I have lost track of how many times I've done a papercut of the line from Pirke Avot 1:6, "Get yourself a teacher, make yourself a friend." This makes me happy, not only because I enjoy doing them but because of what it says about Judaism. Knowledge is portable, and its transmission has preserved the Jewish people against long odds. In a religion that elevates study to a holy pursuit, our teachers mean everything to us; they are our rock stars.
This particular line from the Talmud has a third part, as so many mishnayot often do: "...and judge every person favorably." The first part is relatively easy: get a teacher. The second, a bit harder because it takes time for a friendship to grow into a sacred relationship. The third part is the most difficult: it is human nature to judge, and we tend to judge ourselves a little more favorably than others, no?
Every papercut I do, no matter how many times I do the same subject, teaches me something. I get better at the papercutting, but improving my spiritual technique is much, much harder.
I have been blessed with the most learned, skilled, and giving teachers in my life. My deepest debt of gratitude is owed to my rabbi, Alexis Berk, kol hakavod ~ all the honor I can express. To Archie Granot, master papercutter and mentor, and to Izzy Pludwinski, master scribe, thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge.
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