RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), "Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): "If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.
Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel ): "For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned."
I really like the first part of this passage. It tells me that you can learn lessons from anyone, even and especially your enemies. God will sometimes use enemies unknowingly to teach us something.
This reminds me of a story that the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach told about how Atheists are some of the most holy people. This was met with gasps and murmurs. He said they are holy because when someone asks a religious person for help, he is mostly met with an, “I’ll pray for you,” as a “holy way to cop out of ones true responsibilities and so as not to be inconvenienced. But when someone asks an atheist for help, they don’t believe in G-d and there for cannot ask G-d for help on someone’s behalf. They have to actually help if they can or direct them to proper help, and because they “do” instead of just “say” they are at times more holy than religious people. For as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”
The rest of the passage praises the virtues of the inner life and through this we find power, peace and contentment.
You may be like the Incredible Hulk and be able to bust through walls but what goes does that do if you can’t control your temper and have to pay for the wall you just broke through!?
And as Yeshua Messiah said, what good does it do (and I am majorly paraphrasing here) if you own the world like Bill Gates, Donald Trump or the Rothschild’s and yet end up dieing and selling your soul to the devil (Matt. 16:26)?
Rav Sha’ul said if you have food and clothes be content (I Tim. 6:8).
And if you treat others with respect and honor they will do so to you too.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” – Yeshua, Matthew 7:12
So ridiculously simple concepts yet so extremely hard to do, but if you can swing it, you will be so much happier and better off.
-- Yehudah ben Shomeyr