Eiruv Chatzeirot at a Hospital

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: At a hospital, is it necessary to have an eiruv chatzeirot to carry inside the building?

Answer: That is an excellent question, as many people think an eiruv is only the tzurot hapesach (posts and connecting cord) that complete an area’s halachic walls. The physical walls do create a reshut hayachid (private domain, where it is permitted to carry) of what otherwise would have been a reshut harabim (public domain, where it is forbidden to carry), either based on Torah law or, more likely Rabbinically (karmelit). However, Shlomo Hamelech instituted a prohibition on carrying from a domain belonging to one person/group to a domain belonging to another (Eiruvin 21b) unless they placed an eiruv chatzeirot. The reason for the prohibition is that if people are accustomed to moving from domain to domain without thought, they may carry from a reshut hayachid to a reshut harabim (Rashi ad loc.). 

The eiruv chatzerot is a significant amount of bread (practically, matza, because of its shelf life) belonging jointly to the Jews of a given enclosed area, placed at a location which halachically unites the living units of all (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 366:1). There is also a need, if there are more than one Jewish living unit in the area, to nominally “rent” the non-Jewish property from the area’s non-Jews or from one with authority to act on their behalf (ibid. 382:1). (Completely irreligious Jews count as non-Jews regarding these halachot – see ibid. 385:3). These steps are taken regularly by community rabbis who are in charge of the “eiruv,” and can last quite a while, but it is daunting, at best, for a simple Jew to do this for his short visit at a hospital. Therefore, it is critical to see if this setting requires an eiruv chatzeirot.

The hospital is presumably owned by one entity, and it does not make a difference if it is publicly or privately owned, and if privately, if by an organization, corporation, family, or individual. The important thing is that it is not that different rooms are owned by different entities. The question is whether when the hospital gives living rights to patients, who usually pay (directly or through medical coverage on their behalf), this creates new entities who jointly occupy the facility. In fact, if a lone owner of an apartment building rents out apartments (for 30 days – ibid. 370:8), the building likely requires an eiruv chatzeirot (e.g., if it has multiple Jewish tenants and is not included in a larger eiruv).

A few factors cause the usage of part of an area by other entities to not be considered, in our context, the owner ceding his control over those areas. One is if the owner can move a sub-area’s residents from one place to another (see Minchat Yitzchak IV:55; Be’ur Halacha to 370:3). In our case, even if the hospital cannot remove a patient from the hospital, he can move him from room to room, which might be enough to allow carrying because no room “belongs” to him. 

Another factor that might help is tefisat yad, i.e., the owner retains usage of the room he gave to another, by means of keeping there an object of his that cannot be readily moved from the room on Shabbat due to size or muktzeh status (Shulchan Aruch, 370:2). This might apply to some of the furniture or medical equipment in the room (see Igrot Moshe, OC I:141). On the other hand, some argue that furniture in a furnished rental is not tefisat yad, as it is part of the rental (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 17:(58)). Application of this idea to hospital settings can be complex.

Another unifying factor is if all the units share a service (e.g., fed from one kitchen, laundry service), although this may not be a sufficient leniency on its own (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 370:4 and Mishna Berura 370:33).

By applying the above principles, one can presume that he can carry from a room to the halls and other rooms in a hospital (see Netivot Shabbat 34:13; Eiruvin 46a). A hospital chaplain can look into its specific setup and act to remove all doubt if there is some need or to placate the overly nervous.

לעילוי נשמת יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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