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Pirkei Avot: Pursuing Peace
Video 8 of 13
Okay, hi everybody! I am David Fohrman, welcome back. We're talking about how it is that Aaron would go about in his task over here. 'Love Peace', 'pursue peace', 'love people', 'bring them closer' - what would they look like in real life? So, the commentary 'Avot D'Rav Natan [00:00:26.02]' quotes something, quotes the 'Midrash [00:00:28.03]' that explains this idea. So, first of all, how is it that Aaron would go about 'pursuing peace'?
So, basically it tells us a story. And the story works like this: imagine you have two people that were at war with each other, that were in conflict with each other. We'll call those people 'Bob' and 'Sam'. So, Aaron go over to Bob, and Aaron said, "Bob, you have no idea how bad Sam feels about what he's done to you. He's all broken up inside. He thinks to himself, 'I feel so terrible that I hurt Bob. How can I ever make it up to him?' And he is struggling with this." And what he would then do is go up to the other disputant and he says the same thing about the other guy. He says, "You have no idea how much he feels bad. He totally feels it. He's all broken up inside. He doesn't know how he can ever make it up to you." And basically he told the same thing to both of these people, and the story goes that when they would meet in the street, they would hug each other and they would make up.
That's how you pursue peace. Now, I don't know about you but maybe I have a jaundiced eye and more cynical than the average guy. But when I heard that story, you know, it just sounded like too good to be true. First of all, what's the moral of the story? I mean, if we want to be cynical about it, Aaron was lying, right? He was lying to everybody. He was saying to Person A, "You can't believe how bad Person B feels." Person B didn't feel bad at all, right? Person B was doing just fine. Then he goes to Person B and says, "You can't believe how bad Person A was feeling!" That's not true; Person A wasn't feeling bad. Neither of these guys were feeling bad. So, what's the message here? That it's okay to do anything to pursue peace? You can lie, cheat and steal? The end justifies the means? You can do whatever you want - is that the message? Again, maybe I'm being cruel and hard-hearted here; but is that really the message?
And the second thing is - again, maybe it's the cynical side of me - but would it really have worked? What if they met on the street and started killing each other? You know, "You idiot! How come you did this to me?" Because, in fact, neither of them was really feeling bad; they were both feeling very self-righteous about their own perspectives. So, two questions: would this have worked? And if it would have worked, at what cost?
You know, is it justified? Are there any moral problems with Aaron just, sort of, lying completely - these bald faced lies to each side? Now 'Avot D'Rav Naton [00:03:12.09]' continues and portrays the second piece of this Mishnah. We had asked how the two relate to each other; how the second piece is doing? How does it fit? But I think we've begin to look at what 'Avot D'Rav Naton [00:03:22.21]' says about this, we may be able to get some clues. And here's what it says. Here's the story that it tells: how is it that Aaron would love people and bring them close to Torah?
So, it says that - Well, imagine you have this guy and he's done some terrible sins, some crimes for which he is very ashamed. And Aaron found out about that. He knew that to be true. So, what Aaron would do is, he would make friends with this guy, and would get close to him, and smile at him and be very close and warm towards him. And eventually, the guy would start feeling, "Oh man! You know, if Aaron really knew just how bad I was, he'd never be friends with me. And I feel terrible, I feel so ashamed that I have done this terrible stuff and Aaron's friendly with me. If he really knew -"
And this would propel people to 'Teshuvah [00:04:08.28]' - to repent and to change their ways and mend their ways. And again, sort of the same questions about this, which is again: does the end justify the means? I mean, it seems rather duplicitous of Aaron, and manipulative of him. Here he is, pretending that he doesn't know about the truth about this guy. Of course he does! So, isn't he just sort of manipulating him with his friendship and trying to have him do 'Teshuvah [00:04:32.25]' and repent. And again, what's the message? That you can manipulate people into changing for the better and pretend you don't know what you do know? Again, the whole thing just sounds crass, manipulative and dubious, morally.
So, I hate to throw cold water on this, but I want to challenge you to think about this. Is there any way that you can think about these two stories that Avot 'Hebrew [00:04:59.09]' tells and try to think about this: is there any way to solve this? Is this truly duplicitous? Or, is it not duplicitous? Is this truly morally dubious? Or is there a way of looking at this, that actually makes sense out of what's Aaron's doing? And actually makes it likely that it would actually work, instead of not work?
I believe something is happening here that really makes sense. I want you to understand what's happening really makes sense, to actually see these two sides of the Mishnah are actually the same. Aaron was actually pursuing the same sort of methodology, so to speak, in relationships in each of these cases. In number 1, pursuing peace - that first story that 'Hebrew [00:05:35.05]' tells; and in that second story that 'Hebrew [00:05:37.14]' tells - loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.
So, I want to challenge you to think about this: is there a way of making sense of Aaron's doing? Is there a way of seeing how these two stories are not really two stories, but really one story? So, let's come back and talk about 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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