Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chapter Five

It is customary during the counting of the Omer, the period between Passover and Shavuot, to study one chapter of Perkei Avot each week.

So, ...

This week I reviewed Chapter 5, and honestly I did not find it the most edifying material. Much of it is filled with folk tales revolving around the number 10. Like this Mishna.
TEN MIRACLES WERE WROUGHT FOR OUR ANCESTORS IN THE TEMPLE:
(1) NO WOMAN MISCARRIED FROM THE ODOUR OF THE HOLY MEAT;
(2) THE HOLY MEAT NEVER STANK;
(3) NO FLY WAS SEEN IN THE [TEMPLE] SLAUGHTERHOUSE;
(4) THE HIGH PRIEST NEVER HAD A WET DREAM ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT;
(5) THE RAINS NEVER EXTINGUISHED THE FIRE ON THE WOOD PILE;
(6) THE WIND NEVER VANQUISHED PILLAR OF SMOKE;
(7) NO IMPURITY WAS EVER FOUND IN THE OMER, OR IN THE TWO LOAVES, OR IN THE SHOW-BREAD;
(8) [THE CROWDS] STOOD PACKED ,YET PROSTRATED THEMSELVES [WITH] WIDE SPACES ;
(9) NEVER EVER DID A SERPENT OR A SCORPION CAUSE HARM IN JERUSALEM;
(10) AND NO MAN EVER SAID TO HIS FELLOW: IT IS TOO TIGHT FOR ME TO LODGE OVERNIGHT HERE IN JERUSALEM.
Given that tens of thousands packed the Temple during the pilgrimage holidays, and given that each family brought an animal to be sacrificed, it would seem highly likely that every one of the things listed did happen - the cited miracles notwithstanding. None except, perhaps, item 4. We learned in another part of the Talmud (Yoma 19b) that attendants would accompany the High Priest all of Yom Kippur night and keep him awake, lest he fall asleep and defile himself with unworthy dreams! But one must assume that such a bizarre practice would not have come to be, had there not been a previous unfortunate incident. Such, then, is the power of historical memory written down 2 or 3 generations after the fact. Thus are myths created. And how much of what we think we know of history from 1880 through 1950 - a history still poured over to teach lessons for today - how much is myth and how much fact?

Mishna 7, gives us some good advice for being wise:
THERE ARE SEVEN CHARACTERISTICS ... IN A WISE MAN:
(1) A WISE MAN DOES NOT SPEAK BEFORE ONE WHO IS WISER THAN HIM SPEAKS;
(2) AND DOES NOT INTERRUPT THE WORDS OF HIS FELLOW;
(3) AND IS NOT HASTY TO ANSWER;
(4) HE ASKS RELEVANT QUESTION ONLY;
(5) AND [WHEN RESPONDING] HE ADDRESSES THE FIRST POINT FIRST, AND OF THE LAST POINT LAST;
(6) AND CONCERNING THAT WHICH DOES NOT KNOW, HE SAYS: I DO NOT KNOW;
(7) AND HE ACKNOWLEDGES THE TRUTH [EVEN WHEN IT IS MADE BY HIS OPPONENT IN A DEBATE.]
And though the advise above seems to be addressed to up and coming students in the Beit Midrash, it is pretty good advice for anyone. (And if you are not really that wise, you can at least appear to be, by following these guidelines.)

Finally I found this fragment insightful:
THE SWORD COMES TO THE WORLD BECAUSE OF TORTURED JUSTICE, AND BECAUSE OF PERVERTED OF JUSTICE
Once again, I find myself wishing Israeli leaders would take our tradition more seriously.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home