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Fences Around Fences


Ask my mother how old she is and you'll get a multiple of 5. My mum has never had a problem growing old because the minute she turns a multiple of 10, she quotes the next multiple of 5. After her 50th birthday, anyone asking her how old she was would be told she was 55. Rounding up.

It's a fence around a fence. A psychological gating to ensure she's emotionally safe with those around her. By the time 55 came around she was ready to say she was 60, having had 5 years of answering the same number.

Jews are really good with fences. They're biblical. One example is that we are commanded to put fences around the edges of every tall roof to prevent someone from falling off: it's in Leviticus (like most other mitzvot).

Our society demands these Judeo-Christian principles. They've been codified into every town's bylaws by our elected officials for centuries now. Actually, should someone fall off an unfenced edge, it is the proprietor that is faulted.

Where Jews are exceptionally brilliant, in my opinion, is that they find a way to build fences around fences. Not only do they respect the Law, they build customs and traditions to stay well clear of the Law. They're like my mom rounding up her age, or like people who set their watches fast by 5 minutes to ensure they're never late, or like the subway dock's yellow line that urges us to step back a few feet from the edge of the platform, or like orange traffic lights.

Eighteen minutes before Shabbat starts, every Jew and Messianic's Shabbat timers go off. It's tradition. Not just Shabbat, but keeping the Shabbat early.

Our society rules by them, too. Trespass on someone's property without a visible "No Trespassing" sign and the police won't come, but put up a sign and quick action will follow the trespasser.

Take video of someone without warning them you have cameras and no court will admit the footage as evidence. Warn them? And the evidence is reviewed.

Burn yourself on a cup of hot coffee that doesn't say "Caliente! Hot!" and you can sue McDonald's for millions.

But also for emotional welfare. Write a tough reply email? Send it to yourself and let it sit in your drafts box for a few days before sending it. Emotional space. Time to cool off. Time for the situation to evolve before taking action. Gating for psychological wellness. But do reply, nothing is worse than silence: that's a no fence situation in ensuring good relationships with anyone and everyone.

I find the devil can't stand those double-fenced in people. He's got enough demonpower shortage in enforcing the Law with those who are Law-abiding, never mind those who are abiding of traditions that keep them well clear of the Law.

I also find those living within double fences are quick to garner the support of not just law enforcement when there's trespassing, but of all those around. Missing the warning, okay, but missing the warning and breaking the Law? Well...

Fences in fences. It's not enough to follow the Law. It's about steering clear of the Law. The limit is actually not the limit. The limit is before that.

Maybe that's the secret to not just aging gracefully but also being well presented with ample grace and shalom: fences within fences.

Meanwhile there's all the "right on the fence" people arguing and never getting peace. Hmmm.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

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