The young man was indignant. "I have nothing against a
neighborhood eruv," he told the askan who came to ask
him why he had uprooted the poles that had been set up near
his house. "But that was certainly not an eruv pole. Eruv
poles are simple wood sticks. This was a five-inch galvanized
steel pole! That is not how you make an eruv."
For years -- for generations -- he would have been right. The
poles for Shabbos eruvin, even around neighborhoods and
cities, were nothing more than sticks, which eventually
weathered and bowed and swayed in the wind. This was
something new, something better. The five-inch pole also
allowed the askonim to install internal weights to
ensure that the line itself would stay taut throughout the
year, summer and winter. New techniques and special
instruments had been developed to meet standards that far
surpassed those that had been met in the past.
Was there anything wrong with the old standards? Nothing at
all. They were established by gedolei Yisroel, whom
anyone and everyone relies on. Without criticizing those old
standards in any way, the conditions of today, including
increased wealth and advanced technology, allow
askonim to go far beyond what had been eminently
satisfactory in the past.
We live in an age of progress, an age in which standards are
constantly changing. The bar is pushed continually
Some people insist that their clothing be first class. It
should not be ostentatious. They would not wear the label
outside and it is not important to them if other people know
that their clothing is top quality or not. But they insist
that it must all be of the finest material, and the most
expert workmanship, even though certainly a lesser material
looks good enough. "Good enough" is not good enough for them.
They want their clothing to be the best.
Others have a similar feeling about their homes, or their
Many people today want their avodas Hashem to be only
the best. The want to avoid compromise whenever possible on
any matter that touches on avodas Hashem. When it
comes to mitzvos, they do not want to stop with "good
enough." They want only the best and the purest. They want to
do everything lechatchila and they are not satisfied
with what is ok bedi'eved.
This is not a requirement, and there is no reason to consider
someone who does not seek these high standards to be wanting.
But for themselves, they want the best.
This extends through bein odom lechavero as well as
bein odom laMokom. One avreich recently
explained that he did not want to pursue a claim against
someone who had damaged his property. "It is so easy to cross
the line into gezel in this area, that I would rather
stay away from the whole thing," he said.
Evidence of this approach is found in many areas of modern
life: in kashrus standards, in attention to problems like
shatnez, in Shabbos observance, in shmittah
observance, in the details of many mitzvos like
tzitzis and tefillin and wearing sheitels that
are free of any taint.
This does not mean that there is no work left to do, or that
in some areas (even some important areas) there may not be
aspects that are not even up to minimal standards. The
aspiration is important, but the bottom line is the practice
and we have to see to that.
Sometimes enthusiasm may mask ignorance as some things are
pursued for their appearance even though there is no
substantive improvement in the fulfillment of rotzon
Hashem. As Mesillas Yeshorim (Chapter 18) says, it
is necessary to toil and work hard to know the derech
Hashem with clarity and honesty, and then to weigh
alternatives "with the scales of wisdom."
But it seems clear that there is an unprecedented desire
among broad sections of yirei Hashem not to "say I
have enough with doing what I was explicitly commanded.
Rather . . . [they] strive to do what will bring
nachas to Hashem."