In the early 1900s, there were only a handful of Chabad chassidim living in America. When a chassid from Poland came to America for a short visit, he met up with a close friend who had immigrated a few years earlier. They embraced and caught up on missed time.

“What’s with the kippah?” The Polish Jew noticed that his American friend was wearing a large-sized kippah that nearly covered his entire head, not the type customarily worn amongst Chabad chassidim.

“Ahh, the kippah . . . You see, I figured that in secular America my evil inclination would become more demanding. I anticipated a barrage of new internal requests to lessen my ‘old-fashioned,’ European standard of Judaism. So I figured that if I’d wear this kippah, my evil inclination would immediately find something to attack. And I’d rather it work to erode the size of my kippah and not the integrity of my mitzvot.”

I’ve always thought I was the health-conscious type. I tend to eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so health-conscious anymore But that all changed when my friend Chaya came for a visit. She’d gone raw. Really raw! She eats uncooked fruits and vegetables, lots of nuts and seeds, and some other superfoods like goji berries, hemp protein and spirulina. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so health-conscious anymore.

Initially, I pitied her for living with such restrictions. But Chaya seemed so impassioned about her foods. In fact, her enthusiasm was contagious. Raw eaters seem to be always looking to improve, even though improving usually entails more food restrictions. They’re busy sprouting, dehydrating, detoxing, and cutting dead food out of their lives.

After hanging out with her for a week, it even seemed enticing. Then, before she left, she challenged me to a three-week raw cleanse.

I never turn down a good challenge.

It was hard to radically change my eating style, but surprisingly it wasn’t miserable—not at all. In fact, I experienced deep pleasure in knowing that my food was saturated with active enzymes and teeming with antioxidants.

Once I was hooked on raw food, the awful restrictions seemed like a privileged progress towards a higher plane of sensitivity and consciousness.

We will leave the decision as to the healthfulness of eating raw foods to the medical experts, but there is a powerful lesson in this experience, because that is precisely the Jewish view of Once these restrictions are seen as sacred, they don’t feel repressiveG‑d’s restrictions. The boundaries form a space conducive to optimal wellbeing, spiritual and psychological. The restrictions become a way in.

Once these restrictions are seen as sacred, as gifts, they don’t feel repressive. To the contrary, if the restrictions are the Divine keys to sensitivity and G‑d-consciousness, we’d look to buttress their boundaries.

In the book of Leviticus (18:30), G‑d explicitly encourages us to safeguard His boundaries. After spelling out the moral guidelines for intimate relationships, G‑d concludes, “You shall guard what I have guarded that you shall not do any of the abominable practices.”

When G‑d says, “You shall guard what I have guarded,” He is instructing the sages to carefully protect Divine danger zones. To this effect, the sages passed further legislation to lessen the possibility of violating His prohibitions. G‑d gave legal authority to the sages to create boundaries around the prohibitions in the Torah.

The Torah’s many explicit instructions are what we call mitzvot d’Oraita (biblical obligations). The sages, acting upon the Divine mandate to secure boundaries around the Torah, created additional laws around them. These instructions are called mitzvot d’Rabbanan (rabbinic obligations).

So G‑d asks us not to create a fire on Shabbat, and the sages instructed us not to pick up a box of matches. G‑d asks us not to eat milk and meat together, and the sages say to wait six hours after eating meat before drinking milk. G‑d says not to have an intimate relationship with anyone aside from your spouse; the sages say don’t even seclude yourself with someone of the opposite sex.

There are two ways to look at these added restrictions.

On one hand, it’s bad enough that there are so many restrictions in the Torah; why add more? Let’s look for a way out.G‑d has given us tools to elevate our lives to a higher plane

On the other hand, if G‑d has given us tools to elevate our lives to a higher plane, and He implores me to make a buffer zone around these tools, then protection is my way in.

Aside for the compulsory mitzvot d’Rabbanan, there are opportunities to voluntarily enhance mitzvot. When G‑d’s boundaries are seen as the template for higher consciousness living, greater adherence breeds more vibrant results. So throughout the ages, many soul-seekers have challenged themselves to go beyond even the letter of the law.

People who are looking for a higher plane of sensitivity tend to be extra kosher. Even more, they are not slaves to their food. They don’t even think about business on Shabbat. They try to be modest and not flirtatious when they converse.

But it doesn’t even say that in the Torah! And yet the beyond-the-letter folk seem to find deep pleasure in guarding the Divine constraints that create sacred space in life.1