Biblical Faith – with Shmuel “Sam” Peak
Weekly series with new shows available every Tuesday.
Torah is primarily law. In contrast, Pirkei Avot is a compilation of rabbinical wisdom and practical advice. Why begin it by chronicling the transmission of Torah?
In truth, it is precisely because this tractate deals with advice directed towards each generation’s needs, and not with absolute law, that the Mishnah begins with the history of Torah leadership. As we will see, this opening Mishnah establishes the right and the responsibility of the sages to give advice, and our responsibility to heed it.
Avot, which means fathers, begins with the chain of those who provided the world with spiritual life. They taught the love and the practice of Torah and enriched the world with its wisdom and values. They prepared successors to be the leaders who would guide the next generation. These people were truly the fathers of Torah society, and for this reason the tractate is called Avot.
As fathers of the nation, they must provide guidance for the survival and the success of the nation. Scripture teaches about this relationship in Mishlei 1:8, “Listen, my son, to your ‘father’s advice,’ and do not forsake the Torah of your mother.”
This passage implies that it is both the father’s right and responsibility to provide guidance. Moreover, the verse says that we must not only listen to but moreover heed the advice of our fathers.
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