Antwerp’s Eruv

An eruv (עירוב) is a virtual enclosure that defines a larger space as “home”, allowing ultra orthodox Jews to carry on activities otherwise forbidden on Shabbat. The fact is that on Saturday, according to the Talmud, observant Jews are not allowed  to carry anything, once they get out of home! Anything, means literally anything, including keys, medicines, or even babies! And there are also many other activities that are forbidden!

So, to solve the problem on how to be allowed to get out of home on Shabbat, the concept of eruv was introduced. That is, a portion of the city, usually a quarter or a neighborhood, is enclosed in a virtual space. The enclosure is defined by existing walls, bridges, train lines. Where these structures are not present, a rope or a wire are used to demarcate the eruv. In modern Jewish the term eruv often refers to the rope itself that creates this symbolic area.

If you look carefully when walking around Antwerp, you may discover many interesting things that otherwise would go unnoticed. Antwerp’s eruv is one of these. Did you ever see it before?

Antwerp's Eruv. A photo by Riccardo Bevilacqua (c) 2013

Brabo fountain, Antwerp.

Brabo fountain, Antwerp. A preview of today’s pictures.

More than 2,000 years ago, when Antwerp was just a small settlement in the Roman empire, Druoon Antigoon – a giant from Russian descent – built a large castle along the river Scheldt. He exacted a toll from every passing ship sailing down the river. The giant cut off the hands of sailors who were unable or unwilling to hand over half of their cargo, and threw their hands in the river.

One day, the Roman soldier Brabo sailed along the giant’s castle. He refused to pay the toll and challenged Antigoon to a duel. Brabo managed to defeat the giant, cut off his head and hand and threw it in the river.

Barbo funtain, Antwerp.