The Music of Halacha: Infinite Boundaries Part Two
We ended Part One with me standing in middle of the forest in Lake Tahoe, having mistakenly steeped out of the Techum Shabbat – Shabbat Boundary. I knew that there were Halachic ways to return to the cabin despite leaving the Techum. I also knew that if I simply headed back to the cabin that I would miss the opportunity to have the type of conversation that my father zt”l had with the large family that arrived at our door just before Shabbat. There was another concern, perhaps the most important: I would miss the necessary lesson of the consequences of crossing the Shabbat boundary. I decided that I would remain where I was until I completed reviewing the laws regarding one who has crossed the Techum Shabbat:
1) If the person who crossed the Techum has to relieve himself, the penalty is temporarily lifted to allow him to go to the nearest facility in consideration of Kavod Habriot – Human Dignity. 2) Some authorities rule that he may return to his home even if there are closer facilities along the way. 3) Others allow him to go the closest Jewish home. 4) If the weather is unbearably hot or extremely cold, and it is untenable for him to remain he may go to the closest shelter.
1) My initial reaction to being stuck was a desperate need to relieve myself. Of course, Shabbat raised issues as to where. I didn’t have to worry about Kavod Habriot because I was in middle of a forest and no one could see me, but, I did have to worry about watering growth, and things were growing everywhere. Ironically, the moment I started thinking about the laws of relieving myself as an excuse to return to my cabin, the need disappeared.
My mind began to consider the idea of Kavod Habriot and to weigh when we focus on human dignity and when we apply the verse, “There is no wisdom, perception, or counsel against God’s Will.” For example; if I discover that my shirt has Shatnez, I must immediately remove it even if standing in public. My dignity is secondary to God’s law. My thoughts took me to the Beit Midrash and I forgot that I was stuck in middle of a forest.
2) I was lost and unsure whether the closest cabin was mine or someone else’s. Thank God for 3) as I was concerned that some of the cabins in the vicinity would not be too welcoming of a Jew.
4) My escape into the Beit Midrash was disturbed by extreme cold, and I decided that I had suffered the consequences, turned my situation into a learning experience, and could now head back to the cabin. I immediately was again desperate to relieve myself, and about to rush, but not too much – another Shabbat concern – unfortunately, I heard some growls. I was certain that it was a lion, or tiger, or bear, and didn’t want to move. I then figured that it was safer to confront a dangerous predator while there was still light. I carefully walked about 100 yards and saw my cabin; I had never crossed the Techum.
Feeling stupid but inspired I returned home and have tried to be more aware of the Techum Shabbat ever since.