Torah Tuesdays

Pirkei Avos, Chapters One throughThree

Reading Torah (Parashat Noah)
Image via Wikipedia

It’s kind of amazing, but I actually started learning Pirkei Avos on Shabbos, around minchah time.

Over Pesach, I had the luxury of reading from the Book of Our Heritage (I had the time because my mother-in-law was happily watching and entertaining the little one) and was reminded of the custom to learn a chapter of Pirkei Avos every Shabbos afternoon from Pesach until Rosh Hashana.

I thought to myself, “Hmmmm, that sounds like something I would like to start doing again.”  I recalled attending a shiur on Pirkei Avos by Rabbi Sroy Levitanksy in St. Louis, and it was great.  Little paragraphs which give direction on how to behave in an ethical manner.  Count me in.

Miraculously, I have succeeded  in keeping it up these last three weeks (incidentally, I am also still counting the omer….what?  Yeah!).  Instead of sitting on the couch after my husband goes to minchah and feeling grumpy that I don’t have anything to read (again), I’ve been reading the chapter which corresponds with the week.

Here are a few gleanings from my study:

Week One: I had just been thinking about how Rabbi Keleman would say that if a person is not moving forward spiritually, they are moving backwards, and that each decision (even something as seemingly mundane as what tie to put on) was moving a person in one direction or the other.  As I read the first chapter I came across this gem:

1:13 He [Hillel] used to say:  He who seeks renown loses his reputation; he who does not increase decreases it; he who refuses to teach deserves death; and he who exploits the crown of Torah shall fade away.

Artscroll explains that someone who doesn’t increase his Torah knowledge will decrease it because he eventually forgets what he has learned previously.  This resonated with me.  It reminded me that since I haven’t been learning as much (B”H, mainly because I have other obligations in my life which R’Chalkowski told me are primary), I’ve felt a sort of drift.  Not really noticeable to anyone save me, but it’s there, nonetheless.  So I was encouraged to try to start increasing and prevent the decreasing from taking hold.  Little things like reading some the laws of Shabbos in addition to a Parenting magazine on Shabbos afternoon.

Week Two: I almost forgot to read the chapter for this week, so I was very relieved when it occurred to me that I should be learning something.  I was a little distracted while reading through the chapter.  However, I did retain something, which was useful when one of my fifth-graders asked me to translate one of the verses!  It was this one:

2:1Know what is above you – a watchful Eye, an attentive Ear and all your deeds are recorded in a book.
This is why I love Pirkei Avos.  It’s like (l’havdil)  Orwell before Orwell even existed.  Good perspective.  Next!
Week Three: That was this week.  After putting the little one to sleep I opened my siddur and savored perek three, which is mostly about Torah learning.  It’s pretty intense.  Interspersed between admonitions of what will happen if a person is not immersed in Torah study were a few lighter dictums on interpersonal behavior.  I like this one:
3:16 Rabbi Yishmael says:  Be yielding to a superior, pleasant to the young, and receive every person cheerfully.
So, this is exactly what I think of when I think of Pirkei Avos.  Good, simple instructions on what appropriate behavior is.  Now if I could only internalize and apply all of the maxims…


Like This!

tell me about it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.