Eruv and Sectarianism in Ancient Judaism: Introduction
The purpose of the presentation that follows is to argue that the Qumran sectarians, usually identified as the Essenes described by Josephus and other Greek-writing authors, prohibited carrying from domain to domain on the Sabbath, basing themselves on certain biblical passages, and that these ancient Jewish sectarians did not have an institution such as the eruv to mitigate the difficulties caused by this prohibition. Further, we will argue that the combination of this prohibition with the absence of an institution to ease the difficulties that it presents characterizes the exegetical trend of the priestly, Zadokite-Sadducee form of Jewish law, as opposed to that of the Pharisaic-rabbinic trend that developed the laws of the eruv. In making this argument, we do not intend to deny the wider ramifications of the institution of the eruv in terms of the nature of the Jewish community and its patterns of residence. Rather, our main argument is intended to show that the eruv is a Pharisaic-rabbinic device in its origins and function. While much of the research to be discussed here was already put forward in my 1975 volume, The Halakhah at Qumran, more recently published texts have confirmed a variety of readings and indicated that the prohibition on carrying was widely documented in Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts. More recent studies, some published by this author, have indicated that there are essentially two trends in Second Temple Jewish law, and the presence of the sectarian view in the book of Jubilees and its preservation among the Samaritans, Karaites and Falashas is further confirmation that this is the approach of the Zadokite-Sadducee legal system.
Before entering into the main body of our study, it is necessary to indicate that the eruv we are discussing here is the eruv hatzerot, the mingling of courtyards, that is, residence areas, intended to permit carrying from one private domain to the next or into what may appear to be public domains until the eruv is instituted. Technically, the rabbinic eruv is being used to permit carrying in areas that after enclosure, are no longer public domains or rather constitute the intermediate domain, termed by the rabbis karmelit. In Talmudic law there are two other eruvin that will not be discussed in this presentation. One is the eruv tavshilin which allows cooking on a festival for a Sabbath that follows. Another is the eruv tehumin, “the mingling of boundaries,” the eruv that allows one to carry more than 2000 cubits beyond the limits of a settled area. While we will not be discussing this eruv either, it is worth noting that evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls points to rejection of this rabbinic innovation as well.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this series.