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Monday, Iyar 24, 5783 (Hakhel Year) 39th Sefirah / May 15, 2023


Each Shabbat, between Pesach and Shavuot, we recite/study a chapter of Pirkei Avot – Chapter of our Fathers. Many continue even after Shavuot, until Rosh Hashana.


One of the many lessons in the fifth chapter of the Pirkei Avot (Chapters of our Fathers), which we recited this past Shabbat is the following: “Seven things characterize a silly person (a Golem), and seven a wise person (Chacham):”


A wise person does not speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom or in years;


He does not interrupt the words of another person when he is speaking;


He does not rush to answer [when asked something];


He asks what is relevant to the subject matter and replies to the point;


He speaks [in order] of first things first and of last things last;


About a subject which he has not heard, he says “I have not heard”;


He acknowledges the truth. And the reverse of all these is with a fool (Golem).


“He does not rush to answer [when asked something].” This applies even when it’s a simple question to which he knows the answer. One reason is that when one is in haste to answer they will not analyze the question as they should and then they may come up with the wrong answer. This applies especially in matters of disputes between two litigants or questions about Kashrut etc. where the wrong ruling will cause someone to commit a sin or a loss.


Another reason: When one asks a question, to the person who asked, it is a legitimate question. If the rabbi or teacher is going to rush to answer, that person may get the impression that the question was a foolish one. As a result, the next time they have a question they will be embarrassed and refrain from asking. Thus, our sages teach that we must be very sensitive to the feelings of others. Even when you have the answer before he finished his or her question, take your time and give it some thought, thus, show the person that it was a legitimate question. This will encourage them to ask again the next time.


A rabbi was in the middle of teaching his students, when a wagon driver (ba’al agala) burst into the room with his whip in his hand, and said, “Rabbi, I am a kohen, may I take a divorcee?”


The rabbi looked at him, thought for a moment, and then replied, “Yes, you may take a divorcee.”


After he left, the students said, “Rabbi, how can you allow a kohen to take a divorcee? He said he is a kohen and a kohen is prohibited to marry a woman who is divorced?


The rabbi smiled. “Do you think he would come with a whip in his hand to ask me if he may marry a divorcee? I thought about his question, and realized that he wasn’t asking about marrying her, only if he can take her as a passenger on his wagon…