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The Misunderstood Masterpiece: A New Approach to Pirkei Abot

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

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Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph

Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph

Pirkei Abot is often understood as a mere series of unrelated ethical adages. In fact, each brief and much-cited maxim in Pirkei Abot actually hints at the extraordinary, and unique, life story and worldview of its rabbinic source, and the chapters of Abot are joined together in a structure that actually tells the story of the transmission of the Oral Law. We will see how studying the history of the rabbinic figures cited lend an entirely new understanding to these statements, and how Abot represents the diverse response of the rabbis to an age of crisis and transition that was, in many ways, not unlike our own.

 

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The fall semester is sponsored by Scott Shay.

 

Emma Lazaraus

Emma Lazarus is best known for her famous poem, “The New Colossus,” inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. 

1883
Uriah Phillips Levy

Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jew to be promoted to Commodore in the United States Navy.

1850