Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Metrics for Success

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, 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. Stein

Sunday, 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.

  

Balance Ideals with Reality

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Friday, July 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3:17 

ELEAZAR B. AZARIAH SAID:WHERE THERE IS NO TORAH THERE IS NO GOOD BREEDING; WHERE THERE IS NO GOOD BREEDING THERE IS NO TORAH. WHERE THERE IS NO WISDOM THERE IS NO FEAR [OF GOD]; WHERE THERE IS NO FEAR [OF GOD] THERE IS NO WISDOM. WHERE THERE IS NO UNDERSTANDING THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE; WHERE THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE THERE IS NO UNDERSTANDING. WHERE THERE IS NO MEAL THERE IS NO TORAH; WHERE THERE IS NO TORAH THERE IS NO MEAL.

This Mishna begins with a statement that without common courtesy, basic respect, there is no Torah and vice versa.  This Mishna concludes thatwhere there is no food, there is no Torah and vice versa.  Both the introductory and concluding thoughts offered by Rabbi Eleazar ben Azarriah is that Torah that lives only in the halls of academia cannot survive; and a world without Torah is equally at peril. 

In order to live a meaningful life we need to balance ideals with reality.  The principles found embedded in this mishna are wisdom;understanding; reverence and knowledge.  They suggest that a full life is one in which we are thoughtfully engaged not just in actuality, but also in dreams.  We should apply this approach, in modern context, to our personal lives.