Choosing a life of rules and guidelines: A perspective

Rebbetzin Goldie Simpson

Great Park Shul

When you bring the nation out of Egypt, you will serve G-d upon this mountain. (Exodus 3:12)

בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת הָעָם מִמִּצְרַיִם תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת הָאֱלֹקִים עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה. (שמות ג:יב)

There is no free person except one who occupies himself with Torah learning. (Pirkei Avot 6:2)

שאין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתלמוד תורה. (אבות ו:ב)

Years ago my family and I hiked a challenging trail in the Drakensberg Mountains. We eagerly anticipated the breath-taking views that awaited us at our destination. We finally reached the top - but what a disappointment! We could hardly see the view at all for the cliff-face had no rail to keep us from falling. We stood back well aware of the danger, too consumed with trying to stay safe to appreciate the magnificent scene. Then my brother spotted a fence that had been constructed.

Excitedly we moved towards the fence, from where we could finally tune into the spectacular view.

Since then we often speak about that fence. Fences may denote restriction; we may feel that they are there to get in our way or block our view. But as with the fence atop the mountain, Torah’s rules and guidelines are a gift bestowed upon us for our own benefit. They are the tools that allow us to be the best we can be. Torah and mitzvot empower each of us to live a holy, beautiful and meaningful life.

Our ancestors served Pharaoh in Egypt. They were set free - but only for the purpose of committing themselves at Mount Sinai to serving Hashem. What kind of freedom is that? Why leave one type of servitude for another?

Our ancestors recognised that while their servitude in Egypt was like a cruel, confining fence, their commitment to serving Hashem would open up a world of unlimited possibilities for growth, self-actualisation and making a difference in the world.

While COVID-19 has caused so much change, it hasn’t changed our core purpose for existence: to make a difference in this world. Torah guidelines and teachings liberate us to do just that. This Shavuot may we open our eyes to the joy and beauty of Torah living.

©2019 by The Office of The Chief Rabbi