Rabbinic Fences

August 20, 2011 | by Aish.com

What is the point of the rabbis adding their own layers of restrictions?

I can appreciate the rules and mitzvot as they appear in the Torah. But when the rabbis start adding their own layers of restrictions, I feel encroached upon. What is the point of all this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

If there's a hole in the middle of the street, the municipality comes and erects a fence so no one will get hurt by falling in. The purpose of a fence is to guard and protect, to keep us safe from danger.

The Sages are empowered to make "protective fences." This is part and parcel of the Torah, and is not considered extra. (Though of course, the Sages will specify that their fence is rabbinic in nature, to avoid confusion with the Torah law.)

As one example, the Torah says: "Do not boil a kid in it's mother's milk." On a Torah level, this only refers to meat from the three domesticated animals - cow, goat and sheep. However, since people "intuitively" associate chicken as "meat," we also do not mix chicken and milk. This "rabbinic fence" was accepted by the entire Jewish people as binding law.

If we appreciate the severity of transgressing the Torah (a sensitivity which has, unfortunately, been lost to many people today), then we will understand how absolutely vital these rabbinic fences are.

I hope this helps explain.




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