Parsha Mitzvot-Vaetchanan-Mitzvah 422-Concept 81-Mezuzah
I hate it when I have entered a room purposefully, only to stand there feeling like an idiot while I try to remember for what I came. I was relieved to read that it is not early Alzheimer’s, but a rather common occurrence. Scientists theorize that going through doorways causes the mind to “file away” the current activity. As Gabriel Radvansky, a professor of psychology, explains: “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away.” (Medical News Today)
Debbie believes that when the Children of Israel exited the split Sea, they were crossing an ‘event boundary,’ filing away their past as slaves, letting go of past limited objectives, and entering an entirely new stage of life.
How interesting that the Sages believe that Jacob also crossed a Sea: “Jacob used his staff to split the waters of the Jordan so he could cross (Rashi, Genesis 32:11).” Jacob mastered multiple boundaries, skillfully stepping from the safety of his childhood home where he was, “A man of perfection who dwelled in tents,” to the twisted world of Laban, where he functioned as a powerful and successful businessman, and then into yet another world in which he walked with angels (32:2)! Jacob stepped from one world into another without forgetting his past or objective. Jacob did not have my problem with doorways. He experiences one emotional earthquake after another, and manages to maintain focus. No ‘event boundary’ issues for our hero. How did he do it?
The Stairway to Heaven dream. “A stairway was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold! Angels of God were ascending and descending on it (28:12).” For most of us, the boundary between heaven and earth is the most difficult to cross. We cross the boundary from prayer into work, from Shabbat into the week, and we lose focus of our spiritual ideals. The dream taught Jacob to envision a life in which there is no such boundary. Once he mastered a life of connections rather than boundaries, he was able to cross, what for us would be, significant ‘event boundaries,’ without losing focus.
The Children of Israel hesitated so much before the Mountain, refusing to climb Sinai with Moses and cross the imagined boundary between heaven and earth, that God imposed boundaries, to teach them that those who focus on boundaries, erect more.
I hear couples describe a boundary between their dreams of marriage – heaven – and the practical issues of raising children and paying bills – earth. The boundary causes them to lose focus, weakening their grasp on heaven. They stop climbing. I listen to people who are torn between their work and prayer environments; the boundaries lead them to question the integrity of their spiritual lives. They hesitate, leading to more boundaries.
Debbie suggests that we use the Mitzvot as Tzavta, a force of attraction, such as the Mezuzah on each doorpost serving as the connection between heaven and earth. Charity can remove the boundary between money and spirituality. A student of mine uses the laws of speech to connect her workplace to her Torah study. A friend uses the laws of expressing anger to maintain a sense of heaven even while driving. The Talmud urges us to set one thing aside for Shabbat each day of the week to remove any boundaries between the two worlds.
Jacob summons us to join him on his Stairway to Heaven and learn how to remove boundaries and form all sorts of wonderful connections that allow us to maintain focus on what is most precious to us.
‘Event Boundaries’ also explains how our steps both before and after each of the three daily Amidot, “Prayer Meditations,” can help us enter and exit our prayer. We take three steps back just before the Amidah, stepping through an ‘event boundary,’ separating ourselves from the mundane, and then three steps forward through another portal, to enter the realm of Highest Prayer. We reverse the process at the conclusion of the prayer, to gracefully exit the spiritual realm before stepping through yet another ‘even boundary,’ back into the daily grind.