Archive for November 4th, 2010

T’chum Shabbos

Current location of the waystation within the boundaries of the t'chum shabbos, about .1 mile from our home (click on photos for larger view)

We do not have an eruv boundary marker around our property, which would enable us to carry objects outside (including things in our pockets) on Shabbos.  It’s not such an issue for us, since we don’t have small children who need to be pushed in a stroller or held in our arms outside on Shabbos, nor do we need to carry stuff.  It would be a bit complicated having an eruv here, because we’d have to bushwhack through thick woods to check it each week to ensure it hadn’t been blown down by the frequent gale-force winds or by heavy snowfall.  I also don’t relish having to check it when it’s –25F in the winter  or in the spring, when the blackflies and mosquitoes will eat us alive.

There are certain halachos (Jewish laws) about how far one may walk on Shabbos if one is not in a city,  even if one is not carrying anything on one’s person.  We do enjoy going for walks on Shabbos and wanted to know how far we could proceed without being in conflict with halacha.  It’s a pretty technical halacha and one that I am fairly ignorant about, so if the following explanation is inarticulate or too technical,  please forgive me.  I encourage you to learn more about this topic from your local rabbi!

If one’s home is Point A, then Point B most not be further than 2,000 amos (an amah is a measurement from Talmudic times of about 18″; so 2,000 amos is the equivalent of approximately 3,000 feet).  One sets up a “way-station,” within a t’chum shabbos, in the direction of where the 2,000 amos lies, in order to “extend” the boundaries of one’s home by a maximum of 2,000 amos so one can walk that much beyond the original boundary.   This “way-station” consists of any two types of food from which a person could theoretically have a meal.

Because of the thick woods and extreme weather,  I had to choose not only food that would survive the elements, but also a container to put it in that would not be destroyed by bears or other wildlife.  I decided upon an unused metal paint can with a metal lid, which could be easily sealed and hung on a tree.  Finding such a can was quite an adventure in itself – most unused paint buckets today are made of plastic, which are not bear-proof – but I found a metal can at Lowe’s.  For the food I chose a protein bar and a can of tuna with a pop-top lid.

The metal paint can we used to hold the food within the boundaries of the t'chum shabbos. I marked the word "Shabbos" in yellow electrical tape.

I walked with my son-in-law through the woods to an area we thought might approximate where the way-station within the t’chum shabbos should go. We hooked the paint can to a tree stump, about 4’ off the ground.  That was back in August.  Now that we’re here for a longer stay, I thought I had better check and see if the can was still intact and unmolested.  This time I took my husband along, because he had a great idea for checking to ensure the chosen location was valid.

Holding a topographical GPS (such as those that hikers use), he marked the location of our house.  Then we went  looking for the place I had put the paint can.  I couldn’t find it on the first try!  But after about 15 minutes of searching, we came to a second clearing that looked similar to the first, and lo and behold, there was the tree stump with the undisturbed paint can! My husband then marked the location of the can on his topo GPS.  Then we continued our walk to the end point of 2000 amos, once again marking the location on the GPS.

Along the way we saw this interesting mushroom.  I think it looks like either a sea anemone or a brain!

As we proceeded further, we saw fresh evidence of moose.

By now our dog, who loves to walk with us in the woods, was covered in thorns, burrs, and nettles from the dried underbrush.  In Maine, although annoying and sometimes painful, even the weeds are beautiful!

Seeds encapsulated in cotton-like fluff sit amongst colorful thorny brambles

We returned home, and printed out a topo map with the three marked locations from the topo GPS.  We noticed that the can had not been placed at the midpoint, but the location was good enough to allow us to walk to the inn on Shabbos within the boundary of the t’chum.

Topo GPS map of house, inn, the location of t'chum, and midpoint

So,  if you go for a hike in a remote area of the Maine woods and come across a metal paint can marked “Shabbos”  that is hanging on a tree,  feel free to have some tuna and a protein bar!

T'chum Shabbos way-station can is encircled in red