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Pirkei Avot: Pursuing Peace
Video 9 of 13
Okay, so tell me you understand all this. I want to come back to this problem that we've talked about before, and that is: what about peace? We've been telling about these two triangles. In our second triangle, we suggested this - kind of like the first triangle, probably - in so far as we have this abstract idea. In this case, that idea was 'truth'. And then there's going to be these two expressions of that idea in the real world. One expression was 'justice'; and we understood how justice is a kind of concrete expression of truth. When there's a dispute between two people and you resolve that justly, so that's a concrete expression of 'truth'. Truth has come into the world in the form of a just resolution of dispute. But the question is, how does truth express itself as peace? What does this have to do with peace? How is peace an expression of truth? This seems to be at odds with truth.
So, what I think this really does is, perhaps it is suggesting some kind of redefinition of truth, or slight realignment in our understanding of what we think of truth. Normally what we think of truth, we think of truth as being the opposite of 'false' - statements that reflect that which exists, as opposed to that which doesn't exist.
That's one way to think of truth. We think of truth in a slightly different way. I think that we can see that, both justice and peace are just reflections of it; and to get to that slightly different way of thinking about truth, I want to come back to the Hebrew word for truth, 'Emet [00:01:36.23]'. If you look at that, these are the Hebrew letters for truth. There are certain qualities which stand out when you look at the word 'Emet [00:01:42.03]'. And I think that the word itself in Hebrew kind of expresses perhaps the philosophy of truth that the Hebrew language supports.
For example, 'Aleph [00:01:53.27]' over here, the first letter in Truth, just happens to be the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. 'Tav [00:01:59.19]', the last letter in truth - of course in Hebrew, we write from right to left - is going to not just be the last letter of the word truth, it's also the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And wouldn't you know it, that 'Mem [00:02:11.10]', the middle letter in truth just happens to be the exact middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
So, that's kind of cool; but it gets even cooler, actually, when you look at some of the other qualities of the word. For example: let's look at 'Emet [00:02:26.12]' in contra-distinction to it's opposite, 'Shakr [00:02:30.11]' - and this is, by the way, comes from the Talmud 'Hebrew [00:02:32.17]'. I believe it's from 'Hebrew and then Inaudible [00:02:33.06]'. Here's the idea there; here's the idea for falsehood in Hebrew, 'Shakr [00:02:41.17]' - 'Shin, Khauf, Reish [00:02:43.29]' right? First of all, you know this - that these are three out of the last four letters of the Hebrew alphabet. These are all the letters of the 'Hebrew [00:02:53.14]' alphabet - the last letter of the alphabet, 'Krouf, Reish, Shin and then, Tav [00:02:57.16]'. So, notice how 'Shakr [00:03:01.05]' is all grouped towards the end of the alphabets? So, if this is 'Shakr [00:03:05.11]', and here's the Hebrew alphabet, 'Shakr [00:03:08.00]'s rated all the way down here.
So, 'Emet [00:03:10.14]' is perfectly balanced in the alphabet - first, last, middle - this is all 'waited [00:03:16.00]' towards the end. Now, not only is 'Shakr [00:03:19.18]' waited towards the end, but if you look at the letters in another way, you find an interesting kind of thing. If you would draw a line, if you'd imagine - here's the line at the bottom of the page in which the letters sit, and here's the line at the bottom of the page in which these letters sit - you notice something interesting about the line. Which is that, these letters are self-sustaining. The 'Aleph [00:03:39.09]', when you look at it, the 'Aleph' has two points. It's actually going to stand up in this line; that 'Mem [00:03:45.13]' has this base here at the bottom, and then a point here - it's also going to stand up in the line. The 'Tav [00:03:50.22]' also has two points, this point over here and it's got this leg over here. So, it's also going to stand in the line.
'Shakr [00:03:56.25]' - none of these letters stand in the line. 'Shin [00:03:59.08]', just one little point here, Shin is going to have a topple and fall. 'Khauf [00:04:02.24]', one point here, one point way below the line, that's also going to topple and fall. 'Reish [00:04:07.19]', one point over here that's going to crash going over this way.
But here's one other final quality about this word 'Emet [00:04:13.18]'. Not only is 'Emet' balanced in terms of being able to fit on this line, not only is it balanced in terms of first, last and middle - but it's also conceptually balanced. Let's take 'Emet' one more time - 'Aleph', 'Mem', 'Tav'. Amd now let's look at the meaning of the composite words. If you would just break this, right down in the middle - just draw a line right down in the middle - and break it into two words, the word over here in the right had side is going to be 'Em [00:04:40.27]'; 'Aleph' and 'Mem' together. This is going to be a final 'Mem'. And the word over here, 'Mem' and 'Tav' together is going to be 'Met'. It's fascinating what those words mean. They mean 'Mother' on the one hand, 'Em'; and 'Death' on the other hand.
Think about that, two opposing forces in the world - Mother and Death. What is Mother? Mother is the source of all life. Death is that which stops life. What is truth? Truth, again, is the balance - balance between these two. If you just have life - well, life sounds like its really good, but what if you have cells that only have life and only reproduce, and only reproduce their Mother? The source of all life, and then they continue to reproduce out of control - what would we call that? We call that cancer, which actually is really death.
What truth really is, is sustainable life. It's actually the balance between life and death - it's life with limits. Death is the limit that cuts that off. If you actually think about how it is, that for example - a fetus' hands develop. Originally, the hand in the womb is like a paddle, and then the skin between the digits has to die off in order for life to be promoted. 'Emet [00:05:49.26]' is actually the exclusive balance between life and death. So, in all of these kinds of ways, what 'Emet' really is, is a certain kind of balance and a certain kind of harmony. Balance conceptually in terms of the word itself; balance in terms of it's letters, 'Aleph', 'Mem' and 'Tav' - first, last and middle. Harmony between these conceptual ideas of death and mother - these are all leading us into a kind of philosophy, of truth, of what it might mean when we actually think of truth.
We might define truth more robustly, as a kind of integrity. And by integrity, I mean integrity on the false sense of the word. When things fit together, when they are in harmony, when they are in balance - we call this truth. And when things fit together, they can stand up; they can stand on their own - that's what makes truth kind of existent. If you think about a jigsaw puzzle, when it fits together, it can stand on its own. When it doesn't fit together, it all falls apart. At 'Shakr [00:06:53.07]', truth is that which has the capacity to exist because it fits, because it's in harmony, because it's in balance. And therefore, it has the power. This might be sort of a larger definition of this idea we call truth.
Well, if that's what we are going to call truth, truth may well have two expressions - 'justice' and 'peace'. Under this new definition of truth, peace really is an expression of truth. Let's come back and we'll take about how that's 'Inaudible due to music [00:07:24.02]'.
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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