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Why Manhattan is spanned with a white cord

A tourist who is just out and about on the streets of New York and is amazed at the tops of the skyscrapers does not even see the cord, it hangs there so thinly and inconspicuously. Passers-by waiting at a traffic light on their way to work may see them, but they think nothing of it. A power cord, maybe, or something with a phone. But no, there is a string hanging there. And this thin white cord has a deep meaning for many people in Manhattan: It allows believing Jews to wear things on the street on the Sabbath.

Orthodox Jews don't work on the Sabbath, they pray, they sing, they celebrate the Lord's Day. Work: prohibited. There are exactly 39 work bans, including operating machines, all kinds of agricultural activities and the use of electricity, as well as carrying things outside of your own four walls. Anyone at home can carry a pot from the kitchen to the dining table or bring a book into the bedroom. But to leave the apartment with an object in hand and go out into the street: That is a violation of the Sabbath rules.

A long time ago the Jews figured out that a living area could perhaps be defined a little more flexibly. The people lived in ever larger groups, the cities grew. So it was decided: A settlement that is surrounded by a closed wall can be considered a communal living area. Later, the closed wall became a symbolic border: a cord that - very importantly: seamlessly - encloses an area. Carrying things inside the string is fine.

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The cord is called Eruv, this facility is also available in other cities with large Jewish populations. But no Eruv is as big as that of Manhattan. Rabbi Moshe Tauber has been ensuring that the Eruv on the Sabbath is really complete for 19 years. The cord covers an area of ‚Äč‚Äčaround 40 square kilometers, and Tauber drives the entire route every Thursday. He makes a note of all the places where the cord broke. The next day he comes back with two craftsmen who replace the torn pieces, reconnect them, and repair everything. When the sun goes down on Friday, the Sabbath begins. And when Rabbi Tauber and his men have done their job, everything will be good for the next 24 hours.

The SZ-Magazin accompanied Rabbi Tauber on his tour. Also in the report: How the greatest rabbi in New York prevented an eruv for many years. Why true belief sometimes needs a few closed eyes. Which is why places like Times Square or the UN headquarters are not allowed to be in the Eruv area. And why, of all people, the rabbi would never set foot in Manhattan even on the Sabbath.

Read the complete report with SZ Plus:

The mysterious thread

Large parts of Manhattan are surrounded by a fine white cord. It stretches from lantern to lantern, so high that you can hardly see it. What's behind it?

Photo: Noah Rabinowitz