Monday, June 18, 2018

Ponderings of the Perkei Avot Chapter 6:1-4

RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
Chapter 6:1-4
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr

1. The sages expounded in the language of the Mishnah (blessed is He who chose them and their learning):

Rabbi Meir would say: Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things; not only that, but [the creation of] the entire world is worthwhile for him alone. He is called friend, beloved, lover of G-d, lover of humanity, rejoicer of G-d, rejoicer of humanity. The Torah enclothes him with humility and awe; makes him fit to be righteous, pious, correct and faithful; distances him from sin and brings him close to merit. From him, people enjoy counsel and wisdom, understanding and power, as is stated (Proverbs 8:14): "Mine are counsel and wisdom, I am understanding, mine is power." The Torah grants him sovereignty, dominion, and jurisprudence. The Torah's secrets are revealed to him, and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring and as an unceasing river. He becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults. The Torah uplifts him and makes him greater than all creations.

2. Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi: Every day, an echo resounds from Mount Horeb (Sinai) proclaiming and saying: "Woe is to the creatures who insult the Torah." For one who does not occupy himself in Torah is considered an outcast, as is stated (Proverbs 11:22), "A golden nose-ring in the snout of a swine, a beautiful woman bereft of reason." And it says (Exodus 32:16): "And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty" (chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. And whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah is elevated, as is stated (Number 21:19), "And from the gift to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to The Heights."

3. One who learns from his fellow a single chapter, or a single law, or a single verse, or a single word, or even a single letter, he must treat him with respect. For so we find with David, king of Israel, who did not learn anything from Achitofel except for two things alone, yet he called him his "master," his "guide" and his "intimate," as is stated (Psalms 55:14), "And you are a man of my worth, my guide and intimate friend." Surely we can infer a fortiori: if David, king of Israel, who learned nothing from Achitofel except for two things alone, nevertheless referred to him as his master, guide and intimate, it certainly goes without saying that one who learns from his fellow a single chapter, a law, a verse, a saying, or even a single letter, is obligated to revere him. And there is no reverence but Torah, as is stated (Proverbs 3:35; 28:10), "The sages shall inherit honor" "and the integral shall inherit good"; and there is no good but Torah, as is stated (ibid. 4:2), "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it."

4. Such is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, water in small measure you shall drink, and upon the ground you shall sleep; live a life of deprivation and toil in Torah. If so you do, "fortunate are you, and good is to you" (Psalms 128:2): fortunate are you in this world, and it is good to you in the World To Come.

This is quite a chunk of Perkei Avot to bit off at once, but it’s not so bad because it is a unified theme. That of which is:

·       The Torah makes one fit for life itself.
·       There is freedom in the Torah.
·       K.I.S.S., No, not the Rock band! Keep It Simple Stupid!

V.1 Just as you do good things, because just doing them is a reward in and of itself. We study Torah, not for the sake of getting back pats or praise, but it is a reward in and of itself to simply just study Torah. Not to say that other rewards don’t come with Torah study. Just like when we find someone’s wallet or purse and return it, we don’t necessarily expect a reward, but it makes it extra nice when we do. Similar with Torah.

The saying goes, “Knowledge is Power” and the old G.I. Joe cartoons, “Knowing is half the Battle.” This perfectly describes Torah and how it sets us up for successful living.

Why was King David called a man after God’s own heart? Christian’s say because he pursued worship, because he was a singer, a psalmist and a dancer, but this is not fleshed out as the reason anywhere in the Torah. It is because God’s very heart, His will, is Torah and according to Psalm 19 and 119, David was madly in love with the very heart of God, the Torah! It was His life!

Wisdom is a synonym for Torah and Wisdom is in the feminine, so a love of Torah is like a love affair between a man and a woman.

Torah is like spiritual food. Think of it as a baby being born with the Torah attached to the foot by a string and on the cover it says, “Instruction Manual for Living”.

V.2 Elsewhere in the Perkei Avot it tells us to couple our Torah study with a worthy occupation so one will be too busy to sin. In other words a job gives us opportunity to put or Torah knowledge into practice. Unlike most Christian interpretations, Jews have NEVER felt, or seen Torah as a bondage, but a way of freedom, a way to live free from sin.

For those who refuse to listen to Torah it is considered a curse, what does this say of Christians who says Messiah did away with the Torah!? They are making a liar of Messiah for one, because He NEVER said or even hinted at (Matt. 5).

V.3 The way to get the most out of Torah study is to study with someone else, as they say, “Two heads are better than one” Your study partner doesn’t have to be a scholar either.

V.4 is all about moderation and keeping it simple. Living out the Torah isn’t and doesn’t have to be complicated.

-- Yehudah ben Shomeyr