TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CHOICES AND MAKE THEM COUNT!
Ben Azzai says: "One should run to do a light mitzvah and flee from sin. Because doing a mitzvah drags [you to] another mitzvah, and doing a sin drags [you to] another sin. The reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah, and the "reward" for the sin is the sin."
He would say: "Do not be contemptuous of any person, and don't remove yourself from any thing, for every person has his moment and every thing has its place."
Your Pirkei Avot Navigator
1. Have you ever been caught in a self-destructive pattern?
2. How did you get out of it?
3. In this context how would you understand that the reward of the mitzvah is the mitzvah?
4. What activities do you run toward and flee from?
5. Do you feel you run toward what you should and flee from what you shouldn't do, or is the opposite true?
6. What does it mean when it says, "a sin drags you to another sin."?
Routines are the enemies of choice. It is easier not to think about things than consciously choose. Therefore, each time we do choose we are on the verge of setting up patterns. We should reserve our choices for those things that are life-affirming, giving, meaningful and enriching. We should run to them, and we should flee from the hedonistic, the self-destructive, the self-aggrandizing and the non-productive. Patterns are magnets and once we're drawn, it becomes more difficult to break away.
The festival of Shavuot celebrates the time when Moses received the Torah on behalf of Israel. It is appropriate at this time to ponder what was received and why we received it. The following story from the Talmud, will give us some ideas to consider as we celebrate the day our written covenant was sealed with our Creator.
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate of Shabbat 87b-88a
R. Joshua b. Levi also said: When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He, "Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman among us?"
"He has come to receive the Torah," answered He to them. Said they to Him, "That secret treasure, which has been hidden by You for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the world was created. You desire to give it to flesh and blood! What is man, that You art mindful of him, And the son of man, that You visit him? O Lord our God, How excellent is Your name in all the earth! Who has set Your glory [the Torah] upon the Heavens!"
The Holy One said to Moses, "Return them an answer."
"Sovereign of the Universe" replied he, "I fear lest they consume me with the [fiery] breath of their mouths."
"Hold on to the Throne of Glory," said He to him, "and return them an answer."
He [then] spoke before Him: "Sovereign of the Universe! The Torah which You give me, what is written in it? 'I am the Lord You God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt.'" Said Moses to the angels, "Did you go down to Egypt? Were you enslaved to Pharaoh? Why then should the Torah be yours? Again, what is written in it? You shalt have none other gods? Do you dwell among peoples that engage in idol worship? Again what is written in it? 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.' Do you then perform work, that you need to rest? Again what is written in it? 'You shalt not take [tissa] [the name ... in vain].' Is there any business [massa] dealings among you? Again what is written in it? 'Honor You father and You mother.' Have you fathers and mothers? Again what is written in it? 'You shall not murder. You shalt not commit adultery. You shall not steal.' Is there jealousy among you? Is the Evil Tempter among you?" Immediately they conceded to the Holy One, for it is said, "O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name throughout the land, but, Who has set Your glory upon the heavens is not written. Immediately each angel saw Moses as beloved..."
Your Talmud Navigator
1. Why are the angels against giving humanity the Torah?
2. Why does God have Moses answer his angel/critics?
3. How does Moses convince them that the Torah is for humanity and not to remain in heaven?
4. Why are the angels so pleased with Moses' argument?
5. Why does this story say the Torah was given to the Jewish people?
6. What was God's reason for giving Torah to the Jewish people?