Shalom. One of the traditions that deserves some attention is that of studying the Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) on Shabbatot between Passover and Shavuot (May 28 is erev and 29th). As many Confirmation students from our generation may recall, Pirke Avot is this small tractate of Mishnah that contains pithy ethical and value oriented sayings. There are many books of commentary on this collection. What we are trying to do here is to offer one selection per week, a selection that we feel can have meaning to our generation and to the spiritual aspects of our own aging in this society. We invite you to have a conversation about these texts as part of your Torah study, as part of a conversation group that you may have or, in this age of Zoom-ing, in a electronic forum with friends or members of your congregation or group. We will add a new text every week before Shabbat.
This week, let’s begin with a famous text, taken from Avot 2:4. We will refer to the translations that are on the Sefaria portal, an app that is easy to access. Hillel said: do not separate yourself from the community. What a great text to begin with in this Corona age! We are re-visioning what it means to be in a community. We are, in a very real way, very separate! Do these electronic meetings, classes and services equate to giving us community? What about for those who have no there means to connect? What is the implication for congregations of the electronic explosion of virtual communities? Do you think it will change the nature of how people relate to the “brick and mortar ” congregation as this pandemic ebbs? Will we see an expansion of on-line congregations? As we get older, we need more in-person relationships; so by expanding these virtual communities are we really creating more opportunities for isolation? And, finally, to play in to this week’s portion, does this virtual world have the potential to be, like Aaron’s sons, a “strange/alien” fire that will destroy?
If you would like to send a comment to us and check in as to how you are dealing with these texts, please feel free to email us at RabbiAddress@JewishSacredAging.com
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.