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"Love is great life" - M4hl3r

The Impact Of The Message

  • Date Submitted: 11/04/2012 10:27 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 58.3 
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As a mother, a teacher and a rabbi, I am aware that what I do can sometimes pack a greater wallop than what I say. If the two aren't consistent, if I am urging one kind of behavior but indulging in another, I know that the impact of my message is diminished. In fact it's been my experience, that it is my actions that do speak much louder than even my most eloquent words.

This came to mind this week as I was looking over the first chapter of Pirke Avot, the special book of the Mishnah, that Jews traditionally study during the weeks between Passover and Shavuot. The first chapter speaks the language of conformity and continuity. It stresses the idea of tradition, the sense that what is taught today comes, in a straight line, from that which Moses heard from the divine voice on Mt Sinai. " Moses received the Torah from Sinai, and handed it down to Joshua, and Joshua handed it down to the elders, and the elders handed it down to the prophets, and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly."

Through this introduction, the legitimacy of the entire rabbinic enterprise is established. It is because they were faithful transmitters of an ancient tradition, that the rabbis deserved to be listened to. That is the "do as I say" of Pirke Avot, but that isn't exactly the "do as I do".

While the words of Pirke Avot stress continuity and conformity, it's content actually illustrates individuality and innovation. Each of the links in this chain of tradition is quoted, not for teaching what some earlier generation had taught, but in adding something of his own to the corpus of rabbinic writings. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel doesn't teach the same thing as his father, Rabbi Gamliel. Shemayah doesn't teach the same thing as his teacher Judah ben Tabbai. Sometimes they created a sort of "riff" on the teachings of those who came before . Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, was certainly aware of the teaching of Shimon the Righteous, one of the last of the Great Assembly,...


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