(Haftara: Kings II, 7:3-20)
(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 2)
- [13:1] Our tradition tells us that tzara’at (a condition similar to leprosy) is a punishment for the sin of speaking badly about someone (motzi shem ra) with no constructive purpose. The Talmud says that this sin is equal to the sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder”. Why is this sin so severe?
(Be aware that there are different traditions in numbering the mishnayot in Pirkay Avot.)
- [Pirkay Avot 2:4 or 5] Hillel said, “Don’t judge your fellow-man until you arrive at his situation”. Rav Ovadiah from Bartinoro (Italy-15th century) says, “If you see someone in a difficult situation, and he does not act properly, don’t judge him until you come to that same situation and you DO act properly.” But how can we ever judge another? Do we ever know another person’s life history and what internal and external pressures that person is dealing with?
- [Pirkay Avot 2:4 or 5] Hillel said,”…don’t say something that cannot be understood, hoping that in the end it will be understood”. Does this statement leave no room for poetry? Why are the books of Kohelet and Shir Hashirim included in the Scriptures? How should we understand this statement of Hillel’s?
- [Pirkay Avot 2:5 or 6] “In a place where there are no people, try to be a decent person”. This statement is usually understood to mean that if one is in a place where there are no decent people, one should try to be a decent person. Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821–Lithuania), however, understands this statement to mean that it is good to isolate oneself at times; and you should also act properly at that time because God sees you. Certainly R. Chaim would agree with the first interpretation. What might have prompted R. Chaim to give his interpretation?
- [Pirkay Avot 2:8 or 9] “If you learned a lot of Torah, don’t take credit for yourself, because that’s what you were created for.” Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin understands this to mean that you were created to learn according to your abilities. But your real duty is to go beyond your natural abilities, and make an effort to learn beyond what comes easily and naturally. Is R. Chaim saying something new to us or is he just explaining more fully the original statement?
[Vayikra 14:7] “And he will sprinkle upon the person who is purifying himself…” Why does the pasuk say, “… who is purifying himself”, rather than “he who is being purified”?
The process of purification is not passive. It is active. The impure person must help in his own purification through introspection and tshuvah.
—Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen (1843 – 1926), Dvinsk, Lithuania
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker
And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer