This parasha contains 74 mitzvot, and one of them is the mitzvah of the "protective fence":
"If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if a fallen one falls from it." (Devarim 22:8)
This certainly makes sense on a literal level as far as liability goes, but as is so often the case with Torah, there's a deeper meaning, as well. The Ben Ish Chai, a renowned Torah scholar and kabbalist from the 1800s, suggests that "building a new house" refers to the process of making a clean start for oneself after a period of introspection and self-evaluation. The "protective fence," therefore, is the boundaries one puts in place to make sure that one doesn't fall off the proverbial roof and slip back into one's old ways. And why does the Torah say, "a fallen one falls from it"? Isn't that redundant? If we follow the metaphor of the Ben Ish Chai, a "fallen one" is a person who has fallen before and is likely to fall again--hence the need for a strong protective fence.
The idea of a protective fence really resonates with me, particularly in the context of recovery. Recovering from an eating disorder is enormously challenging, especially when one has to simultaneously exist in the wider cultural milieu. It's impossible to completely escape food, and it's also impossible to isolate ourselves from other people who have their own issues with food and body. If we're going to be successful, we need a pretty tough fence.
I started to build my fence when I was in residential treatment twelve years ago, and it has been evolving ever since. In treatment, one of the big protective measures was eliminating food labels--I never saw the nutrition information of anything I was eating. We also never talked about weight or specific eating disorder behaviors. Today, I don't need those protections anymore, but I have put in place others that still serve me well. Here are some things that are Not Allowed inside the fence that protects my recovery:
- The gym. The gym and I are divorced. It's simple, really: when I exercise, I do it in ways that feel good and are actually enjoyable, and going to the gym neither feels good nor is enjoyable. Buh-bye, gym.
- "Health" magazines. Nope, I'm actually not interested in the latest 5-minute workout or which "superfoods" I should be eating this month. Also, who fact-checks these things? There's a whole lot of nonsense in those pages.
- Reality T.V. I don't object to the concept of reality T.V., but I definitely object to "Extreme Weight Loss" and "Extreme Makeover" and anything of that nature. Absolutely no, thank you!