Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
What Can we Really Own
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, February 4, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
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.
Being Present is a Present we Give Ourselves
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, January 25, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 2:1
RABBI SAID: WHICH IS THE RIGHT WAY THAT A MAN SHOULD CHOOSE UNTO HIMSELF? ONE WHICH IS [ITSELF] AN HONOUR TO THE PERSON ADOPTING IT, AND [ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH] HONOUR [ACCRUES] TO HIM FROM MEN. AND BE THOU CAREFUL WITH A LIGHT PRECEPT AS WITH A GRAVE ONE, FOR THOU KNOWEST NOT THE GRANT OF REWARD.
I was always bothered by the line in the song that said, "If you can't be with the one you love, baby, love the one you’re with." It seemed to suggest that love is something easily acquired and easily dispensed. It implies a lack of true commitment to another person; choosing to find the easy path to comraderie while sacrificing deep, loyal commitment. (Of course, it is possible that I am reading too much into a pop cultural reference.)
However, this Mishna seems to be offering a similar approach. This Mishna teaches that we spend so much time looking to the next event, the next activity, the next obligation, we are certain to miss the reward of the experience in which we are currently engaged. This Mishna begs us to be still and take in all this moment has to offer. If we can, for just a minute, stop evaluating, stop judging, stop making a decision that something else is a better use of our time, then perhaps we can truly enjoy what occupies our attention at the moment.
It is difficult. So much requires our attention. We are all so busy. Maybe we just need to slow down and live in the present without trying to figure out what we are going to do next.
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, January 10, 2018 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 1,18
RABBAN SIMEON, SON OF GAMALIEL USED TO SAY: ON THREE THINGS DOES THE WORLD STAND: ON JUSTICE, ON TRUTH AND ON PEACE, AS IT IS SAID: JUDGE YE TRUTHFULLY AND A JUDGMENT OF PEACE IN YOUR GATES.
Reading this Mishna, I have the image of a stool with three legs with Rabban Simeon teaching “the world rests on these three legs.” It is clear that society can balance only momentarily on two of the three, but will ultimately fall. All three are necessary for a stable world.
The corollary for the individual is equally valuable. While Rabban Simeon explores the critical components for society, there are equivalents in our personal lives. There are three principles on which each one of us relies. Justice for society can be translated as trust, truth is forgiveness and peace is happiness.
Each of the universal pillars can be personal as well. Each of us needs to find the ability to trust, to ultimately forgive and be happy or we will lose our balance. We can, for a short time, rely on one or two of the three. Some of us are better at balancing than others. However, even for the strongest among us, we need to find all three to live a fulfilled life. Trust, forgiveness and happiness are the three things on which our personal lives rest.