Ki Teitzei-Newlyweds

Sometimes, we find verses in the Torah that are difficult to interpret on any level, whether the simple textual level (pshat) or any other level.  One of those verses appears in our parsha (Ki Teitzei, 22:8): “When you build a new house, you should make a fence around the roof.”  However, on the halachic (drash) level, the rabbis determined that we must build a fence (ma’akeh) around every house, not only a new house.  And if so, what is the meaning of the verse, “When you build a new house”?

The verse concludes, “so that you have no responsibility when the fallen one falls from it.”  If the purpose of the ma’akeh is to prevent one from falling, then why does the Torah refer to him as a “fallen one” even before he has fallen, indeed before he has even ascended to your roof?  Whatever the explanation, clearly it has to do with a “new house” as well as with one who, if he “fell” from the roof, was already in the category of a “fallen one.”

R’ Yosi in the Talmud (Shabbat 118B) said, “I never called my wife, “wife,” but I called her “my house.”  From this we may deduce that the deeper explanation of, “When you build a new house” refers to the beginning of married life together.  When a person creates a home and takes upon himself the burden of making a living and being involved in the physical world, the Torah forewarns, “make a fence.”  Since you are creating a “new household” in the Jewish community, you must make a protective fence to surround yourself.  However you guarded yourself previously in your private life, you must guard yourself even moreso – your thought, speech and action should become even more circumspect in order to protect your “new house” – that is, your marriage.

And now, we can also understand the conclusion of the verse,”in order that the fallen one will not fall…”  Marriage entails “descent.”  It entails a greater involvement in the physical world than what we previously experienced, and that is why we must protect our eyes, ears and senses as we enter the marriage.  Nevertheless, there is no escaping the “descent” into the physical world… and that is why we are called “fallen.”  Even before we “fall” spiritually, we are described in the verse as “fallen” because of the necessity of leaving a spiritual cocoon and entering a new physical life.  For that reason, we must build a “fence” for the new house – for the marriage relationship – consisting of a higher level of guarding the senses.  If we do not take on new stringencies in our avodat Hashem, then the descend becomes even stronger – the “fallen one” falls even more.

The same is true in a larger sense: the soul descends to the world, to the body, for the purpose of uplifting and refining the physical world, to transform it into a “dwelling place” for the One above.  Since it is already “fallen,” it must create a ma’akeh – a protective layer of existence to shield itself from negative influence.  It must take on the framework of 613 mitzvoth that allow it to uplift and purify the world.  The task of the soul is to create a “new” house below in order to uplift the its section of the world and fulfill its task below.

For a more detailed explanation, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 19, pp 208-214

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