This week: gladiators!
But first, congratulations to Marc Sarosi, who completed with me learning the entire Chumash this week. Next week: the dramatic book of Joshua.
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In honor of the occasion, I created a new chart to explain how the various parts of what we call “Torah” all fit together.
It’s called “The Torah Tree” and you can download it for free here.
Last week, in conjunction with my father’s fifth yarzeit, I asked “What is wisdom?”
This week, the question for your table is, What does it mean to be “strong”?
In the Mishna (try locating it on the Torah Tree diagram), “strong” (like “wise” last week) has a very non-conventional definition.
The conventional notion of strong is physical strength. This week the BBC reports that archaeologists believe that ancient remains they found in York had died from brutal blows known to be common in gladiatorial contests.
For all of human history, physical strength and prowess have been celebrated. Today is no exception.
The Survivor shows do not reward contestants who keep their cool, only those who outwit the others.
But the Tree-of-Life definition of a strong person is “someone who controls their urges”.
No one who knew my father ever called him “dispassionate”. He was quite passionate. His passion led him to Mississippi in 1963 to join the civil rights movement. His passion made him a lifelong best friend to many. His passion led him to be a regular consumer of music, art museums and great literature.
But he never lost control. He never lost his temper. He never acted brashly. When he worked on one of his many carpentry projects, he always used pencil and paper to plan it properly. He made mistakes, but always took them in stride. He never hesitated to say, "I'm sorry."
The point of recalling the greatness of a person is to remind us that if he could do it, so can you and I.
Second question for your table, in honor of Marc and all of you out there who learn with me, whether weekly or only periodically: What’s the difference between “studying” and “learning”?
“Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.” – Churchill
PS – the fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) falls Monday night through Tuesday. Here is a short video to make it meaningful:
(If you would like Tisha B’Av readings, send me an email.)
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