Pirkei Avos Lesson- Chapter 6
It is customary to study a chapter from the Tractate Avos, or Pirkei Avos, in the weeks in between Pesach and Shavuos. Pirkei Avos are filled with the ethical teachings and wisdom of the great sages of the Mishnah.
This week’s perek or chapter, is known as the chapter of ‘the acquisition of Torah.’ This is because this week’s perek speaks extensively about the Torah and how to go about acquiring it properly.
One of the most famous Mishnayos, or teachings, of the entire Pirkei Avos is the 48 ways with which to acquire Torah. One of them is ‘one who is happy with his lot.’ Some of the commentators explain this to mean that one should be happy with that which he has already accomplished in his Torah learning and gain satisfaction from that.
How would this bring one to accomplish the goal of acquiring as much Torah as possible!? I would have thought that in order to learn a lot of Torah a person should NEVER be satisfied with that which he has already learned in order to keep pushing to accomplish more!
This Mishnah is teaching us that this is simply not true. Yes, a person can be fueled by a feeling of inadequacy and by a sense of lack of accomplishment in order to burst ahead in a fit of energy and seem to accomplish a lot. However, this is not the path to lifelong accomplishment.
One needs to gain satisfaction and happiness in order to continue pushing ahead and accomplishing more. No person has the strength and willpower to keep fighting himself to accomplish. Rather, those that are successful, derive satisfaction and happiness from their accomplishments which sweeten the journey and fuels them to continue going.
So often in life we slip into unhealthy and unviable modes of behavior and functioning in order to score short term victories. We need to be wise and have foresight as to what this does to our long-term success.
A certain Mashgiach, or Headmaster of a yeshiva, once observed that when he sees a young man lose a little energy and excitement for his studies it is cause for grave concern.
Satisfaction and happiness are the fuel which can spur a person to long-term and sustainable accomplishment and greatness. Negativity and feelings of inadequacy just serve to spur us to bursts of accomplishment that will not last and will only serve to drain us of the energy necessary to not just win the battle- but to win the war.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer