The Importance of Lived Judaism

שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר, כָּל יָמַי גָּדַלְתִּי בֵין הַחֲכָמִים, וְלֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב אֶלָּא שְׁתִיקָה. וְלֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הָעִקָּר, אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה דְבָרִים, מֵבִיא חֵטְא


In Pirkei Avot, 1:17, we read: “Shimon, his son, used to say: all my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence. Study is not the most important thing, but actions; whoever indulges in too many words brings about sin.” 

A great scholar’s son is often seen as a protege. Sometimes that person develops a big ego and doesn’t want to listen to others. It is notable that Rabban Gamliel’s son, Shimon, realized that sometimes one should be silent and soak up the wisdom of others. The study of Judaism usually relies on conversation and even argument between students and teachers. I think there is a proper time for silence and a proper time for joining the conversation.

It is also notable that Shimon, himself a great scholar, would say that study is not the most important thing, but rather actions are. The early rabbis typically worked in professions. In general, Judaism is far more about what we do than about what we think or study. While we need to study to know what to do, Judaism needs to be lived. Of course this fits in perfectly with camp and its goals. We are about experiential Judaism. We want our community to live Judaism on Jewish time – not just study it. This makes it more real, more fun and more impactful. 

At the end, Shimon shares his concerns about talking too much. Clearly this is an important topic to him. He feels that if we talk too much, we will invariably say the wrong thing, say mean things and speak lashon hara (evil tongue/harmful speech). Judaism rejects the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” In Judaism, words are powerful; Judaism says the world was created by words. Words can create and therefore words can also destroy. We must choose our words very carefully.

This Shabbat, let’s do a lot of listening and also let’s do Shabbat. Let’s participate in services, enjoy the Shabbat meals, spend time with friends, sing our songs and help and support each other. Shabbat Shalom!

Categories: Director, Dvar Torah, Shabbat