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Maharal

Derech Chaim

The Maharal M'Prague's Explanations on Pirkei Avos


The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Darche Noam Institutions Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.


The following is Rabbi Karlinsky's introduction to the class:

This list has been conceived as an on-line shiur, to be "given" once a week, explaining Pirkei Avot according to the interpretations of the Maharal from Prague. While I am used to giving live, interactive classes (I rarely "lecture," but read and explain the text while soliciting ongoing feedback as the students participate in developing the material), the nature of the electronic medium forces a serious compromise on the format.

Due to my teaching style, I always appreciate feedback, comments and questions, and will try to use them as the basis for future shiurim as necessary. There are a number of themes that recur in the Maharal's work, and over the coming months things that may not be clear the first time around will become clearer, if you stick with it. It will be very helpful if you can access the shiurim on the Introduction, as well as on the first two or three Mishnayoth. These are available in the archives. The material is not meant to be a "a quick read" but requires thought and review. For those of you who have the time and ability, seeing the sources quoted in their original form may provide another dimension of understanding.

The beauty of the Maharal's approach is his precise textual analysis of the words of the Rabbis, leading him to a deep understanding of the hidden and eternal truths embedded in their words, reaching the hidden dimensions of the Torah. We will try to convey that unique combination through cyberspace.

In translating the text of each Mishna, we will not necessarily follow the "standard" translation, but base our translation on the way the Maharal understands the text. If you find differences between the way I translate it and a) the way you understood it, b) the way the Artscroll siddur translates it, or c) the way someone else taught it to you, the source of the difference should become apparent as you study the Maharal's interpretation.

My convention will be to provide loose translation of the text of the Derech Chaim, following the way the Maharal writes it, so you can follow in the original if you are so inclined. I may combine seemingly repetitive sections, for ease of understanding. And occasionally, I will skip sections, because a) it contains a digression that will not be easily connected in written shiurim, b) of the difficulty of rendering a section into English, or c) due to the Kabbalistic nature of the section. Parenthetical phrases and paragraphs () will indicate my explanations, interjections and elaborations on what the Maharal himself has written. I will also try to provide the location for each of the sources he brings.

One very important assumption that the Maharal posits in all teachings of the Rabbis, and which is even more fundamental when studying Pirkei Avoth. The Rabbis aren't giving us lessons on how to win friends and influence people, or habits of effective people. These are things we can figure out for ourselves [or have Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, et al, help us with :-)]. The Rabbis are revealing to us the inner essence of man, creation, and the way these interact. So we shouldn't mistake Pirkei Avoth for a Rabbinical version of "Poor Richard's Almanac." This perspective helps understand how and why the Maharal goes below the surface of the text in trying to understand the words of the authors of Pirkei Avoth.

What one finds in the Maharal's works is a deep respect for the philosophical depth and textual integrity of the teachings of our Rabbis. The final paragraph of his introduction to Derech Chaim sums it up perfectly:

In assessing the accuracy of our interpretations of the Mishnayot, one must examine them in depth, and not reach conclusions on the basis of hasty first impressions. There is no doubt that the words of the Rabbis are teachings of great depth, not having been said out of personal opinion, "approximation" or simply their own intuition. Rather every word reflects deep wisdom and truth, said with compelling accuracy (known through transmission of Divine revelation) and they require deep analysis and understanding, rather than superficial reactions.

I hope everyone will find value in the ideas and in the approach that will be presented.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Subscribe to Maharal and receive this class via e- mail.


 






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