In our Parshah there are 72 mitzvot, this is the largest number of mitzvot in one Parshah in the whole Torah. One of the commandments is to build a railing on the roof. “When you will build a new house, you have to make a railing for your roof, and you will not put blood in your house.” The simple understanding is, in order to prevent falls from the roof of the house, the Torah commands to make a safety railing.
Our holy Torah is called ‘Torat Chaim’ – Torah that is relevant to our daily life, giving us instructions to live better lives as Jews. We can understand this commandment on another level as well.
In life, there are situations when one is “building a new house.” For example, when we turn to a new direction in our life and go out into the big world, to the temptations and daily difficulties, and we need new powers to deal with the new reality. The Torah advises: “And you made a railing for your roof.” Do not think that if until now you have withstood different roofs, you are guaranteed and protected from the new difficulties.
You must make a new ‘rail’. You are now moving to a ‘new home’, entering into a new situation and the challenges it brings, and you must set up new fences for yourself, so that you do not end up in the situation of ‘falling down’.
In fact, the transition to a ‘new home’ exists, in a certain sense, every day. This is the transition from the morning atmosphere where the person is protected in his home or in the synagogue. He puts on a tefillin and prays for himself and for his family, and later on he goes to work, for his livelihood and other needs, dealing with all of the streets’ consequences. So, what is the strength of the railing? In that it’s stronger than man himself. If we trusted man himself, we wouldn’t need a railing. The need for a railing comes precisely from the fear that self-care will not be enough, and therefore it is necessary to protect the person with a railing, which can stop him from falling.
Likewise, the spiritual ‘railing’ should be stronger than the person himself, his intellect, and his emotions. When a person embarks on a new direction in his life, he cannot be satisfied with his mental powers and his personal understanding. He must protect himself with a “railing” – with firm and strong decisions that will never be shaken. One of the most effective methods is to study Torah and to be in permanent contact and have deep relationships with a real spiritual leader. Especially now. Before Rosh Hashanah we must take the opportunity to make good decisions and to grow to the next level in our spiritual life.
Rabbi Refael Cohen