Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes beautiful commentary on Pirkei Avot. Today I want to do things a bit differently. My writing will be structured much like the Talmud, Rabbis commentating on Rabbis commentating on Rabbis. In other words (as Eliza Hamilton once said), I’m putting myself in the narrative. Below when you see M, it is the original text from the Mishna (the text above), The RS stands for Rabbi Rami’s words and G is where my voice comes in.
M: Do not abandon community.
RS: No matter how unjust the world may seem, your task is to move it toward justice.
G: Things are rough out there. Don’t give up. Lean in. Step towards the work of keeping us in tact.
M: Do not be certain of yourself until you die.
RS: The human hunger for certainty is so great that it will accept almost any delusion. Question yourself and your motives. The humility of not-knowing is your greatest defense against the arrogance of false-knowing.
G: Our spiritual and emotional growth never stops. Whenever one lesson is learned, a new one appears. Humility is knowing that you are never done.
M: Do not judge others until standing in their place.
RS: Actions arise from conditions. Do not judge the former until you understand the latter
G: There is a lot of judgment in the air. Even judgment arises from our conditions. We need to remind ourselves that we have no idea what decisions we would make if we were in another person’s shoes living life under their circumstances. We don’t have to agree with peoples’ choices, but unless we understand fully, our judgment is null and void.
M: Do not abandon the new simply because it is new.
RS: Wisdom is often at odds with accepted knowledge. Test what you know, and let reality rather than mass appeal reveal what is true.
G: New can be scary. New can instill fear and fear can drive us to abandon. When we abandon, attempting to go back to what once was, we find ourselves neither here nor there. We are in limbo. As hard as new can be, it is worth wrestling through so that eventually we are somewhere.