Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Our Inner Voice
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, January 17, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 6:2
R. JOSHUA B. LEVI SAID: EVERY DAY A BATH KOL GOES FORTH FROM MOUNT HOREB, AND MAKES PROCLAMATION AND SAYS: WOE UNTO MEN ON ACCOUNT OF [THEIR] CONTEMPT TOWARDS THE TORAH, FOR WHOEVER OCCUPIES HIMSELF NOT WITH THE [STUDY OF] TORAH IS CALLED: ‘[THE] REBUKED [ONE]’ AS IT IS SAID, AS A RING OF GOLD IN A SWINE'S SNOUT, SO IS A FAIR WOMAN THAT TURNETH AWAY FROM DISCRETION, AND IT SAYS, AND THE TABLES WERE THE WORK OF GOD, AND THE WRITING WAS THE WRITING OF GOD, GRAVEN UPON THE TABLES. READ NOT HARUTH [WHICH MEANS ‘GRAVEN’] BUT HERUTH [WHICH MEANS ‘FREEDOM’]. FOR THERE IS NO FREE MAN FOR THEE BUT HE THAT OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH THE STUDY OF THE TORAH; AND WHOEVER REGULARLY OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH THE STUDY OF THE TORAH, LO, HE IS EXALTED, AS IT IS SAID, AND FROM MATTANAH TO NAHALIEL; AND NAHALIEL TO BAMOTH.
For me, this Mishna has always conjured up the image of a person, sitting at his kitchen table, pondering how to handle a big decision he has to make. On his shoulders sit two little people. One little person looks like the devil and the other looks like an angel. They are arguing about his dilemma. The person is fixated on the two arguments. This has been understood to be our two inner voices. The rabbis call this the evil inclination and the good inclination. Moderns refer to this as our conscience. I think it is God.
Although this entire Mishna is a bit much to absorb, it is the first line that is instructive. The initial statement by Rabbi Joshua ben Levi informs us that every day a voice from heaven can be heard. He reminds us that if we are listening, God’s voice can be heard. It may take great effort to create an atmosphere of calm. It may take strength to withdraw from our busy lives. It may take courage to sit in silence. But if we do, we can truly hear God speaking to us.
Is it Worth the Effort?
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, January 3, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 5:23
BEN HEHE SAID: ACCORDING TO THE LABOUR IS THE REWARD
Could it be any simpler. especially in this season of resolutions?
Each person parents differently. Some parents believe that pushing their child to get the best grades and engaging in after school activities will produce a child better equipped to deal with the challenges that lay ahead. Some feel they can mark out a path that will lead to success in worldly endeavors. Some prefer to stress attitude and motivations rather than such practical, concrete achievement often marked by grades or varsity letters.
No matter the approach, whether in the short term or the long term – there is always going to be a correlation between effort and result. Sometimes the result will not be expected and maybe the result will not be immediate. However, the result will always be commensurate with the effort. There are no shortcuts.
Today our Mishna teaches sometimes the reward for effort put in is increasing our capacity and understanding that we have tremendous capacity.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, December 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 5:22
BEN BAG BAG SAID: TURN IT OVER, AND AGAIN] TURN IT OVER, FOR ALL IS THEREIN. AND LOOK INTO IT; AND BECOME GREY AND OLD THEREIN; NEITHER MOVE THOU AWAY THEREFROM, FOR THAN IT THOU HAST NO BETTER STANDARD OF CONDUCT.
Second guessing is sometimes helpful and sometimes it is an impediment to progress. Some people are willing to make a mistake and go back and fix it, while others would rather wait and evaluate before making a decision. Both can frustrate the other. Sometimes we have to just jump in and sometimes caution is a better approach and knowing when to employ each technique is the art of living.
Our Mishna teaches that Torah can help instruct us about life before we have to make the mistakes of standing idle or jumping in too soon. Our Mishna suggests all of the lessons we need to learn can be found within our holy canon. One must never say, “I already learned everything I need to learn from each verse, from each chapter and from each story.” Rather each time we encounter a text we ought to dig deeper for the mysteries of life and living, of family and friendship, communication and community are found within its pages.