Pirkei Avot 1:1 & English Explanation of Pirkei Avot 1:1:1 from the Talmud

Making a fence around the Torah is another principle of supreme importance in Judaism. There are many laws that are not strictly obligatory upon a person from the Torah, but rather were instituted by the Rabbis to prevent a Jew from transgressing a Torah law. An example is the use of money on Shabbat. The Torah itself does not prohibit using money on Shabbat. However, the Rabbis said one should not do so, lest one write, which is prohibited by the Torah (at least the midrashic understanding of the Torah).

Prior to legalism, with which my theological background is very concerned, there is a purpose for rules – to keep us out of trouble. I like the image of the fence one puts up to keep others from coming into harm. Here, the Talmud means the ‘lesser laws’ which keep one from encroaching on the Torah commandments. But really, aren’t all the rules a fence? They try to keep us from coming into harm. Just because we are bound to fixate on the fence and abuse it doesn’t mean it wasn’t put up with gentle kindness in mind. Even when we are impaled on it.

The Homebound Symphony

But goodness, is it difficult to get many editors interested in books that aren’t somehow implicated in (or can somehow be shoehorned into) the American crisis discourse.

The “American crisis discourse” is real and I think I’m infected: I often come across ideas and wonder where they fit into our crises. There is a difference between “how does this idea apply to now” and “how does this idea fit into the current outrage discourse.”

As a long time user and admirer of Apple’s products, I find myself in a new situation: I am not only unenthusiastic about the anticipated virtual reality headset – I’m against the whole idea. The headset sure seems like a step in the wrong direction for a company that recently has been so focused on health. In what way does a VR headset contribute to health? Mental, physical, social, whatever?

Steve Jobs was famous for using the analogy of the bicycle. Like a bicycle, a computer can enhance the natural power of a human. It’s like a bicycle for the mind. I’ve used my iPhone to help me find my destination. I’ve used my Apple Watch to help me train for athletic competitions. Bicycles.

Maybe I have poor imagination, but I can’t see a VR headset enhancing my natural power. Only tricking it. Sure, I can attend a more visceral virtual meeting. Maybe the attendees will even have legs. But it’s still a virtual meeting. Something that feels more real isn’t actually more real or healthy.

In that way, a VR headset feels more like a treadmill. You can move a lot, but never go anywhere.

It’s a treadmill for the mind.