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Safety Net

Of the total 613 mitzvot enumerated in the Torah, 74 mitzvot are included in this week's parashah, more than in any other parashah in the Torah. As Moshe reminds the Children of Israel as they prepare to enter the land of Israel, Hashem has created many parameters for their behavior as they become an independent nation in the service of God. The commandments included in this parashah range in topics from the prohibition against marrying an Ammonite or Moabite to shooing away a mother bird before taking an egg from her nest. The mitzvot cover the ethics of wartime and laws of divorce, the laws of finding lost objects and the injunction against mixing species in agriculture, animal husbandry, and clothing. Within this vast and varied list of mitzvot, the Torah includes a special mitzvah for someone who has just built a new home. Every new home-construction project, the Torah commands, must take into account preventive safety measures. In particular, when building a new house, one is instructed to place a fence around the perimeter of his roof to ensure that anyone who walks on the roof can be safe. This law certainly highlights the Torah's concern for safety and clarifies the party on whom legal responsibility would fall in the event of an accident. This mitzvah demonstrates the Torah's proactive position for the "what ifs" in life. Many rabbinic commentaries note that while this mitzvah is a beautiful statement about the extent to which Judaism values human life, it is not necessarily a mitzvah that many will ever have the opportunity to fulfill; not every Jew is building a brand new home every day. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an 18th century Chassidic master, views this mitzvah metaphorically rather than literally. He comments that with every new situation, we build ourselves a new home and it is our responsibility to ensure that that "home" is safe from a spiritual or emotional fall. He recognizes that every person's life journey will include ups and downs and that falls are inevitable, but reiterates the necessity to put spiritual safety nets into place to guard against a serious setback.

 

Every day a child has the opportunity to build a new home in his or her classroom at Akiba. He or she can reach new heights intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. The faculty and staff work tirelessly to provide each student with a safe and stable environment to allow for such growth. We cast the safety net broadly, gently urging every child to recognize the possibility for change and growth in a stumble, and offer a hand to make sure that when someone falls, he or she can get right back up and start climbing again.


Shabbat Shalom