The most fun part of studying Pirke Avot is that each mishnah has different parts that, on first look, seem not to be connected. Our challenge, and the fun of studying, is figuring out what makes the different pieces connect. What do they teach us in combination?
Yehoshua the son of Perachya says:
Make a teacher for yourself; acquire a friend for yourself; and judge everyone favorably. — Pirke Avot 1:6
Questions to Ask:
There are three important parts of this mishnah. Each part should be studied alone and then figure out how the parts fit together. Think about the fitting together as you start with the parts.
Do we need a teacher? What for? Who should be our teacher? Why does it say to make a teacher for yourself? Could you just look for a teacher that could teach you what you need to know? How do you make a teacher?
Next we are to “acquire” a friend. What does it mean to acquire a friend? How do we get friends?
The literal translation of the mishnah is to “buy” a friend. What do you think of that? Should we buy friends? Why would the sages tell us to buy a friend? What do we need to do to be a friend? Why do we need friends?
The Hebrew word for friend is chaver, which means to connect or to bind together. What does it take to connect things or to bind things together? How is that a lesson for making a friend?
What does it mean to be a judge? How do we judge people? What does it mean to judge everyone favorably? Why is that important to do? Is it easy or difficult to judge people favorably? Why?
Now, how do these three pieces come together? What does having a teacher and a friend have to do with judging others?
How can we apply this mishnah to our lives every day?
Shalom….from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center in Dallas.