If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof. (Devarim 22:8)

This Mitzvah seems pretty straightforward. Flat roofs were common and people used their roofs in various ways. In such a case, it is an obligation to build a fence so that no one should come to harm by falling off your roof. In the case of a sloping roof, it is not necessary, as people are supposed to be smart enough not to hang out on a slippery slope. 

Sefer Hachinuch explains that even though Hashem is guiding everything that happens through Divine Providence, still a person has to take precautions to protect themselves and others from accidents. When Hashem created the world, He built into it the laws of nature. As a result, if someone were to fall off a roof, in the nature of things he could die. It is therefore incumbent upon each one of us to take the necessary precautions. This Mitzvah extends to any situation where we can prevent harm from happening.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner in his work, Shalom Rav, quotes Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who derives a lesson from this verse related to our spiritual growth. He says that when people are inspired, they want to make major changes. It is natural for people to want to be the best they can be at whatever they do. Spirituality is the same. People want to be as spiritual as possible, and we want it now. However, he says that if a person jumps too high too quickly, they are likely to fall. We have to establish a fence around the roof, set boundaries for ourselves that are attainable and not try to jump past those boundaries too quickly. Do not set goals that are unattainable. Take small steps, and slowly but surely you will grow and achieve greater heights.

As we get closer to Rosh Hashanah, we are hopefully thinking about things we can change for the coming year. The month of Elul is the time for us to get inspired and strengthen our relationship with Hashem. If we want to make true, meaningful changes, then let’s start slowly. Pick one or two things that we are confident we can improve upon and work on those. Once those become second nature, it will be easier to move on to the next step.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Shaps