Pirkei Avot Song Assignment – Jewish Studies

Hello, internet. Today I am posting a project I was assigned. The summary of this project is I have to connect 5 verses of Pirkei Avot to 5 different songs and here’s what I came up with.

Pirkei Avot Song Playlist

  1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, with Pirkei Avot 2:3
    Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs (Avot, 2:3)
    My interpretation of this verse is that the government only wants what it needs, not what its people need. The government doesn’t have friends, just interests. The first song that immediately came to mind was Fortunate Son or the “Vietnam Flashback song”. The song was about how the US government was only enlisting poor kids and the rich could opt out of the draft by going to college, and how the government only helped the South Vietnamese people to spite the Soviets and stop the spread of communism. The connection between these is that the song was about the government only helping itself and not its people, and the verse is about the government only befriending people for its own needs.
  2. “9 – 5” by Dolly Parton, with Pirkei Avot 2:15
    The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing. (Avot, 2:15)
    My interpretation of this quote is that even if you work the workers basically to the point of death and in some occasions to death, the boss reaps the benefit. Back then the boss or master would make their workers work so hard and they (the master) wouldn’t lift a finger. The most logical thing I could think of (not sarcasm) is the song 9-5 by Dolly Parton. The song 9-5 has been used as an anthem all over the world for women’s empowerment, equal rights, and fair working conditions. The part that I think connects to the verse is the “fair working conditions” bit. I think it connects because the verse talks about how the workers work all the time and the boss reaps the benefit. These are unfair working conditions that Pirkei Avot talks about.
  3. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, with Pirkei Avot 2:12
    The property of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own. Perfect yourself for the study of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you. And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven. (Avot, 2:12)  The verse I chose for number 3 is an odd one. It has 2 parts to it. Part 1 is “The property of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own” (Avot 2:12). Part 2 is “Perfect yourself for the study of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you. And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven” (Avot 2:12). My interpretation of the first part is basically to treat others the way you want to be treated and treat other people’s stuff the way you want your stuff to be treated. My interpretation of the second part is you should try your hardest when studying the Torah because it is a privilege, not a right. I think you could widen the interpretation and say enjoy everything that’s a privilege because it’s not a right and can be taken whenever. I’m going to focus on the first part and choose the song Respect by Aretha Franklin as my song choice. You might see a theme here about taking songs about empowerment and taking the message and applying it to my verse. “Respect” was about racial and gender inequality and about different races and genders being equal and just getting along or “treating others the way you want to be treated”. The connection is treating others the way you want to be treated.
  4. “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift, with Pirkei Avot 2:6
    He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned. (Avot 2:6)
    This verse is about Karma. It’s about how because a man drowned multiple people, he himself drowned. You could also look at this as revenge. The song I chose for this is Bad Blood by Taylor Swift. If you ignore the subtle revenge plot on Katy Perry the song is about karma and revenge. The song is about revenge on Katy Perry because she dated her ex-boyfriend (I can’t believe I know this). The way these connect is about how if you do something bad, inevitably something will happen to you whether that’s revenge or karma is up to God to decide.
  5. “Gold Digger” by Kanye West, with Pirkei Avot 2:7
    He would also say: One who increases flesh, increases worms; one who increases possessions, increases worry; one who increases wives, increases witchcraft; one who increases maidservants, increases promiscuity; one who increases man-servants, increases thievery; one who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires a good name, acquired it for himself; one who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come. (Avot 2:7)
    My interpretation of this is that too many good things lead to bad things. So don’t be too greedy and don’t always get your hopes down when bad things happen. The part of this I am going to pick for a song is the “greed” part and my first and best idea was Gold Digger by Kanye West. A gold digger is someone only dating a guy for their money, a person who is so greedy they would do anything to get money and things. The song is about a gold digger. The relation between these is that greed can overcome someone but eventually something bad will happen to them.

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