I am part of a group that is studying the book Pirkei Avot, which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers. It is a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis from centuries ago. Because of its contents, it is also called Ethics of the Fathers. Our teacher is Keren Hannah Pryor of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies sends an email every week with a portion from the book and her thoughts on it, and then a Facebook group discusses it. JJ and I also discuss the teachings in our homeschool.
A couple of weeks ago, our portion was the following:
Avot 1:5 Yossei ben Yochanan of Jerusalem says: Let your house be open wide; treat the poor as members of your household; and do not converse excessively with women. They said this even about one’s own wife; surely it applies to another’s wife. Consequently the Sages said: Anyone who converses excessively with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects Torah study, and eventually will inherit Gehinnom.
When we read the part about not conversing excessively with a woman, JJ’s eyes sparkled with mischief, as you can probably imagine. Before he could speak, I said “Wait a minute!” (while feeling a bit offended and hoping this would not lead to a put down of women….). When it comes to Hebraic/Jewish teachings, it seems to me that it’s not usually what it first appears to be. “So let’s keep reading and see what this REALLY means.”
I’ve learned a lot about Greek and Hebraic thinking in recent years. I know, I know, I have written about it quite a bit, but it really does affect many things, ranging from our belief about God and Scripture to life and to teaching a teenage son. One aspect of Greek thinking is that two opposite things can’t both be true–if Thing A is true then Thing B is false. Greek thinking has resulted in many church debates and denominational splits over the centuries as people argue(d) about things like “Does God choose us OR do we choose God?” or “Is God sovereign OR do we have free will?” “They can’t both be true!” Hebrew thinking, on the other hand, believes that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our ways and there is room for mystery. Two seemingly opposite things can both be true. God chooses us AND we choose Him. God is sovereign AND we have free will. The Jews believe “these, also, are the words of God.”