Spiritual Acrophobia (Fear of Heights)

Thursday, 4 September, 2014 - 12:46 pm

Every single aspect of the Torah, every verse, every law, every story, every word and even letter, can be understood at multiple levels and methods of application. One the four major methods of Torah application is called Remez – allegory. The principle of Remez is finding an application for the verse, law etc. in an arena that is seemingly unrelated. The real challenge with Remez is to find not only a general application in the seemingly unrelated arena but also to find application for the specifics.

I would like to share a Remez application from this week’s Torah portion that can teach us an important life lesson, with a lagniappe lesson from a specific detail.

The Torah instructs us “When you build a new house, you shall make a guard rail for your roof, so that you shall not cause blood [to be spilled] in your house, lest the one who falls should fall from it [the roof].” The Sifri (a Halachic Midrashic work) teaches, that this Mitzvah also applies to the building of a Sanctuary (Beit Hamikdash). The actual Temple was required to have a guardrail for its roof. (See for more on this requirement.)

The Kabbalistic work, Shelah, explains that the Remez in this verse/law is as follows. The roof of one’s home represents pride (the sense of being elevated over others). The Torah commands us to curb our pride “lest the one who falls should fall.” Arrogance is the root of all evil. One who is arrogant can already be termed “one who falls.” When one places no “guardrail” around the roof of arrogance, the Torah guarantees that there will be a “fall” from it.  

Now this is obvious when it comes to arrogance stemming from material achievements. What about pride in spiritual growth? Is not self-confidence an important element in spiritual development? Does it not give us the strength we need to confront obstacles? To this Torah says that even the Sanctuary roof needs a guardrail. While having a roof to help us rise higher and higher is a positive thing, it should never lead a person to feel a sense of personal superiority. The evil of conceit is not exclusive to the material. "Righteous conceit" places one at equal risk of downfall.  

Just a little stroll down Remez lane…

May you and your loved ones be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy, prosperous and meaningful new year of 5775!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Comments on: Spiritual Acrophobia (Fear of Heights)

Mary A. Hall wrote...

Although I am not Jewish, I would like to wish you & your family a wonderful new year, I would also like to thank you for your meaningful words every week.
Shabbat Shalom