Midot Hayom: Day 9: Gevurah in Gevurah
Rabban Simon ben Gamliel says: Sometimes a man may recite the Shema twice in one night, once immediately before dawn rises and once immediately after the dawn rises, thereby fulfilling his obligation for the day and for the night. Hearing this, the Sages made a fence for their words, ruling that you are allowed to recite the evening Shema only until midnight. Avot of Rabbi Nathan 2:8
The Sages realized that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel had clear and absolute boundaries. He had absolute definitions of both day and night according to Halachah lived with those definitions. They understood that, however, most of us do not have such clear definitions of the boundaries necessary in our lives. We do not have absolute definitions of what is considered Lishon Harah – The Vocabulary of Evil – usually expressed in the way we speak of others. The Sages therefore demanded that we construct clear signs of the boundaries of our lives. We must have clearly delineated “fences” marking what is proper speech.
It is appropriate to use this day of the Sefirah to focus on boundaries that need better definition: Speech, personal modesty, food, blessings or our behavior while learning and praying.