June 6, 2024
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June 6, 2024
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Rabbi Yaakov Bender takes security for his yeshiva, Darchei Torah, very seriously. Two Israeli ex-security personnel contacted the yeshiva, offering to enhance his campus security. He told them that the yeshiva’s security is top notch and doesn’t need any improvements. The next day, Rabbi Bender entered his office and found the two Israelis sitting there. “How did you get in here?” he asked. “I think you need some improvements,” they responded. Rabbi Bender hired them.

Before giving the Torah, Hashem warned Bnei Yisrael to cordon off the mountain, Har Sinai. In fact, Hashem warned them twice. Why was it so critical to fence off the mountain? Hashem had warned Bnei Yisrael not to come close to the mountain, since contact with the mountain when Hashem’s presence was resting on it would be lethal! So why the fences? Shouldn’t the warnings have sufficed?

Rabbeinu Yonah explains that fences and safeguards regarding the Torah are critical because they demonstrate fear of Hashem. When people are aware of the severity of transgressing a mitzvah from Hashem, they will take precautionary measures to ensure that they are protected and blocked from even accidentally transgressing.

Barriers demonstrate the value of the item being protected, or the potential danger it poses if it is not properly approached. A nuclear reactor has signs and warnings miles away. Security checkpoints begin popping up as you get closer. Only fully trained and authorized individuals are allowed to enter.

The need for fences and safeguards is one of the first lessons taught in Pirkei Avos by Anshei Keneses HaGedolah (The Men of the Great Assembly, who passed decrees to ensure the survival of the Jewish People). A person needs to create safeguards regarding his observance of the Torah. The source for this is the warning from Hashem referred to above, to fence off Har Sinai to prevent people from coming in contact with it.

The Gemara says that a rabbinic halacha (law) is more stringent than a Biblical command! This seems counterintuitive. Rabbeinu Yonah explains that the main function of a rabbinic law is to provide a safeguard to prevent a person from violating the command of the Torah. These rabbinic laws represent how much we value and recognize the strictness of Torah law. They represent our yiras shamayim—fear of Heaven.

The same idea is expressed in Halacha with regard to a nazir, who is prohibited from eating or drinking any grape product. When approaching a vineyard, he must walk around it and not through it, to prevent him from being tempted to eat the grapes. Some people believe that this is a sign of weakness. However, the Torah is telling us the opposite: It’s a sign of strength, ensuring that a mitzvah will not be violated.

When I ask people if they have a filter on their phones or computers to block inappropriate content, many respond that they do not. They feel there’s no need, as they are never tempted to view any inappropriate sites. Some tell me they feel a filter is a sign of weakness. However, Hashem is teaching us that it’s just the opposite. A filter demonstrates that we’re being honest about our potential weaknesses. It demonstrates a true fear of Heaven.

Security fences, filters and alarms will not absolutely prevent people from accessing something forbidden. Face it—if someone really wants something, they can figure a way around fences. Let me illustrate with the following story.

When I was in high school, there were multiple break-ins. The Yeshiva installed a new security system with a special motion detector for the office. I told the principal I could get around it. The principal didn’t believe me. I offered a demonstration, and he took me up on my offer. I crawled on the floor from the door until I reached his desk. “Ok, fine,” he said, “but I doubt you can reach items on my desk or in my drawers without triggering the alarm.” Now the fun began. I slowly reached up and took the papers from on top of the desk. I then opened a drawer and took out the cash inside without triggering the alarm. My principal could not believe it.

I explained to the principal that, in New York City, they set the motion detector a few feet off the ground, so rodents don’t trigger it. Therefore, I was able to crawl around and by moving my hand slowly, I was even able to open the drawers to reach inside without triggering the alarm.

A filter is not for a person who wants to get around it. There are always ways around it. The filter is for someone who doesn’t want to accidentally do or see something inappropriate. It demonstrates a person’s yiras shamayim.

As we approach Shavuos, let’s recognize the infinite value of the Torah and its mitzvos. Let’s even consider upgrading our fences and safeguards to demonstrate the way we truly value the Torah as Hashem’s direction for living our lives.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com

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