“It is not up to you to finish the work” (Pirkei Avot 2:21): On Striving for the Unattainable
Part of our fall learning series, “Six Days Shall You Labor”: Perspectives on Work in Jewish Text and Tradition
Some of the most dramatic moments in the Tanakh describe the completion of work—the creation of the world (Genesis); the fabrication of the Tabernacle (Exodus); and the construction of the Temple (Chronicles). In contrast, at the end of chapter 2 of Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon admonishes us that while we are under pressure with much work, a tight deadline, a penchant for laziness, and a demanding boss, nevertheless “it is not up to [us] to finish the work.” Join Dr. Alan Cooper to discuss the nature of this obligatory “work” that is perpetually in progress in view of both traditional commentary and modern reception.
ABOUT THE SERIES
Many of us spend more time at work than anywhere else over the course of our lives—but are we defined by what we do? In this text-based series, JTS scholars will explore ideas about the meaning of work and rest in Jewish tradition, Jewish social movements around work, as well as the roles that gender, geography, and shifting economic and social circumstances have played in Jews’ professional paths and our understandings of the meaning and value of work.
THIS SESSION IS GENEROUSLY SPONSORED BY YALE ASBELL, JTS TRUSTEE, AND SHELLEY & JOHN HÉBERT IN LOVING MEMORY OF MOLLYE PLOTKA & REVEL SMOLKIN, AND WITH GRATITUDE TO THE DESCENDANTS OF SHIMA & VELYA CHAFETZ
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