“This was his motto: ‘Do God’s will as if it were your own, so that God may do your will as God’s own. Adapt your will to God’s will so that God may change the will of others instead of yours.’ Hillel said, ‘Don’t separate yourself from the community. Don’t be overconfident until the day of your death. Don’t judge your fellow human being until you have reached that person’s place. Don’t say anything that is unintelligible with the hope that it will be understood. And don’t say ‘When I have leisure, I will study’-perhaps, you never will have that leisure.”  Pirkei Avot: 2:4
Do God’s Will: Rashi suggests that one can devote oneself to God while still taking care of one’s own needs. Our challenge is to hear God’s voice in the world and try to determine what God wants us to do.
In Jewish Spiritual Direction, listening for God’s voice in the world is called discernment. The practice of discernment results from a cultivation of various spiritual practices such as mindfulness and awareness (usually aided by meditation practices) and the practice of sacred and holy listening: listening for that which lies beneath the surface. When we still our minds, sink into to that which we are experiencing, both good and bad, we allow ourselves to hear what lies in our hearts: divine truth. From this place of divine truth, we can ask questions of ourselves, and of God such as “how do I proceed?” “What is my invitation?” “Which path should I follow?” Listen to what arises in your heart, it may be surprising, and it is a divine gift.
Don’t Separate Yourself: Rashi comments that one should not separate from the community when it is experiencing difficulties so that one can be united with it when [the community] is experiencing joy. Another commentator, Bartinoro ,suggests that one who will not be with the community in times of sorrow will never be able to be with it in times of joy.
It is normal to run away from subjects, experiences, or people that make us uncomfortable. We fear what we do not understand or know. Our “fight or flight” instinct kicks in at the sign of danger, and usually, we run away from fear, not head on towards it. We must plunge ourselves into the danger, the fear, the unknown and discomfort. Working with our community as partners through the struggle, we become a part of the community in which we live. Sharing in the struggle allows one to transcend the differences, danger, and discomfort we may experience as individuals and as a whole community. Then we may celebrate in times of joy, since as a community, we will have experienced times of sorrow together.
Don’t Judge Your Fellow Human-Being: Bartinoro suggests that, if you see your neighbor ensnared by some temptation, do not judge your neighbor harshly until you have faced the same temptation and mastered it.
In order to show empathy to your fellow companions, you must first imagine yourself standing in their shoes. As we approach the new year, we approach Ha Yom HaDin. The Day of Judgement. Who is judged and who is THE Judge? God, the divine, our community, our families, our children, our loved ones. We are both the Judge and Judgee. We must be mindful of this precarious position. How can we truly judge ourselves, or God, or our community, until we have placed ourselves in the other’s position? It is only from a place of Chessed, or loving kindness that we can offer the strength of “judgement”.
Don’t Say Anything That Is Unintelligible: Maimonides suggests that one’s statements should be easily understood. Based on the Hebrew word “לִשְׁמֹעַ,” Lishmoa, which can mean either “to understand” or “to hear,” Bartinoro suggests, “Don’t say something you shouldn’t just because you think no once can hear it; you never know who might indeed hear you!”
We have all felt misunderstood at some point in our lives. Perhaps we have given unclear directions or feedback. Maybe we have misrepresented ourselves or our feelings in some way that has caused unnecessary hurt or duress. We have all been in those awkward situations, gossiping, or discussing matters that are inappropriate, or confidential with the wrong people. Then later you come to find the subject of your gossip having heard your entire conversation. In this new year, let us strive for clarity in our communication with one another. Let our lips be guarded from speaking evil, and let us be mindful of our speech and with whom we share our sacred art of conversation.
When I Have Leisure: For Maimonides, study should not be a function of leisure. Rather, study should be a fixed part of your daily routine.
We are creatures of habit. We build routines around habits that maintain our hygiene, keep us healthy physically and build strong relationships. What about creating a habit of study? Building space into some part of the day, a mere 5-10 minutes to grow our knowledge? Instead, we push that time away, thinking it is too much of a luxury, or we are to busy to grow mindfully in knowledge. Building knowledge deepens our understanding and connection to the world, which in turn builds stronger and healthier communities and relationships. Learning about the world and creating stronger bonds between people allows the possibility for each person to live a fuller, richer, more meaningful life. All too soon, we will not have that time to push away any longer. This year, take a few minutes and build a “practice” into your daily routine. Open a book of poetry, read and reflect upon the words. Study the parshat ha-shavuah, the Torah portion of the week, and read a commentary or two about it. Pick up a copy of Pirkei Avot (the basis for this article) and learn about Jewish ethics, the art of living well within the world around us.
 Editing, Text and Translation by Leonard Kravitz, and Kerry Olitzky: “Pirkei Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics.” pp. xiii 20-21
 Rashi (1040-1105) born in Troyes France, and lived in Worms, Germany. Rashi’s commentary is generally a straightforward exposition of the terms presented.
 Ovadiah ben Abraham Bartinoro (b.2nd half of 15th century) in Bartinoro, Italy. One of the most widely accepted commentators on the entire Mishna, he wrote his commentary from Jerusalem where he was head of the community. Bartinoro’s commentary is a clear exposition of the best of Rashi and Maimonides”
 Maimonides (1135-1204) Philosopher and Physician, wrote his own commentary on the Mishna, called Mishneh Torah” His commentary in this editing and translation is noted as a philosophical reading of the text.