Don’t Put Your Guests at Risk

“….When you build a new house you shall make a guardrail for your roof, so as not to cause blood in your house when the faller will fall from it….” (Devarim 22:8)

   כי תבנה בית חדש ועשית מעקה לגגך ולא תשים דמים בביתך כי יפל הנפל ממנו  – דברים כב, ח

 

This verse speaks of building a home not as a possibility, but as an eventuality: “when you build a new home”. In addition to its literal meaning, this is also the Torah’s blessing and charge to each Jew: to establish a Jewish home in the broader sense by creating an environment in which Judaism thrives and flourishes. Divine Providence has singled you out for a specific range of acquaintances and areas of influence. You may therefore not suffice with the “homes” that have already been built or are being built by others. There is a “new house”, a Jewish environment that you – and no one before or after you – can create.

Ki Teitzei

Though we are charged with this sacred duty, we are simultaneously warned by the Torah to keep our “rooftops” in check. Allowing ourselves to raise the roof with an unbridled and inflated ego poses a risk not only to our personal spiritual wellness, but also to those in our sphere of influence, who seek shelter in the “new house” which we create. “Words that are spoken from the heart enter the heart of the listener (Shelah 69a).” If our efforts to draw others to Judaism come from a pure and altruistic place within us, then we can be certain that we will succeed. But if our words are tainted with agendas of personal satisfaction, then we have no such guarantee. Worse yet, arrogance – even if caused by our spiritual accomplishments – can cause the listener to turn away entirely from the much-needed shelter that we can offer and provide.

This is the inner meaning of the obligation to place a guardrail on the roof. Only by curbing our self-pride, even from our good and holy work in teaching Torah, can we succeed in saving others from spiritual decline.

 

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 24, pp. 142-144

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