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Pirkei Avot: Pursuing Peace
Video 6 of 13
So, I'm going to argue that the same structure actually does hold and you can create the triangle that looks kind of like this. 'Truth' can be your abstract value, and truth is going to have two expressions in the real world. One expression is going to be 'justice', and the other expression is going to be called 'peace'. Now let me explain what I mean by that, and one is easier to see than the other. We'll take the easier one for the moment. Let's take 'justice'.
What do we mean when we would say that 'truth' is something abstract, but when 'truth' becomes concrete in the real world, then it looks like justice. What does that really mean? Well, for an answer, we can just consult Superman. Because his model of 'truth', 'justice' in the American way, right? So, you see, truth and justice really do go well together. 'Truth' - just an abstract idea; 'justice' - what it looks in the real world. In another way, if you really think about disputes between people, disputes between people that happen in the real world, truth is just an abstract notion. Notion of something which is not false, that which exists. 2 plus 2 equals 4 - really just an idea. When truth ceases to be just an idea but expresses itself in the real world, it looks like justice - a just resolution of disputes.
Again, truth is an abstract value; justice is the expression of truth in the practical world. The only thing is, it really works - this idea, of there being an abstract idea and then these values seem to express themselves in concrete ways. The problem is: does it really work? Because the one thing that seems to be the fly in the ointment, the one thing that doesn't seem to fit in this scheme, is 'peace'. In another way, if the same structure holds, if the Mishnah at the beginning and the Mishnah at the end of this chapter are both three things that the world stands on - this abstract idea and two expressions of that idea - it would follow that an expression of truth in the real world is something we call 'peace'. And that is not something which is all intuitive. Most of us would not think of peace - as nice as peace is - as an expression of truth, of all things.
As a matter of fact, when there's peace between people, we might say it might not necessarily be an expression of truth. And certainly, it's not necessarily just. A peaceful resolution is not necessarily the same as a just resolution to dispute. The 'Versai [00:02:25.29]' Treaty would be a really good example. At least powers of the West considered this to be a 'just desserts' for Germany - for the heavy crushing burdens of reparations level upon Germany. And yet, the 'just' response of the 'Versai [00:02:41.27]' Treaty to the crimes of Germany World War I certainly did not bring about peace; rather it fostered war. World War II was sort of the result. You might even say that justice and peace are actually 'intensionable [00:02:52.07]' to each other, then. So what does it mean to say that the 'truth expresses itself as peace'? Or, 'truth can have an expression of peace'?
That's a very intriguing idea. That's something that I want to explore. Because I think it will take us to the real depths of what peace really means. How is peace achieved? What is peace really about? And, the notion that peace is in some way, really an expression of truth, I think is a really intriguing one. And I think colors are perceptions of what we're doing when we pursue peace.
Now what I want to do next with you is show you something that I think is really fascinating. If we look at what we have here - we have two triangles. We have a triangle at the beginning of the 'Ethics of the Fathers'; we have a traingle at the end. The triangle at the beginning is what we call 'Torah', 'Service' and 'Acts of Kindness' - three things that the world stands on. The triangle at the end - 'truth', 'justice' and 'peace'.
Granted, we still have to figure out exactly how peace mixes into this. But we've got this sort of symmetrical structure over here. And what's interesting about this is, how this influences the entire chapter. What I want to argue will take us a bit beyond the skill of this class. I'm not going to get into this into detail, but what I want to argue is that these two ideas - that the world stands on 'Torah', 'service' and 'kindness'; or 'truth', 'justice' and 'peace' - these six values that the Mishnah's talking about are such fundamental values that the rest of the entire chapter, from beginning to end, is really just an expression of these six values and what they look like in the real world.
All of the Mishnah 'Hebrew [00:04:29.26]' in the middle, all of the aphorisms in the middle, between these - I want to argue - is going to be some kind of expression, trying to show you how in the real world is going to be some kind of expression; trying to show you how in the real world - 'truth', 'justice' and 'peace' on the one hand and 'Torah', 'service' and 'love and kindness' in the other hand - actually work together to be the foundations of how it is that we relate to anyone. Whoever it is that's doing the relating and whoever it is that they are relating to - somehow there's some sort of mixture of these six values - 'Torah', 'service' and 'loving kindness' on the one hand; 'truth', 'justice' and peace on the other.
The argument that the Mishnah is trying to make is that these six values should govern a well-lived life. I'm working on a course, actually, on 'Pirkai Avot [00:05:11.00]', on 'Ethics of the Fathers' that will detail this for you. In some details, what it would look like if I were to construct a picture of it is almost like these ideas kind of fanning out in the world in the intervening 'Hebrew [00:05:24.23]'. And what we are going to start seeing is the intersection between 'truth', 'justice' and 'peace' on the one hand, and 'Torah', 'service' and 'loving kindness' on the other hand. And what I want to do is just begin to show this to you, right smack in the middle.
That is to say, the intervening 'Hebrew [00:05:43.27]' - the 'Mishnayat [00:05:45.04]' right in the middle of the chapter. We've been looking at from the beginning of the chapter; we've been looking at the end of the chapter. What I want to look with you is the middle of the chapter. I want to show you how these ideas are starting to define the middle of the chapter - 'Torah', 'service' and 'kindness', and 'truth' and 'justice' and 'peace'.
So stick with me, we're going to take a very fast look at 'Mishnayat [00:06:05.28]' 8 o 12. I'll see you on the other side/slide [00:06:07.25].
2. Pillars of the World
3. The Triangle
4. From Abstract to Concrete
5. A Tale of Two Triangles
7. The Puzzle of Aaron's Methodology
8. Truth, Balance and Integrity
9. Past-Focused Integrity; Future-Focused Integrity
10. Two Kinds of "Why"
11. A Closer Look at Aaron's Methodology
12. Of Everything, Ask What it is in its Essence
13. Judgments of Peace
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