Monday, February 9, 2009

2:1:5 - In popular culture

Shimon ben Shetach's tale of walking between the raindrops has apparently been preserved in modern Hebrew. Today on, there is a story about Hamad Amar, a Druze candidate for Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. The headline sums up his delicate situation: "Amar the Druze, #12 on the Yisrael Beiteinu list, walks between the raindrops."


I went to a class about Shimon ben Shetach a few years ago at the Hadar Shavuot Retreat. The part that stuck with me most was a methodological point. After reading various stories about Shimon ben Shetach, we concluded with his one line from Pirkei Avot (1:9):

שמעון בן שטח אומר, הוי מרבה לחקור את העדים; והוי זהיר בדבריך, שמא מתוכן ילמדו לשקר.

Shimon ben Shetach says: Be thorough in examining the witnesses, and be careful with your words, lest they learn from them to lie.

And it was suggested that we should read this not as a quotation, not as something that Shimon ben Shetach said, but as a capsule biography, as the message that we can take from his life. As we have seen from his stories, he encountered tragedy as a result of witnesses who were examined less than thoroughly, and he was less than careful with his words.

I haven't tested this method to see whether it works for the rest of Pirkei Avot, but perhaps it's worth trying out as we continue reading more stories about the rabbis.

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