Fenced In by Isaac Shulman


The last Pasuk in Parashat Acharei Mot reads, “UShemartem Et Mishmarti LeVilti Asot MeiChukot HaToeivot Asher Naasu Lifneichem VeLo Titameu Bahem Ani Hashem Elokeichem,” “You shall safeguard My charge not to do any of the abominable traditions that were done before you and not contaminate yourselves through them; I am Hashem, your God” (VaYikra 18:30).  Chazal derive from this Pasuk the importance of creating a “fence,” certain protective measures, around the Mitzvot so that we do not come to violate them.  A question arises: why do we need to create a fence around the Mitzvot?  Why can we not just rely on our behavior to steer us away from violating Mitzvot?

There are two ideas that would explain why we need to build a fence around Hashem’s Mitzvot.  The first explanation is that the point of the fence is to prevent us from getting into a situation where an Aveirah is an easy option or a way out. As an analogy, if there were a cliff and one wanted to set up a fence to prevent little children from running off the cliff, the fence would not be set up at the edge of the cliff to prevent children from falling off, but rather a few feet away so as to prevent children from even getting close to a situation that would be dangerous.  Similarly, with Hashem’s Mitzvot, we must make sure that we are not in a situation that is considered “dangerous.”

Another way to explain why we need a fence for the Mitzvot is that Hashem’s Mitzvot are extremely precious and must therefore be treated with care.  Instead of looking at it as a fence, we can look at it is a safeguard to protect the Mitzvot.  Just as we would safeguard an extremely expensive and precious piece of jewelry and not leave it out to be broken by a little kid or stolen, we must do the same for the Mitzvot; they are just as precious to us as a rare and expensive piece of jewelry is and since we love them so much we must protect them from our breaking or transgressing of them.

As we embark upon the holiday of Pesach, during which the requirements seem nearly impossible, we must understand that the rabbis, in their great wisdom, have set up a system that ensures the continuation of tradition and the continued success of the Jewish people; we must also realize that fences are a crucial part of our success.

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