web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Q & A: Pirkei Avot (Part III)


Questions-Answers-logo

“From the academies of Babylonia the custom traveled to the Jewish communities of Ashkenaz, the France and Germany of over 900 years ago, and we find it mentioned by Rabbi Abraham ben Nathan of Lunel [Ibn Yarhi, 12th century] in his Sefer HaManhig (Hilchot Shabbat 63). But in Kol Bo [an anonymous work of the 14th century], we read that the custom varied among the communities: Some study the chapters only from Passover to Shavuoth, others all year or during different periods of the year. In his Siddur Avodath Yisra’el, published in Roedelheim in 1868, Dr. Seligmann Baer lists three different customs current among the German Jewish communities of his time.”

He continues, “In the Mishnah itself, Avoth has only five chapters. But between Passover and Shavuoth there are six Saturdays, and apparently for this reason a sixth chapter was added yet in the days of the Geonim, since Rav Amram Gaon speaks of ‘Avoth and Kinyan Torah.’ This added chapter, Kinyan Torah, is a baraitha: it is material quite similar to the Mishnah, which Rabbi Judah haNasi did not include in the Mishnah when he compiled it.

“Our custom, from time immemorial in East European Jewry, is to recite and study Avoth from the Sabbath after Passover to the Saturday before Rosh Hashanah, fifteen Sabbaths in all. On each of the first twelve we study one chapter, on each of the last three, two chapters. Since the Hebrew for ‘chapter’ is perek, ‘chapters’ is p’rakim, and ‘chapters of’ is pirkei – the work has come to be called Pirkei Avoth, or more simply, Perek.”

He further states, “It is no accident or coincidence that originally the time for Perek seems to have been from Passover to Shavuoth. On Passover we celebrate going free from Egypt, and its physical enslavement, to a destiny of G-dliness and Torah. Our people, however, were not ready to receive the Torah at once, and it was only weeks later, when they stood at Mount Sinai, that our people received the Torah – at Shavuoth time. In the symbolic language of the Sages, on Passover we became ‘betrothed’ to the Torah; on Shavuoth the spiritual ‘wedding’ took place, as we made an eternal, irrevocable pact, a covenant, with the Almighty and His Torah. Now, in a time of betrothal, bride and groom get to know one another, in preparation for a lifetime together. Between Passover and Shavuoth, as we ‘count the days’ by observing s’firah, waiting to receive the Torah anew from Sinai, it is good to prepare by studying Avoth, to gain some idea of the greatness, wonder and profundity of Torah, this unique spiritual ‘bride’ that we are going to receive. Even a non-Jewish scholar, George Foot Moore (Judaism, Cambridge, 1927-30, Vol. II, p. 157), has observed: ‘For a knowledge of the ideals of Rabbinical ethics and piety, no other easily accessible source is equal to Avoth.’

“Nor is it a coincidence, I believe, that we begin studying Perek in the springtime. This is when nature renews its great cycle of annual life and growth: the warm, vital forces of regeneration begin to stir and flow. Man too feels powerful instinctual urges rouse within himself. At this time of year, it is therefore best to listen to the wisdom of the Sages, to learn how to overcome temptation and passion, develop our will power and control our actions. Pirkei Avoth provides instruction, mussar, a blueprint of Torah for the life that comes with renewed force in the spring.

“But, you may ask, do we really need this special instruction? We have the Shulchan Aruch, an elaborate legal code that delineates right and wrong, the just and the unjust, in all practical circumstances. And the very passage from the Mishnah that we say before each chapter of Avoth proclaims, ‘The people Israel all have a share in the world to come.’ Why should we have this special mussar, this teaching and chastisement?

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Q & A: Pirkei Avot (Part III)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Avi Weiss

With Ruth, The Torah seems to be stating that children shouldn’t be punished for the sins of parents

Neihaus-070315

Without a foundation, one cannot hope to build a structure.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Why do we have a parsha in Sefer Shemos named after Yisro who was not only a former idolater, but actually served as a priest for Avodah Zarah!

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

This Land Is ‘My’ Land
‘[If The Vow Was Imposed] In The Seventh Year…’
(Nedarim 42b)

The Shulchan Aruch in the very first siman states that one should rise in the morning like a lion, implying that simply rising form bed requires strength of a lion, in line with the Midrash.

Attempts to interpret the message of Hashem in the absence of divine prophecy ultimately may twist that message in unintended ways that can lead to calamitous events.

Suddenly, the pilot’s voice could be heard. He explained that this was a special day for those passengers on board who lived in Israel.

If the sick person is thrust into a situation where he is compelled to face his sickness head on, we who are not yet sick can encourage him by facing it with him.

All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible’s answer is surprising and profound.

What’s the nation of Israel’s purpose in the world? How we can bring God’s blessings into the world?

“Is there a difference between rescuing and other services?” asked Ploni.

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-pirkei-avot-part-iii/2014/05/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: