Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Eight Chapters

Rambam's Introduction (Part 1)

Some things are better off said obliquely -- especially things that really matter and can be misunderstood.

Now, that's actually a vital principle behind the transmission of the undying truisms of the Torah. For while what's said in it had to be said, things can nevertheless go wrong if they're misconstrued. So the Torah itself -- and our sages, in their explanations of it -- often speaks figuratively and in a sort of "code".

In fact that's oftentimes true about the most seemingly simple statements made. What does the common Torah expression, "And G-d said, ... " really mean, for example? The idea of G-d actually speaking to humankind is absolutely mind-boggling! Yet we're obviously being made privy to something that we have to know about G-d's intentions for us, even if some of us come to incorrect ideas about His incorporealness as a result. So in a sense the expression "And G-d said" hides more than it reveals.

In any event, Rambam's point here in "Eight Chapters" is that the same holds true of the seemingly straightforward words of Pirke Avot ("The Ethics of the Fathers"). Though what's said there certainly works on a clearly ethical, inspirational level, so much of it nonetheless alludes to deeper, more portentous things than we might have expected. And it touches upon things that very much affect our spiritual status.

Now, since "it fosters great perfection and true good fortune" (i.e., it's a very important means for us to grow in our beings and to draw close to G-d), and because we're taught by our sages that “whoever wants to be pious should live by the words of Pirke Avot“(Babba Kama 30A), and since we know that "other than prophecy, there’s no greater rank than piety", it's clear then that Pirke Avot is saying a lot more than we might think.

But, what exactly is piety? Is it anything more than simple goodness; and if it is, can I achieve it or is it beyond me? Would being pious make me somehow antisocial and aloof, sad and sombre?

And what's prophecy? Is it like being psychic or clairvoyant? Were prophets holy (and what's holy, then)? We know of many prophets from the Torah like Ezekiel, Isaiah, and most especially Moses -- is that what we're talking about? And if it is, then are we somehow expected to be prophets, since prophecy is tied it in with the study of Pirke Avot?

So since so many such questions could be raised it occurred to Rambam that he'd need to offer some background, introductory material to pave the way for his comments to Pirke Avot, otherwise they'd be misunderstood. Hence, these eight chapters.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

Accompanying Angles
Shlomo Katz - 5759

G-d Willing!
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Just Doing My Job!
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Every Little Bit Counts
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5763

It Can Only Hurt Not to Ask
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

Suffering From Success
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

> Making A Deal With The Almighty In The Tradition of Yaakov Avinu
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767

Shared Responsibility
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5774

Stairway to Heaven
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Twin Peaks
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5768

In Every Generation
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Well-Fare of a Tzaddik
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

ArtScroll

"Now I Have Someone To Blame" – That's Just The Beginning
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

A New Role
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772

Maaser: Give Me a Tenth!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

Redeeming Factors
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information