PIRKEI AVOT: Chapter 2, Mishnah (Teaching) 6
“A boor cannot be reverent; an ignoramus cannot be pious;
A shy person cannot learn; an ill-tempered person cannot teach;
Not everyone engrossed in business learns wisdom.
Where there are no worthy persons, strive to be a worthy person.”
(While this passage uses the word “worthy”, I believe other words, such as courageous, righteous, honest, trust-worthy for example, can be used in its place without diminishing its meaning.)
Have you ever had the experience of being in a group when the majority opinion differs with yours” Not only do you disagree, but you believe the opinion expressed is morally, ethically, or practically just not right? What should you do?
This passage is saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Stand up to be counted.” It is our job to do the right thing—to set ourselves apart from others, no matter how difficult or painful it may be. It is telling us to speak out, to act, to show others the way.
For Mothers, it means not giving in to popular choices for our children when we think they are inappropriate. It means being a role model for things we think are important, to do things and participate, even when we may not want to or have time to, but because we believe we need to.
For women in the work place, it means standing up for equal responsibilities, equal rights and equal pay for women. It means putting your best foot forward as a professional at all times, even when those around you may not be doing so, because once again you are a role model for women. You are helping to set the standard for the present and for the future.
Finally, this passage means being true to yourself, your values, your beliefs. It means, as my own Mother taught me, “Live your life in such a way that you can look in the mirror before you go to bed each night.”
“Where there are no worthy persons, strive to be a worthy person.”