As I study the Torah and Pirkei Avos, I realize how many commonly used expressions come from these sources. Things we say off the cuff, that have been passed down and known to us for a lifetime… Brilliant philosophies, deep, meaningful phrases, important ideas, astounding life lessons…
We toss them out, just matter of fact… Jews, non-Jews, whoever… It is almost a common language. It’s fascinating.
I guess all things do come from the source!
And to quote King Solomon: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Everything is already there for us to discover… or re-discover. Yet Judaism is so alive… so vibrant… and constantly evolving, because our quest for knowledge does not ever stop. Well… it shouldn’t stop. We are on a never-ending path to self-understanding and empowerment… An eternal college and post-college curriculum… all designed to make us better people.
Yet, as I stare at all the books I have taken out of the library… ponder the hours and hours of mp3s I have downloaded… I can overwhelm myself. So sometimes, we need to reduce things to their simplest form, just to make sure we have a grasp and are on the right path.
There are so many wonderful things in the Pirkei Avos, but there a few that are hitting me right now are the following:
Pirkei Avos Chapter One, Number 15 Shammal says:
“Make your Torah study a fixed practice; say little and do much and receive everyone with a cheerful face.”
Pirkei Avos Chapter Four, Number 2 Ben Azzai says:
“Run to perform even a “minor” mitzvah, and flee from sin, for one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah, and one sin, leads to another sin…”
Pirkei Avos Chapter Two, Number 1 Rebbi (R’ Yehuda Ha’Nassi) says:
“Be as scrupulous in performing a “minor” mitzvah as in a “major” one, for you do not know the reward given for the respective mitzvos.”
To me, the message is clear… Do good, don’t show good… Let your actions speak for themselves… Be kind and cheerful to everyone… Do the right thing, every time, and do not overlook the details.
Which brings me to another of those great expressions I spoke of earlier: “G-d is in the details.” This means to be thorough… to do something all the way… to follow through. But to me it also means something else… It is easy to see Hashem in the big things… in miracles, but much harder to see him in the smaller and perhaps every day things. If we take the time to look at the most minute detail, the tiniest things… when we get small, our eyes open wide and see Hashem in everything! It is, for lack of a better word, miraculous.
“G-d is in the details.”
Of course this expression, like many, has been hijacked, and a lot of people know the saying that goes: “The devil is in the details.”
This mean that the details are what will be difficult and problematic. Perhaps there is something hidden that we will not find out about until the task is well at hand…
This very well may be true, but overcoming an obstacle or difficulties in order to fulfill Hashem’s Commandments and 613 Mitzvot is what being Jewish is all about. No one says it will be easy… In fact, it can be daunting… And we know that we are tested in this life… all the time… or at least often.
It is important to know and really live with the idea… celebrate it… that each step, no matter how small, is a step forward.
If we always pay attention to the details and always do the right thing, we are on (insert the voice of Larry David here):
“A pretty, pretty good path.”
Being kind, especially in this city… driving around town… looking for work… dealing with flakey folks is not easy at all… But how good do we feel when we are kind? How good do we feel when we do a good deed, perform a Mitzvah?
It’s infectious! It affects other people in the most positive and surprising way… and it leads to more good… for all of us!
To quote The Fixx, who I missed the other night at the Canyon Club… Sigh…
“Why don’t they do what they say?
Say what they mean?
One thing leads to another.”
(Insert the tone of a high school football coach):
“So let’s turn that around! Let’s do what we say. Say what we mean. Be kind and do the right thing… and watch our good deeds multiply. Because one thing DOES lead to another! Lets’ start a Jewish domino revolution! Who’s with me?!”