I was demanding a point blank answer to my question. "Please listen to exactly what I am asking. I just want to know – what’s my bottom line here? That’s all I care about."

That conversation took place years ago in the living room of a prominent rabbi and rebbetzin, at a time when I had committed to living a Torah observant life yet didn’t have a handle on what that really meant. I was living in a renovated two-hundred-year-old farmhouse, set on an acre of ground with gardens, my own creek, and a Japanese hot tub. The former owners warned me that I could not safely spend more than twenty minutes at a time in the hot tub, but I used to sit in it for hours. The best times were during a snowstorm. I loved the absurd juxtaposition of being openly exposed to the elements, but untouched, while the snowflakes melted on the heated deck all around me. Even now, when I am driving in the winter, I crank up the heated seats and open up the sunroof. I don't like to be boxed in.

I didn't have a handle on what that really meant Directly across the road from me was the picturesque Avelthorpe Park. Catty corner to me was a horse farm, which prominently advertised bales of hay for sale. Next door to the farm was a neurosurgeon. He warned away inadvertent walk-ins. "By Appointment Only" his sign read. I never saw anyone walk in or out. Because of the seclusion, my windows were all uncovered. I rarely had any guests, and my cooking was known to send people to the hospital. I was used to my privacy.

I had lived there for four years. The willow tree that I had planted had grown enough to make a respectable canopy. I was living in a flight path of geese, and their distinctive honking V seemed to fly right over that tree. The price of hay had also held nicely. Snow White was living in the burbs, and there were no Jews around. I had dug my well, and I was drinking deeply.

I had dug my well, and I was drinking deeply But I was leaving it all behind to move to a Torah observant community, where life would now be lived in a fishbowl, where, rumor had it, if you didn’t use a white tablecloth on a Friday night, you were practically insuring that your children would never marry, or marry well, that is. I was willing to take all of this on, but there was only so far I was willing to go.

I had several sculptures of bodies and I wanted to know if they could make this transition with me. I knew that there was this concept of avodah zara, idol worship, but I was fairly certain I wasn’t worshipping them. I didn’t set out little bowls of food or light incense or candles and ask them to make me rich and thin, or find a cure for anything. Without a doubt, I was willing to obey the law of my Creator on this one, but I was not willing to give up my art collection simply to satisfy the provincial tastes of this new community. I didn’t care about custom – I just wanted to know what the bottom line was, as far as the Master of the Universe was concerned. With a shake of her head, and an amused chuckle, the Rebbetzin responded, "Jews don’t live at the bottom line."

But there has to be a line somewhere. The struggle to find that line is no less than the struggle to define my boundaries, my borders. When do I shut the door? What do I exclude from my world and how wide is my circle of protection? What do I publicly share and what do I keep in intimate confidence? Who is included and who is left out?

Isaac had to believe that Abraham knew what he was doing At first, our forefather Isaac opened up his father, Abraham’s, wells. While G‑d did speak to Isaac a few times, he didn’t seem to have the same close relationship with Him as his father did. While G‑d told Abraham to take Isaac for a sacrifice, G‑d didn’t care to enlighten Isaac about the plan. Isaac had to believe that Abraham knew what he was doing, had to believe it was based on a revelation of Divine Will. In a way, he was like the first modern Jew, who took things on faith and trust, and not from direct personal revelation. That’s why at first he opened up Abraham’s wells, to drink in the pure wisdom that was revealed to Abraham, that was earned by Abraham, test by test.

And so I plugged up my well, and I drank from the unsullied springs of that Rebbetzin. We learned almost every day and she taught me the ABC’s of my new life. My bottom line was deep. I opened doors and I shut doors. I excluded certain people, but seemed to gain endless new best friends overnight. I drew a circle of protection around those I deemed worthy. I changed my name - legally.

I didn’t notice – until almost too late - that the well can get polluted, that the water is not always sweet, that my well-intended circle of protection was constraining, was not leaving enough room to grow, much less to breathe. How could I stay connected to my child who was stepping outside of the circle of protection, who did not want to be bound, who was digging his own well? My boundaries were being challenged. Do I expand the border or do I exclude him? Could I find unconditional love within this well? Will shutting this or that door, forming this or that judgment, cause more love in this world? What does my Creator truly want from me? The answer is obvious.

Isaac eventually had to dig his own well. I am in search again, not of a bottom line, but of a sweeter well, a more accepting well, where everyone I love may feel nourished. I use colored tablecloths on Friday night and my children will marry whom they will marry. It’s a day-by-day struggle. Some days I dig, and some days I don’t. Some days I almost forget I have a well. Some days I can’t find my well, and other days my thirst is quenched with unspeakable benevolence.

If there is a bottom line, however, then here it is. Like Isaac, I choose to be bound. I choose to drink from the water of my faith. The sculptures are long gone, and I laugh at my attachment. I’m not done with the underlying issues that struggle represented - it keeps showing up in other ways, but that’s OK. My relationships will continue to test me, force me to grow if I want to maintain them, and not cause harm by drawing lines in the sand at their feet. Judaism must be a safe haven and not a weapon. I choose love, after all. I choose life. I choose this life, so I keep digging.