Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ponderings of the Perkei Avot 1:2

RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
Chapter 1:2
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr
“Shimon the Righteous was among the survivors of the Great Assembly. He used to say; The world depends on three things – on Torah study, on the service [of God], and on kind deeds.”

Like the modern acronym K.I.S.S., no, not the heavy metal band KISS, K.I.S.S. as in, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” This is not meant to be an insult, but a gentle swift kick in the pants to remind us not to complicate things. Judaism is full of commentary and tradition that can make ones head spin. There is an old saying that says, “You have two Jews you have three opinions.” And the Talmud is full of hair splitting arguments regarding halacha and law. Let’s face it, some of us aren’t hardwired for this kind of mental exercises, so what is a Jew to do? Yeshua summed up the 613 Commandments in Torah by saying in Mark 12 that to love God and to love your neighbor are the two most important commandments and like a mobile over a crib, the rest of the 613 commandments hang from them. So if you can keep these two the rest of the 611 will soon follow.

Micah (6:8) said it this way: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy GOd?”

And Shimon the Righteous said: “The world depends on three things – on Torah study, on the service [of God], and on kind deeds.”

These summaries are not replacing the 613 Commandments of Torah, but summing it up in easy to remember key points. Basically saying if you do these simple things, you will most likely do the others automatically.

Rav Hillel was one of the first to record the Golden Rule that was reiterated by Messiah Yeshua himself. He was asked by a Gentile to summarize the Torah standing on one foot, and so he did and said:

“What is hateful to you, do not unto your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and learn it.” Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” – Yeshua, Matthew 7:12

I like what Rav Hillel said after his summary, “The rest is just commentary.”

The commentary in Perkei Avot says this about our text:

“The service [of God], i.e., the sacrificial service in the Temple and in the absence of the Temple, study of the laws regarding the service. In it’s broader sense, service refers to prayer and the performance of the commandments. Kind Deeds, i.e., the performance of benevolent acts between man and his fellow.”

I see Rav Shimon’s statement as a three legged stool. The security of the stool and the guarantee that it stays stable and upright is dependant upon the three legs, if any of the legs be taken; the stool will fall and is useless to hold up anything. You can’t have one without the other. Each one is important to and dependant upon the other. These three things are like the Jewish version of the Greek Atlas, who was forced to hold up the world on his shoulders.

1.    Torah study – Darosh Torah – This informs us of God’s universal divine will for our lives.
2.    The service of God – Avodat Elohim – This is our prayer to, our communication with and our praise and worship of G-d in which we get our specific divine will for our lives. We can say it is our ministry, for us that have been called to the rabbinate or to a specific ministry.
3.    Kind Deeds – Chesed Mitzvot – How we relate and treat others according to the universal and individual divine will. How we carry out the universal and individual divine will.

So as a Jew, don’t get overwhelmed by the 613 Commandments of Torah and the Traditions connected with it. K.I.S.S. and the rest will soon come and be like breathing to you.

-- Yehudah ben Shomeyr