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PIRKEI AVOT 3:13 – FENCES

בס”ד

Pirkei Avot 3:13

רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר, שְׂחוֹק וְקַלּוּת רֹאשׁ, מַרְגִּילִין לְעֶרְוָה. מָסֹרֶת, סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה. מַעַשְׂרוֹת, סְיָג לָעשֶׁר. נְדָרִים, סְיָג לַפְּרִישׁוּת. סְיָג לַחָכְמָה, שְׁתִיקָה

Rabbi Akiva said: Merriment and frivolity accustom one to sexual licentiousness; Tradition is a fence to the Torah; Tithes a fence to wealth, Vows a fence to abstinence; A fence to wisdom is silence.

Merriment and frivolity accustom one to sexual licentiousness

The prohibition of forbidden sexual relations is one of the seven Noahide Commandments. We must be aware of what is and is not permitted. Most people, thankfully, will understand why adultery is prohibited. What people are less aware of is that it is acceptable to erect barriers in their lives in order to avoid these temptations. Sexual demands of a human being are (sometimes) such a basic drive that, when tempted, people would make up “logical” arguments to give into to this temptation, with all the negative repercussions. Fences symbolize modesty and solitude.

Modesty: Both men and women should dress modestly. That is, clothes should not be too tight, the neckline should reach the collarbones, the sleeves should reach the elbows, and the skirt (or pants) should cover the knees.[1]

Rabbi Moshe Weiner write[2]:

“Its forbidden for an man to seclude himself with another man’s wife. In the daytime, the prohibition of seclusion only applies in a closed place, or in an area where it is unlikely that anyone else will pass by. But in a place where the door is open or there is a large window that is uncovered, and it is likely that a person will pass by and see all that is happening in the room with clear visibility, there is no prohibition for forbidden partners to be alone together in that place…but where these conditions are not met, and it is not possible for people to see what transpires inside, or there are no passersby who will be able to see into the room, the restrictions against seclusion applies. If the door is closed but not locked, and there are regular people coming in and out during the hours that the man and woman are together inside, there is no prohibition of seclusion…if this is not the case, the closed door is considered as if it is locked, and the prohibition of seclusion applies.”


Tradition is a fence to the Torah

People who are unfamiliar with the Rabbinic tradition may claim that the fences were “just devised by the rabbis” and do not need to be carried out. What is often missed is that the fences are based on the Oral Torah. When G-d gave Moses the Written Torah, he also gave him the Oral Torah. As the phrase goes, this was passed down orally to all subsequent generations. That is why it is referred to as “tradition”. Until it was written down, that is. It was written down during the exile because the Rabbis were afraid that the Oral Torah would be lost otherwise.[3]


Tithes a fence to wealth

“By tithing one’s produce properly, one can ensure that he will grow rich.” By extension, according to the rabbis, one who wishes to succeed should give greater charity.”[4] The 7 Noahide Commandments include no mention of charitable giving. However, it falls under the category of logical mitzvot that Noahide can (should) follow because they are beneficial to society. Furthermore, it makes a person aware that all he receives is from Hashem and that he should use it for good, including charity.


Vows a fence to abstinence

One must use caution when making a vow. After all, once said, one must also follow through on what one has promised, and regretting it later causes complications. However, it is occasionally beneficial to make a vow if one believes that by doing so, one will be able to unlearn a bad habit or adopt a good habit. For example, you may promise to donate 5 euros in a charity box every time you translate a falsehood. This could be a way for both of you to unlearn your lying.


A fence to wisdom is silence

Most people have a habit of talking, talking, and talking some more. It is critical to pay attention throughout a class and to interrupt the speaker as little as possible. Make a note of your query or feedback. When you interrupt a speaker or wait for an opportunity to interrupt, you are no longer paying attention to what is being said. An interruption frequently eliminates some of the coherence from what the teacher is trying to explain. Other people following the lesson are disturbed in their listening and thus in their learning. So wisdom begins with listening in silence and asking questions and comments at the appropriate time.


By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources;

[1] See also the blog: Modesty
[2] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, 4e edition p. 466
[3] See also the blogs: Exodus 19:9 – Mesorah – Chain of Transmission
Noahides and the Oral Torah
[4] English Explanation of Pirkei Avot 3:13:1


Texts: Sefaria.org

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