Today’s daf (Eruvin 12a) tells us about an incident that occurred in a shepherds’ village, where an inlet of the sea breached the outer wall of the courtyard (חצר) of the village leaving that side of the courtyard entirely open to the sea which meant that the residents of the village would no longer be able carry in the courtyard on Shabbat.
In such a situation, we are taught that a single board can be placed as a sidepost onto the wall that had been breached in order to permit carrying in the courtyard. However, as the Gemara explains, this requirement for just a single board is a unique dispensation, because ‘it reflects a [special] leniency that the Sages allowed in [cases involving] water’.
Seeking to make sense of this statement, Rashi explains that wherever water – the most precious of resources – was available to people, our Sages ruled leniently and only required a תיקון כל שהוא – the smallest of [halachic] ‘fixes’ – to enable them to draw that water. Based on this we learn that where necessary physical resources become available to people, and wherever there are halachic impediments that inhibit the people from accessing those resources, it is the task of religious leaders to actively reduce those impediments to the bare minimum, and to teach the people what is required of them so that they can access those resources.
However, this principle is not limited to physical resources; it applies to spiritual resources too. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is that a core mission of a religious leader is to ensure that wherever spiritual resources are available to people, and wherever people feel that there are impediments which are stopping them from accessing those resources, it is the task of a religious leader to help the people reduce those impediments to the bare minimum, and to teach the people what is required of them so that they can access those spiritual resources.
Today, which is the first of Ellul, marks the beginning of the 40-day period – concluding with Yom Kippur – when Moshe went back up Mount Sinai to receive the second set of luchot (tablets). It is a time for introspection, for self-repair (תיקון), and a period of tremendous spiritual potential.
Oftentimes we think that physical and spiritual growth demands radical life changes, and given this, many of us consider our background, our context, or our current lifestyle as significant impediments that inhibit us from making the changes that we want to see in our lives.
But as Rashi explains, when precious resources are available, often all it takes is a תיקון כל שהוא – the smallest of ‘fixes’ – to enable us to access those resources that are currently in our physical – or spiritual – courtyard. So let’s get fixing!