(Haftara: Isaiah 54:11-55:5)
(Pirkay Avot Chapter 6)
1. [11:26] “Look, I am putting in front of you to-day…” Here, we are told to look, but in our most well-known prayer, “Shma Yisrael…”, we are told to listen or understand. For educational purposes, which is more effective, seeing or hearing?
2. [11:29] “…the blessing on Mount Grizim and the curse on Mount Eival…” This very dramatic ceremony presented blessings and curses to the people of Israel. In our religious life, we sometimes have dramatic ceremonies (Pesach seder, blowing of the shofar), and sometimes we have more intimate experiences (living in the sukkah, prayer, asking forgiveness). When are dramatic ceremonies more effective in getting us closer to God, and when are intimate experiences more effective?
3. [Haftara: Isaiah 54:13] “And all your children will be taught by God, and the peace of your children will be great.” In this messianic vision, we are told that when God, himself, will teach us, we will have great peace. Couldn’t it be true that having God as our teacher would bring us anxiety? How can we possibly live up to God’s expectations?
4. [Pirkay Avot 6:2] “Only one who is involved in learning Torah can be called a free person”. From a Torah point of view, what does it mean to be a free person? What is the difference between the Torah’s idea of freedom and the world’s idea of freedom?
5. [Pirkay Avot 6:6, 6:8] Mishna 6 mentions honour (kavod) in a negative way—the Torah is acquired by distancing oneself from “kavod”. However, mishna 8 says that “kavod” is a good quality for a righteous person. Is honour (kavod) a good thing or a bad thing?
Negative thoughts and a confused mind are like a turbulent sea. Therefore one has to be sure to clear up one’s thoughts. All holiness…is dependent on this. Each person achieves holiness in relation to how much the thoughts are purified.
–R. Nosson of Breslov, 1780-1844, Ukraine.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli ZuckerAnd this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer