Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, August 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 4,2
BEN ‘AZZAI SAID: RUN TO [PERFORM] AN EASY PRECEPT, AS [YOU WOULD] IN [THE CASE OF] A DIFFICULT ONE, AND FLEE FROM TRANSGRESSION; FOR [ONE] PRECEPT DRAWS [IN ITS TRAIN ANOTHER] PRECEPT, AND [ONE] TRANSGRESSION DRAWS [IN ITS TRAIN ANOTHER] TRANSGRESSION; FOR THE RECOMPENSE FOR [PERFORMING] A PRECEPT IS A PRECEPT, AND THE RECOMPENSE FOR [COMMITTING] A TRANSGRESSION IS A TRANSGRESSION.
We have no idea how one decision we make will determine the other decisions we have to make later.
There are varied influences and patterns that develop in our lives. We make a small mistake and that leads to another, and on and on and on. We make a good decision and that leads to other positive opportunities. We never know what will unfold in our lives.
This Mishna suggests that small choices can lead to a pattern of living. One small donation in the morning to the tzedekah box on your way out may lead you to a life of generosity, a mindset of giving. One brief blessing before eating may lead to a life of gratitude.
This Mishna challenges all of us to make one small alteration to our daily lives and we will see the enormous impact it may have.
Metrics for Success
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, August 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 4,1
BEN ZOMA SAID: WHO IS HE THAT IS WISE? HE WHO LEARNS FROM EVERY MAN, AS IT IS SAID: FROM ALL WHO TAUGHT ME HAVE I GAINED UNDERSTANDING, WHEN THY TESTIMONIES WERE MY MEDITATION. WHO IS HE THAT IS MIGHTY? HE WHO SUBDUES HIS [EVIL] INCLINATION, AS IT IS SAID: HE THAT IS SLOW TO ANGER IS BETTER THAN THE MIGHTY; AND HE THAT RULETH HIS SPIRIT THAN HE THAT TAKETH A CITY. WHO IS HE THAT IS RICH? HE WHO REJOICES IN HIS LOT, AS IT IS SAID: WHEN THOU EATEST OF THE LABOUR OF THY HANDS, HAPPY SHALT THOU BE, AND IT SHALL BE WELL WITH THEE. HAPPY SHALT THOU BE — IN THIS WORLD, AND IT SHALL BE WELL WITH THEE — IN THE WORLD TO COME. WHO IS HE THAT IS HONOURED? HE WHO HONOURS HIS FELLOW-MEN, AS IT IS SAID: FOR THEM THAT HONOUR ME I WILL HONOUR, AND THEY THAT DESPISE ME SHALL BE LIGHTLY ESTEEMED.
The S.A.T’s and A.C.T’s are not necessarily an indicator of future collegiate success. And collegiate success is not necessarily an indicator of future success in life.
Each of us knows people who struggled through college or didn’t even attend college yet became very successful and vice versa.
This Mishna defines standards for success and intimates that we should be evaluating success by these values. Wisdom, emotional stability, wealth, respect for others are all components of a "good" life that require our attention. This Mishna suggests a framework for helping us to determine whether or not we have achieved our desired goals.
Learning and Doing
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, July 29, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 3:17b
HE USED TO SAY: ONE WHOSE WISDOM EXCEEDS HIS DEEDS UNTO WHAT IS HE [TO BE] COMPARED? UNTO A TREE THE BRANCHES WHEREOF ARE MANY AND THE ROOTS FEW, SO THAT WHEN THE WIND COMES, IT UPROOTS IT AND OVERTURNS IT UPON ITS FACE… BUT ONE WHOSE DEEDS EXCEED HIS WISDOM, UNTO WHAT IS HE [TO BE] COMPARED?UNTO A TREE THE BRANCHES WHEREOF ARE FEW AND THE ROOTS MANY, SO THAT EVEN IF ALL THE WINDS IN THE WORLD COME AND BLOW UPON IT, THEY MOVE IT NOT OUT OF ITS PLACE.
The obvious meaning of this Mishna is that our actions are what grounds us in this world. Learning permits us to provide shade for others maybe even shelter, but it is our actions that ground us. Our strength, our stability is found in our how we behave.
However, we cannot overlook the analogy to a tree and the repeated comparison of Torah to a tree of life, as in that famous statement, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.” It is because the analogy of the tree is wonderful. It allows us to immediately recognize the varied components of a tree that must be appreciated. The same is true of deeds and learning. Each has its place, each has its value, one without the other renders the entire enterprise somewhat futile.