1 - Situations - Introduction

It is customary to read these lines as an introduction to reading and learning each chapter of Pirkay Avos, despite the fact that they are not a part of it.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Stop yourself from implying you are something you’re not.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute. 

Situations Lesson #1


PART 1 – Introduction

Story(based on a true story)

There are Jews all around me:  at the grocery store, Target, the gas station, in one of the six kosher food places on three blocks of Main Street, walking to and from one of the multiple shuls.  It’s so exciting, and so different from what I’m used to.  

I grew up and lived the first years of my married life in smaller, out-of-town towns where a meeting with a fellow Jew outside of the few Jewish establishments we had was a small gift.  I would wave to anyone Jewish that I saw, and make some small talk if possible.  I might show her a new kosher product that Pathmark was stocking, or she might tell me about a great below-the-knee skirt at Sears that every girl in my child’s class would be wearing to school by the next week.  We might know each other well, by sight, or not at all.  It didn’t matter to fellow Jews.

For the first few weeks, I happily greet everyone passing by, but I start to realize that most people here don’t seem to do that with people they don’t know.  Maybe there are just too many people to say hi to.  I start to feel myself taking it all for granted too and the thrill of seeing a fellow Jew begins to wane.   

And then I start to see the sub-groupings.  One of the reasons we chose our particular ‘in-town community’ is because the Jewish community has variety, just like the places we grew up but on a much larger scale.  But apparently, that scale makes all the difference here, because people tend to stay within their own groups of people like them, people in their kids’ schools or with the same derech.  You do smile and nod to someone else if you see them in a drugstore, but it’s kind of unusual to invite them over.  There seems to be a lot of “Our way” versus “Their way” here.  

I remember a song that was popular when I was younger. “Kol, Kol, Kol Yisrael, yaish lahem, lahem chelek l’olam, olam haba…”  We never gave much thought to the meaning of the words we were singing, that every Jew, no matter who he is, has a portion of the world to come.  “V’amaych kulam tzaddikim,” we are all tzaddikim, all Hashem’s crop.  We’re all in this together-why should anyone separate anyone else out?  Why avoid a tzaddik?

So I don’t.  I talk to the woman in front of me at the kosher store with the shorter sleeves and less-covered hair, and she tells me about a new shiur being given by a Rebbetzin I respect.  We go to the shiur together a few days later, and as we wait for it to start we compare notes on buying school clothes and managing challenging hachnasas orchim situations, and give each other tips.

The next week of the shiur, I see my neighbor from down the block, the one who wears only tichels, not sheitels, and dresses kind of bohemianI’ve never said more than a quick hi, but this time I approach her and strike up a conversation, introducing my new friend from the week before.  By the time the speaker begins, we have exchanged Yom Tov recipes, ideas for combatting vacation-burnout and ways to stay inspired. I learn a lot.  So do my two new friends.  We make tentative plans to meet for lunch the first day the kids go back to school after the chagim to process how it all went and strengthen each other.  Kol yisrael, kulam tzaddikim.


Pirkei Avos-Introduction

“Kol Yisrael yaish lahem chaylek l’olam haba she’ne’e’mar, vamaych kulam tzaddikim l’olam yirshu aretz naytzer mato’i ma’asay yadai l’hispa’er.”

All Israel has a portion in the World to Come.  As it is written, “Your people are all righteous; they will possess the land forever.  They are a shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, to display my greatness (Yeshayahu 60:21).” (Maseches Sanhedrin)

It is customary to read these lines as an introduction to reading and learning each chapter of Pirkay Avos, despite the fact that they are not a part of it.  The words from Maseches Sanhedrin, quoting Sefer Yeshayahu, remind us of the ultimate goal in life:  the world to come.  It is the context for all of the laws and ideas that will be covered in the upcoming perakim.

These lines also provide valuable perspective.  Each and every person in K’lal Yisrael has olam haba waiting for him, due to the part of him that is holy and pure.  We have a lot of obligations in this world--olam ha’ze--and we may stray and sin, but we will still have that ultimate portion in olam haba.  Each Jew either repents his sins or is cleansed of them in the afterworld, and goes on to live his afterlife in the world in which holy souls belong.  Under the mistakes we all make, we are all tzaddikim.  

There are a number of exceptions, severe sins that remove a person’s olam haba, including completely abandoning and denying the Oral Law of Torah, and well as flagrant and deliberate disregard of mitzvos.  However, we are taught that a person who commits acts such as these out of ignorance and lack of proper teaching about the value and beauty of Torah is considered to have sinned accidentally, as a tinok shenishba, a child who was captured and raised without Torah.  Such a person’s portion of olam haba surely remains waiting for him, along with the rest of K’lal Yisrael.  There is also a view that even those whose sins have legitimately lost them their personal portions in olam haba will share in K’lal Yisrael's communal portion.  We will all share in that portion together.

Discussion Question Options:

In what ways do we often feel ourselves to be different enough from others that we would separate ourselves from them?  What other barriers might keep us separate?

What are some tools we can use to remind ourselves of the commonalities among all Jews?

How can we associate with all types of Jews while keeping our home and family to the tone and religious direction we want to maintain?

Stretch of the Week:

Approach someone you would normally not talk to.


Stretch Of The Week