(Haftara: Amos 9:7-15)
(Pirkay Avot 1)
1. [19:14] “Don’t curse the deaf, and don’t put an obstacle before the blind…” These behaviours are obviously metaphors for behaviours that are more common. Which behaviours are these metaphors for? What character traits is the Torah trying to develop in us by telling us not to do these things?
2. [19:11] “…don’t lie to each other.” Our tradition tells us that the place in the Torah where a mitzvah is written is significant. It relates to either what comes before or what comes after. Why does the commandment to be honest with another person come directly after the commandment to care for the poor and the weak?
3. [19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “. The Torah assumes that one loves himself or herself. If someone has a low self-image, and does not love himself or herself, what should he or she do? How can a person come to love him or herself? How can a person come to appreciate and love another person?
4. [Sfirat Haomer] Because Rabbi Akiva’s students died of a plague, our tradition tells us to observe customs of mourning (no weddings; no haircuts, etc.) during the majority of the days when we count the omer between Pesach and Shavuot. On these days we anticipate our receiving of the Torah on Shavuot, so shouldn’t these be days of joy? Do these customs of mourning take away from the atmosphere of anticipation of receiving the Torah, or add to that atmosphere?
(There is a custom to learn Pirkay Avot on Shabbatot between Pesach and Rosh Hashana. Be aware that there are different traditions in numbering the mishnayot in Pirkay Avot.)
5. [Pirkay Avot 2:2] “Everyone who works with the community should work with them without expecting reward…” Many of the commandments of the Torah have to do with our interactions with other people. Why is a vibrant and healthy community so central to the religious values of the Torah? What does getting close to God have to do with community?
[19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “.
The love of all creations is first; then the love of man; then the love of the people of Israel; which includes everything because in the future, Israel is going to repair all creations. All these loves are meant to be practised—to do good for them and to cause them to be elevated. And the greatest of all is the love of God…The greatest happiness is for the heart to be full of the love of God.
–Rabbi Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania, Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker
And to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer