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Pirkei Avot: Pursuing Peace
Video 7 of 13
Okay, so if we look towards the center of the first chapter of 'Pirkei Avot [00:00:14.09]', here is what we will find. We will find 'Mishnayat [00:00:17.15]' 8-11; and interestingly, if you just look at their general themes - I don't want to go through these in detail with you now, because I am not focusing on this in particular. I just want to show you the broad themes over here. What we are doing here is we are talking about judges. What you'll find is that for each of the 'Mishnayat [00:00:34.09]' in the first chapter of 'Pirkei Avot [00:00:35.02]', you're going to find different audiences. And the different audiences are going to be different subjects, and different objects.
By objects, I'm not saying that they are things; they can be people too. I mean more in the grammatical sense. There are subjects, which means the people who are doing the things; they are doing the relating. And the objects - I am calling those to whom we are relating. So, you just have to ask yourself: who is the subject and who is the object? In this case - in this intervening 'Mishnayat' from 8 to 11 - the subject is going to be judges, or leaders of society. That's the group to whom the Mishnah is giving advice. And the object is going to be - well, we'll see.
The objects are going to be the people who are judging, the people they're leading; and the advice being given to judges - as we are going to see - I think is, avoid corruption. They avoid corruption in various ways. Mishnah 8 - the kind of corruption which a judge is supposed to avoid is corruption in a court of law when deciding between litigants. We're getting a device over how a judge can be fair, and to somehow become a master over element of human subjectivity, which is inside him and stride to be as objective as possible, not to allow himself to be blindsided; by looking at the litigants and saying, "Oh, I'm going to help this one out, and try to help that one out." And the idea over here is how to be fair and just in a court case when two litigants are standing before me.
The idea here in Mishnah 10 - as you are going to see - is to try and avoid corruption in a different kind of way. One way a judge can be corrupt is to try and curry favor with those above him and to despise those below him. And therefore 'Hebrew [00:02:19.16]' that, "You should be careful with that. You shouldn't try to curry favor with those above you." If you're judge with the Romans and the second authorities who may lie above you, you shouldn't despise those below you. You should love those below you. And so, in order to be fair and to avoid corruption, you need to be careful about these types of relationships too.
And then, 'Avtalyon [00:02:37.25]' over here is going to talk about another thing, which is a way to avoid corruption. Let's respect to a judge or a teacher actually teaching Torah, academic torah. How to make sure that your teachings about Torah are not misunderstood in a way that would be tragic.
If you think about these three things, actually - what I argue is that these three things over here, these three objects as it were - are going to correspond to one of our triangles. The triangle we've called Torah, Avoda and 'Inaudible [00:03:15.04]'. The Torah over here is the last piece. Avtalyon's telling you that in your capacity judges, as teachers of abstract Torah, the laws, the ideas of Torah - how do you avoid corruption there? How do you make sure that the teaching of Torah remains pure, not corrupted, not misunderstood? But of course, a judge has other responsibilities. A judge has responsibilities that are vertical, and responsibilities that are horizontal.
In vertical, Avoda type responsibilities - remember all these vertical lines over here? This is because we were talking about Avoda-type style things. So, you might end up telling this thing, "Be careful not to become corrupted, by trying to curry favor with those above you." The only one you serve is God. You don't serve these Roman procures [00:04:00.02] or anyone; so don't try and curry favor with them. Don't despise those below you. So this is relating to our vertical relationships or the judges' vertical relationships - the Avoda segment of his life. And he has to be careful there, also so as to avoid corruption.
And then, there's the horizontal segment of his life, which is his capacity as judge where he judges between two people. Person A, Person B - I'm judging between them. And they're my responsibilities, not so much acts of kindness - 'Hebrew [00:04:32.17]'. But what does kindness look like for a judge? Ironically, if a judge tries to be kind, he can end up being corrupt and that's the point of this Mishnah over here. The idea is, that in order for a judge to be kind, what he has to be is fair. How do I achieve fairness in my rulings between these people? That's how you are kind to both of them. So, I do right by my relationships as a judge with respect to three things: Torah, Avoda and 'Hebrew [00:04:59.16]'. What I can things that help me avoid corruption, to help me be as accurate 'a provair [00:05:06.18]' of information, of justice as I possibly can be.
So, this is Mishnayat 8 to 11. But then we get something fascinating, Mishnah 12 . Mishnah 12 is starkly different. Let's read it.
"'Hebrew [00:05:21.25]' - you should be like these students of Aaron. Aaron, brother of Moses." How so? 'Hebrew [00:05:29.08]' - you should love peace, you should pursue peace. 'Hebrew [00:05:34.25]' - you should love people, 'Hebrew [00:05:36.21]' - and bring them close to Torah." Notice how subjective this all is! When we are talking about the previous Mishnayat over here - let's get rid of some of the ink on this screen - the overriding imperative for judges was to avoid corruption; and the judges were tasked with being as objective as possible. Doing everything they could to avoid subjectivity.
But now look! When we are talking to basically the same people - leaders in the society - and we're telling them to be as subjective as possible. The most subjective kind of emotion that you can possibly imagine is 'love'. Look how many times 'love' just reverberates in this Mishnah - 'Hebrew [00:06:16.26]' - Love peace, pursue peace, love people, bring them close to Torah. And the running after peace, the loving people, the bringing them close to Torah - it's as if there is a subjective hat which judges - here's our subjective hat - there's this subjective hat which judges are supposed to wear. They have an objective hat, and they have a subjective hat. And in their objective hat, Mishnah 8 to 11, their overriding imperative is to bring people close to Torah, but that's not the only thing that judges do. Judges are also meant to inspire, judges are also meant to bring out the best in people. This Mishnah is about how to bring out the best in people as a leader. You do it like Aaron did.
Going back to our two triangles for a moment - the triangles from the beginning of the Chapter, the triangles from the end. You kind of see a fascinating thing now, if we come back to the middle. So we see - as you've seen and as I've shown you - the Torah, Service and Kindness. We've been thinking about that. What does that mean for a judge? How does a judge in his objective rule avoid corruption? He has to avoid it with respect to his teaching of Academia Torah, he has to avoid it with respect to his vertical relationships, his Service, and he has to avoid it with respect to his horizontal relationships in order to be fair between people and thereby, so to speak, to be kind to them. But it seems like there is a subjective role for judges and leaders of society as well. And in that subjective role, I think this triangle is coming into play.
What I mean by that, is if we think about these three values: truth, justice and peace - some might say, "Well, a judge is required - one of his obligations is to promote justice, and we saw that. One of his obligations is also to promote truth and justice - academic truth or the teaching of Torah; actual truth in terms of the just settlements he makes between people. But it also seems now that Mishnah 12 is giving us the idea that judges are there to promote peace. And what's what we are seeing here - Mishnah 12; 'Hebrew [00:08:34.08]' - Aaron would love peace, would promote peace.
What I want to promote with you is one other interesting thing, which is that the Mishnah doesn't end there. If you would just look at the structure that we had seen until now, we might expect the Mishnah to end there. Because by including peace, 'Hebrew [00:08:51.16]', I've kind of finished off the second triangle. Right? I have my torah, service and kindness with respect to judges, with Mishnah 8 to 11; I've got my peace over here, in Mishnah 12. I'm good; the two triangles are done.
But they are not quite done. Because there's one more element in Mishnah 12, which doesn't explicitly seem to be in this triangles. Which is this: 'Hebrew [00:09:16.20]', loving people and bringing them close to Torah. Is that a part of peace? What exactly is that? How does that fit in to these ideas? How does 'loving people and bringing them closer to Torah' relate to 'loving peace and bring them close to peace'?
For this, we need to get into exactly what Aaron would do. What does this teaching really mean? This again, is just sort of an abstract teaching; let's try and concretize it. How would you go about pursuing peace? How would you go by loving people? What does it look like?
And I think as we begin to look at that, we'll find a fascinating kind of common denominator that opens itself up to us. For that, we're going to be looking at 'Hebrew [00:09:54.00]' - an ancient commentary on 'Pirkei Avot [00:09:57.10]' that opens up a kind of methodology that Aaron would use to pursue peace and to love people.
We'll look at that when we come back next.
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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