Who are the people in your neighborhood?

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Who is Hillel? It sounds like a strange question, as we have already been introduced to Hillel in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot. Yet, there does in fact appear to be a disagreement as to whether the Hillel mentioned in Chapter 2 Mishnas 5-8 is in fact the same Hillel that was introduced previously or perhaps a different Hillel, …

Get a Job!

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by Rabbi Lehrfield   One of the most famous and at the same time contentious topics in Judaism is “Derech Eretz” and its role in our lives. While translated literally, the phrase Derech Eretz means “the way of the world,” Chazal, our Rabbis have suggested multiple meanings in its interpretation. For example, perhaps the most commonly used meaning of Derech …

Questions for Thought and Discussion 11/7

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Mishna 16: Why is Rabban Gamliel repeating the rule about making for yourself a teacher? We already learned that in Mishna 6? How do you deal with religious doubts? Does making for yourself a Rabbi help with religious doubts? How or how not? Since when do we not want someone to give too much charity? What is wrong with giving …

Wash, Rinse, and Repeat

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by Rabbi Lehrfield One word that we might use to describe this week’s set of Mishnayot at the end of the first chaper of Pirkei Avot, is ‘repetitive.’ A close reading of our Mishnayot highlight many of the ideas and teachings that have already been shared earlier in the chapter. For example, Mishna 16 quotes Rabban Gamliel who teaches “Aseh …

Questions for Thought and Discussion 10/31

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Mishna 12: Why does Hillel make reference to Aaron the High Priest? Why not just say we should all love peace? What is the difference between loving peace and pursuing peace? What are some techniques that can be used in helping make peace between two conflicting sides? What kind of peace is the Mishna talking about? Peace between nations, communities, …

Stop, Drop, and Learn Torah

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Torah 365 Commentary – 10/31 Of the many Rabbis written about in the Talmud, few have the same name recognition as Hillel and Shammai. These two great leaders served as the last pair of sages in the Sanhedrin as Nasi (President) and Av Beit Din (Head of the Court) while providing leadership during an increasingly difficult political landscape. Perhaps Hillel …

Be The Change

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This week’s set of Mishna seems to be more than just a little bit out of place. Mishna eight and nine taught by Yehuda ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shetach do not seem to follow the ethical, moral, and homiletic themes that we find throughout Pirkei Avot. Instead, what we find in these Mishnas are advice and technical details necessary for …

Questions for Thought and Discussion 10/24

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Chapter 1: Mishna 8: Can the opening statement of our Mishna apply to those of us who are not judges? How? Why should you see both parties as wicked? Why should you view them as righteous and innocent when they leave you? What role does a court system have in a civilized society? Using the advice of the Sages, how …

Questions for Thought and Discussion 10/17

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Chapter 1: Mishna 4: What is so important about making your home into a meeting place for Sages? How do you define a Sage? Any Rabbi? A great scholar? What should you do if your home is not fit as a meeting place for Sages? What does it mean to ‘sit in the dust of their feet’? Can being around …

The Key to Your Home

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The Gemara in Shabbos (13b) discusses the Mishna that describes how 18 new matters were learned at the home of Chananyah ben Chezkiyah ben Garon. By opening his home to many students, Chananyah helped to continue our rich tradition of Jewish learning. Interestingly, there are many other examples in the Talmud of great sages meeting at the homes of individuals …