Fifth Pirkei Avot Post During Counting of The Omer
Here are the sayings from Chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot, the Sayings of Our Fathers, that resonate with me:
The first one concerns what wisdom looks like, in its proper form. It advises never to interrupt someone who is speaking, whether you agree with what they are saying or not. Even if you have an opinion, and agree or disagree, let them finish, let them say what they will.
A wise person understands that even though you may be able to predict what they’re going to say, you want to give them a full expression. That will also give you a little bit of time to contemplate. Especially when you’re listening to someone who’s wisdom is greater than your own, don’t pipe up every few seconds. If you have a question, then ask it. But first, hear what they have to say, and give them respect.
Also, don’t reply instantly. Take a minute and think about what they are saying. I think we can identify many issues in our personal lives, historical lives and Biblical stories which came about because people replied too hastily and don’t think about the consequences of their words.
When a wise person doesn’t know something they say, “I don’t know,” or, “I have not heard.” They need to get used to saying those things when necessary, because it is another way of the wise.
A person should have the humility to admit the truth. If you messed up and said something wrong, something bad have the decency to admit it. Be connected to truth, not ego. That’s the first thing I want to share.
The second thing I want to share is just a few words, but it conveys a very powerful message about giving, and there are givers, takers and people in the middle.
The giver is a person who says, “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours.” That means, I’m interested in giving, so if I have something, I want to share it with you. But if you have something, you don’t need to share it with me. I don’t need your gifts. I want you to keep it.
The taker, on the other opposite side, is probably someone who is very selfish. That person says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine.” It’s sort of like the Mafia… “I got my own thing, and what you’ve got, I’m going to take that, too.” So, obviously that is not the good way.
The person in the middle says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours.” That can be ok, or it can be corrupt, because rather than trying to be a giver and focusing on others, the person is essentially saying, “You do your thing, I’ll do my thing and it will be ok as long as you don’t hurt each other.” This is not really the best philosophy in the world. We have a better one, which is to give, and to help other people have what they are missing.
My next saying is this – A person who is hard to anger and easy to pacify is called a Hasid, or Chasid. This person is calm because he does things beyond the letter of the law, beyond what’s expected of him. Although they are justified in feeling anger when they or their loved ones have been hurt unjustly, nevertheless, because they love G-d and want to live beyond the letter of the law, the world and the people of the world, they are always going to look for an empowering factor in their interaction with another person instead of getting angry.
Even when a Chasid gets angry, for whatever reason, they are easy to pacify, because their natural place is to be a Chasid, a person who is a giver.
The next saying is this – Love that is dependent on some external factor has a catch, which is that when that external factor goes away, the love goes away. The love that is not dependent on anything will last forever. It will make it through thick and thin. This is a huge lesson, because it’s very hard to love people altruistically. People normally love because there are benefits involved. It may be good for them, or they might just love to love, the feeling of it, the attention of it. But to really love in that way does not depend on the way that person acts towards you. That love will conquer all, and it will last forever.
A similar, but somewhat different statement our Sages make is this – an argument that is not for G-d’s sake will not stand the test of time. The two sides will both dissipate.
But an argument in which both sides are doing it for G-d, and even if one side is ruled to be pertinent in a certain time and place, and the other side is not, both sides are called by our Sages, “the words of the living G-d,” and they will have pertinence always, in all ways. That’s an important truth about an altruistic, non-dependent way of seeing both sides of the picture.
Here’s the next one – A person who is a meritor of the multitudes, in other words, what they do with their life is in order to lift up many, many people, and it’s not just a personal, selfish intention, that person is going to be protected from sin and from failure in their lifetime. It’s sort of measure-for-measure, because they are helping a lot of people so they should be helped as well.
G-d is saying to that person, so to speak, “You’re doing it for my kid? Then I will do it for you, and I will keep you from stumbling also.” Let’s say that person does fall into sin, and they would have to go into purgatory or some other horrible post-life situation, but one of their students or a person they’ve helped in this world has made it to the Garden of Eden… how does that look? The teacher is downstairs and the student is upstairs. That situation might provide a ticket for the teacher to get out, meaning he would be protected.
Here’s the next one – One of our Sages, a righteous convert named Ben Bagbag, said, “Turn it around and turn it around because everything is in it,” referring to Torah. This means that when you go deep, deep inside of Torah you find that G-d looked at Torah and created the world. Which means everything in the world is contained in Torah, but you have to know how to fish it out and how to identify all of reality, including its source inside of Torah.
To do that, you have to turn it around and turn it around. Probably the reason a convert picked up on that truth more than someone who was not a convert is because they’ve been there. They have been on the other side and they’ve seen what reality is all about. When they came into Torah they started to feel, “wow, this is a book which is basically a guide to all of reality.” That’s the kind of person who can make a statement like this one, and keep it as a mantra for his life.
Another convert said something very profound, too. He said, “According to the sorrow or the suffering will be the reward.” In this world, in the next world or wherever. There is a justice system implanted in life, so if a person is hurt, they will be compensated in one way or another. If they suffered trying to make good things happen they will be rewarded. That’s a deep insight also, as to the Divine running the world.
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