Tuesday, October 24, 2006

For The Record, I Don't Think God Cares Whether You Carry Anything Or Not

I recently found out that my neighborhood is an eruv. Everybody knows what an eruv is, right? Okay, fine. I didn't either until I learned that my neighborhood is one.

Here's the deal with eruvim (the plural of "eruv"), as I understand it. Under Jewish law, one may carry or push things only in private, not in public, on Shabbat. But that's a real pain in the ass, so the Talmud describes a procedure by which a public domain can be transformed into a private domain through the creation of an eruv.

I find this whole eruv thing very interesting. I'm not a religious person and I'm not a person who accepts rules simply because they're rules, but I do consider myself to be both a tolerant and a curious person. I'm not sure I even understand the no-carrrying-things rule in the first place, but what I really don't understand is the ease with which this rule can be circumvented. If you truly believe it's sinful to carry things on Shabbat, shouldn't you just not carry things on Shabbat? If you create a loophole to excuse you from practicing whatever it is you profess to believe, how deeply-held are those beliefs?

I think these questions are at the heart of my distaste for organized religion, and why I feel much more religious pursuing my own unique brand of nature-worshipping spirituality than I did as a young Catholic following rules that seem to have so little to do with the divine.

Although I'm quite happy with my own spiritual beliefs, I'm also interested in those of others. Well, unless their spiritual beliefs include one that says I'm going to hell for mine. Then we probably don't have much to talk about.

I think Shabbat is a beautiful tradition, but I admit I find the whole eruv thing extremely odd. Am I missing something?


Phil said...

It reminds me that so much modern religion is based in ritual and superstition. Might as well be salt over your shoulder.

vikkitikkitavi said...

It's a wierd thing. Rules like the pork thing are presumeably based on practical, rather than strictly religious, ideas that were valid at the time they were written, but make little practical sense now.

So should they be disregarded as part of the religious practice, since they are no longer relevant to modern life?

Those that say "no" find value, I guess, in the mere practice of those things. It is a part of their religious tradition, and that is value enough.

I confess I find that notion completely baffling and unattractive, to say the least.

Chris said...

Ditto what Vikki said. I am not going to begrudge someone the right to practice some of this stuff, but I think if they thought about it critically for a little while, they might start to realize it's really not necessary.

Brian said...

Yes, you're missing the fact that it doesn't matter that it doesn't make sense to you, and any religion - or faction of any particular religion - that doesn't value blowing shit up should be alright with anyone, even if it means they have to come to terms with the fact that there's actually people out there who are (*gasp*) "religious".

It's funny that people that aren't really all that religious get just as (and often times more) holier-than-thou as some religious nut-jobs.

lulu said...

yeah, what Brian said.

Megan said...

Phil - Which shoulder is it again?

Vikki and Chris - Yeah, I just don't get it.

Brian and Lulu - Agreed that the non-religious can be just as dogmatic as the religious, but I really was trying to understand the eruv thing. Of course, I alphabetize everything in sight. ..who am I to suggest that other people don't make sense?

Coaster Punchman said...

The eruv thing is a big deal out here in the NYC area where there are a lot of ultra-Orthodox. There was a big fight a few years ago about putting up the wire for an eruv in a town in New Jersey. A bunch of non-Jews were against it, purportedly because it was considered a "taking" of public resources for a religious purpose. (Since the wire would be attached to telephone poles & things like that.) In reality, people in the town were just trying not to draw more Orthodox into the area.

I've always found it interesting that Orthodox Jewish groups, who believe it is wrong to eat pork, simply don't eat pork and leave it at that. They're not out lobbying polititians to make pork illegal for everyone else. The Kristians should take a lesson from them.

Megan said...

CP - Although I didn't live here at the time, apparently we had the same debate about turning the neighborhood into an eruv. And good call about the Kristians.