23 - Situations - And In The Place Where There Are No Men, Strive To Be A Man

says Hillel, do not allow yourself to slip into mediocrity, do not compare yourself merely to those in your immediate vicinity. Strive to be a man, a person who fulfills his potential.


We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create

z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times



Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Make a point this week to try and be extra calm and even tempered in a situation you know yourself to get angry about.  Take deep breaths and try and relax instead of getting hot under the collar!  Note the reactions of the others around you. 

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


Lesson #23


And In The Place Where There Are No Men, Strive To Be A Man

 ×•×‘מקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש

U’Vimkom She’ain Anashim, Hishtadel L’Hiyose Ish
Perek Bais, Mishna Vav Part 2

Story(based on a true story)

Moving to a new city is never easy, and socially for a mom it can be hard to branch out and meet new people.  However, having five children in grade school certainly makes it easier meeting other parents.  So recently, after moving to our new community, I was assigned to work as a lunch mother for my daughters' Bais Yaakov grammar school.  The job paired me with three other moms, and our job consisted of heating up the catered hot lunch, setting up the stations, serving the lunch and then cleaning up.  During the clean-up and after, the other moms and I had a lovely time getting to know each other, and over the first month I happily considered them my new friends.

After that first month, we began going for coffee after our hot lunch duty.  That's when I started to notice certain things I wasn't comfortable with.  Generally we'd chit-chat about our families, our children, running large households, and community activities - pretty generic topics that were fun, helpful and passed the time rather well.  Then, the closer we all got, I began noticing that the other three ladies seemed to want to fill me in on neighborhood gossip of sorts. 

Much of it was clear cut lashon hora -- things I sincerely didn't, and more so, shouldn't hear about other people.  At first I was surprised and didn't know what to do.  Not being the sort of person that is too outspoken, I said nothing except make excuses like I had to be home, or I was late for being somewhere.  These ladies weren't horrible people, they were honestly very nice and I truly liked being with them.  Perhaps, I thought, they just were unfamiliar with the deep tenets of lashon hora.

So, I devised a plan.  I spoke to the Rabbi's wife at our synagogue and had her suggest a good lesson plan and book to learn sh’miras halashon.  I explained to her that I wanted to set up a private learning group at my house and invite some friends of mine over once a week.  Then I invited the ladies I did hot lunch with, along with a few other ladies I'd met at other places around the community.  Of the three ladies from hot lunch, only one agreed to attend.  However, within six weeks my learning group was so popular, other members in my community began attending, and eventually the other two women from the hot lunch did start coming as well. 

When I evaluated what I had begun to do and where I'd wound up, I realized some interesting things.  My goal was to subtly help the three hot lunch ladies to learn all about lashon hora, and in the end I'd really helped myself out much more.  Perhaps the other ladies were helped along the way.  As for me, I'd benefited in becoming a leader in an area in our community that was lacking, and, in doing so, I'd become a contributing part of my community, made a lot of friends along the way, and became a stronger person through all of it.

Pirkay Avos:

"הוא ×”×™×” אומר:  ...ובמקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש."

"Hu haya omer:  … U’Vimkom she’ain anashim, hishtadel l’hiyose ish."

"He (Hillel) used to say:  …And in the place where there are no men, strive to be a man." (Perek Bais, Mishna Vav).

This mishna has largely stressed the importance of learning Torah.  However, if a person finds that everyone else has enclosed himself within the four cubits of Torah and no one is acting on behalf of the community, then, in Rashi’s words, “where there are no men, strive and work on behalf of the communal interests.”

In the same spirit, some people interpret this clause as teaching that it is precisely where there are no “men”, no Torah leaders, one must go and strive to be a man if one has the capacity to spread Torah in such circumstances.  The Talmud tells us that one time Rav, student of Rabi Yehuda HaNasi and Rav Chiya, left his home town of Neharde’a and passed through the city of Sura.  There he heard one woman ask another, “How much milk do you need to cook a litra of meat?”  To counter this sort of utter ignorance, Rav opened a yeshiva in this locale, which transformed Sura into a world-famous Torah center for hundreds of years.

At times a person wishes to do no more than match the level of his environment or at best exceed it somewhat.  No, says Hillel, do not allow yourself to slip into mediocrity, do not compare yourself merely to those in your immediate vicinity.  Strive to be a man, a person who fulfills his potential.

(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

What are ways you can be someone who "fulfills his potential" and makes a difference in your community, or to those around you?

Identify some ways, we as community members, tend to slip into mediocrity.

What are some ways we can avoid slipping into mediocrity?

Stretch of the Week:

Make the effort to do one thing to make a difference to someone around you or for your community.


Stretch Of The Week