Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The Manners of the Righteous
I learned the following this morning with my students in the Talmud Bavli, Taanit 5b. I was touched by its simplicity and beauty. For a moment I was able to envision a world in which people practiced derech eretz/adab in the most casual interactions. The English word "etiquette" fails to capture the delicacy and depth of a mode of behavior that proceeds so naturally from inner sweetness and righteousness. May G-d help us learn from this example and find these qualities in ourselves.
When they were about to part, Rav Nahman said to Rav Yitzchak: Please Master, bless me. He replied: Let me tell you a parable — To what may this be compared? To a man who was journeying in the desert; he was hungry, weary and thirsty and he came upon a tree the fruits of which were sweet, its shade pleasant, and a stream of fresh water was flowing beneath it; he ate of its fruits, drank of the water, and rested under its shade. When he was about to continue his journey, he said: Tree, O Tree, with what shall I bless you? Shall I say to you, ‘May your fruits be sweet’? They are sweet already; that your shade be pleasant? It is already pleasant; that a stream of water may flow beneath you? Behold, a stream of water flows already beneath you; therefore I say, ‘May it be G-d’s will that all the shoots that grow from you should be just like you.’. So also with you. With what shall I bless you? With the knowledge of the Torah? You already possess it. With riches? You have riches already. With children? You have children already. Hence I say to you, ‘May it be G-d’s will that your offspring be just like you’.