There is a popular custom to study the Mishnaic tractate of Avos (Avot) during the sefira period. Numerous reasons are given for this practice. As Rabbi Ari Enkin writes, “Consistent with the teaching that “derech eretz kodma latorah (proper behavior must precede the acquisition of Torah),” Pirkei Avot is … intended to prepare us for Shavuot with proper guidance on how a Torah Jew is to behave.” Also, “[i]t is believed that during the sefira period when the Jewish community is in a saddened state, mourning the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s students, one will be more receptive to the teachings of Pirkei Avot.” Accordingly, the OU Women’s Initiative is studying this important work of Jewish ethics as the curriculum of this year’s Counting Toward Sinai program.
The OU Women’s Initiative has already raised the bar for Torah study by and for women with such programs as Torat Imecha Parsha and Torat Imecha Nach Yomi (though one need not be a woman to follow these series on OU Torah). For this year’s Counting Toward Sinai, the Women’s Initiative has engaged their usual impressive array of renowned presenters. Some of the few whose shiurim have already been presented include Shira Schiowitz, Rachel Besser, Deena Rabinowich and Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, who is the founding director of the Women’s Initiative. Among the speakers still to come are Rivka Alter, Rifki Freundlich and Racheli Taubes, among many other prominent and popular women teachers of Torah.
If you’re in the mood for more, check out last year’s Counting Toward Sinai program, which studied the components of our liturgy, from modeh ani and birkos hashachar through Hallel and birkas kohanim. (Scroll down past this year’s Avos material and you’ll find it!) If you’re looking for more Pirkei Avos, we recommend Rabbi Reuven Taragin’s Three-Minute Avot, newly returned for 5781.