D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
The higher the expectations the lower the serenity. Keep your boundaries high, your expectations low, and your heart open.
A boundary is a barrier; something that separates two entities. On a personal level it is a space between you and another individual-- a space where you begin and the other person ends. Boundaries are also limits created by a person to help identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for others to behave around them.
Having our own personal physical space helps each of us feel safe and secure, and while a boundary can be both physical and emotional not all boundaries are healthy. Healthy boundaries promote feelings of safety and security, while unhealthy boundaries can make us feel attacked, manipulated and controlled.
In the second of this week’s double Torah portion, Matot/Masei, God delineates Israel’s boundaries. For example, Israel’s northern boundary will run through what is today, Lebanon:
וְזֶה־יִּֽהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם גְּב֣וּל צָפ֑וֹן מִן־הַיָּם֙ הַגָּדֹ֔ל תְּתָא֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם הֹ֥ר הָהָֽר: מֵהֹ֣ר הָהָ֔ר תְּתָא֖וּ לְבֹ֣א חֲמָ֑ת וְהָי֛וּ תּֽוֹצְאֹ֥ת הַגְּבֻ֖ל צְדָֽדָה: וְיָצָ֤א הַגְּבֻל֙ זִפְרֹ֔נָה וְהָי֥וּ תֽוֹצְאֹתָ֖יו חֲצַ֣ר עֵינָ֑ן זֶה־יִּֽהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם גְּב֥וּל צָפֽוֹן
This shall be your northern boundary: draw a line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor draw a line to Lebo-hamath, and let the boundary reach Zedad. the boundary shall then run to Ziphron and terminate at Hazar-enan. That shall be your northern boundary. (Num. 34:7-9)
God also stipulates cities of refuge where those who commit accidental manslaughter can seek protection from individuals who might desire to take revenge on them.
Both of these examples describe physical or external boundaries, but the cities of refuge can also be viewed as providing an emotional boundary between the refugees and those who might do them harm. This emotional boundary provides an opportunity, albeit a mandated one, for the refugee to contemplate his/her crime of accidental manslaughter.
We can all benefit not only from establishing boundaries in our lives but also from respecting the boundaries of others. Through this process we can determine who we want to be, how we want to interact with others, as well as learn how to take responsibility for the choices we make. As in the example of the cities of refuge, setting both physical and emotional boundaries prevents others from taking advantage of us while we begin to find our voice and learn how to use it. So keep your boundaries high, your expectations low and your heart open.