Pivot towards Wisdom: The Ethics of our Ancestors

Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers/Ancestors, is a handbook of ethical wisdom for the right now. But it originally emerged out of the need for wisdom and guidance for a people utterly displaced and dispossessed.

The Jewish people know how to walk through massive disruption and make it onto the other side. But never in our history have we made it to the other side unscathed and unmoved. We have survived because of our ability to rapidly evolve to meet unchosen and unwanted changes to our reality.

The most massive disruption in the history of the Jewish people was the destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 of the common era—close to 2000 years ago. The Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple in retaliation for the ongoing rebellion by the Israelites (now known as Jews) against Roman domination. We tried to hold onto our ancient systems and religious and political autonomy, but ultimately we were overpowered physically.

We were exiled, spread apart from each other, and to the four “corners” of our real round globe. Jews ended up in India, China, North Africa, England, and throughout the Middle East. We are spread out to this day. We live in the reality of our exile, though the modern State of Israel has also been a reality for over a lifetime now. We did not just survive the diaspora; we thrived in it. To the point where the majority of us chose to make our homes in it even with the option of return home.