Pirke Avot-4: What You See Is Not Always What You Get

David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via Flickr.com, Creative Commons license.) David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via Flickr.com, Creative Commons license.)

As we continue to honor the tradition of Pirke Avot study between Passover and Shavuot, let me offer up this week’s text, from Avot [4:20] (see Sefaria translation). This is a long text that discusses perceptions between young and old and places this in the context of learning from people of different ages. Let me suggest that we see here a glimpse of the importance of “life experience”. Also, we can discuss the ageism that still exists in society; do we still harbor a preference for youth over age?

Towards the end of the text we see this: Rabbi said: do not look at the container but at that which is in it: there is a new container full of old wine and and old container in which there is not even new wine. Do we sometimes make judgements about a person on the way they “look”? Do we often make a determination on a person’s importance, worth, value based on appearance, without ever getting to know someone? In a society that is so visual and immediate, have we begun to lose the ability to engage people so that we come to “know” them. Perception may be reality for may, but perception, as Avot cautions, can be deceiving.

Todah v’ shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address

About Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.

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