Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, December 13, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
HILLEL USED TO SAY: BE LIKE THE DISCIPLES OF AARON, LOVING PEACE AND PURSUING PEACE, ONE WHO LOVES ONE'S FELLOW CREATURES AND BRINGS THEM CLOSE TO THE TORAH. (Mishna Avot 1:12)
In Avot D’rabbi Natan, another version of this same text, there is an explanatory story inserted. The story answers the question, how did Aaron bring greater peace to the world. Avot D’rabbi Natan explains that when Aaron saw two people in an argument he would go to each person individually and explain that the other had just told him how apologetic he was and then he could bring the two together. (It is a story that bears a remarkable resemblance to a variety of “I Love Lucy” episodes.) The message is clear, peace is the highest priority.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains, “To understand a civilization, it is necessary not only to know the values and virtues it embraces, but also the order of priority among them.” (taken from Conversations and Covenant 1/7/09). We have always been a people that places the value of peace over truth.
Then the Mishna concludes, “and brings them close to Torah,” as if to suggest that bringing people close to Torah, a magnificent ideal, is brought about through pursuing peace. The greatest sales pitch for living a life of Torah is living in accord with each other. If we are to become true representatives of God in this world we must learn the value of peace. This must not just be a global mandate. It must be a personal mission. Let us create, generate, perpetuate, stimulate harmony with those in our immediate sphere of influence. As the great bumper sticker reminds us, “think globally, act locally.”
Tweet and Re-Tweet
Rabbi Jay M. SteinMonday, December 11, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
ABTALION USED TO SAY: SAGES BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS, LEST YOU BE CONDEMNED TO EXILE, AND YOU BE EXILED TO A PLACE OF EVIL WATERS, AND THE DISCIPLES WHO FOLLOW YOU DRINK AND DIE, WITH THE RESULT THAT THE NAME OF HEAVEN BECOMES PROFANED. (Mishna Avot 1:11)
I was regularly astounded by what came out our children’s mouths. They used to say some of the most amazing things. Then I realize they just picked it up from me. I am afraid of all of the things I have said that may still emerge from their lips. We all must be careful in words we use, they can bring healing or hatred. Our words are a reflection on who we are.
We are given so many tools for communicating today. Twitter is one of them. This platform emphasizes that not only does every word mean something, but every letter, every character as well. Recently, Twitter announced it is introducing a longer format entitling its users to double the number of characters. Apparently 140 characters is not enough to express what we need to say.
From some of the tweets I have read from prominent leaders 140 characters is more than enough. My father used to say that we are each given a certain number of words to use for our entire lives. If I wasn't careful, I might run out. I wish some of our leaders would act with such discretion, or at least be careful with what they re-Tweet.
1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration
Rabbi Jay M. SteinTuesday, November 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
SHEMAIAH USED TO SAY: LOVE WORK, HATE ACTING THE SUPERIOR, AND DO NOT BRING THYSELF TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE RULING AUTHORITY. (Avot 1:10)
In the wonderful book The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell suggests there are a variety of people who form the social glue that keeps our world progressing forward. He calls these people connectors. These are people who are able to bring people together to accomplish a task. They are the ones who remember that “x” person has a specific skill that “y” person really needs and he is able to put the two together.
Getting the right person for the right job is a key component for success. But our Mishna offers a couple other suggestions as well. The modern equivalent of “love work”, is as some say success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. While the today’s version of “hate acting superior”, might be to suggest the most successful people are those who give credit where credit is due.
No matter the cliché we apply, success comes from the confluence of a number of factors and probably cannot be reduced to three simple steps. Each of us must plot our own course in life and achieve success by metrics we hold to be valuable and sacred. But know, that no matter how you define achievement, it will take work, attention and patience.