Monday, May 26, 2008

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of Our Fathers - Chapter 4

Pirkei Avot 4:2

בן עזאי אומר: הוי רץ למצוה קלה, ובורח מן העברה. שמצוה גוררת מצוה, ועברה גוררת עברה, ששכר מצוה, ושכר עברה עברה

Ben Azai dizyen Se korién a 'mitzva' livyana i fuyén de la 'avera', ke 'mizva' akarea 'mitzva' I 'avera' akarea 'avera', ke presyo de 'mitzva', 'mitzva' I presyo de 'avera', 'avera'.

Ben Azzai would say, be eager to observe a light commandment and flee from transgression, for one commandment (mitzvah - also, blessing) induces another, one transgression induces another; the reward of one mitzvah is another mitzvah, while the retribution of a transgression is another.

In my opinion, Ben Azzai is stressing the key to staying within a 'positive' & enriching life routine. By performing what he calls 'light' commandments, one prepares himself to do 'heavier' commandments, as well as instilling within himself the 'routine' of doing good. Ben Azzai's stress on 'light' however seems to mean that we shouldn't be judging commandments, as the small ones not only provide the platform for the 'heavier' commandments, but also reward us with more mitzvot.

On a personal level, I remember that what helped me on my path to being more religious was a 'light' request by a good friend at work. They needed one person for a minyan and they requested my presence. I obliged and soon became a regular 'member' of the minyan. Within a few weeks, this 'light' mitzvah had become a 3 day routine and I haven't really looked back since. Repeated positive actions will generally lead to a positive routine, which is what we all strive for in life.

Ben Azzai also warns us of the danger of transgressions, stating one needs to 'flee' from them as one transgression leads to another. The Talmud (Sotah 22a) also delves into this by teaching that if one sins and repeats it, the sin becomes permissible to him. Ben Azzai's solution to the problem of seeing sins as 'permissible' is to flee from them, and in the process, avoiding temptations and transgressions that could form a potentially self-destructive routine.

Routines are like tornadoes and once one's drawn into it, it becomes more difficult to break away. Hence, we should continually prepare ourselves by taking positive steps so that when that tornado approaches, it's one that only benefits and enriches our lives.

1 comment:

Moshe Dov said...

Yasher Koach Avi!
Very nice explanation of the mishnah,
keep at it