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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Letters To The Editor

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While I think I understand Rabbi Stone’s point, I feel he is placing himself on a very dangerous slope. After all, what is Judaism? What is any religion? It is all about setting boundaries, not abandoning boundaries. What is Shabbos? Shabbos is a very important – and for some people unfortunately insurmountable – boundary. What is muktzah? Put simply, muktzah is the sages setting a boundary or fence on what you can touch or move so that you ultimately don’t cross the “real” boundary of violating the Sabbath itself.

Consider other basic tenets of Judaism. What is keeping kosher? What is not eating chametz on Passover? What is fasting on Yom Kippur? All of those are boundaries on what we may put in our mouths. Every law, every custom, every chumrah of Judaism is nothing more or less than setting boundaries.

What is the primary function of both parents and teachers? In a real sense, one could say their function is setting boundaries. The difficult job is determining what those boundaries should be and how flexibly they should be enforced.

Think about secular law. It is all about boundaries. The current fight over gun control is a fight over boundaries. Even things as simple as traffic laws – speed limits, stopping at red signals, etc. – are all boundaries. Without boundaries, we have anarchy.

What was bad about Egyptian slavery was not even the slavery. We talk about Moses as an “eved Hashem” – a slave of God. What was bad about Egypt was who set the boundaries (Pharaoh) and what those boundaries were. I think we remember the exodus every day to recall which boundaries are important and which ones are not.

As someone once pointed out, there is “freedom from” and “freedom for.” Judaism obviously believes in freedom for doing mitzvos and maybe, as Rabbi Stone notes, freedom for doing mitzvos with warmth.

Harold Marks
(Via E-Mail)

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