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Pirkei Avot: Pursuing Peace
Video 4 of 13
Hi everybody, it's David Fohrman back and I asked you to consider how it is that these three things relate to each other? These are the three values, the three pillars on which the world stands as described at the very beginning of the first chapter of 'Pirkei Avot [00:00:24.00]'. We've got Torah, we've got Service of God, we've got 'Acts of Kindness'. How do they fit together? I do not think that they are treadmills, Cadillac and apples - they have nothing to do with each other. I think they fit, I think there's a way to flow chart it.
In my mind, the picture is a triangle; I think that we're looking at a triangle. I think there's something up here, which is kind of abstract, kind of essential. And then, there's two concrete expressions of that thing to apply in the real world. So, I'm going to just label this - kind of the abstract idea; and label these 'concrete expressions'. So, what are those? If you're thinking about Torah, 'Avoda [00:01:06.14]' and 'Gemilut Chasadim [00:01:07.16]' - Torah, 'Avoda' and 'acts of kindness', what would be the abstract ideas?
So, I'm going to argue that the triangle is going to look like this. If Torah be up top, Torah itsrlf is really just laws. Laws don't exist in the real world, there's just constructs, just structure. Structure doesn't exist if it doesn't give structure to something. What does it give structure to? It gives structure to these two things.
You know, you could imagine a conversation with my mythical friend Joe on the plane. He's the guy that sits down next to you and asks you if you're Jewish, wants to talk to you and Joe wants to know - sits down next to you and says, "So, tell me. What's it all about? And why is it that I need to be Jewish anyway? Isn't it enough to just be a good person? Why do you have all these laws?" What he really is talking about are these structures, about these laws. So, the answer might be, or one answer you might give is: "What does it really mean to be a good person?"
It means to do right by your relationships. What kind of relationships do you have? You pretty much have two different kinds of relationships. You have what we might call vertical relationships; and what you might call horizontal relationships. Horizontal relationships are relationships with peers, relationships with other people, other beings. Vertical relationships - I'm going to argue - are relationships with Creators. Our Creator in Heaven is going to be God; and our relationship with them if I am down here is vertical. It's an authority relationship; I'm never going to be the equal of my Creator.
These two things, Avoda and 'Gemilut Chasadim [00:02:49.00]' are really emblematic of these kinds of relationships. When I am in an appropriate relationship with my Creator, we call that Service - Service of God. I am trying to meet the expectations of my Creator who lives above me. We have an appropriate relationship with those next to us - our peers - we call that a 'kind' relationship, a relationship characterized by 'Acts of Kindness'. So, all of that is great! So, you might say, "Well, to be a good person, I just kind of need to do these stuff - to right by my relationships. My vertical relationships, my horizontal relationships - why do I need this? Why do I need Torah?
And I think the answer pretty much is, is that: that, Torah provides structure. Again, if we think of Torah - the laws of Torah as structures, as giving us guidelines to make sure that these stuff happens appropriately. What if I serve God in a way that's wrong, that's inappropriate, and a way that's not actually 'Service of God' as well? What if I had no idea of what the expectations my Creator might have for me, then how would I go about fulfilling those expectations? 'Avoda' is very difficult without some sort of guidance. The truth is, 'Acts of kindness' is difficult without some sort of guidelines as well, because if I'm emblinded by my own subjectivity and I think I'm being kind to you and I'm really not kind you, I could use some guidelines. I could use some structure. That's what the Torah does; Torah gives us structure.
Well, what if I just had the structure? If I just had the structure, I didn't have any of these two things? What if I just sat and learned all day, and understood structure, but never implemented itself in the real world? You know, I would just be left with an idea. I wouldn't be really left with anything.
So, getting back to the three things that the world stands on - maybe that's the idea. The world does stand on three things. It stands upon the Torah giving us a kind of structure so that the two kinds of relationships that we have in the world - vertical relationships in the one hand, and horizontal relationships on the other hand. Relationships with authorities, with Creators on the one hand, relationship with peers on the other hand - that those relationships can be the best that they can. And when we have these three pillars, then we have a Tripod; we have something that's stable. We have a way of approaching the world that world.
So this is a triangle that appears right there at the beginning of 'Pirkai Avot [00:05:16.12]'. The fascinating thing is, that there's another triangle. The triangle appears at the very end of the very first chapter of 'Pirkai Avot'. One more time we get this idea: we are told that the world stands on three things, except, the three things are not Torah, Avoda and 'Gemilut Chasadima' as potrayed in this little painting. But they are three different things; three more values. Three alternative values. Three something that the world relates to.
When we come back with our next video, I want to look with you at that other triangle. Ask yourselves, are there any relationships between these two triangles - the triangle that is at the beginning of 'Pirkai Avot' and the triangle that is at the end of 'Pirkai Avot'?
Come back and let's discuss that.
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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