Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ethics of the Fathers

Today Ricki and I were learning Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers-Sages), in preparation for her class tomorrow. The teacher had told me that her main point was this: That not only does the crown of a good name overshadow the other three crowns (priestly, kingship, scholar), but that in fact none of these crowns are valid or truly attainable, without the crown of a good name. And the more that I thought about it, the more that I saw that it was true.
I think that the scholar is easiest to understand. What good is knowledge is you do not have the good character traits to use that knowledge well?
Also the loss to the king if he is lacking in a good name is pretty obvious. Dictators and rotten people have a tendency to be overthrown.
That leaves us with the crown of the priestly class. And if a priest does not have good personality traits, and a good name, what harm will befall him? Well, if he has bad character traits, he might be led to do a sin that would disqualify him from serving in the temple. For example, one Cohen (priest) was once so angered that he stabbed someone in the Temple. His whole side of the family found themselves as outcasts, not invited to take part in the Temple rituals. Also, priests were to receive tithes from the rest of the nation. Imagine if I had to give a tithe from my produce, and there were two priests in my area. One I get along with, and the other is known as an angry fellow who no one likes. Guess who gets my tithe?
So as we can see, being a nice person is something that we should aim for. We should aim that others (those “others” who have a normal sense of values) think well of us. Which of course should not be any big news to us. But reminders don’t hurt, do they?

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