Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of Our Fathers, II

I've decided to, bli neder, try this exercise again, almost two years since I did it last. I won't go into the mishna I choose as deeply as I did during the first round, but will just offer ideas and relate personal stories to it. A quick introduction as per the original blog:

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), one of the tractates contained in Nezikin within the Mishnah, offers moral advice and insights of the leading sages of different generations. One of the customs of the Sfradim & Mizrachim is that we read the six chapters of Pirkei Avot during the last six weeks of the Counting of the Omer. So, as I continue to delve into this amazing work, I've decided to share one quote a week and offer some commentaries on it. The format will be simple - the quote in Hebrew & English followed by some commentary on it. Please feel free to add your take in the comments.

*This 'project' is also dedicated to my late Nonnou (Grandfather in Italian) Nissim who lived by this tractate. Although he failed to get me interested in it as young boy (I did write the opening few lines for 100 Rand though), he helped plant the seeds that have allowed me to mature spiritually.

For the reason Sfradim & Mizrachim do this during this time period, please click here.

And now the quote (1:17):

שמעון בנו אומר, כל ימי גדלתי בין החכמים, ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה. ולא המדרש הוא העקר, אלא המעשה. וכל המרבה דברים, מביא חטא

Shimon his son said: All my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for the body than silence. It is not the theory that is the primary thing but action. Whoever talks excessively brings about sin.

- It's interesting that Shimon says silence is better for the body (and not the soul, as is continually mentioned in Chafetz Chaim's work). The pain we cause others, or the strife we promote within our relationships due to unnecessary talk, can lead to great discomfort and depression.

- I think the 'silence' is important for our finger tips too. I often find that discussions, be it about serious subjects or even just jokes, get taken out of context online and upset people unnecessarily. The most recent one for me was a discussion about kitniyot with N., a friend. Looking back on it, I don't even think we disagreed with each other's view point. However, my inability to use proper 'typed' talk upset N., who I think took my words as an attack on his point of view. We're not going to always agree on everything and though debate is critical, respect and silence can sometimes be better than debating a machloket (disagreement). If however, there is a need/desire to discuss, one must use their words wisely as 'excessive talk' can only cause harm.

- My family was invited to the Rabbi's home last night for Shabbat dinner. I asked the Rabbi what he most associated with my late Nonnou Nissim. He responded after some thought, "His anavah (humility) and ability to come to synagogue and just be quiet. He just focused on prayer, and didn't talk about anything unrelated. I even used to see people trying to talk to him to see if they could get a rise from him, and I don't ever remember him rising to the bait."

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