An Eruv is a symbolic enclosure that is created from natural boundaries or from wires strung across poles and that enables observant Jews, within its boundaries, to perform certain acts that are otherwise prohibited outside their homes on “Shabbat” (the Jewish Sabbath).
One of the restrictions imposed upon observant Jews is the prohibition against carrying objects from a private domain (which is usually one’s home) to a public domain (and vice versa) and carrying within a public domain on Shabbat. Pushing objects, such as wheelchairs and baby carriages, is also prohibited.
The consequences of this prohibition can be severe: persons who use canes as walking aids cannot leave their homes on Shabbat; disabled persons, who are bound to their wheelchairs, are bound to their homes on Shabbat as well since they are not permitted to use their wheelchairs; mothers and fathers are unable to carry their infants or use strollers for their young children who are not yet able to walk.
An Eruv eases these restrictions by symbolically integrating a number of private and public properties into one large symbolic enclosure. An Eruv, in other words, symbolically extends the home so that observant Jews can more fully embrace their community. Consequently, observant Jews within an Eruv area are empowered to carry and move objects; disabled persons are permitted to use wheelchairs and canes; and parents are able to use strollers and walkers for their infants and young children.
To establish an Eruv, the applicable area must be demarcated from its surroundings. Existing walls and fences together with natural boundaries (creek and river banks) are used for this purpose. Wherever there are gaps in the route, they can be bridged by symbolic “doorways”, normally by hanging wire or string from pole to pole across the gap.