In a place where there are no people, strive to be a man. Rabbi Hillel Pirke Avot 2:6B

No People – Hillel’s saying is not an endorsement of the monastic life.  He is not suggesting that we strive to become truly human in the wilderness.  What Hillel means is this:  there are plenty of communities where human beings exist but are not really persons.  They live according to the impetus of their desires.  They are subject to the winds of circumstance.  They survive – but they do not thrive as partners in God’s restoration of the world.  They are not truly human beings as God intended.  They are missing the joy of being.  In those places (and they are all around us), strive to be what God intended persons to be – fully human, the bridge between heaven and earth.

Does this mean your focus is concentrated on the spiritual appetites?  Are you to be in constant meditation, memorizing your Bible, saying your prayers, walking with your hands lifted up to heaven?  No.  The rabbis realized that involvement in community, compassion for others and a deep sense of awe are the supreme characteristics of truly human existence.  As followers of Yeshua HaMashiach, we don’t have to look any further than His story to see just how much these three elements impact the lives of those in His presence.  We are called to be the same kind of engaged person, wherever we happen to be.  Hillel exhorted his talmidim to strive to become men of God.  Yeshua invites us to come after Him.  The result is nearly the same.

Berkson notes, “When you maintain concern for the people you work with and for the community, and try to serve their needs, you build the kind of relationships that benefit you in the long run.”[1] Being truly human not only blessed others; it benefits you as well.  Wasn’t God clever to design it that way?

There is a significant leadership principle implied in this rabbinic statement – and in the parallel statements of Yeshua.  Leaders who strive to be truly human will achieve that goal only insofar as they serve those around them.  A leader is not the head of the pack because he is out front.  He is only out front because others are willing to follow.  One must be invited to be a leader.  That occurs when the talmidim recognize the benefits of being followers.  A leader who is not serving his followers is soon standing alone.

Yeshua never compels anyone to follow.  His approach is always an invitation, an appeal to the benefits derived by the relationship with Him.  Yeshua does not shy away from the self-interest of those who would come after Him.  He knows that there are no followers unless there is perceived benefit.  And He is more than willing to give benefits.  Perhaps we would make a much greater impact on the community if we simply realized that being God’s man or woman means benefitting those nearby.  If we are going to strive to make a difference, it will begin by asking, “How can I serve you today?”

Topical Index: Pirke Avot 2:6B, Hillel, human being, community, serve, leader

[1] William Berkson, Pirke Avot, p. 70.

  • carl roberts May 19, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I am often reminded of the words of a commercial I hear on the radio: “In a word, it works.” I jokingly respond: “Hey, that’s two words! The same can be said with the word of God, our Bible, -in a word, (G-d’s word) it works! It’s like Ragu spaghetti sauce- “it’s in there!” The secret’s in the sauce! Yeshua said.. (too bad it’s not Ben Franklin, or Martha Stewart or even E.F. Hutton, for as you know, when E.F. Hutton talks…-everybody listens. Not so the Son of man. If anyone have ears to hear, let him hear.. – Sound familiar! What!- That’s in the Bible? “Oy.”
    “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” This is Rabbi Sha’ul speaking in 1 Thessalonians 4.13. Ignorant? There is something we need to know? Others which have no hope? Does this mean “we” have hope? Where is this “hope” to be found? -Oh, I hope you know the Source of this hope, for this is the hope that remains. Now “abideth” faith,hope,love (I Corinthians 13- read the book- it’s in there.) Oy.
    Have you read this man’s book? Have you read that man’s book? Have you read the word of G-d? Uh..
    According the very Jewish book of Joshua, (yes, it’s in there too..)
    “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1.8) “Shema” anyone? I’ll even toss in (if anyone’s listening.. a “selah”) Oy.
    Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119.105) Selah, selah, selah. Oy Read the book. When all else fails, read the manual. He has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Has given. We have His word. “For no matter how many promises G-d has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of G-d.” (2 Corinthians 1.20) “Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17.17) Spoken unto us by the Living Word- the LORD Jesus (who is the) Christ. Yeshua HaMashiach, G-d in human flesh.
    I cannot see (ha!- for the life of me) how Yeshua could possibly be rejected as the Messiah of Israel. What was the “heart’s desire” of Rabbi Sha’ul? “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to G-d for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10.1)
    Yeshua was a mighty Rabbi- no doubt. “Behold a greater than Solomon is here”—(Luke 11:31) another selah anyone? Yeshua was or is? greater than Solomon?- the wisest man that ever lived? “is” (not was) here? as is.. “among us?” Christ was crucified, but that is not at all- the end of the story, is it?
    I’ve yet to see any other Rabbi or “religious” leader rise from the dead. Anyone else who has power (authoritiy) over life and death has my ear. Anybody else making this claim? Any takers? I’m listening.. Oy.
    “Behold, the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world.” This, this.. IS the Passover Lamb. How much more Jewish can we get? “He came unto His own.” Salvation is (and forever more will be) to the Jew first- G-d’s chosen ones- the nation Israel, the apple of G-d’s eye, the navel of the earth, and (praise G-d) also to the Goy. The “crumbs” have fallen to the dogs under the table. “Whosoever will” may come..(His words)- are we listening?

  • Roderick Logan May 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Bob Dillon is right, at least in part, “you gotta serve somebody”.

  • Ian Hodge May 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    It helps to remember the ONE qualification for leadership: you have to have followers. Without followers, nothing else matters.

    • carl roberts May 19, 2011 at 11:58 am

      Too greek Ian..- we (who are His) lead by following. “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,..” (Mark 10.43)
      Develop in us ADONAI, the Servant’s heart. Amein! The way “up” is “down.”He humbled Himself..”- so should we..

      • Ian Hodge May 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        Carl, that’s my point. You must have followers. Scripture instructs us HOW we are to get followers . . . by being a servant. But it’s a truism: no followers, no leadership.

  • carl roberts May 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Maybe Bob has read, remembered and reflected upon Romans chapter 6. Therefore, what conclusion should we reach? “Let’s go on sinning, because we’re not under legalism but under grace”? Heaven forbid! Don’t you know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, then, of the one whom you are obeying, you are slaves – whether of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to being made righteous? By God’s grace, you, who were once slaves to sin, obeyed from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you were exposed; and after you had been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
    We are “under new management” – Yeshua is LORD!!

    • Judith Jeffries May 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      THANK YOU, Carl. for your comments today!

  • carl roberts May 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Leadership is influence. How “inspired” am I by service? If I get good service at the barber (or hair stylist) -I’ll be back. If I get good service at the restaurant -what a wonderful memory! At the car dealership, at the shoe repair- customer service is (as the youngsters would say..) “where it’s at.” (Do they still say that?- lol!) I work for a multi-million dollar company (no, it’s not mine) built on putting people first, and giving them good service, profits then follow “dipso fatso”. People, as a general rule love “servant-minded” people. I know I do. And this is how Yeshua wants us to treat folks, – with kindness and respect. Everyone one we meet throughout the course of the day is a person G-d loves “immensely and intensely.” “As we have therefore opportunity to do good, let us do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6.10)
    This is very P.C. No, not “politically correct” “Proclaiming Christ” by our words and actions. He went about “doing good.”
    Here’s our challenge. To be merciful, and compassionate to everyone, regardless. Love is a choice. What if we were to choose to love each individual we come in contact with and see them as G-d sees them, -people for whom Christ died. “Potential” brothers and sisters in our “forever family.” And I’ll say this.. – “try it” – you’ll like it! It works. Love springs from love. We are the initiators and the ones in whom is burning the love of G-d. Love must be demonstrated. “How may I serve you?” should be implanted in our brain. Not “leadership” but “headship” and Christ is the head. We are the body. His hands, His feet. What He says we will do, where He sends we will go..- never fear, – only trust and obey!

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