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‘Setting Limits’

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Our permissive promiscuous world seems to be heading down that same slippery slope. All agree that, “we need change.” It has become the mantra and battle cry of all political parties. The disagreement is about what change is necessary. There is nothing that can salvage and save a morally bankrupt society except for the implementation of morals and restraint. Sadly, all of the vapid ideas we hear presented will do little to stem this trend.

Blessings are wonderful and we all pray that we merit a life of goodness and prosperity. But if one does not know how to handle the blessings he is granted, they can quickly become the greatest and most detrimental forces in a person’s life.

My Rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, often remarked, “I have been in the Rabbinate now for many decades. In that time I have seen how money can rip apart families, destroy parents and children, best friends, even grandparents and grandchildren. So everyone says, ‘let me blessed me with that curse.’ But I am witness to the fact that it is indeed often the greatest curse.”

When “good” is unbridled and without limit, it can have the most disastrous results. Within one thousand years of creation, in the generation of Noach, the world had sunk into a spiritual bankruptcy and morass beyond any hope of rectification. There was no longer any respect for people or property. The only thing that mattered was money, gratification, and indulgence. The world, which G-d founded on kindness and giving, could not continue to exist when its inhabitants became completely self-absorbed. The only hope for life and mankind was for that world to be destroyed and begun anew.

For the “good” of life to truly be positive, there must be built in restraints and protections so that one does not lose oneself in that good. It is only with those protective barriers that “good” becomes “very good.” Surely no one wants to suffer, but it is only because there is pain and difficulty in the world that we are able to appreciate our health and our wellbeing. In a similar vein, we all hope that we will merit eternal life in Gan Eden, but were it not for the fact that one who is sullied with sin and iniquity requires the purging of purgatory, most people would not seek a moral life of value and meaning. It is the fear of pain and suffering, and the knowledge that there is a Judge and a process of judgment, that grant us the ability to recognize and appreciate the blessings that we are endowed with. If man never needs to stop and rest, he would quickly forget his fragility and vulnerability. His need for sleep constantly reminds him that he is a temporal being with a mission to fulfill.

The creation of the world is the first subject read when the new cycle of Torah-reading begins. The lesson of what is “good” and what is “very good” touches on the greatness and centrality of Torah in our lives. Without the rigid boundaries and guidelines that the Torah dictates regarding every aspect of our lives, we would be unable to enjoy the wondrous and majestic creation that G-d created during those first six days.

If it can be eloquently said regarding child-rearing that, “If you want your children to have internal controls and inner freedom, you must first provide them with external controls,” it is surely true regarding life in general. If we want to have internal control and inner freedom, we must be meticulous to follow the “controls” that the Torah provides.

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.


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