In this song, Zohar uses a well-known saying from Ethics of the Fathers to “tell off” her boyfriend. The Ethics of the Fathers, compiled and written some 2000 years ago, form a key part of the ethical framework of the Jewish People. Orthodox Jews read from them every Shabbat.
Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting. From where you came–from a putrid drop; where you are going–to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting–before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Ethics of the Fathers, 3:1
- Has it ever crossed your mind to quote from the bible/mishna when telling off your boyfriend/girlfriend? What does it tell you about a place that does? [Israel]
- In Ethics of the Fathers, Akavia ben Mahalalel urges us to reflect on three existential questions – where did I come from? Where am I going? Who will judge me in the end? – and then proceeds to give his answer. What do you understand by Akavia’s three answers, and how they relate to the value of humanity? [i.e. if we’re just the process of a putrid drop turning into maggots, what then is our worth without God?]
- Why do you think Zohar cites from this text? [all answers are probably correct!]
- Do you think she is taking the quotation out of context? [do you think she is also referring to Akavia’s answers, or only his questions?]
- Do you think it’s disrespectful to be using quotations from Ethics of the Fathers to be talking about relationships?
- Why do you think she adds an extra issue, “Know who you are,” which is not mentioned in Ethics of the Fathers.
Suggestion: learn the words to the chorus and see how many times you can use them throughout camp and in what situations…