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April 20, 1984 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-04-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

52

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, April 20, 1984

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Tradition of 'Pirkei Avos'
Sabbath readings arrives

A fascinating tradition is
in practice again.
For centuries, the reading
ofPirkei Avos (Ethics of the
Fathers) has continued on
the agenda of Jewish life.
These are the collective
efforts of the notables in the
Jewish cultural-spiritual
legacies. They have been in-
corporated as guides to
Jewish living and serve as
inspirations for the ages.
In the winter months, the
Psalms predominated as
readings on the Sabbaths,
in addition to the daily re-
sort to the sacred accumula-
tive selections from the To-
rah.
In the summer, commenc-
ing with Passover, the Pir-
kei Avos are the readings
for learning and inspiration
for the Sabbath fascination.
From Mesorah Publica-
tions comes a new transla-
tion of Pirkei Avos, with a
commentary, "anthologized
from the classical Rabbinic
sources."
Like many other Mesorah
books, which provide es-
sence for traditional sub-
jects, this is an unusually
impressive work. The com-
mentary is by Rabbi Meir
Zlotowitz. Then there is an
important "overview" by
Rabbi Nos4on Scherman.
In his enlightening
"overview," Rabbi Scher-
man points out that the
translation for the Mesorah
text is taken from the
week-day Sabbath festival
A rtScroll Siddur. He states:
"It enables the reader to
achieve a relatively quick
grasp of the fundamentals
of the tractate, and we pre-
sent it in the hope that it
will stimulate the reader to
dig deeply in the rich lode of
wisdom it represents."
Defining the Pirkei Avos
tractate, Rabbi Sherman
makes these important ob-
servations:
"In many communities, it
was recited only during the
Sabbaths from Pesach to
Shavuos, as a fitting pre-
paration for the festival of
the Revelation at Sinai. For
that reason, too, the sixth
chapter, which deals with
Torah study, was appended
to the five chapters of Avos
as a particularly appropri-
ate recitation for the Sab-
bath before Shavuos.
"Another reason for be-
ginning the recitation of
A vos at that time of the year
is that the period between
Pesach and Shavuos saw
the death of more than
20,000 of R' Akiva's stu-
dents, the backbone of
Judaism's scholarly com-
munity. The reason for this
nearly mortal blow to our
spiritual well-being was
that they failed to honor one
another properly, the sort of
shortcoming that the les-
sons ofA vos can counteract.
Today's prevalent custom is
to continue the weekly reci-

Rosh
until
tation
Hashanah, so that the long
summertime Sabbath af-
ternoons can be filled with
shared Torah study.
"There is yet another rea-
son that the genius of the
Jewish soul adopted the
study of Avos for the full
spring and summer season,
a reason that is always per-

Critical reaction
greets proposed
German move

Bonn — (JTA) — A gov-
ernment - sponsored bill
that would penalize anyone
who denied Nazi genocide or
claimed the Holocaust was a
hoax came under fire from
both right and leftwing
elements on its first reading
in the Bundestag this week.
It is also opposed by Jews
who see it as a watered
down version of legislation
first proposed by Chancellor
Helmut Schmidt when his
Social Democratic Party
(SPD) governed West Ger-
many.
One of the main points of
contention over the draft
law is its equation of Nazi
crimes against Jews with
crimes by "other totalita-
rian regimes" against Ger-
mans. This is directed
primarily against the
Soviet Union and its East-
ern bloc allies. The law as
written would make it an of-
fense to deny that genocide
was also committed against
Germans.
According to Manfred
Schmidt of the SPD, the
government bill is a farce.
He faulted Justice Minister
Hans Engelhard for failure
to specify what war crimes
the government has in mind
when it seeks to punish in-
dividuals who publicly
claim those crimes were
never committed.
Schmidt also charged
that Engelhard, a member
of the Free Democratic
Party (FDP), a coalition
Partner with the ruling
Christian Democratic
Union (CDU), had been
forced to make far-reaching
concessions to rightwing
elements in the govern-
ment. The original draft,
aimed at effectively corn-
batting neo-Nazi prop-
aganda, has lost its char-
acter, he said.

tinent. As the shroud of
winter lifts and nature
luxuriates in a new blos-
soming, it is all too natural
for people to turn their
minds to relaxation and
pleasure. The elements be-
ckon, why should we not
enjoy them? When people
relax their self-discipline,
duty and morality are often
early casualties. 'Open the
pages of A vos,' our wise men
counseled. 'You need it all
year, but never more than
now.' "
The Mesofah accom-
plishments as producer of
traditional classical works
is enhanced with this text of
Pirkei Avos.
It should be indicated
that other works of impor-
tance are to this publishing
project's credit. Simultane-
ous with Pirkei Avos,
Mesorah issued another
very important volume, The
Best of Olemenu (Volume 5).
The publisher also issued
The Story of Reb Elchonon
by Rabbi Shimon Finkel-
man, a thrilling biography
of Rabbi Elchonon Wasser-
man.
All of the Mesorah works
are highly recommended,
and Pirkei Avos gains spe-
cial commendation.
—P.S.

Contrasts
freedoms

New York — Controver-
sies over public displays of
religious symbols in Poland
and United States ironi-
cally dramatize the dif-
ferences between the two
countries, according to
Nathan Perlmutter, na-
tional director of the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith.
In Poland, he points out, a
crucifix in the classroom
challenges tyranny; in Paw-
tucket, R.I., a public-
sponsored nativity scene
challenges religious free-
dom.
In a commentary in the
current issue of the ADL
Bulletin, Perlmutter says
that Poles on the side of lib-
erty used the weapons of
"faith and tears" to confront
the "brutish juggernaut of
the state" which removed
the crosses. In the United
States, however, "publicly
endorsed sectarianism in-
ches us away from our tradi-
tional freedoms" because
"religion has fared best
Saving energy
where the wall separating
Haifa — A Technion pro- church and state has been
fessor is proposing that Is- held high."
rael redesign its living
While criticizing the re-
structures to reduce the cent U.S. Supreme Court
country's energy depen- decision upholding the right
dence.
of Pawtucket to erect a
Prof. Michael Poreh of the creche on private land,
Technion's Department of Perlmutter said, neverthe-
Civil Engineering says that
less, that "while defending,
Israel can cut its energy
as we must, the protective
usage by changing the de-
wall between church and
sign of walls, windows, state, we must devise ways
porches and roofs.
of nourishing the spirit.

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