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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - June & Jully 2018
From the Rabbi - June & Jully 2018 PDF Print E-mail

We recently ended a series studying the Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers.  This text is originally part of the Mishnah but unlike the rest of that book it describes the ethical wisdom of the ancient rabbis rather than their legal thoughts.  It is traditional to study this text between Passover and Shavuot to this day (which we did!), in part because it relates to matters of human nature that have changed little since the days of the Mishnah even while many matters that are related to the legal aspects of the Mishnah have. Here are a few examples of that wisdom and what they mean:

· Run to do an easy commandment as to a difficult one…Do not disparage anyone, and do not shun any thing. For there is no person who does not have their hour, and you have no thing that does not have its place. We tend to prioritize in our lives because life is short and we have to use our time carefully. BUT here we are reminded that we should never dismiss the little things because they seem unimportant and we should always consider every person as important and as worthy of care and consideration because all persons have their purpose and every person is made in the image of G-d.


· Do not judge alone, for there is no lone judge aside from One [God]. And do not say,”Accept my opinion”, for they are permitted and not you. Even the smartest person with the best judgment needs to consider what others can teach them.  We all have our own perspectives and all of us need to realize that “our” truth doesn’t necessarily equal “the” truth.   So we consider what others have to say, learn from their perspective, and refrain from imposing our perspective on others.  If we insist that our opinion can be imposed on others because we believe it’s true then why should others not do the same to us! Much better to be open minded and open to a larger truth. 


·  If there is no Torah, there is no worldly occupation; if there is no worldly occupation, there is no Torah.  Everything is about balance, even holiness and study of Torah.  If we only engage in the material and physical  matters of the world then we miss the more important matters of the spirit and connection to G-d and each other through holy community.  But if we only focus on holiness and study of Torah but do not engage in the world, then what good are we doing in making the world a better place? We must make an effective balance between the two, as we must in most things. 


· The day is short and the work is much, and the workers are lazy and the reward is great, and the Master of the house is pressing. He used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. The work of fixing the world is long and hard.  It’s easy to get discouraged because there is so much to do and so often we take one step forward and two steps back.  Others may not share our vision and may make it harder to do what’s right in the world.  Along the way there will be many failures as well as many successes.  But we can never give up.  Our task is to fix the world.  It may take a long time and we may never finish the task ourselves but we must continue nevertheless.  Our task is to do what we can, making the world just a little better because we were in it.  Others can and will finish the task but we must do all we can, when we can.  That is our purpose. 

Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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