The Spiritual Fence
In this week's portion, we learn about a person who takes a Nazirite vow, committing to abstain from wine. The Torah does not recommend this. Abstaining from any pleasure in this world is a denial of God's goodness. Nonetheless, one who makes such a vow is bound by it.
By taking such a vow, the Torah says that not only may he not drink wine, but he also may not eat grapes, raisins and even grape seeds and skins! Why?
This is not about adding unnecessary hardships. Rather, the Torah is creating a fence to protect the Nazirite from falling foul of his own vow. Wine is a strong temptation. If he is forbidden even to eat grape skins, he will never come close to drinking wine.
We learn from this the importance of making fences to protect our spiritual well-being. The Sages have made many fences for us, but suggest that we also make our own, too.
When it comes to the material world, we are great at making fences, carefully guarding our physical possessions. To protect our money, there is no better protected building than a bank. We also make fences for things that may harm us: Bottles of poison are clearly marked, have difficult-to-open caps and are locked well away. If you've ever been to the Golan Heights, you will have seen acres of very well fenced-off minefields. We wouldn't want someone wandering in.
Unfortunately, we are not always as careful in guarding our spiritual possessions. Do we make fences to ensure that we are not slipping spiritually, never mind actually growing? Do we make fences to ensure we spend enough time with our families; to ensure we are not falling in to the trap of "living to work" as opposed to "working to live"? Do we make fences to help us live on the moral level that we would like to?
Try spending the first half hour, after you return from work, with your family. That's a good fence. If not, you will find yourself in bed wondering where the time went that you really were intending to spend. Or take half an hour a month to remember what exactly you are living for - to check that you haven't gone off track.
There are so many good fences, if only we would bother to make them.
We all have tremendous spiritual wealth that can slowly slip away if not fenced in. There are also many spiritual poisons. If we don't lock them away in well-marked bottles, we may inadvertently partake of them. Making a fence is the best way to protect what we have. If we refrain from making them, it is at our peril.