PIRKEI AVOT: Chapter 1, Mishnah (Teaching) 15

Shammai taught:

Make the study of Torah your primary occupation:

Say little, do much, and

Greet every person with a cheerful face.


This particular Mishnah speaks to me as a woman, mother, grandmother, daughter, wife, teacher, professional, synagogue congregant, friend—-in fact all the roles I play in my life. As I look at all three lines, the words “role model” come to mind, because in each of the roles I just mentioned, doing the act described is not only important to do for its own sake, it is important for its value as a role model as well.

As women, what we do as role models count. They count in our families—as daughters, granddaughters, siblings, mothers. They count in the work place, in the synagogue, in our relationships.

And they count in each line of the Mishnah.

Make the study of Torah your primary occupation.

At any age, continuing to study and re-study Torah and Jewish writings helps us to stay on higher ground morally and spiritually, and seek new meanings in familiar writings as we and our situations change. To make it our primary occupation, as suggested in the writings, would keep us grounded as well. While I certainly … Read the rest

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, … Read the rest