Living the Lesson

 Rabbi Yosef Levin |  “The Ethics of Our Fathers” (in Hebrew Pirkei Avot) is a tractate of Mishna with six chapters full of fascinating advice and insights into living an ethical life.  It is customary to study this tractate on Shabbat between Pesach and Shavuot, one chapter for each of the six Shabbats.  In fact, the original Mishna has five chapters, and the sages of the Talmud added a sixth chapter – as they write “in the language of the Mishna” – in order to fill all of the six weeks. There are several reasons given for this study.  One is to prepare for the Giving of the Torah on Shavuot.  Our Sages taught that “derech eretz kadma Latorah” – ethical behavior comes before Torah. Therefore in the weeks leading up to receiving the Torah, we study ethics.  Another explanation is that as the world warms up in the spring and summer, our emotions blossom and we tend to be drawn to behavior that may not be so ethical, so we study Pirkei Avot to remind us what is appropriate.  Based on thi

Still at Home with G-d

Rabbi Yosef Levin |  This is the second Pesach under unusual circumstances. Although many people have, thank G-d, been vaccinated, and people are starting to relax, there are still a lot of limits and most people are having their Seder at home. Even the public Seders (we are having one) are being held outside and the number of people is limited by the safety rules. Last year we were all like deer in the headlights, not sure how we would be able to have Pesach, feeling as if the Seder would not happen. We scrambled and managed the best we could. This year we have had lots of time to plan for a quiet Seder, but are we ready to really experience the Seder spiritually? While it is certainly more exciting and celebratory to have a Seder with lots of family, friends and community, the essence of the Seder is the spiritual uplift that it provides, and that can be accomplished even alone. Rabbi Yosef Ginsburg, a great chassid and Kabbalist, writes in his Haggadah “The Secrets of the Sede