Shabbat Shalom!

Parashat Ki Teitzei

Building a Wall

September 16, 2016

Dear Friends:

One of the most conspicuous signs of a Jewish home is the Mezuza on the doorpost. While sometimes people think that the essence of the mitzvah is affixing the decorative case on the doorpost, the important part of the Mezuza is what’s inside: a small scroll with the first two paragraphs of the Shema, hand written on parchment by a qualified Sofer.

When one moves out of a house, the Mezuza should be removed from the doorpost and taken with you if a non-Jew is moving in. If a Jew is moving in, the Mezuza should be left in place. When you move into a house or apartment you don’t have to put the Mezuzaon the doorpost immediately, but should not wait more than thirty days.
The Torah is insistent, however, about another mitzvah that must be performed before moving into a new home: the mitzvah of putting up a “parapet” around the roof.

Most people today live in homes with slanted roofs and may not be familiar with the concept of a “parapet”. A “parapet” is a low wall or fence built around the circumference of a flat roof. In ancient days people used to do a fair amount of living and sleeping on top of their homes, especially in hot weather. The parapet was a protective device which prevented people from accidentally falling off.

While the Torah did not insist that a Mezuza be in place before one moved into a home, it did insist on a parapet. The Torah’s concern was seemingly very practical. The parapet protected life and limb.
Dr. Evil

As is well-known, however, the Torah can be interpreted in a multiplicity of ways. The commentatorOr Leyesharim invites us go beyond the practical and to look at the law of the parapet from a midrashicperspective. He suggests that the letters of the Hebrew word for parapet, ma’aka, hint at a well-known Hebrew expression: hirhurei aveirah kashim mei’aveirah -“thinking about a transgression is more egregious than committing a transgression.”

Just as one builds a parapet around one’s roof to prevent potential harm to others, so should one “wall off” one’s heart and mind from evil thoughts to protect one’s own moral life.
Love your Neighbor

The Or Leyesharim’s comment is, or course, grossly illogical. From a practical and religious perspective, thinking about committing a sin is in no way as onerous as committing that sin. Yet the Or Leyesharim‘s counsel is serious. All actions begin in the heart. If one inclines one’s heart toward evil, one is more likely to do evil. If one fills one heart and mind with goodness and lovingkindness, one is more likely to act in ways which are pleasing before God and man.

That is one of the reasons why at the conclusion of the Amidah we pray to God: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, my Rock and my Redeemer.” We pray for purity of heart, as well as of action.
May God help all of us to make our inner life and outward deeds mirror one another.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

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