Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #20, “Limited Entertainment”
The human mind needs diversion — it needs entertainment — but that which makes the human being unique, reason and intelligent speech, deserves infinitely more than entertainment.
The arc of history — how ironic. It saw countless millions of people consigned to virtual slave labor, but once leisure time was economically devised, it became a mixed blessing. Many use it to help others, to grow spiritually, to create or otherwise expand their horizons, but many fritter it away. For those who wish to acquire the Torah, entertainment is a necessity, but, as Pirkei Avot says, a limited one.
This is not just a matter of time management (the more entertainment, the less time for Torah). It is a matter of values. Which is the goal and which the means? If entertainment is the goal, then the acquisition of Torah — a fully engaging enterprise — will fade. If the goal is to acquire the Torah, then limited entertainment will facilitate it.
It is not just intellect that acquires the Torah. It is the soul. When mind and soul have an occasional respite from their search, acquisition of the Torah becomes realistic.
The 20th way to acquire the Torah: Limited Entertainment.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation
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