01 January 2012

The World Stands on Three Things ...

I don't believe what I see happening to Jews in Eretz Yisrael ... But it is ... and as YeranenYaakov wrote on his blog: "We are currently between the 2 weeks of the year where Ahdut is stressed the most. ...What we need right now is an infusion of Ahavat Hinam to counteract the Sinat Hinam going around lately."

"Be amongst the disciples of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace.
Love people and bring them close to Torah."

This entire escalation of Sinas Hinam is fueled by the Yetzer Hara in his attempt to bring down as many good people as possible. And this, to me, means that Moshiach is so close. What we need now is an reminder about and escalation of:

Ethical Principles

The number of commentaries written on Pirkei Avot testify that it contains far more content and structure than can be captured in a simple outline. The following list aims merely to group some of the general principles found in the work.

Show kindness to others

"The world stands on three things: On Torah, on prayer ("avoda"; can also mean sacrificial offerings), and on kindness to others" (1:2)

"Your house should be open wide, and you should make the poor members of your household." (1:5)
"Meet every person with graciousness." (1:15)
"He [Yohanan ben Zakkai] said: 'Go and see what is the right way that a man should seek for himself.' Rabbi Eliezer said 'A good eye'. Rabbi Yehoshua said 'A good friend'. Rabbi Yose said 'A good neighbor'. Rabbi Shimon said 'One who sees consequences.' Rabbi Elazar said 'A good heart'. He [Yohanan] said to them, 'I prefer the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Arach to yours, because his words include yours as well.'" (2:13)

Respect the other person

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow" (Shab. 31a)

"What is the right path a man should choose? Whatever is honorable to himself, and honorable in the eyes of others." (2:1)
"Let your friend's honor be more dear to you than your own." (2:15)
"The evil eye, the evil inclination, and hatred of men, drive a person out of the world." (2:16)
"Let your friend's money be more dear to you than your own." (2:17)

Respect yourself

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" (1:14)
"What is the right path a man should choose? Whatever is honorable to himself, and honorable in the eyes of others." (2:1)
"In a place where there are no worthy men, strive to be worthy." (2:6)
"He who acquires a good name, has acquired himself something indeed." (2:8)
"Do not regard yourself as an evil person." (2:18)

Respect G-d

"Do His will as if it were your own, so that He will do His will as it were yours. Nullify your own will before His so that he will nullify the will of others before you." (2:4)

Seek peace

"Be amongst the students of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace. Love people and bring them close to Torah." (1:12)
"The more charity, the more peace" (2:8)

Take precaution to avoid transgressions

"Make a fence for the Torah" (1:1)
"Keep far from an evil neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of divine retribution" (1:7)
"Evaluate the loss of not fulfilling a commandment against its reward, and the reward of committing a transgression against its loss. Consider three things, and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you, a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all of your deeds written down in a book." (2:1)

Be humble

"Love work, and despise official positions, and do not become too acquainted with the governing power." (1:10)
"One who makes a name great, destroys it" (1:13)
"Anyone who works for the community, let your work with them be for the sake of Heaven... And as for you all, I will make your reward great as though you had accomplished all the work." (2:2)
"Be cautious regarding the ruling power. Because they only befriend a person when it serves themselves. They appear as friends when it suits them, but they do not stand by a man in his time of need." (2:3)
"Do not separate yourself from the community, and do not be sure of yourself until your day of death." (2:5)
"The more flesh, the more worms. The more possessions, the more worry. The more wives, the more witchcraft. The more maidservants, the more uncouthness. The more servants, the more theft." (2:8)
"If you have learned much Torah, do not flatter yourself about it, because it was for this purpose you were created." (2:9)
"Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven." (2:17)

Be circumspect in prayer

"Be careful when reciting the Shema and tefilla. Do not pray as though by rote, but plead for mercy and grace before God." (2:18)

Combine Torah learning with labor

"Torah learning is best combined with an occupation, because the effort of both will keep one from sin. Torah study alone without work will in the end be nullified and lead to sin." (2:2) (See Torah im Derech Eretz'.')

Do not exploit your learning

"One who uses the crown will pass away" (1:13)

Be careful with speech

"All my life I was raised amongst the Sages, and I never found anything better for a person than silence... one who talks too much causes sin." (1:17)
"Do not speak (excessively) much with women. This regards a man's own wife, how much more so regarding another man's wife!" (1:5)
"Sages, you should be careful in what you say, lest you merit exile and be sent to a place of evil waters, and your pupils who follow you will die, and the name of Heaven will be disgraced." (1:11)
"Say little and do much." (1:15)
"Do not say something that cannot be understood, thinking it will be understood later." (2:5)

Do not seek rewards

"Do not be like slaves who serve the master in order to obtain a reward. Rather, be like slaves who serve the master not to receive a reward. And let the fear of Heaven be upon you." (1:3)
Be as careful in observance of a minor commandment as in a major commandment, because you don't know the respective rewards for the commandments. (2:1)

Do not leap to judge another person

"Judge every person favorably" (1:6)
"Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place." (2:5)

Be fair and deliberate in legal decision

"When judging, do not act as an advocate. When the litigants are before you, regard them all as guilty. And when leave you, regard them all as meritorious, when they have accepted your judgment." (1:8)
"Be thorough in examining witnesses, and watch what you say, so they do not learn from you how to lie." (1:9)
"On three things does the world stand: On justice, truth, and peace." (1:18)

Be fair and deliberate in business

The time for action is now

"If not now, when?" (1:14)

"The main thing is not study, but doing." (1:17)
"Do not say 'I will study when I have the time', for perhaps you will never have time." (2:5)
"The day is short, the labor vast, the toilers idle, the reward great, and the Master of the house is insistent." (2:20)
"It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it" (2:21)

Seek an even temperament
"A boor cannot be sin-fearing, and an ignoramus cannot be pious. A shy person cannot learn, and an impatient person cannot teach." (2:6)

"Do not be quick to anger." (2:15)

[emphasis mine]

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