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Pirkei Avot 2:5 – Don’t by a Bystander!


Pirkei Avot 2:5

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אֵין בּוּר יְרֵא חֵטְא, וְלֹא עַם הָאָרֶץ חָסִיד, וְלֹא הַבַּיְשָׁן לָמֵד, וְלֹא הַקַּפְּדָן מְלַמֵּד, וְלֹא כָל הַמַּרְבֶּה בִסְחוֹרָה מַחְכִּים. וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ

He used to say: A brute is not sin-fearing, nor is an ignorant person pious; nor can a timid person learn, nor can an impatient person teach; nor will someone who engages too much in business become wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.

The first person mentioned is someone who has learned nothing and has no moral virtue. He has no idea what is right and wrong. The second person is one who does have a moral compass, he can distinguish between right and wrong, but because he has not learnt and studied what the rules are he makes mistakes and errors.

Seeing this in the light of the Noahide commandments, this person reminds me of the MiChakhamei Umos HaOlam – The Wise Ones of the Nations. They keep several (af all) Noahide Commandments but because they think it makes sense, not because G-d wants them to. This contrasts with the MiChasidei Umos HaOlam – The Pious of The World. His live up to the 7 Noahide Commandments, and its details, because G-d wants them to. Because these commandments were transmitted and reaffirmed to the world via Moses at Sinai.

It is important for this person to dare to ask questions. Asking questions shows an active learning attitude. If there are no questions, then knowledge is only superficially perceived and not processed. (This does not mean that after every teaching there should be questions right away, sometimes processing time is needed, but there should be questions). The art of the teacher is to be patient to answer the questions. Some questions again and again, just until the other person has understood. It is important that the teacher always gives an enthusiastic answer. If he gives the impression that the question is tedious, the other person will be reluctant to ask a new question.

Explaining this by extension means that if there is no one who can teach you the 7 Noahide Commandments, make sure you educate yourself as best you can. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of opportunities today to find the right information and teachers.

We can also interpret this very broadly. If you see that someone needs help, you should give them that help even if others don’t. It is frightening to see through social experiments that whole groups of people do not help a person in need because there is no one to help first. Be that first one who does help!

Don’t by the bystander:

By Angelique Sijbolts


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