to hire a Shabbos goy to tape the sermon so they could play golf instead of going to shul.  Within a few weeks time, there were 500 gentiles sitting in shul taping the rabbi.

The rabbi got wise to this.  The following Shabbos he, too, hired a Shabbos goy who brought a tape recorder to play his prerecorded sermon to the 500 gentiles in the congregation, who dutifully recorded his words on their machines.
Shofar, Delaware's First Congregation, at www.akse.org/200103/page7.html

All in all, employing Shabbos goys is far from a perfect solution to the problem of circumventing Judaic law against Shabbos labor.  On top of the difficulty of training the Shabbos goy in the meaning of a long list of hints is the expense of retaining what is essentially a servant, the loss of privacy attendant upon his presence, and the discomfort of having a non-Jew constantly inspecting — perhaps unsympathetically — Jews as they go about observing Talmudic law.  What observant Jew will not prefer to himself unscrew his refrigerator light bulb on Friday afternoon so that it will not be turned on and off as he opens and closes his refrigerator door on Friday evening and Saturday, rather than to leave the bulb working and suffer the indignity of hinting to a possibly-smirking Shabbos goy to come and open and close the refrigerator door for him over and over again throughout Shabbos?

Circumventing Judaism by Erecting Eruvs

Another way of circumventing Talmudic law against Shabbos labor is for Jews to expand what they consider to be the walls of their homes out a mile or two in each direction.  This they do by defining a string or wire or fish line strung up on utility poles around an area as equivalent to the walls of one giant Jewish house enclosing that same area.

The cunning argument goes something like this — that a wall with a door is still a wall, and continues to be a wall even if it has several doors.  In the limiting case, a wall can be all doors juxtaposed one beside the other.  What seems essential to a wall is the presence of door posts and lintels — for this argument to succeed, we have to assume that the doors themselves aren't needed.  Now think of utility poles as door posts, the fish line strung from one post to another as a lintel, and there you've got a wall consisting of door frames with no doors, which in a pinch is good enough.

The imagined giant Jewish home defined by the perimeter fish line, I understand, is called an eruv (plural eruvim, or simply eruvs), and Jews permit themselves to heft or transport anywhere within this eruv whatever they permit themselves to heft or transport within their individual homes, which is a great deal more than they permit themselves to heft or transport out in non-eruvized public places.

Even within an eruv, unfortunately from the standpoint of convenience, pious Jews still can't carry an umbrella, or money, or a credit card, or a ball-point pen, or a pencil, or a piece of paper; they still can't mail a letter; they still can't let their children play in a sand box — but at least eruvization permits them to carry their prayer books and their infants, and to push strollers, and the several other things listed at the beginning of the present letter.

Hundreds of these eruvs have either already been constructed or are being proposed around the world, often in the face of neighborhood opposition, as for example the eruv proposed at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, whose expansive borders are shown in red below.  As can be inferred from the Philadelphia University City Eruv example, an eruv may encompass prime real estate, much of it public, and much of its private portion owned by non-Jews.

From the University City Eruv web site at dolphin.upenn.edu/~eruv

Religious observance or religious circumvention?  However, as in the case of the Shabbos goy, the eruv is capable of striking the objective observer not as an observance of Judaism, but as a circumvention of Judaism.  Surely the authors of the Talmud intended to distinguish what labor may be performed on Shabbos inside a Jewish home from what may be performed outside the home, and not what may be performed inside a miles-long fish line from what may be performed outside the fish line.  By no stretch of the imagination does a fish line thrown around public property together with the private property of others, including goy property, define a Jewish home.  An eruv is not at all a Jewish home, it is a region within which Jewish leaders release Jews from some of the restrictions of Judaism.  The success of Judaism derives in part from a conspiracy among its leaders to offer relief from Judaism as an inducement to membership.

Is the eruv a ghetto-creating ploy?  As life for the observant Jew becomes difficult without the mitigation of an eruv, observant Jews have a powerful motive to relocate into an eruv, and in so doing to create a ghetto.  The question that arises in this connection is whether the eruv is not a device by means of which Jewish leaders retain control over their followers by herding them into ghettos.  Jews dispersed broadly are harder to control and tend to assimilate; Jews herded into ghettos are more amenable to control and more resistant to assimilation.

What will Jews tolerate within their own private home?  If the Jews living within an eruv consider that eruv their own private home, then the question arises of what they will tolerate inside their own private home?  A mosque?  A Christmas tree?  A historical-revisionist address?  A pro-Palestinian poster?  A crucifix on the wall of a Christian home that happens to fall within the eruv?  A crucifix around the neck of somebody walking through the eruv?  Will the eruv define the area within which observant Jews feel particularly free to treat with their ancestral fear and hatred their non-Jewish neighbors:

Down the street, Desea Trujillo, 31, said an eruv "doesn't harm anyone" and she does not object to it.  But living side by side with Hasidic Jewish neighbours "is not always easy," she added.

"It's hard to live on the street for 20 years and watch their kids grow up and never get to know them, and for my daughter not to be allowed to play with all these beautiful children."
Harvey Shepherd, Work on eruvs begins after court intervenes, Montreal Gazette, 23-Jun-2001, at www.cjc.ca/Newsviews/innews/GazetteJun23-01.htm

Religious observance or real-estate scam?  Once it becomes known that an area has been designated as a Jewish ghetto, or that it has some chance of moving in the direction of becoming a Jewish ghetto, it is conceivable that non-Jews may begin evacuating that area, with a resulting tumble in real-estate prices.  Observers predisposed to cynicism, then, may be capable of viewing the eruv as a real-estate scam by means of which Jews are able to scoop up prime real estate at a discount.

Religious observance or implementation of Philip Roth's Diasporism?  In view of Israel's imminent collapse, Philip Roth's remedy of Diasporism can be seen to be the only feasible course of action.  Diasporism is founded on the premises that dispersal is the normal and desirable condition of Jews, that the experiment of establishing a state employing the Bolshevik tools of disinformation and terror has failed and must be aborted, and that therefore Israeli Jews must be evacuated from Palestine and resettled elsewhere.  Such resettlement need be no more traumatic than would be the resettlement required for the building of a dam, or that required in a large urban-renewal project, as has been ably argued by Alan Dershowitz.  The cynical observer, then, will be capable of viewing the proliferation of eruvs as, in part, the preparation of resettlement colonies for Israeli Jews — their resettlement at strategic positions will increase their power, their acquiring real estate at discount prices will reduce the cost of resettlement, and their being kept in tight physical proximity will enhance cohesion and reduce assimilation.

To their loss, some eruv-domiciled non-Jews will appreciate the genius of the eruv-Diasporism plan only once it is too late.  That is, by the time that the goys remaining in the eruv ghettos recognize that their neighbors are increasingly becoming the fanatical Israelis habituated to toting automatic weapons and blowing away people who protest being treated like cattle, there will be a panicked rush for the eruv-ghetto exits, and further refugee Israelis will be able to pick up the abandoned real estate at bargain-basement prices.

A Call Upon the Canadian Jewish Congress

The above are some of the pressing issues that the public might wish to hear the Canadian Jewish Congress address, as for example on the CJC web site, which although it presently touches on the phenomenon of metastacizing eruvs, as yet neglects all of the urgent questions broached above.

Lubomyr Prytulak