Thursday, November 09, 2006

Teaching the judging (Avot 1:6)

I want to comment a bit more on yesterday’s Mishnah. Like almost all of the Mishnahs in Avot, yesterday’s Mishnah has three sayings within it:

  1. <>Make for yourself a Rav.
  2. <>And acquire for yourself a colleague.
  3. <>And judge everyone towards the positive.

We generally understand this Mishnah as being about Torah study. It is interesting then, that the last part of it is about something that we do not usually associate with teaching or learning – it talks about judging.

There’s nothing accidental about this. In the world of the ancient Rabbis, their greatest leaders were great for being great teachers and for being great judges. People, including their students, came before them looking for answers to their questions. To find out what the law instructed them to do. Even for settling disputes between parties.

The Rabbis believed that – in making themselves teachers and judges – they were following in the footsteps of God. That is, when they thought of God, they also thought of a teacher and they also thought of a judge.

For the Rabbis, then, God was the ultimate Rav – the ultimate teacher. The Torah was the gerat Instruction that this ultimate teacher had given them. In associating themselves – and the the Jewish people with God, the Rabbis had made for themselves the Rav that the Mishnah instructs us to find.

The way of studying the great Instruction that their teacher had give them is found in the second part of the Mishnah – to study with a haver, with a colleague.

For me, this blog – and anybody reading it – functions as a kind of haver, a partner to help me in my encounter with our Holy Torah. The blog makes for me a place to offer my Torah in partnership with others. It's been a great help to me.

May you find a haver in your life, and may that haver strengthen your link to the Holy Instruction that God has given us.

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