“You do not know when the Kyrie of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” Gospel First Sunday of Advent
What does it mean to watch?
“Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
“Shimon the Tzadik was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness.
“Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words. Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgement, regard them as equally Tzadik. Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.
Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron–a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah. One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. (Either do your part or you help to tear the community apart) (If you don’t continue learing and using you will lose what you have and you will help to tear the nation apart.) One who does not learn is deserving of death. If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 1
“Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant face.”
Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt.”
“His son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. By three things is the world sustained: instruction, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), “Truth, and a judgement of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.” (That is not strict constructionist interpretation and that is not Stare Decisis. Peace is peace and having a sclerotic interpretation of law is having a sclerotic interpretation of law.)
“The Men of the Great Assembly comprised such prophets as Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (who is Ezra), Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nehemiah among others. The Great Assembly is simply designated as “Ezra and his court of law.” This may well be the redactor of the Old Testament as we largely know it today.
Hillel and Shammai were the leaders of the two great schools of the generation before Jesus. Hillel can be rightly called the Jewish St. Francis, or more precisely, St. Francis can be called the Catholic Hillel. Shammai was an engineer and thought as one. The emphasis for Hillel was love, peace and community, and for Shammai it was on thinking in terms of math and building in the way an engineer builds.
In relation to Hillel’s first quote read the article, Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Rabban Gamliel is mention in the book of Acts: 5-34. His son Shimon may well be the Simon mentioned in Luke 2:25-35.
What is their advice in relation to watching? Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah, study it often, preferably in Hebrew.
“Shimon the Tsaddik was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness. The flip of establishing pupils is to first be one. It is constant study of Torah in the hand of tradition, listening to the elders and picking a particular elder, school to learn under. Make a fence around Torah means to know it so well that one can’t be fooled by false interpretations. The service of God is liturgy.
Hillel brings this in when he discusses Aaron. Aaron also means Ark. Inside the Ark was the Ten Commandments, which in Hebrew are called the Asher Hadebarim. “Asher can both mean “Ten,” and “Happy.” If we count the Command statements in the next chapter, Deuteronomy 5, we find there are as many as 18 command statements. These commands, when followed, are designed to make us, each and every one of us in the community, Happy. Aaron represented liturgy as a way to teach people how to bring a true sense of a community of happy people.
Hillel summarizes this by saying that Aaron is “a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.”
Inside the advice to community leaders is the command to view all people coming to court as guilty. John Locke states that no man is a fair judge in his own case. Second Treatise on Government. Each person, we must presume, is wrong in at least some details of the case. The community leader’s role is those to examine under every rock and show each side where they’re wrong. It is to get them to also see where the other side is right in some details. When each leaves the court, they leave reconciled and that means Tam, innocent, of a simple, humble mind, ready to rejoin the community. Likewise, when the community leader examines the witnesses, it is thorough, but at the same time, as not to teach them to lie. We teach children, and people in general to lie when we are harsh, punishing with word and dead.
Our judges, of course do neither. They run on the premise of doing neither. They are “Tough on criminals.” Conservatives in particular don’t care what the effect of their decision will be. Everything is according to stare decisis, the standing of the decided, or precedent. This is what the Pharisees did. They spoke of ruling to bring piece, but everything was based upon being tough on criminals and on precedent.
Then comes deeds of kindness. Simeon is correct in saying that deeds need to come before study in relation to Torah. “Faith without Works is Dead,” Our letter of James says. If we know everything and do nothing, what is our study for. If we do everything and don’t study, we may have the concepts wrong, but we still did the right thing. In speaking to the knowing Pharisees, doesn’t Jesus say that prostitutes and deviants will see the Kingdom of God, before them?” If we don’t study, how will we know what good deeds are?
It’s a balance between the three, Torah, liturgy and good deeds that the Fathers speak of. When they speak of putting a fence around Torah, they speak of the same thing Jesus does when he speaks of watching. Study Torah and Gospel so we know basic right and wrong. Participate fully in liturgy to have what the Jews call Cavanaugh, or intention, so we can learn basic right from wrong, but must important of all, is to do what we learn to do. Without it, all the rest is putrid flesh. Jesus will come when we least expect and in a way we don’t expect, a poor homeless baby of an unwed mother who’s an immigrant. We’ll be harsh on him, like the Pharisees the first time around, and we’ll pay the same price they did.