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א - רַבִּי אוֹמֵר: אֵיזוֹ הִיא דֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה שֶׁיָּבוֹר לוֹ הָאָדָם, כָּל שֶׁהִיא תִּפְאֶרֶת לְעֹשֶׂיהָ וְתִפְאֶרֶת לוֹ מִן הָאָדָם, וֶהֱוֵי זָהִיר בְּמִצְוָה קַלָּה כְּבַחֲמוּרָה, שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ מַתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁל מִצְוֹת, וֶהֱוֵי מְחַשֵּׁב הֶפְסֵד מִצְוָה כְּנֶגֶד שְׂכָרָהּ, וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה כְּנֶגֶד הֶפְסֵדָהּ. הִסְתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, וְאֵין אַתָּה בָא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה, דַּע מַה לְּמַעְלָה מִמָּךְ, עַיִן רוֹאָה וְאֹזֶן שׁוֹמַעַת, וְכָל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ בְּסֵפֶר נִכְתָּבִים.

1. Rebbi would say: “Which is the right path that a man should choose for himself? That which is honorable to himself and brings him honor from man.

“Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzvah as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvos.

“Consider the loss [that might be incurred while performing] a mitzvah against the reward [earned by its observance], and the gain [derived] from [committing] a sin against the loss.

“Reflect upon three things and you will never come to sin: Know what is above you — an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and a book in which all your deeds are recorded.”

Rebbi would say: “Which is the right path that a man should choose for himself?” — This opening clause presents several difficulties. Among them:

a) The very question: “Which is the right path that a man should choose for himself?” is problematic. There is only one proper path of conduct for a Jew — the Torah’s way. Furthermore, we are obligated to fulfill the Torah; the matter is not a question of choice.

b) There are four Hebrew terms for “man” — adam, ish, gevar, and enosh.1 The mishnah uses the term adam, which refers to man at the highest level — one who has developed his intellectual capacities. Yet the need to follow “the right path” applies even to a person on the lowest level.

c) What is the relationship of this teaching to its author? Furthermore, why does the mishnah refer to him as simply Rebbi? On the surface, it would have been appropriate to refer to him using his name and title, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. Indeed, the next mishnah refers to him in this manner.

These difficulties can be resolved as follows: In this mishnah, Rebbi is instructing a person who has reached the level of adam. For other people, the right path to follow is obvious; one must adhere to the directives of the Torah and its mitzvos. When, however, a person already fulfills the Torah and its mitzvos in a complete manner and has internalized them, thus meriting the title, adam, there is room to ask: Which path should he follow now?

G‑d, the Torah, and the Jewish people are all infinite. Therefore a person must realize that at all times he has both the potential and the responsibility to advance in divine service. There are, however, many paths which grant such an opportunity. Which should the person take? This is the question which Rebbi addresses.

That which is honorable to himself and brings him honor from man — “That which is honorable to himself” points to the potential of human beings to unite with G‑d without intermediaries. After a person has thoroughly developed his required connection to G‑d through the Torah, he should also seek to develop an intimate, private relationship with G‑d.

Nevertheless, the connection with G‑d a person establishes must also “bring him honor from man.” Coming close to G‑d must not take one away from worldly life.2 A person’s conduct should be “good to the heavens, and good to the creations,”3 i.e., the good one performs should be appreciated by others. While striving for the spiritual heights, a man must find favor in the eyes of his fellowmen, Jews and gentiles alike.

To explain this concept in terms of the mitzvah of Kiddush HaShem, the Sanctification of G‑d’s Name: On one hand, Kiddush HaShem represents the deepest possible bond between man and G‑d.4 Nevertheless, when communicating this mitzvah, the Torah uses the expression:5 “I will be sanctified among the children of Israel,” i.e., one’s sanctification of G‑d must also find favor “among the children of Israel.” In this vein, our Sages explain6 that this mitzvah involves making G‑d’s name beloved. One’s conduct should make others exclaim: “How fortunate is he for having studied the Torah!”

This level of service is possible because one is already an adam. I.e., the name adam relates to the word adamah as in the phrase,7 adamah l’elyon — “I resemble the One above.” Just as G‑d can combine and resolve opposite tendencies, a person should seek to rise above the limits of worldliness while at the same time remaining involved with his surroundings. Moreover, his efforts to relate to his environment should reflect his connection to G‑d and his appreciation of G‑d’s desire for “a dwelling in this world.”8

The mishnah communicates this teaching in the name of Rebbi. In this context, Rebbi is not a name (as used in the following mishnah), but rather a title meaning “teacher.” In composing the Mishnah, Rebbi served as a teacher to the entire Jewish people; this title describes the essence of his existence.

To emphasize this point, the mishnah refers to him as Rebbi instead of using his name, Rebbi Yehudah HaNasi. The title Nasi, “leader,” reflects a connection with the entire people. Nevertheless, it also means “uplifted,” indicating that the leader is on a much higher rung than the people at large.

The term Rebbi, i.e., teacher of Israel, indicates the point at which all Jews are united — the level at which “Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” Rebbi relates to the Jewish people on this level, and teaches them how to achieve this inner and outer harmony.

These concepts are particularly relevant in the present age, when we anticipate Mashiachs coming. For it was concerning Rebbi that our Sages said:9 “If Mashiach is among those alive today, he is surely our holy teacher [Rebbi].”

Rebbi speaks about an adam — a person who like himself has reached a level of personal fulfillment, and yet is forced to suffer the pains of exile. At present, this is relevant to all of us. Since mankind as a whole has fulfilled all the divine service required of us, we have, to borrow an expression of the Previous Rebbe,10 “polished the buttons”; as a collective, we are on the level of adam.

Having completed everything required of us, we must know what is the right path — the most direct and effective means to bring about the actual coming of Mashiach and the raising of the world to a higher plane of divine service.

(Sefer HaSichos 5750, Vol. II, p. 420ff; 5751, Vol. II, p. 497ff.)

Be as careful — The Hebrew word zahir, translated as “careful” also means “shine.” All the mitzvos share a fundamental quality; each of them enables one’s soul to shine forth.11

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1191ff)

Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzvah as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvos In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam points out that there is no statement in the Torah detailing the relative severity of the positive commandments. Therefore, one should be careful in the observance of all of them.

Nevertheless, the Rambam continues, there is an indirect means of appreciating the relative severity of positive commandments. The severity of each negative commandment is reflected in the severity of the punishment for its violation. Certain positive commandments are paralleled by negative ones — e.g., there are both positive and negative commandments to observe the Sabbath. By comparing the positive commandment to the negative commandment that parallels it, one can appreciate its relative importance.

In that vein, the Rambam interprets the subsequent clause of the mishnah as follows: “Calculate the loss incurred by [the violation of] a mitzvah [in order] to know the reward [for its fulfillment]”; i.e., appreciate the severity of a negative commandment and from it, assess the importance of the parallel positive commandment.

The Rambam’s statements raise a question: Since it is possible to appreciate the relative severity of some positive commandments, how can a person be expected to be equally committed to the performance of all mitzvos?

It can be explained that there are two dimensions to each mitzvah: a) the particular effect it has in refining the person performing it and the world at large; b) the strengthening of a transcendent bond with G‑d.

With regard to the first dimension, there is a difference between one mitzvah and another, for each mitzvah is intended to refine a different element of our personality and of the world at large. And yet, such differences do not apply with regard to the second dimension; every mitzvah serves equally to strengthen our connection with the Infinite.

Similar concepts apply in regard to the reward brought about by the observance of mitzvos. On one hand, the reward for a mitzvah depends on the extent of its effects, and thus there are differences between the reward for one mitzvah and another. On the other hand, the ultimate reward for performing a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself,12 i.e., the tzavsa, or “bond,”13 with G‑d that is established by its performance. The realization that such a connection is possible should motivate a person to “Be as careful of [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzvah as of a major one.”

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1191ff; Sichos Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei, 5747)

Consider the loss [that might be incurred while performing] a mitzvah against the reward [earned by its observance], and the gain [derived] from [committing] a sin against the loss — R. Ovadiah of Bartenura teaches that this clause instructs a person to focus on the endless spiritual advantage he will gain from the observance of a mitzvah, rather than on the momentary material loss he might suffer. Similarly, committing a sin may provide a temporary material gratification, but also involves an eternal spiritual loss.

This concept raises a question: We are taught that teshuvah, repentance, has the potential to wipe away all a person’s sins. How then, can sin be considered as an eternal loss?

This difficulty can be resolved as follows: In Tanya, ch. 29, the Alter Rebbe explains that when a person turns to G‑d in complete teshuvah, he renews his relationship with Him, and it is as if he had never sinned. Nevertheless, the sin is not wiped away entirely, since “there are many levels and dimensions within our hearts.” As a person advances in his divine service and experiences deeper dimensions of love for G‑d, the sins he committed previously create a block, making it necessary for him to rise to an even more complete level of teshuvah.

So even though teshuvah is effective at every level, the effect of sin is lasting.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1196)

Know what is above you — The Maggid of Mezritch would say:14 “Know that everything above” — all that transpires in the spiritual realms — is “from you” — dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the potential to influence the most elevated spiritual realms.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 331)


ב - רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הַנָּשִׂיא אוֹמֵר: יָפֶה תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, שֶׁיְּגִיעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם מַשְׁכַּחַת עָוֹן, וְכָל תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהּ מְלָאכָה סוֹפָהּ בְּטֵלָה וְגוֹרֶרֶת עָוֹן, וְכָל הָעוֹסְקִים עִם הַצִּבּוּר, יִהְיוּ עוֹסְקִים עִמָּהֶם לְשֵׁם שָׁמָיִם, שֶׁזְּכוּת אֲבוֹתָם מְסַיַּעְתָּם, וְצִדְקָתָם עוֹמֶדֶת לָעַד, וְאַתֶּם, מַעֲלֶה אֲנִי עֲלֵיכֶם שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה כְּאִלוּ עֲשִׂיתֶם.

2. Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, said: “It is good [to combine] the study of Torah with an occupation, for the effort required by them both keeps sin out of mind; while all Torah study that is not combined with work will ultimately cease and will lead to sin.

“All who occupy themselves with the affairs of the community should be engaged with them for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of their fathers assists them, and their righteousness endures forever. And upon you [says G‑d] I will bestow great reward, as though you had accomplished it [all by yourselves].”

All Torah study not combined with work will cease in the end and lead to sin — Although the obvious meaning of the term “work” is actual labor, there is the possibility of an extended interpretation. The Previous Rebbe relates15 that R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would quote the Baal Shem Tov as explaining that in this context, “work” refers to ahavas Yisrael — our efforts to establish bonds of love with other Jews. For Torah study to be perpetuated, it must be coupled with ahavas Yisrael.

R. Levi Yitzchak explained that this teaching brought about a fundamental change in his life, motivating him to dedicate himself to the welfare of his fellow Jews.

Why does the mishnah refer to ahavas Yisrael as “work”? To teach us that we must strain to extend our ahavas Yisrael to include even those whom we have no inclination to love. And we must use every means possible to reach out to others.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 260-261)


ג - הֱווּ זְהִירִין בָּרָשׁוּת, שֶׁאֵין מְקָרְבִין לוֹ לְאָדָם, אֶלָּא לְצֹרֶךְ עַצְמָן, נִרְאִין כְּאוֹהֲבִין בְּשַׁעַת הַנָּאָתָן, וְאֵין עוֹמְדִין לוֹ לְאָדָם בְּשַׁעַת דָּחֳקוֹ.

3.Be wary of those in power, for they befriend a person only for their own benefit; they seem to be friends when it is to their advantage, but do not stand by a man in his hour of need.

Be wary of those in power — Here also, a non-literal interpretation provides an important lesson in our divine service. “Those in power” can refer to our conscious egos, thoughts and feelings. Although we must rely on these powers to control the functioning of our lives, we must be aware of their fundamental self-interest, that they are concerned only for their own benefit. Our essential selves, by contrast, are pointed towards self-transcendence. And it is through such self-transcendence that a person achieves what is truly to his benefit — a good far higher than can be perceived by intellect.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Tazria-Metzora, 5739)


ד - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: עֲשֵׂה רְצוֹנוֹ כִּרְצוֹנְךָ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה רְצוֹנְךָ כִּרְצוֹנוֹ, בַּטֵּל רְצוֹנְךָ מִפְּנֵי רְצוֹנוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיְבַטֵּל רְצוֹן אֲחֵרִים מִפְּנֵי רְצוֹנֶךָ. הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: אַל תִּפְרוֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר, וְאַל תַּאֲמִין בְּעַצְמָךְ עַד יוֹם מוֹתָךְ, וְאַל תָּדִין אֶת חֲבֵרָךְ עַד שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לִמְקוֹמוֹ, וְאַל תֹּאמַר דָּבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשַׁר לִשְׁמוֹעַ שֶׁסּוֹפוֹ לְהִשָּׁמַע, וְאַל תֹּאמַר לִכְשֶׁאֶפְנֶה אֶשְׁנֶה, שֶׁמָּא לֹא תִפָּנֶה.

4. He used to say: “Make His will your will, so that He may fulfill your will as though it were His will. Set aside your will because of His will, so that He may set aside the will of others before your will.”

Hillel said: “Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not be sure of yourself until the day you die. Do not condemn your fellowman until you have stood in his place.

“Do not make a statement which is not readily understood [in the hope] that it will ultimately be understood. And do not say, ‘When I will have free time I will study,’ for perhaps you will never have free time.”

Make His will — This teaching conveys a fundamental lesson: Each of us has the ability to remake G‑d’s will, as it were, to arouse a new desire on His part.

To apply this principle: A person might think that since it is G‑d’s will that we are in exile, we should resign ourselves to the situation. Nothing is further from the truth. G‑d is anxiously waiting for us to arouse a new will on His part. He is waiting for us to motivate Him to bring the Redemption.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Masei, 5744)

Make His will your own will — Jewish law requires us to fulfill G‑d’s will as expressed by the Torah and its mitzvos. Pirkei Avos teaches us to go beyond mere observance of the law and remake our characters, molding them to mirror the intent of the commandments.

The letter of the law tells us which deeds to perform and which to avoid. Pirkei Avos teaches that fulfilling G‑d’s will should not be a burden we must discharge, but a reflection of our own innermost selves.

When a person makes this commitment..., G‑d will fulfill Your will as if it were His will — that person’s will as though it were His will. G‑d will modify a person’s environment, granting him blessings of health and well-being so that he will be able to express this commitment in his daily life.16

Set Aside your will because of His will, so that He may set aside the will of others — A person’s commitment to the Torah must extend beyond his own individual tendencies. When it becomes necessary to set aside his personal will because of His will, he seeks to transform his nature to reflect G‑d’s desire. This in turn causes G‑d to set aside the will of others before that person’s will.

The commentaries17 explain that in addition to its simple meaning, “others” can be understood as a subtle reference to G‑d. Even when there is a Divine decree against a person, that person can abrogate it by serving G‑d beyond the limits of his nature.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Tazria-Metzora, 5747)

*Do not be sure of yourself — It is only the constant assistance of G‑d which enables a person to proceed in his divine service, so his apparent achievements are no indication of his true standing. Thus, without detracting from his overall positive self-image, he must guard against over-confidence.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 361)

*Do not condemn your fellowman until you have stood in his place — A person should never criticize his fellowman until he establishes a commonalty with him. Even when a person’s conduct seems worthy of reproof, one should not talk to him with a condescending attitude. By focusing instead on the essential connection which all men share, we can nurture the positive qualities in others and enable them to surface.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752)


ה - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: אֵין בּוּר יְרֵא חֵטְא, וְלֹא עַם הָאָרֶץ חָסִיד, וְלֹא הַבַּיְּשָׁן לָמֵד, וְלֹא הַקַּפְּדָן מְלַמֵּד, וְלֹא כָל הַמַּרְבֶּה בִסְחוֹרָה מַחְכִּים וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ.

5. He used to say: “A boor cannot be sin-fearing, nor can an ignoramus be pious. A bashful person will not learn, neither can the short-tempered teach; nor can anyone who is over-occupied in trade become a scholar. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

*A boor cannot be sin-fearing — “Sin-fearing” does not refer to a fear of the punishment to be received for sinning, but to the fear of sin itself, the fear that one will do something that is against G‑d’s will. A boor — a person who has not cultivated and developed his personality — is not capable of such feelings.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVIII, p. 61)


ו - אַף הוּא רָאָה גֻּלְגֹּלֶת אַחַת שֶׁצָּפָה עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם, אָמַר לָהּ: עַל דְּאַטֵּפְתְּ אַטְּפוּךְ, וְסוֹף מְטַיְפָיִךְ יְטוּפוּן.

6. He also saw a skull floating on the water. He said to it: “Because you drowned others, they drowned you; and ultimately those who drowned you will themselves be drowned.”

He also saw a skull floating on the water — Our Rabbis18 explain that this refers to the skull of Pharaoh, who was drowned in punishment for having Jewish boys drowned in the Nile. When Hillel saw Pharaoh’s skull, he realized that this was an extraordinary phenomenon, and contemplated the matter, gaining this insight.

Why did G‑d cause this to happen? The fact that Hillel learned a lesson from the skull and shared it with others enabled the skull to come to eternal rest after thousands of years of drifting on the waters. This is the intent of the phrase “he said to it.” Hillel made his statement for the skull’s benefit. Once the skull had communicated its lesson, it had fulfilled its purpose and could rest.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Emor, 5744)


ז - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: מַרְבֶּה בָשָׂר מַרְבֶּה רִמָּה, מַרְבֶּה נְכָסִים מַרְבֶּה דְאָגָה, מַרְבֶּה נָשִׁים מַרְבֶּה כְשָׁפִים, מַרְבֶּה שְׁפָחוֹת מַרְבֶּה זִמָּה, מַרְבֶּה עֲבָדִים מַרְבֶּה גָזֵל. מַרְבֶּה תוֹרָה מַרְבֶּה חַיִּים, מַרְבֶּה יְשִׁיבָה מַרְבֶּה חָכְמָה, מַרְבֶּה עֵצָה מַרְבֶּה תְבוּנָה, מַרְבֶּה צְדָקָה מַרְבֶּה שָׁלוֹם. קָנָה שֵׁם טוֹב קָנָה לְעַצְמוֹ, קָנָה לוֹ דִבְרֵי תוֹרָה קָנָה לוֹ חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.

7. He used to say: “Increasing flesh increases worms [in the grave]; increasing possessions increases worry; increasing [the number of] wives increases sorcery; increasing maidservants increases lewdness; increasing manservants increases thievery.

“[But] increasing Torah increases life; increasing assiduous study increases wisdom; increasing counsel increases understanding; increasing charity increases peace.

“One who has acquired a good name has acquired it for himself; one who has acquired for himself Torah knowledge has acquired for himself life in the World to Come.”

*One who has acquired for himself Torah knowledge has acquired for himself life in the World to Come — The World to Come refers to the Resurrection, the zenith of the Era of the Redemption. At that time, as the Rambam writes:19 “The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”20

Just as fish in the sea depend on their watery environment for life itself, in the Era of the Redemption, each being will realize that its existence depends on the knowledge of G‑d, which encompasses it.

A person’s connection to the life of the World to Come — the outpouring of Divine knowledge in that future era — depends on the acquisition of Torah knowledge in the present time. As implied by our Sages’ statement:21 “Happy is he who comes here having attained knowledge.”

The knowledge we have attained in the present age influences our appreciation of the teachings to be revealed by Mashiach.

(Sichos Shabbos Tazria-Metzora, 5742; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 470)


ח - רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי קִבֵּל מֵהִלֵּל וּמִשַּׁמַּאי, הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: אִם לָמַדְתָּ תּוֹרָה הַרְבֵּה, אַל תַּחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְעַצְמָךְ, כִּי לְכַךְ נוֹצָרְתָּ.

8. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai received [the oral tradition] from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say: “If you have studied much Torah, do not claim special credit for yourself; for this very purpose were you created.”

If you have studied much Torah — A person should constantly seek to study “much Torah,” i.e., he should always be extending himself further, to greater achievements. Since the Torah is in essence unlimited, a person should never restrict his efforts to attain it. Instead, he must constantly strive to increase his attainments.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei, 5737)

Do not claim special credit for yourself — In essence, a person who studies the Torah has just reason to be proud: through his study, he becomes united with G‑d — a bond that transcends all worldly heights.22 Nevertheless, since this privilege is endowed by the Torah itself, and is thus not a result of his own efforts, the mishnah advises him to remain humble.

(Ibid.)

For this very purpose were you created — Creation is an ongoing process. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya,23 at each moment all existence is renewed. By emphasizing the connection between Torah study and creation, the mishnah underscores the concept that a person can never “rest on his laurels.” Instead, at every moment, he must move forward, thus constantly fulfilling the purpose of his creation.

(Ibid.)


ט - חֲמִשָּׁה תַלְמִידִים הָיוּ לוֹ לְרַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הוֹרְקְנוּס, וְרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן חֲנַנְיָא, וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַכֹּהֵן, וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן נְתַנְאֵל, וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ. הוּא הָיָה מוֹנֶה שְׁבָחָם, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הוֹרְקְנוּס בּוֹר סוּד שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְאַבֵּד טִפָּה, רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻּׁעַ בֶּן חֲנַנְיָא אַשְׁרֵי יוֹלַדְתּוֹ, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַכֹּהֵן חָסִיד, רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן נְתַנְאֵל יְרֵא חֵטְא וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ כְּמַעְיָן הַמִּתְגַּבֵּר. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: אִם יִהְיוּ כָּל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכַף מֹאזְנַיִם, וֶאֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הוֹרְקְנוּס בְּכַף שְׁנִיָּה, מַכְרִיעַ אֶת כֻּלָּם. אַבָּא שָׁאוּל אוֹמֵר מִשְּׁמוֹ, אִם יִהְיוּ כָּל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכַף מֹאזְנַיִם וֶאֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן הוֹרְקְנוּס אַף עִמָּהֶם, וְאֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ בְּכַף שְׁנִיָּה, מַכְרִיעַ אֶת כֻּלָּם.

9. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five [outstanding] disciples. They were: Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, Rabbi Yosay the Kohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel, and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach.

He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities: “Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus — a cemented cistern which does not lose a drop; Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya — happy is she who bore him; Rabbi Yosay the priest — a chassid; Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel — sin-fearing; and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach — like a spring which flows with ever-increasing strength.”

He used to say: “If all the Sages of Israel were on one side of the scale, and Eliezer ben Horkenus were on the other, he would outweigh them all.”

Abba Shaul said in his name: “If all the Sages of Israel, including even Eliezer ben Horkenus, were on one side of the scale, and Elazar ben Arach were on the other, he would outweigh them all.”

He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities — Each of these students possessed a quality in which he surpassed all others. As a teacher, Rabbi Yochanan did not push them all in a single direction. Instead, he appreciated their uniqueness and endeavored to give each the opportunity to develop his own potential.

This concept can be applied on a larger scale. Each person possesses a particular virtue in which he surpasses all others, even the leaders of the generation. He (and those who help him in his growth and development) should not seek universal conformity, but should strive to cultivate this unique gift.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei, 5743)

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya — happy is she who bore him — Why does the mishnah ascribe happiness to Rabbi Yehoshua’s mother? Because she was to a large degree responsible for his greatness. When Rabbi Yehoshua was an infant, she would hang his cradle in the House of Study so that he would become accustomed to the sweet singsong of Torah study.24 As he matured, the influence of his formative years played a large part in shaping his sagelike character.

This message is relevant to Jewish women today, for they bear the brunt of the responsibility for shaping the environment of their children. A child is always learning from his surroundings; whatever he sees or hears makes an impression.25 When the home in which a child lives — and more particularly, his individual room — is filled with Torah teachings, when a pushkah is proudly displayed and a siddur is always handy, the values of study, kindness, and prayer will permeate his character.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIII, p. 258; Sichos Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim, 5736)

Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel — sin-fearing — The intent is not to say that he feared the punishment he would receive; he feared the sin itself.26 The Hebrew word for sin — חטא — also has the meaning “lack.”27 Rabbi Shimon feared the loss which sin would cause to his relationship with G‑d.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1200)

If all the Sages of Israel were on one side of the scale, and Eliezer ben Horkenus were on the other, he would outweigh them all — Both Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach represent paradigms of excellence to which all students should aspire. They each, however, had a different approach to study.

Rabbi Eliezer, the “cemented cistern,” represents the epitome of concentrated effort to absorb his teachers’ wisdom. No other Sage matched his capacity for retention.

Not only during the time he studied under his masters did he diligently strive to soak up their teachings, but even after he became an independent authority, he saw himself as no more than a repository for their wisdom. Although “his two arms were like the two staves of a Torah scroll,”28 he never mentioned an original concept; “never did he relate a teaching that he had not heard from his teachers.”29

Nevertheless, Abba Shaul said: “If all the Sages of Israel, including even Eliezer ben Horkenus, were on one side of the scale, and Elazar ben Arach were on the other, he would outweigh them all.” Rabbi Elazar ben Arach had a different approach to study. His thrust did not center on preserving his teachers’ wisdom, but rather on extending it. “Like a spring which flows with ever-increasing strength,” he constantly surged towards new frontiers of knowledge, building on the teachings he received as he proceeded into new domains.

Although this approach required the development of independent ideas and ways of thinking, Rabbi Elazar was still considered a student of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. For it was Rabbi Yochanan who nurtured his conceptual development until he was able to make these independent strides. Moreover, even his original ideas reflected the teachings he had received from Rabbi Yochanan.30

Each of these approaches possesses an advantage over the other. Rabbi Eliezer enjoyed a more direct bond to the guiding light of his master’s teachings. Rabbi Elazar, by contrast, by tapping the potential for personal initiative, showed how the fundamental truth of the Torah can be revealed in new and different settings.31

These concepts are relevant to our response to the challenge of exile. One approach is to preserve the teachings of the past, to cling to them so that nothing is lost. An alternative is to use these teachings as a springboard to the future — to show how they can permeate the thought patterns which Jews are forced to adopt in exile. Since the Torah is eternally relevant, it must be applicable in all settings and frames of reference.

And as the Torah is taken into these new settings, it remakes them and infuses them with a greater purpose. As these settings become transformed, a dwelling for G‑d is established in mortal realms.32 For worldliness has not been rejected, but neither has it been accepted on its own terms. Instead, it is revealed that while the world exists within its own conception, it constantly gives expression to the essential G‑dly truth which the Torah conveys. And this heralds the coming of the era when the awareness of G‑dliness will permeate existence — when “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”33

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 460ff; Vol. X, p. 82-83)


י - אָמַר לָהֶם: צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵיזוֹ הִיא דֶּרֶך טוֹבָה שֶׁיִּדְבַּק בָּהּ הָאָדָם, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: עַיִן טוֹבָה. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר: חָבֵר טוֹב, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: שָׁכֵן טוֹב. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר: הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַנּוֹלָד. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר, לֵב טוֹב. אָמַר לָהֶם: רוֹאֶה אֲנִי אֶת דִּבְרֵי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ מִדִּבְרֵיכֶם, שֶׁבִּכְלַל דְּבָרָיו דִּבְרֵיכֶם. אָמַר לָהֶם: צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵיזוֹ הִיא דֶּרֶךְ רָעָה שֶׁיִּתְרַחֵק מִמֶּנָּה הָאָדָם, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: עַיִן רָעָה. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר: חָבֵר רָע. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: שָׁכֵן רָע. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר: הַלּוֶֹה וְאֵינוֹ מְשַׁלֵּם. אֶחָד הַלּוֶֹה מִן הָאָדָם כְּלוֶֹה מִן הַמָּקוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לוֶֹה רָשָׁע וְלֹא יְשַׁלֵּם, וְצַדִּיק חוֹנֵן וְנוֹתֵן. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר: לֵב רָע. אָמַר לָהֶם: רוֹאֶה אֲנִי אֶת דִּבְרֵי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲרָךְ מִדִּבְרֵיכֶם, שֶׁבִּכְלַל דְּבָרָיו דִּבְרֵיכֶם. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלֹשָה דְבָרִים, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: יְהִי כְבוֹד חֲבֵרָךְ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ, וְאַל תְּהִי נוֹחַ לִכְעוֹס. וְשׁוּב יוֹם אֶחָד לִפְנֵי מִיתָתָךְ. וֶהֱוֵי מִתְחַמֵּם כְּנֶגֶד אוֹרָן שֶׁל חֲכָמִים וֶהֱוֵי זָהִיר בְּגַחֲלָתָן שֶׁלֹּא תִכָּוֶה שֶׁנְּשִׁיכָתָן נְשִׁיּכַת שׁוּעָל, וַעֲקִיצָתָן עֲקִיצַת עַקְרָב, וּלְחִישָׁתָן לְחִישַׁת שָׂרָף, וְכָל דִּבְרֵיהֶם כְּגַחֲלֵי אֵשׁ.

10. He said to them: “Go and see which is the good way to which a man should cleave.”

Rabbi Eliezer said: “A good eye”; Rabbi Yehoshua said: “A good friend”; Rabbi Yosay said: “A good neighbor”; Rabbi Shimon said: “One who sees the consequences [of his actions]”; Rabbi Elazar said: “A good heart.”

[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai] said to them: “I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to all of yours, for in his words yours are included.”

He said to them: “Go and see which is the evil path from which a man should keep far away.”

Rabbi Eliezer said: “An evil eye”; Rabbi Yehoshua said: “A wicked friend”; Rabbi Yosay said: “A wicked neighbor”; Rabbi Shimon said: “He who borrows and does not repay, since one who borrows from man is as one who borrows from G‑d, as it is stated:34 ‘The wicked one borrows and does not repay, but the righteous acts graciously and gives.’ ” Rabbi Elazar said: “A wicked heart.”

[Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai] said to them: “I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to all of yours, for in his words yours are included.”

They [each] said three things. Rabbi Eliezer said: “Cherish the honor of your colleague as your own, and do not be easily angered. Repent one day before your death.

“Warm yourself by the fire of the Sages, but beware of their glowing embers lest you be burnt, for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss of a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals.”

Rabbi Shimon said: “One who sees the consequences [of his actions]” — This statement relates to Rabbi Yochanan’s description of Rabbi Shimon as sin-fearing. Because he saw the consequences of his actions, he was not vulnerable to the temptations of his yetzer hora. He realized that sin would weaken his bond with G‑d, and therefore was willing to forego the immediate benefits of indulgence in order to safeguard the lasting virtue of that bond.

One might ask, however, why Rabbi Shimon used the expression “sees the consequences.” Why didn’t he say “comprehends the consequences”? The answer is that the lures of the yetzer hora are very attractive, and sometimes appetite is more powerful than intellect. Moreover, the yetzer hora is crafty,35 and offers rationalizations that enable a person to feel he is doing the right thing although he sins. A person whose awareness of the consequences of sin is merely intellectual may be swayed by such rationalizations. When, however, a person “sees” the consequences, i.e., when his conception is so powerful that it is as if he sees the consequences with his eyes, he will refuse to allow his connection with G‑d to be weakened at any time.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1198ff)

Rabbi Eliezer said: “Cherish the honor of your colleague as your own” — Rabbi Eliezer possessed far greater knowledge than his colleagues. Indeed, his colleagues would refer to him as Rabbi Eliezer the Great and as “Sinai,”36 indicating their recognition of him as the repository of our Torah heritage. Despite his greatness, he appreciated the need to cherish the honor of others.

(Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, p. 563)


יא - רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר: עַיִן הָרָע, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע, וְשִׂנְאַת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, מוֹצִיאִיּן אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם.

11. Rabbi Yehoshua said: “The evil eye, the evil inclination, and hatred of one’s fellow drive a man from the world.”

The evil inclination... drive[s] a man from the world — Our Rabbis often use the expression, “Happy is a person whose portion is...” For each person is given a particular portion of the world, and the potentials and tendencies necessary to connect that portion to G‑d. The evil inclination stands in the way of a person developing this portion, thus driv[ing him] from the world. Although it tempts a person in many ways, its primary thrust is to thwart the fulfillment of this individual mission.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 779; Vol. XVI, p. 553)


יב - רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: יְהִי מָמוֹן חֲבֵרָךְ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ. וְהַתְקֵן עַצְמָךְ לִלְמוֹד תּוֹרָה, שֶׁאֵינָהּ יְרֻשָּׁה לָךְ, וְכָל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ יִהְיוּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמָיִם.

12. Rabbi Yosse said: “Let the money of your fellowman be as dear to you as your own. Prepare yourself for the study of Torah, for it does not come to you through inheritance; and let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven.”

Let the money of your fellowman be as dear to you as your own — Everything in the world contains sparks of G‑dliness which are concealed by the material nature of our existence. Mankind has been given the task of revealing matter’s innate G‑dliness. Every individual is destined to elevate certain sparks, and this divine service is necessary for his personal growth. If these G‑dly energies are not elevated, that individual’s soul remains incomplete.

The Baal Shem Tov expounded this concept in his interpretation37 of the verse,38 “Hungry and thirsty, their soul longs within.” The Baal Shem Tov asks: “Why are they hungry and thirsty? Because ‘their soul longs within.’ Their souls seek a bond with the G‑dly energy contained in food and drink.”

On this basis, we can appreciate our Sages’ statement,39 “With regard to the righteous: Their money is more dear to them than their lives.” For they desire to fulfill the spiritual purpose associated with these tokens of seemingly material wealth.

These concepts apply to all Jews, for “Your nation are all righteous.”40 Therefore we should each hold our wealth dear. And just as we hold our own wealth dear, we should hold dear the wealth of others. Torah law prohibits damaging a colleague’s property, and obligates us to undertake any measures necessary to save it. The approach of mili dechassidusa teaches us to go further, and regard the other person’s property as dearly as our own.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei, 5740)

Prepare yourself for the study of Torah, for it does not come to you through inheritance — There are two dimensions to a Jew’s connection to Torah: a) an essential connection shared by all Jews regardless of their personal development, as it is written:41 “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov,” and b) a conscious bond, the development of which is dependent on each person’s efforts. This is the focus of our mishnah.

The essential connection reflects the fundamental G‑dly core of the Torah that transcends mortal wisdom. There is, nevertheless, an advantage to the connection established through our own efforts. This bond with the Torah transforms our thinking processes and enables us to develop an internalized link with G‑d.

(Ibid., Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1135)

Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven — Our Rabbis42 identify this directive with the verse, “Know Him in all your ways.”43 But it is possible to distinguish between the two.

Performing a deed “for the sake of Heaven” implies that although it is performed with G‑dly intent, the deed itself is mundane. To “know G‑d in all your ways” implies a deeper bond — one which plays a part in every worldly activity.

To cite an example: When one eats a meal with the intent of using the energy generated from the food to serve G‑d, one’s eating remains a mundane act. In contrast, when one eats on Shabbos, or when one partakes of sacrificial offerings, the eating itself is considered a mitzvah, an act of connection to G‑d.

In a larger sense, this difference reflects two approaches with regard to the oneness of G‑d. In the first, our material world serves as a means by which to establish a bond with G‑d. This implies, however, that its actual material substance remains separate from G‑d. The second approach maintains that even material existence can become unified with Him.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 907; Vol. X, p. 104)


יג - רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי זָהִיר בִּקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּבִתְפִלָּה, וּכְשֶׁאַתָּה מִתְפַּלֵּל, אַל תַּעַשׂ תְּפִלָּתְךָ קְבַע, אֶלָּא רַחֲמִים וְתַחֲנוּנִים לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם הוּא, אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד, וְנִחָם עַל הָרָעָה, וְאַל תְּהִי רָשָׁע בִּפְנֵי עַצְמֶךָ.

13. Rabbi Shimon said: “Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer. When you pray, do not make your prayer routine, but rather [entreaty for] mercy and supplication before G‑d, as it is stated:44 ‘For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness, and relenting of the evil decree.’ And do not consider yourself wicked in your self-estimation.”

Rabbi Shimon said — Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel shared a commonalty with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; about both it could be said: “his occupation was Torah study.”45

When a person involves himself in the study of Torah in such an all-encompassing manner, he is freed from the obligation of reciting the Shema each day.46 Therefore Rabbi Shimon instructs his students to be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer. Although he himself would not recite the Shema daily, he advised his students not to follow his example, since they were not on his level.

Similarly, Rabbi Shimon did not pray daily; he and all others whose “occupation was Torah study” would pray from time to time.47 Therefore he tells his colleagues — those who, like himself, would pray from time to time — When you do pray, “do not make your prayer routine.” Do not view prayer as a burden, but rather as “entreaty for mercy and supplication before G‑d.”

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 356)


יד - רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי שָׁקוּד לִלְמוֹד תּוֹרָה, וְדַע מַה שֶׁתָּשִׁיב לְאֶפִּיקוֹרוֹס. וְדַע לִפְנֵי מִי אַתָּה עָמֵל, וּמִי הוּא בַּעַל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם לָךְ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ.

14. Rabbi Elazar said: “Be diligent in the study of Torah; know what to answer an unbeliever. Know before whom you toil, who your Employer is, and who will pay you the reward of your labor.”

Rabbi Elazar said: “Be diligent in the study of Torah” — Rabbi Elazar’s teaching reflected his nature — that of “a spring which flows with ever-increasing strength,”48 constantly surging towards new frontiers. Rabbi Elazar emphasizes that the desire to cross new thresholds of experience should be tempered with diligent review of previous study.

An example can be brought from Rabbi Elazar’s personal history. The Talmud relates49 that Rabbi Elazar ben Arach went to the lands of Progissa and Diomisis, the wines and waters of which were pleasant. Indulging himself in these delights, he ignored his Torah studies. When he was called to read from the Torah the verse Hachodesh hazeh lechem (“This month shall be for you”), he read instead Hacheresh hoyeh libem (“Their hearts have become dumb”). His colleagues, seeing the depths to which he had fallen, prayed on his behalf, and his knowledge was restored.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim, 5746)

Know before whom you toil — As explained in Tanya,50 knowledge refers to an inner bond. Every person has the potential to develop such an inner bond with G‑d. Although he labors for Him as a servant, there is nothing preventing him from establishing a deeper connection.

This also affects the nature of a person’s relationship with G‑d with regard to reward and punishment. Although there are many intermediaries by which G‑d dispenses the reward granted for observance, a person must know “who his Employer is, and who will pay him the reward of his labor,” and realize that the source for the reward is always G‑d Himself, and not the intermediaries.

(Ibid.)


טו - רַבִּי טַרְפוֹן אוֹמֵר: הַיּוֹם קָצֵר, וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְרֻבָּה, וְהַפּוֹעֲלִים עֲצֵלִים, וְהַשָּׂכָר הַרְבֵּה, וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת דּוֹחֵק.

15. Rabbi Tarfon said: “The day is short, the work is much, the workmen are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.”

The day is short — When a person realizes the nature of the task before him — to conduct his entire life in service of G‑d, and to do so in a manner of mili dechassidusa, beyond the measure of the law, he will realize that one lifetime (the “day” allotted for these efforts) is brief indeed. Moreover, the work is even greater than can be conceived by our mortal minds.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Masei, 5741)


טז - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמוֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לְהִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה, אִם לָמַדְתָּ תּוֹרָה הַרְבֵּה, נוֹתְנִין לָךְ שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה, וְנֶאֱמָן הוּא בַּעַל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם לָךְ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ, וְדַע שֶׁמַּתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא:

16. He used to say: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, yet you are not free to desist from it; if you have studied much Torah, much reward will be given to you, and your Employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward for your labor. But know that the giving of the reward to the righteous will be in the World to Come.”

The realization of the immensity of the task before us should not lead people to despair, because...

It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work — A person is never required to do more than he can.51 On the contrary, G‑d gives each person a mission which he can fulfill without having to face challenges which he is unable to overcome.

Even if at times a person feels daunted by the task facing him, he must know that...

he is not free to desist from it — and must persist with kabbalas ol. Even when he does not naturally feel joy in his Torah service, he should persevere; such full-hearted dedication will lead to personal fulfillment.

(Ibid.)

Footnotes
1.
See Zohar III, 48a, which discusses the significance of each of these four names, and see the explanations of these concepts in Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim, 25a, Sefer HoArochim-Chabad, Vol. I, p. 148ff.
2.
See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De’os 3:1.
3.
Kiddushin 40a.
4.
See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:4.
5.
Vayikra 22:32.
6.
Yoma 86a, quoted by the Rambam, loc. cit.:11.
7.
Yeshayahu 14:14; Shaloh 3a, 20b.
8.
See Midrash Tanchuma, Bechukosai, sec. 3; Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
9.
Sanhedrin 98b.
10.
Sichos Simchas Torah, 5689.
11.
See Tzavoas HaRivosh, sec. 1.
12.
Pirkei Avos 4:2.
13.
Likkutei Torah, Bechukosai 45c.
14.
Cited in Or HaTorah al Aggados Chazal, p. 112b.
15.
Sefer HaSichos Kayitz 5700, p. 115.
16.
See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 9:1.
17.
R. Ovadiah of Bartenura.
18.
The AriZal (Shaar Mamaarei Razal) and Rav David HaNaggid, the Rambam’s grandson (Midrash David).
19.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5.
20.
Yeshayahu 11:9.
21.
Pesachim 50a. This statement is interpreted (Likkutei Torah, Vaes’chanan 6c) to apply to the soul’s reward in Gan Eden, i.e., through the study of Torah in our material world, the soul attains the knowledge of pnimiyus HaTorah in the spiritual realms. Nevertheless, the same motif applies with regard to the teachings of the Mashiach, as implied by (Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 22d and) Tanya, ch. 37, which states that all the revelations of the Era of the Redemption are dependent on our service in the present time.
22.
See Tanya, ch. 5.
23.
Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1.
24.
Jerusalem Talmud, Yevamos 1:6; R. Ovadiah of Bartenura.
25.
And this applies from the earliest age. From birth (and even from conception) onward, a child is learning.
26.
See Likkutei Torah, Matos 82a.
27.
See the commentary of Rashi and Metzudos to I Melachim 1:21.
28.
Sanhedrin 68a.
29.
Sukkah 27b.
30.
A similar concept can be derived from the verse (Mishlei 22:6): “Educate a child according to his way; even when he grows older he will not depart from it.” The path which a child follows will remain with him as he matures. He will follow this path through new and different frontiers, but the fundamental thrust will be the same.
31.
It must be emphasized that Rabbi Eliezer did not merely retain his masters’ teachings; he integrated them into his own thinking processes (see our notes to ch. 6, beraisa 6). Nevertheless, the desire to extend these teachings into new frames of reference was indicative of Rabbi Elazar’s unique thrust, and not that of Rabbi Eliezer’s.
32.
Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.
33.
Yeshayahu 11:9.
34.
Tehillim 37:21.
35.
Shabbos 100b.
36.
See Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:3 (1).
37.
Kesser Shem Tov, sec. 194, p. 25c; see also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 177.
38.
Tehillim 107:5.
39.
Chulin 91b.
40.
Sanhedrin 10:1. This mishnah is quoted at the beginning of the recitation of Pirkei Avos every week.
41.
Devarim 33:5. See Likkutei Torah, Berachah 94d.
42.
Avos d’Rabbi Nossan 17:7, Rambam (Shemoneh Perakim, the conclusion of ch. 5), and the Meiri.
43.
Mishlei 3:6.
44.
Yoel 2:13.
45.
An allusion to this is found in the fact that the mishnah refers to Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel without mentioning his father’s name. Generally, when the name Rabbi Shimon is mentioned without any further elucidation, the reference is to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (see Rashi, Shavuos 2b). By referring to Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel in this manner, the mishnah points to a connection with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Moreover, we find interpretations (Seder HaDoros, Midrash David) which indeed attribute this teaching to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
46.
This follows the ruling of the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachos 1:2). The Babylonian Talmud (Shabbos 11a), by contrast, maintains that even a person who studies the Torah with total dedication should interrupt his studies to recite the Shema.

It is possible to resolve the difference between the two rulings. The Babylonian Talmud speaks of a person on the level of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai before he underwent his 13-year ordeal, hiding from the Romans in a cave. The Jerusalem Talmud, by contrast, speaks of a person whose commitment to Torah study is as all-encompassing as was Rabbi Shimon’s after that experience.
47.
Rabbeinu Yonah (in his notes to the Rif, Berachos 8a) states that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai would pray once every year. See also the conclusion of the tractate of Rosh HaShanah with regard to Rabbi Yehudah’s manner of prayer.
48.
Above mishnah 9.
49.
Shabbos 147b.
50.
The conclusion of ch. 3.
51.
Avodah Zarah 3a.
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Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.