Pirke Avot 5

May 5, 2018 will mark the the fifth Shabbat after Pesach. We therefore continue our study of Pirke Avot with chapter 5, for meaning and inspiration.

I am using the version of Pirke Avot found at Sefaria.org (The Sefaria edition of Pirke Avot with community translation) as well as the classical commentary by Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenura (also from Sefaria.org The Sefaria edition of The Bartenura Commentary with community translation). We start with Mishnah 10:

Chapter5 of Pirke Avot mentions a lot of numbers and their association with the physical and spiritual aspects of life. I have chosen a selection from chapter 5 for us to learn about teaching and reacting to others as these concepts need reinforcement. Let us see what the Bartenura has to say:

Mishnah 10:

The concept of “lifnim mishuras ha-din” (going beyond the letter of the law) is something to always consider when dealing with others.

Mishnah 11:

Mishnah 12:

Mishnah 13:

Mishnah 14:

Mishnah 15:

Mishnah 17:

These are powerful statements that we need to learn from. The statements selected concerning the number 4, remind us of the four sons from the Pesach seder. Mishnah 17 reminds us, that any discussion that elevates the divine presence in our world, even if the parties disagree, is worthwhile. Couple together Mishnah 17 along with the others, and the sages are giving us a roadmap to enhancing our interpersonal relationships, how we engage in civil discourse, recognizing that each person learns at a different rate, and has capacities at different levels. There is no room for hateful rhetoric in our daily lives.

About the Author
Jonathan Wolf is a retired high school physics teacher. He retired to NJ with his wife. He is an adjunct professor of physics at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has published professional papers and has been the author of AP Physics review books as well as general HS and college physics review books. He is a past President and ritual chairman at a conservative synagogue on Long Island, NY before he retired to NJ.
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