Talmud Justice and Ethics
Pirke Avot - Wisdom of the Fathers

The Game Plan for Lesson 1 - Our First Two Weeks

Here's the game plan for our first session(s) on Talmud and Ethics. (It is likely that this agenda will take up most of the following Sunday as well.) The Portion Numbers below refer to the portion numbers down the middle of the page in Reading 1. We will not be reading everything in Reading 1 during class - just the portions in blue.


I. Introduction to the Talmud - its relationship to the Bible, how and why it was constructed, its timeframe in history, and its importance

II. Introduction to our study - a focus on the portion of the Talmud which will be our source and how it provides excellent lessons for learning about ethics

III. Introduction to Pirke Avot, the Sayings of the Fathers, which is located in this portion of the Talmud and from which we'll begin some exercises in understanding religious ethics.

Reading 1

A. Portion 1 - What makes the saying of Simon the Just so universally apt for Christians and Jews?

B. Portion 2 - Can we and should we - at least to a certain extent - "serve the Master" without expectation of reward? How might we live truer and better lives if we followed this wisdom?

C. Portion 3 - what does it mean at various levels to "let your house be a meeting place for sages," and why/how is that important?

D. Portion 6 - what does this profound piece of wisdom from the great sage, Hillel, mean to you?

E. Look at the last segment of Portion 8 - explain the foundation this creates for people of faith to live a good and ethical life.

F. Look at the last two elements of Portion 9 - what do you see of greatest value in these two ideas?

G. Portion 10 - make the case for one of the other answers than that of Elazar ben Arakh.

H. Look at the statement immediately before Portion 11: "let the honor of your fellow be as precious to you as your own." What does this mean, and why is it especially relevant today?

I. Portion 12 - In 20 and first sentence of 21, what does this mean to you?

J. Portion 13 - in 11 and the first segment of 12, we see the difference between religious ethics and many principles of philosophy. Explain how "wisdom" works for the faithful?

K. Portion 17 - what's the essential wisdom in this saying?

L. Portion 19 - this statement gives very powerful advice about how to "love our neighbor" in certain difficult times. Explain.

M. Portion 20 - 48 virtues culled by the sages from the Bible and are listed here. We'll spend 10 minutes or so, allowing all in the class to opine on which are especially important to us.

Talmud Justice and Ethics - Pirke Avot - Wisdom of the Fathers

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