By S. Friedman
Often, at the workplace, I am informally quizzed about some Jewish custom or more commonly in regards to a holiday. A common rejoinder to my descriptions of a Jewish practice and particular customs is, “wow, why do you have so many rules?” While at times I point to the “Bible,” in reality many of the “rules” we abide by are rabbinic in nature. Why so many rules indeed?
Many of the rabbinic ordinances are designed to protect existing Torah prohibitions- siyug laTorah. But what about self imposed restrictions, the chumros? I believe that therein lies more than just an additional layer of practical protection against Torah prohibitions.
Imposing more restrictions and going the proverbial extra mile in mitzvah observance is something that displays the understanding of what is being asked of us. Hash-m gave us a “rule book” in order to be good Jews. The implied nature of keeping chumros is that “good” isn’t good enough. An elevated fear of Hash-m leads to placing extra safeguards on top of what is already baseline halacha. In regards to positive mitzvos, taking added measures to ensure that a mitzvah is observed to umpteenth degree (such as taking pains to procure a supreme esrog) displays a genuine affection and devotion to fulfilling His wishes. We don’t merely check off a To Do list from a demanding Boss; we love our Creator.
As we approach the Yom Hadin to proclaim Hash-m’s sovereignty over all creation and to supplicate Him that He grant us a good year, the above bears weight on the outcome. We don’t want merely a good year; good isn’t good enough.
We want all those sick healed, and the healthy to keep it that way. We want engagements, happy marriages, growing families, comfortable livelihoods, security, nachas et al.
Our argument to be on the receiving end of inordinate brocho is that we go above and beyond in so many ways. We keep shmiras haloshon times. We have charitable activities and monies that are the gold standard of mankind. We have tznius gatherings to raise standards. Kashrus is not only observed, it is a well oiled machine that has cholov yisroel, yoshon, etc… readily available to all. There are countless shuirim, yeshivas, and support of Torah. People run after Torah sages for their blessings and guidance.
I would like to humbly bring to the table a trump card, if you will.
We are facing a challenge to the foundations of our society like we haven’t seen in decades: the internet. While many have decried the potential pitfalls of the plethora of filth and over access that the internet can expose someone to, this past spring we did something about it.
The gathering at CitiField was not one that was halachic in nature, it was about imposing stricter guidelines. I say that we “did” something because the mere fact that such a gathering occurred brought unprecedented attention to the matter, but it also caused change. Families and businesses got filters. People got stronger filters. Some gave up their internet, while others closed the social media accounts. It was a massive Kiddush Hash-m that showed that the accepting the status quo did not suffice. We made even more rules because good just wasn’t enough.
Now, we make the same argument and ask Hash-m that He also should change the current state of affairs for the better. Not just merely a good year, but a great one.