Many countries have legislation dealing with unfair competition and monopolies. The term used in halachah (Torah law) to describe these offenses is hasagat g'vul ("moving the boundary markers"). The scriptural source for this prohibition is found in this week's Parshah:

You shall not move the boundary of your fellow, which the early ones marked out (Deuteronomy 19:14).

The literal meaning of this law is that one mustn't move the markers, pegs or any other landmarks that are employed to demarcate the boundaries between neighbors' properties. To go in the night and move the landmarks to take some of your neighbor's land for yourself carries an additional prohibition over and above the normal laws against theft.

Let's spend a moment, though, looking at some of the boundaries and borders of Jewish life. We, too, have neighbors. Some are friends and some are less so. Many of us live in communities beyond the ghetto. Many of us are exposed to cultures, lifestyles and business environments that are very different to our own. How is a Jew, surrounded by a sea of neighbors who are nice, friendly people but who are, culturally, very different still able to retain his or her Jewish distinctiveness?

The answer is that we need landmarks. We, too, require boundaries and borders to help us draw the lines between being good neighbors and sociable colleagues—and losing our own traditions. Otherwise, we become the same as everyone else on the block or at work. When we try hard to be "normal," we run the risk of losing our own uniqueness in the process.

This American Jewish girl joined the Peace Corps and went to do humanitarian work in Africa. After a two-year stint, she returned home to the Bronx. She rings the bell and her mother is shocked to see standing next to her a boyfriend she brought back from Africa. And he's not just any boyfriend. He is a big, burly Zulu warrior with bald head, loincloth, beads around his neck, a spear and a shield. And to top it off, he's carrying a bag of bones in his pouch.

The Jewish mother stands there stunned and speechless. Finally, she recovers somewhat and shouts at her daughter. "Idiot! Meshuggeneh! I said a rich doctor!"

Maybe this story is an exaggeration but similar ones are happening daily.

Ma, I'm in love! What difference does it make what religion he is? He's a great guy and we are both very happy together. So, what's the problem?

Dad, all the Jewish girls I meet are spoiled princesses. I finally found someone who cares about me. Please don't stand in the way of my happiness.

And Jewish parents are visiting their rabbis and asking, "Rabbi, where did we go wrong? How can this be happening to us?"

Well, rabbis are also nice guys and aren't looking to cause any more pain and anguish to these distraught parents than they already have. So they don't actually answer the question of where they went wrong. But if they did, it might go something like this:

The Torah teaches us not to move the markers. Losing everything begins by losing a little bit at a time. When we move the landmarks of Jewish life, slowly and inexorably we lose our borders and the lines are blurred. Children, in particular, need clear, solid lines to understand the boundaries, the dos and don'ts of living correct and meaningful Jewish lives. G‑d gave us certain landmarks to help us see who we are and where and how we live. When we remove those landmarks we lose our borders and we lose our distinctiveness.

Long ago, G‑d gave us a Shabbat, a day on which the Jew behaves very differently from his neighbors. He gave us Kashrut so that we eat differently, too. And He urges us to educate our children Jewishly so that they will understand, feel and know why they really are distinctive.

But if we move those markers, things become hazy and young people become confused. And then they wonder why we are suddenly putting up barriers that we ourselves previously took down.

A rabbinical friend of mine once asked a prominent businessman why he, a nice Jewish boy, was marrying out of the faith. Couldn't he have found a nice Jewish girl? The fellow answered in all honesty, "Rabbi, I just don't mix in those circles anymore." But had this entrepreneur retained the landmark of a kosher home, for example, he would have still been mixing in kosher circles. By preserving our landmarks, we preserve our identity.

Let's try to find some of those missing markers in Jewish life. Who knows? We may discover our own distinctiveness and our children may find out who they really are.