Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Our Impact on Others

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Avot 2:9

RABBAN JOHANAN B. ZAKKAI HAD FIVE [PRE-EMINENT] DISCIPLES AND THEY WERE THESE: R. ELIEZER B. HYRCANUS, R. JOSHUA B. HANANIAH, R. JOSE, THE PRIEST, R. SIMEON B. NETHANEEL AND R. ELEAZAR B. ‘ARACH.  HE [i.e. R. JOHANAN] USED TO RECOUNT THEIR [FOREMOST] QUALITIES: R. ELIEZER B. HYRCANUS IS A PLASTERED CISTERN WHICH LOSES NOT A DROP; R. JOSHUA B. HANANIAH — HAPPY IS SHE THAT BARE HIM; R. JOSE, THE PRIEST, IS A PIOUS MAN; R. SIMEON B. NETHANEEL IS ONE THAT FEARS SIN, AND R. ELEAZAR B.’ARACH IS LIKE UNTO A SPRING THAT [EVER] GATHERS FORCE.   

When learning occurs community is created.  As time evolves in the classroom or any other learning environment we grow to learn who our colleagues are. We quickly assess who will carry the load on days when others are unprepared and those who will continually fall behind. There will be students who ask the best questions and those who seem to be distracted by a single word or phrase.  However, each student has a role.

This Mishna teaches that in every environment in which we find ourselves we impact others.  We can raise them up or we can bring them down. And that will become our reputation.  There will be the valedictorians and there will be the salutatorians.   We carry those titles our entire lives. In our yearbooks we are named best dressed, most likely to succeed, class clown.  Each name we carry forward, it is how our classmates remember us.   Some of the appellations we wish we could shed, some we carry with pride.  Our Mishna asks us, who do we want to be and how do we want to be remembered?

  

Owning our Accomplishments

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Avot 2:8

RABBAH JOHANAN B. ZAKKAI RECEIVED [THE ORAL TRADITION] FROM HILLEL AND SHAMMAI. HE USED TO SAY: IF THOU HAST LEARNT MUCH TORAH, DO NOT CLAIM CREDIT UNTO THYSELF, BECAUSE FOR SUCH [PURPOSE] WAST THOU CREATED.

 There is pride in accomplishing something.  Then, there is a pride that runs even deeper, owned in our depths.  That pride is born of an achievement far more significant than a passing success.  This sense of value comes from the knowledge that we have done for which we were created. 

 Each and every one of us has been born with a purpose.  Discovering what that ‘reason for being’ is sometimes difficult.  Sometimes we find that which makes us feel good but we are still unsure.  Once we have unearthed a process for achieving our potential the result is a profound sense of worth.  It is for that you were created.

  

What Can we Really Own

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Avot 2:7

HE USED TO SAY: THE MORE FLESH, THE MORE WORMS; THE MORE PROPERTY, THE MORE ANXIETY; THE MORE WIVES, THE MORE WITCHCRAFT; THE MORE BONDWOMEN THE MORE LEWDNESS; THE MORE SLAVES, THE MORE ROBBERY; [BUT] THE MORE [STUDY OF THE] TORAH, THE MORE LIFE; THE MORE SITTING DOWN [TO STUDY AND CONTEMPLATE], THE MORE WISDOM; THE MORE COUNSEL, THE MORE UNDERSTANDING; THE MORE RIGHTEOUSNESS, THE MORE PEACE. ONE WHO HAS ACQUIRED UNTO HIMSELF A GOOD NAME, HAS ACQUIRED [IT] FOR HIMSELF; ONE WHO HAS ACQUIRED UNTO HIMSELF WORDS OF TORAH, HAS ACQUIRED FOR HIMSELF THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME.

The first half of the mishna is about balance and the dangers of living a life in excess.  We need to be careful because we place far too much emphasis on the hedonism of the material belongings.

But the Mishna does not stop there. It goes on to suggest there are things we can obtain that can never be taken away. And it is in this area the Mishna offers us the greatest gift. Wisdom, understanding, peace and a good reputation are truly everlasting. We know there are those who would try to take that away. We know there are people who try to undermine those achievements,  however,  when we truly own our accomplishments, they can never be wrestled from us. Wisdom, understanding , inner peace and a good reputation are hard to come by. They are immeasurably valuable and once they are acquired, will sustain us throughout our lives.