Healthy BoundariesApril 7, 2014 - 5:00 am
The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” — Leviticus 16:1–2
The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means “after the death,” from Leviticus 16:1–18:30, and the Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
The Sages make an intriguing statement: “More than the baby calf wants to drink, the cow wants to nurse.” This means that while we often focus on our own desires, we sometimes forget how much God desires to give us what we want. A mother cow is so full of milk that it can even be painful at times. She wants so badly to give it to her children. In the same manner, God has so many blessings to give us and His greatest joy is to bestow them upon us.
However, the rabbis point out that the main desire of the mother cow is not to just get rid of her milk; it’s to feed her child. If the only concern was to dispel the milk, it would all come out in one great gush, in no way benefitting the small calf that can only drink small amounts at a time. Similarly, as much as God wants to give His blessings to us, He only does so in the right way and at the right time.
This beautiful illustration teaches us that there needs to be appropriate boundaries in our relationship with God. There is a time to connect and a time to receive — and there is also a time for holding back. These boundaries are not set up in order to weaken our relationship, but to keep it healthy and bring about maximum blessings.
This week’s Torah portion begins with a reference to what can happen when these boundaries are not upheld. As we read several weeks ago, Aaron’s two sons “died when they approached the LORD.” They had not respected the boundaries in their relationship with God. They came too close at a time when it wasn’t appropriate. Immediately after, Scripture continues: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy . . . or else he will die.” God reinforces the idea that in order for our relationship with Him to thrive, we must respect His boundaries.
The same is true for any relationship in our lives. In every relationship, boundaries are essential for a healthy bond. Just because we love someone doesn’t mean that we have permission to be in every aspect of their lives at all times. We need to respect the privacy of a spouse. We need to give our children space to make their own decisions – and even to fail without our intervention.
Without boundaries we run the risk of stifling our loved ones and/or creating dependent instead of independent individuals. As much as we desire to give, sometimes an even greater gift is holding back – so that our loved ones can thrive, grow, and ultimately receive maximum blessings.