Wisdom of Shemaiah and Abtalion

- א כ א -

Love work and hate acting the superior.

“Shemaiah and Abtalion received [the oral tradition] from them. Shemaiah used to say: Love work, hate acting the superior, and do not attempt to draw near to the ruling authority.”

Tractate of Avot 1:10

We must always strive to love hard work and avoid fame. Our duty is to earn our living humbly and honorably, without abusing others. Additionally, we should be careful when dealing with influential people. Unnecessary contacts of this sort could ultimately harm us—physically or spiritually. Every human being must attempt to achieve inner perfection, rather than external prestige or clout. God expects us to be humble and refrain from mistreating others or using our power for evil purposes.

Our most beautiful traits are surely noticed by others; modesty means not needing to show them off. 

“Abtalion used to say: Sages, be careful with your word, lest you incur the penalty of exile, and be carried off to a place of evil waters, and the disciples who follow you drink and die, and thus the name of heaven becomes profaned.”

Tractate of Avot 1:11

We must always weigh our words and thoughts with caution, lest we say something that reveals secrets or offends someone. Improper behavior can corrupt not only the spirit of that person, but of their followers and subordinates, as well. We must therefore always examine what we are about to say before uttering it 

Positivity is realizing that every single thing comes from the creator and is therefore good.