Lois Mondres has lived in a South Florida condominium for 25 years. For the past five years she has enjoyed maintaining a small vegetable garden. Mrs. Mondres grew lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale and tomatoes in a plot in front of her unit. The 82 year-old senior is a vegan and depended on her crop for the vegetables she ate.
Recently, Mondres had been bothered by an aching back. She could not tend her beloved garden. The pain from bending over was too severe.
Mondres tried to remedy the situation. She opted to have a contractor come in and raise her garden three feet off the ground so that she would be able to plant, pick and weed while standing up. Her homeowners association denied the request. They prohibited any construction outside the apartments.
The newfound “zero tolerance” mentality is one of the biggest dilemmas of the 21st century. A five-year-old kindergarten boy was expelled from school for sexual harassment: he kissed a girl on the hand. An elementary school student was suspended for breaking a nonviolence policy: he brought a plastic water pistol to class. The list goes on.
The Jewish take on this problem goes back to the early first century BCE, in the disagreements between the schools of Hillel and Shammai. Shammai’s analysis of halacha was restrictive and severe; Hillel’s was more moderate.
Remarkably, both were deemed to be valid. How could this be? How could they both be correct?
One dealt more with the letter of the law and one dealt more with the spirit. Hillel’s decrees, in general, became the go-to answer when there was a question. His viewpoint was thought to be more appropriate for the times.
Yes, rules are rules; however, common sense needs to reemerge as a factor in our society. Perhaps the homeowners association needs to plant some seeds of change.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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