Reflections on Pirkei Avot

(Note: for the past 18 months, a group of dedicated learners have joined me for weekly classes on Pirkei Avot. We completed our study of the text last week, and these are my reflections.)

The world is full of whys. Why do people hate? Why do we not care more for one another? Why does it so often feel like I don’t have the capacity to make the world a better place? We can get lost in the whys, meandering with despondency as we seek to reconcile our lived experiences with the reality of the world in which we live.

Enter Pirkei Avot, the wisdom of our ancestors. Beginning on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 and concluding this past Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022 — just over eighteen months apart!! — we have joined together every Wednesday (with a few taken off here or there) to study Pirkei Avot. It’s wisdom has guided us and inspired us, stimulating rich conversation, debate, learning, enrichment, and friendship. It has galvanized us, helping us to move past the unanswerable whys toward the authentic hows. It is has allowed us to generate new insights, new appreciations, and new purposes as we engage with ourselves, each other, and our communities.

Simply put, Pirkei Avot has been our antidote the abyss of whys, helping each of us see our own paths a little more clearly and building for each of us a community of support, encouragement, loving reproach, and joy.

Thank you to everyone to came to even just one single class over the past 18 months and, in particular, to those who have made it part of your weekly schedule over the past year-and-a-half. It has been an honor a privilege to teach you, to learn from you, and to grow with you.