The second Mishnah of Pirke Avot is one of my favorites. With four questions and four answers, we must look at all separately and then together. Why did Ben Zoma put these together?
- Who is wise? He who learns from every person.
- Who is strong? He who controls his passions.
- Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.
- Who is honored? He who honors others. – Pirke Avot 4:1
Questions to ask
- What does it mean to be wise? Is being wise different from being smart? How? Do you need to be old to be wise? Why or why not?
- How can you learn from everyone? What if they are younger than or not as smart as or very different from you?
- Why does learning from every person make you wise?
- What does it mean to be strong? Is it about having strong muscles or something different? What?
- What does it mean to control your “passions”? Why does that take strength? How do you use your inner strength to control yourself?
- How many different ways are there to be rich? What does it mean to you to be rich?
- Is it easy to be happy with what you have? Why or why not? Why does that make you rich?
- Finally, what does it mean to be honored? How do you honor others? How do they show they honor you? Why does honoring others make you honored?
- Are one of these qualities more important than the others? Why are they in the order above? Which is most important to you?
- 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.