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Thought for the Day: When Two חצירות Are Two, One, and One and a Half

As you may know and/or recall, the intent of an עירוב is to give everyone in a חצר some shared ownership of the space.  A not so obvious corollary of that fact is that unless everyone in the חצר participates, there is no עירוב.  That fact leads to some very interesting discussions in the shulchan aruch itself about what happens when someone whose house opens to the חצר dies on (or just before) Shabbos, and even more fun ensues when the possibility that the heir will move in on Shabbos itself.

Before you can run, though, you need to walk.  Let's take 10 houses that are built around (and open into) a central חצר.  Either all 10 participate, or there is no עירוב.  Now build a solid brick wall that is about, oh... I don't know..., let's say 100' (30 m, if you are so inclined) tall right down the center of our חצר; five on each side, which we'll call the A and B sides for concreteness.  In that case, each side is on their own.  The A and B sides can each make an עירוב (with all 5 relevant houses, of course) or not; neither A nor B is sensitive in the least to what the other does.  One more relatively simple case by way of introduction: open a doorway between A and B that is less than the full width and less than 10 cubits wide, whichever is less.  In that case A and B can make their own עירוב, or they can decide to make a עירוב together.

Now let's have a bit more fun.  Scale back that wall to a simple chain link fence that is just 10 טפחים/handbreadths (35", give or take) high.  Since it is 10 טפחים high, that is enough to separate the חצירות.  Obviously lowering the fence make them into one חצר.  Perhaps slightly less obvious is that lowering fence for a run up to 10 cubits wide is just as good as a doorway.  A drop even less obvious is that putting steps or even a ladder on each side of the fence -- directly across from each other, of course -- is also as good as a doorway.

Now transform that fence into a brick wall, still 10 טפחים, but with a usable flat top.  If it is still less than 4 טפחים across, the top of the wall is a מקום פטור and residents of each side may put objects on it and take them down.  If A and B each made an עירוב among themselves, then they can actually take objects from their respective houses and them there, or vice versa.  If they did not, then they can only move objects from the חצר to the wall top.  Under no circumstances may they use the top of the wall to transfer objects from one חצר to the other.  (Well... there are circumstances, but those are outside the scope of the present work... hee, hee, hee)

If the top of the wall is four טפחים or more across, however, then the top of that wall is essentially another חצר.  Since is it equally accessible to the residents of each חצר, neither the residents of A nor the residents of B are allowed to place items on it nor take them down.  On the other hand, if one side (say, A; I mean, why not?) builds a ladder or staircase that is either fixed in place or heavy enough to not be easily moved (so one can be reasonably certain it will remain for the entire Shabbos), then the residents of A can use the top of the wall for their stuff, but B can't.

Now get this... if B also builds a ladder or stair case (same conditions as above), then -- since they again both have equal access, neither can use the top of the wall.  Unless, of course, they make an עירוב between them, which they can do because their ladders or stairs (needn't be the same on both sides) have made themselves a doorway (portal for you Star Trek and Harry Potter fans).  And now, since the wall is so darn wide (across), the ladders or stairs do not need to be directly across from each other.

I know, I know... so darn cool you want me to keep going on and on and on...


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