Here's Why 18 Miles of Fishing Line Circles Above the Streets of Manhattan

New York Religion News Culture
by Olivia Harden Jan 31, 2022

If you look closely, you might spot clear twine tied to utility poles in certain parts of Manhattan. Turns out it’s a fishing line with an important purpose. TikTok creator Norberto Briceño spots interesting things you’ll find in cities across the country. In a recent TikTok, he explained the fishing line in Manhattan.

An 18-mile fishing line connects 1st to 126th street. It’s part of Jewish Sabbath traditions, and the line is called an Eruv roof, which is a symbolic fence and boundary. Jews that observe the laws of the Sabbath are not allowed to carry anything from their private residence out into the public domain on Saturdays. That includes any essentials like a wallet, cellphone, and keys, to name a few. Exodus 16:29 asks Jewish people to stay in to rest on Saturdays. An eruv symbolically extends your private residence into the public domain so you can perform ordinary activities like taking your dog for a walk or carrying your child.

@norbertobriceno Kinda Interesting Things #8: The Fishing Line Above Manhattan #Eruv #hiddengems #hiddengemsnyc #nycsecrets #fyi #travel #nyc #history #exploringnyc ♬ original sound – Norberto Briceño

The eruv offers Jewish observers the opportunity to maintain the freedom to carry around important items. Every Thursday a rabbi will check the eruv before dawn to confirm it’s intact. The eruv was invented 2000 years ago, and there are over 200 cities around the world with similar eruvs. Manhattan’s is the most expensive to maintain according to NPR, costing between $125,000 and $150,000 each year. The reason it’s so expensive is there are often breaks in the line that require a construction company to be called and a rabbi to get in a cherry picker with fishing line to fix it.

The effort has paid off. Rabbi Mintz told NPR in 2019 that the eruv has never been down for a Sabbath.

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