For two weeks this summer, I was a visiting educator at Ramah Sports Academy. My responsibilities were fairly typical for a visiting rabbi at camp: leading classes for campers and staff, supporting a particular edah (age group). But I also had an opportunity to assist the summer mashgiah in assessing and repairing the eruv before Shabbat. The camp’s eruv—a ritual legal enclosure fixed for the purpose of allowing activities such as carrying from one domain to another on Shabbat—was constructed using some of the natural boundaries around camp. To identify the sightline of the trees at the far end of a field or a stream of water that connects one part of camp to another as part of the created boundary, string and small wooden posts (lehim) were affixed along parts of the camp periphery.
When it was my turn to get in the golfcart and check the eruv, I was expecting some fun along with a minimum of physical labor. Yet securing the eruv, and thereby providing others the opportunity to navigate a dimension of Shabbat, offered an occasion to think about the responsibility we hold toward others in our Jewish community. When the work was complete and Shabbat arrived, I had a newfound appreciation for the purposes of eruvin and understanding of kol yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh: “all of Israel are responsible for each other.” Creating a ritual opportunity and peace of mind for an entire community is a sacred task and, having previously discussed these ancient words with campers, I now had a more personal connection to these safeguards.
is director of admissions for the Rabbinical & H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. A parent, partner, teacher and coffee enthusiast, Rabbi Rafi Cohen enjoys helping individual students and families find Jewish meaning in their lives.