Saturday, 30 November 2019

Mussar: The Ethical Teachings of Rav

First posted December 14, 2013
Rav, says tradition, found an open, neglected field and fenced it in (Hullin 110a). Special attention was given by him to the liturgy of the synagogue. He is reputed to be the author of one of the finest compositions in the Jewish prayerbook, the Mussaf service of the New Year. In this noble prayer are evinced profound religious feeling and exalted thought, as well as ability to use the Hebrew language in a natural, expressive, and classical manner (Jerusalem Talmud Rosh Hashanah i. 57a). The many homiletic and ethical (haggadistic) sayings recorded of him show similar ability. As a haggadist, Rav is surpassed by none of the Babylonian Amoraim. He is the only one of the Babylonian teachers whose haggadistic utterances approach in number and contents those of the Palestinian haggadists. The Jerusalem Talmud has preserved a large number of his halakic and aggadistic utterances; and the Palestinian Midrashim also contain many of his aggadot. Rav delivered homiletic discourses, both in the Beth midrash (college) and in the synagogues. He especially loved to treat in his homilies of the events and personages of Biblical history; and many beautiful and genuinely poetic embellishments of the Biblical record, which have become common possession of the aggadah, are his creations. His aggadah is particularly rich in thoughts concerning the moral life and the relations of human beings to one another. A few of these utterances may be quoted here: (Shabbat 10b)
• "The commandments of the Torah were only given to purify men's morals" (Genesis Raba 44).
• "Whatever may not properly be done in public is forbidden even in the most secret chamber" (Shabbat 64b).
• "It is well that people busy themselves with the study of the Law and the performance of charitable deeds, even when not entirely disinterested; for the habit of right-doing will finally make the intention pure" (Pesahim 50b).
• "Man will be called to account for having deprived himself of the good things which the world offered"
(Jerusalem Talmud Kiddushin end).
• "Whosoever hath not pity upon his fellow man is no child of Abraham" (Beitzah 32b).
• "It is better to cast oneself into a fiery furnace than publicly to put to shame one's fellow creature" (Bava Metzia 59a).
• "One should never betroth himself to a woman without having seen her; one might subsequently discover in her a blemish because of which one might loathe her and thus transgress the commandment: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'" (Kiddushin 41a).
• "A father should never prefer one child above another; the example of Joseph shows what evil results may follow therefrom".
Abba Arika, Ethical teaching - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kol Tuv,

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