Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mazel Tov: An Eruv Comes to Plano

How many people in Plano even know what an eruv is? How many people in Dallas know what one is, even though Dallasites have been living with two eruvin, maybe even living inside one themselves, for years?

After the jump, the curious new incident of the dog in the night-time.

As this story in The Dallas Morning News's neighborsgo explains, an eruv is a symbolic sacred area around a home or neighborhood whose existence permits observant Jews to carry objects out of doors on the Sabbath. The area needs to be walled or fenced, even if only symbolically. In Plano, the plan is to mark existing utility poles and wires with strips of rubber to create a symbolic fence or wall around a 10 square mile area.

I'm all in favor of this accommodation for observant Jews. As Plano City Council member Lissa Smith explains, "The designation of the district will ease the ability of traditional Jews in Plano to come together and observe their faith." And as Rabbi Menachem Block says, "The eruv redefines the space from being a public domain to having the religious law of being a private domain, like expanding your home. It brings a little bit of the warmth and the godliness we experience in our home into the world."

Still, about that curious incident of the dog in the night-time. It refers to an exchange in a Sherlock Holmes story:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

In our case, the curious incident is that the general community has been silent on this matter. Contrast this non-story with the uproar created by the planned Muslim community center in New York City (or Murfreesboro, Tennessee or Temecula, California) or the news that businesses like Walmart and McDonalds offer halal food at certain locations. Imagine if, instead of Jews, it were Muslims wanting to mark off a 10 square mile of Plano, Texas, so that it "brings the godliness we experience into the world" and "redefines the space from being a public domain to having the religious law of being a private domain." Imagine the misinterpretations and distortions and fears and scare stories that might trigger.

America can be proud that this feel-good story is just filler in the community interest section of the local newspaper and not a page one controversy in the print product of newspapers across the country. Americans can strive for the day when similar stories involving other religions are met the same way, stories where it can be said that "the dog did nothing in the night-time."

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