Friday, May 13, 2011

PIRQE ABOT: Of friendship and second hand smoking

Today is the 9th day of Iyar, 5771, 24 days, 3 weeks, 3 days.

During the days between Pesach and Shabuot, we learn Pirke Abot: the "Chapters of the Fathers" . In this text, the Rabbis of the Mishna, who lived two thousand years ago, teach us words of wisdom and advice --very practical advice-- regarding our ways in life.

My favorite commentary is Me'am Lo'ez by rabbi Isaac Magreso, from the eighteen century Turkey, who continued the work of the original author, rabbi Yaaqob Kholi.

This week in our Minyan, we learned a few Mishnayot which deal with the complexities of bad company.

I will summarize the main points of Rabbi Magreso's brilliant commentary:

*We have to be careful and selective with the friends we choose. Rabbi Magreso warns of the danger of bad influences, which, similar to the process of 'growing' cannot be detected while they are happening. Rather, we realize the effects of bad influences on us or our children, when it is already too late... Bad company, is like second hand smoking, you will carry the smell of cigarettes, even though you did not smoke yourself...

*The Mishna, he says, also warns us to separate from a bad neighbor. And he elaborates: a bad neighbor is not necessarily someone religiously less observant than you. In his opinion, a bad neighbor is defined by character. A bad neighbor is an individual who suffers when he sees you happy. Find friends and neighbors who are not jealous, and save yourself from a lot of trouble!

*Anticipating the era of Facebook, rabbi Magriso also sentenced: What is the best way to asses someone's character? Look at his friends. Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are (or who you are about to be!)

Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 7:45 PM

PLEASE watch this video and forward it to your friends!

A very intense and moving testimony of an incredible Israeli mother, Miriam Peretz, who lost her TWO sons in the war. This is a very solemn and deserved tribute to the fallen soldiers, z'l, and to the courage and unbreakable spirit of AM ISRAEL HAYOSHEB BETZION.

(Thanks to Mr Uri ben Yehuda for sending me this extraordinary video clip)