Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2:5


מסכת אבות פרק ב

הלל אומר, אל תפרוש מן הציבור, ואל תאמין בעצמך עד יום מותך, ואל תדון את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו, ואל תאמר דבר שאי אפשר לשמוע וסופו להישמע.  ואל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה, שמא לא תפנה

Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard]. And do not say “When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,” for perhaps you will never free yourself.


Why does this part of the mishna consists of five saying of Hillel?  Essentially, this part of the mishna is dealing with community involvement.

1. Do not separate yourself from the community:

Clearly the value of the community is emphasised in this mishna for much about Judaism and Torah cannot be practised in isolation. For Hillel, it was imperative that one maintain a clear connection with the community, show it support and work toward nurturing it. If you do this then you will merit sharing in both the joy and sorrow of the community and all that it implies.

2. Do not be sure of yourself until the day of your death:

The mishna reminds me of John Donne’s line ‘no man is an island’, warning us to always accept help and be prepared to help others. This is one inherent value of being a part of a greater community. In order to grow consistently we need to always be aware of the impermanence of life and everything that it holds. Nothing is certain, only death.

3. Do not judge your fellow man until you find yourself in his place:

The implication seems to be that it is easy to judge others, rather than to judge one’s self. Part of what we as Jews should be working on is our own development as people, perfecting ourselves, particularly our behaviour. This is essential is we are to live in the image of Hashem. It is all too easy to pass judgement on others and engage in Lashon Hara or idle gossip. The time that we waste doing this type of thing should be spent on introspective and growth. We should refrain from judging until we have stood in Hashem’s place, for it is only he who can judge …




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