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Chapter Four (1)

Chapter Four (1)

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א - בֶּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר: אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: מִכָּל מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי, כִּי עֵדְוֹתֶיךָ שִׂיחָה לִּי. אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: טוֹב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבּוֹר, וּמוֹשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ, מִלֹּכֵד עִיר. אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל, אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ, אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. אֵיזֶהוּ מְכֻבָּד, הַמְּכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי מְכַבְּדַי אֲכַבֵּד וּבֹזַי יֵקָלּוּ.

1. Ben Zoma says: “Who is wise? He who learns from every person, as it is stated:1 ‘From all those who have taught me, I have gained wisdom, for Your testimonies are my conversation.’

“Who is mighty? He who subdues his inclination, as it is stated:2 ‘A patient person is better than a strong man, and he who masters his spirit is better than one who conquers a city.’

“Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion, as it is stated:3 ‘When you eat of the labor of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be good for you.’ ‘You will be happy’ in this world; ‘it will be good for you’ in the World to Come.

“Who is honored? He who honors others, as it is stated:4 ‘I will honor those who honor Me, and those who despise Me will be degraded.’”

Who is wise? He who learns from every person — A wise man sees other peoples’ weaknesses. Thus it would be natural for him to regard those who are less developed than he with a condescending attitude. One who is truly wise, however, focuses his attention on the positive characteristics which every person possesses. He will surely be able to discover such positive traits, for every man was created in the image of G‑d,5 and thus possesses innate virtue. By opening himself to learn from the virtues of others, a wise man expands his horizons and enhances his own wisdom.

Who is mighty? — Might is different from physical strength. It refers to the ability to call upon inner resources of energy.

He who subdues his inclination — The mishnah is referring not merely to one’s evil inclination, the yetzer hora, but rather all of one’s natural inclinations. When a person masters his natural tendencies, he expresses true power, for exercising such mastery requires deep resources of inner strength.

Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion — The tendency of the wealthy is to seek to increase their assets, as our Sages have commented:6 “A person who possesses 100 desires 200; one who possesses 200 desires 400.” One who is truly wealthy is one who does not become caught up by such desires, but rather maintains inner peace and calm. Nor will this approach force him to sacrifice wealth. On the contrary a person at peace with himself is far more able to take advantage of opportunities which present themselves, and thus achieve success in the world at large.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Korach and Parshas Balak, 5740)

*When you eat of the labor of your hands — The prooftext complements the teachings of our Sages, highlighting the idea that one’s work must be merely “the labor of your hands.” A person’s heart and mind, by contrast, should be directed towards seeking spiritual fulfillment.

And it promises that the outcome of such an approach will be: “You will be happy” in this world. By contrast, over-involvement in one’s business may bring material success, but not happiness. Happiness comes only from the inner fulfillment a person feels when motivated by spiritual goals.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 62)

Who is honored? He who honors others — It might be said that the natural tendency of a person worthy of honor is to remain aloof from those at a lower level. Moreover, the Hebrew word הבריות, translated as “others,” literally means “creations,” and refers to7 individuals who seem to have no redeeming virtue other than the fact that they are G‑d’s creations.

How and why would an honorable man give honor to such people?

The prooftext provides the answer: “I will honor those who honor Me.” G‑d represents the epitome of honor, and yet He gives honor to His creations, for they all exist to increase His glory, as it is stated:8 “Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in this world, He created solely for His glory.”

Just as G‑d appreciates the virtues possessed by every created being — and for that reason grants it honor — so too, a human should honor others, aware that, at the very least, they possess the potential for virtues and achievements which are worthy of honor.

And those who despise Me will be degraded — It is difficult to understand why this portion of the prooftext was included in the mishnah. What does it add?

It can be explained that when a person fails to honor a colleague, he is in effect showing disrespect to G‑d. To cite a narrative:9 R. Eliezar ben R. Shimon once insulted a person whose appearance belied the possession of any virtues. The person replied: “Go to the Craftsman who created me.” By failing to appreciate the person’s positive qualities, R. Eliezar was detracting from G‑d’s creative potential.

Developing this concept further, it can be explained that the verse, “and those who despise Me will be degraded,” does not refer to a punishment; it is rather a tendency which G‑d has built into the very fabric of nature. When a person cannot appreciate the positive potentials possessed by others, his colleagues will fail to appreciate the virtues which he possesses.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Korach and Parshas Balak, 5740)


ב - בֶּן עַזַּאי אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי רָץ לְמִצְוָה קַלָּה, וּבוֹרֵחַ מִן הָעֲבֵרָה, שֶׁמִּצְוָה, גוֹרֶרֶת מִצְוָה, וַעֲבֵרָה גוֹרֶרֶת עֲבֵרָה, שֶׁשְּׂכַר מִצְוָה מִצְוָה, וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה עֲבֵרָה.

2. Ben Azzai says: “Run to [perform even] an easy mitzvah, and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah brings about another mitzvah, and one transgression brings about another; for the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah, and the recompense of a transgression is a transgression.”

Run to [perform even] an easy mitzvah The intent is not merely that we actually run to perform a mitzvah,10 but that we should observe the mitzvos with joy, vitality and vigor. Even a mitzvah which appears easy and insignificant should be observed with enthusiasm and devotion.

Why? Because...

One mitzvah brings about another mitzvah On a simple level, the mishnah is teaching us a lesson in causality; fulfilling one mitzvah will make it possible for us to fulfill others. This phrase, however, also has a deeper meaning:11 Every mitzvah leads to a tzavsa (connection) with G‑d. Moreover...

The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah Even a person concerned with reward, i.e., the benefit he will receive, should realize the infinite bond with G‑d that is established through the performance of a mitzvah. This will grant him immeasurable satisfaction. As a person begins to appreciate the infinite nature of this connection, he will feel a growing commitment to the observance of the mitzvos.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 371ff)

Alternatively, this phrase can be interpreted to mean that the reward for fulfilling one mitzvah is the opportunity to perform another. In a life dedicated to one goal — closer connection with G‑d — there can be nothing more satisfying than the performance of an act which strengthens that connection. Single-minded, wholehearted service to G‑d is thus best rewarded by the opportunity to continue serving G‑d in this manner.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Re’eh, 5749)

One transgression brings about another — This teaching demonstrates the importance of forebearing from even the smallest of transgressions. For any trespass, however slight, begins a chain of negative causality that can ultimately lead a person to the most serious sins.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 355)


ג - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: אַל תְּהִי בָז לְכָל אָדָם וְאַל תְּהִי מַפְלִיג לְכָל דָּבָר, שֶׁאֵין לָךְ אָדָם שֶׁאֵין לוֹ שָׁעָה, וְאֵין לָךְ דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מָקוֹם.

3. He would say: “Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour, and nothing which does not have its place.”

There is no man who does not have his hour — That hour of positive activity will have a lasting effect on a person, although the effects may not be seen immediately.

(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 625)

*There is... nothing which does not have its place — Even a mortal architect strives to ensure that every part of the building he designs is functional. This tendency has its source in the creativity of G‑d Himself. Every particle which He creates exists for a purpose; there is a specific divine intent which cannot be completed without it.12

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 42)


ד - רַבִּי לְוִיטַס אִישׁ יַבְנֶה אוֹמֵר: מְאֹד מְאֹד הֱוֵי שְׁפַל רוּחַ, שֶׁתִּקְוַת אֱנוֹש רִמָּה. רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן בְּרוֹקָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל הַמְחַלֵּל שֵׁם שָׁמַיִם בַּסֵּתֶר, נִפְרָעִין מִמֶּנּוּ בְּגָלוּי, אֶחָד שׁוֹגֵג וְאֶחָד מֵזִיד בְּחִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם.

4. Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh said: “Be of an exceedingly humble spirit, for the expectation of mortal man is but worms.”13

Rabbi Yochanan ben Berokah said: “Whoever desecrates the Heavenly Name in secret, punishment will be meted out to him in public; unwittingly or intentionally, it is all the same in regard to the desecration of [G‑d’s] Name.”

*Be of an exceedingly humble spirit — With regard to pride, the Rambam writes:14 “Any person who has the slightest trace of a haughty spirit is worthy of being placed under a ban of ostracism.” The commentaries explain that the Rambam is rejecting the view in the Talmud,15 which permits a sage to possess an eighth of an eighth measure of pride.

The Alter Rebbe explains16 that the small measure of pride our Sages mentioned is necessary. Were a person to lack it, “he would not desire to approach divine service, for he would think: ‘Who am I, and what are my efforts worth?’ ”

There is not, however, necessarily a contradiction between the two views. The Alter Rebbe is speaking with regard to a person in the initial phases of divine service. In such an instance, unless the person realizes that divine service will enhance his self-esteem, he will not be motivated to apply himself. When, however, a person has progressed in his divine service, he must cultivate the application of the Rambam’s teaching and shun haughtiness entirely.

(Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 101ff)

*Unwittingly or intentionally, it is all the same in regard to the desecration of [G‑d’s] Name — The sanctification or desecration of G‑d’s Name is not dependent on a person’s intent, but on the impression created in the world at large. A person may have the highest intentions when performing a given act. Nevertheless, if the performance gives other people an unfavorable view of the Torah or a Torah personality, G‑d’s Name has been desecrated.

When, by contrast, a person’s behavior — both intentional and unintentional — causes the Torah to be revered, so that people look at him and say: “See what a personality the Torah has molded!”17 he is sanctifying G‑d’s name.


ה - רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בַּר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: הַלּוֹמֵד תּוֹרָה עַל מְנָת לְלַמֵּד, מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לִלְמוֹד וּלְלַמֵּד, וְהַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לַעֲשׂוֹת, מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לִלְמוֹד וּלְלַמֵּד לִשְׁמוֹר וְלַעֲשׂוֹת. רַבִּי צָדוֹק אוֹמֵר: אַל תִּפְרוֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר, וְאַל תַּעַשׂ עַצְמְךָ כְּעוֹרְכֵי הַדַּיָּנִין, וְאַל תַּעֲשֶׂהָ עֲטָרָה לְהִתְגַּדֶּל בָּהּ, וְלֹא קַרְדּוּם לַחְתָּךְ בָּהּ, וְכַךְ הָיָה הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: וּדְאִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּתַגָּא חֲלָף, הָא לָמַדְתָּ, כָּל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, נוֹטֵל חַיָּיו מִן הָעוֹלָם.

5. Rabbi Yishmael ben Rabbi Yosse said: “He who studies Torah in order to teach is given the opportunity to study and teach; and he who studies in order to practice is given the opportunity to study and teach, to observe and to practice.”

Rabbi Tzadok said: “Do not separate yourself from the community, and do not act as a counselor [when sitting as a judge]. Do not make it [the Torah] a crown for self-aggrandizement, nor an axe with which to cut.”

So too Hillel used to say: “He who exploits the crown [of Torah for his own ends] shall perish.”18 Indeed, you have learned from this that whoever derives personal gain from the words of Torah removes his life from the world.

Do not make it [the Torah]... an axe with which to cut — The intent is that the Torah should not serve as the means by which one earns one’s livelihood.19 Over the centuries, however, we see that the Jewish community has always paid salaries to its rabbis and teachers.

In Hilchos Talmud Torah,20 the Alter Rebbe resolves this issue as follows: A person should never begin studying Torah so that he will be able to earn a salary as a teacher or rabbi. If, however, he begins studying with the proper intention, and then the expenses of his household require him to seek a livelihood, he is permitted to earn a salary based on his Torah knowledge.

We should not look to earn wealth21 from the study of Torah. Nevertheless, Torah study should not prevent a person from supporting himself and his family.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 49-50)

Whoever derives personal gain from the words of Torah removes his life from the world — Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe writes22 that even a person who seeks to study Torah for his own aggrandizement should do so, because “A person should always involve himself with the Torah, [even] for a selfish motive. For out of [involvement for] a selfish motive will come involvement for the sake of the Torah itself.”23

On a simple level, this means that the study of Torah molds each student’s thinking processes to the point that he will eventually devote himself to Torah with a selfless intent. There is, however, the possibility for an extended interpretation.שמתוך —rendered as “For out of” — can also mean “In the depths of.” Regardless of a person’s conscious motives, the inner incentive for him to study the Torah and fulfill its mitzvos is always commitment for the sake of the Torah itself.

(Ibid.)


ו - רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: כָּל הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, גּוּפוֹ מְכֻבָּד עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת, וְכָל הַמְחַלֵּל אֶת הַתּוֹרָה גּוּפוֹ מְחֻלָּל עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת.

6. Rabbi Yosse said: “Whoever honors the Torah is himself given honor by men, and whoever dishonors the Torah is himself dishonored by men.”

Whoever honors the Torah — The Midrash24 tells us of a dialogue between Rabbi Yosse and a Roman matron. She asked questions based on the Torah and Rabbi Yosse attempted to offer her rational explanations.

That narrative can be seen as an extension of this teaching: Why did Rabbi Yosse enter into such a dialogue? Only for the honor of Torah; he desired that even non-Jews perceive its wisdom.

On that basis, we can appreciate the reward promised by the mishnah:

Is himself given honor by men — The Hebrew term for “himself” —גופו — also means his physical body, and the term translated as “men” —הבריות — refers, as explained previously,25 to people whose only redeeming quality is that they are G‑d’s creations.

When a person endeavors to see that all men honor the Torah, he in turn will receive honor from all people — even those who are merely G‑d’s creations. Moreover, since such individuals have no conception of things spiritual, the honor they give him will affect his physical person — the dimension to which they relate.

(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Korach, 5738)


ז - רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר: הַחֹשֵׂךְ עַצְמוֹ מִן הַדִּין, פּוֹרֵק מִמֶּנּוּ אֵיבָה וְגָזֵל וּשְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא, וְהַגַּס לִבּוֹ בְּהוֹרָאָה: שׁוֹטֶה רָשָׁע וְגַס רוּחַ.

7. Rabbi Yishmael his son said: “[A judge] who refrains from handing down legal judgments [but instead seeks compromise between the litigants] removes from himself enmity, theft, and [the responsibility for] an unnecessary oath; but one who aggrandizes himself by [eagerly] issuing legal decisions is a fool, wicked and arrogant.”

*Seeks compromise between the litigants — In a business dispute, the ability to accept compromise is important, for it demonstrates that an individual is able to see beyond his own position and make concessions for the sake of another person.

There are, however, certain matters, such as Jewish education and Torah law, where compromise must be avoided. For the Torah is eternal, G‑dly truth — containing absolute values that must not be mitigated by human notions of right and wrong.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 356-357)


ח - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: אַל תְּהִי דָן יְחִידִי, שֶׁאֵין דָּן יְחִידִי, אֶלָּא אֶחָד, וְאַל תֹּאמַר קַבְּלוּ דַעְתִּי, שֶׁהֵן רַשָּׁאִין וְלֹא אָתָּה.

8. He used to say: “Do not judge alone, for none may judge alone except One; and do not say [to your fellow judges], ‘Accept my view,’ for they [the majority] have that prerogative, not you.”

Do not judge alone — This principle also applies when judging oneself. A person’s self-interest blurs his perspective, so even with regard to one’s own affairs, one should always seek the counsel of another.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 21)


ט - רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן אוֹמֵר: כָּל הַמְקַיֵּם אֶת הַתּוֹרָה מֵעֹנִי, סוֹפוֹ לְקַיְּמָהּ מֵעשֶׁר, וְכָל הַמְבַטֵּל אֶת הַתּוֹרָה מֵעשֶׁר, סוֹפוֹ לְבַטְּלָהּ מֵעֹנִי.

9. Rabbi Yonasan said: “Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; but whoever neglects the Torah in wealth will ultimately neglect it in poverty.”

Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty — Poverty is not necessarily measured in financial terms. On the contrary, our Sages commented26 that it is with regard to one’s knowledge that one is defined as being rich or poor. And poverty in knowledge is relative. Just as a member of the middle-class is dwarfed by a magnate’s wealth, so too, all of us feel impoverished when we realize the infinite scope of the Torah’s wisdom.

This sense of poverty should awaken a thirst which will motivate earnest and sincere effort in Torah study.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5746)

Whoever neglects the Torah in wealth — One should not interpret the mishnah as implying that wealth is undesirable or a hindrance to Torah study. On the contrary, our Sages explain27 that material wealth assists Torah study, enabling one to broaden one’s perspective. And when a wealthy person devotes himself to Torah study, he will be granted even greater prosperity.

(Sichos Chag HaShavuos, 5746)


י - רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי מְמַעֵט בְּעֵסֶק וַעֲסוֹק בַּתּוֹרָה, וֶהֱוֵי שְׁפַל רוּחַ בִּפְנֵי כָל אָדָם, וְאִם בָּטַלְתָּ מִן הַתּוֹרָה, יֶשׁ לָךְ בְּטֵלִים הַרְבֵּה כְּנֶגְדָּךְ, וְאִם עָמַלְתָּ בַּתּוֹרָה הַרְבֵּה, יֵשׁ שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה לִתֶּן לָךְ.

10. Rabbi Meir said: “Minimize your business activities and occupy yourself with the Torah. Be of humble spirit before every person.

“If you should neglect the [study of] Torah, you will have many causes for neglecting [it] confronting you, but if you toil much in the Torah, there is ample reward to be given you.”

Minimize your business activities and occupy yourself with the Torah — This teaching is directed at a person for whom earning a living requires activities other than the study of Torah. Although he is allowed to follow such a course, the mishnah encourages him to minimize such activity and devote his energies primarily to the study of Torah. If he must choose to either devote his spare time to the study of Torah or to the performance of charitable deeds, he should choose Torah study.

A person who is productively involved in both the study of Torah and commercial activity is likely to feel pride. For after all, there are few who are successful in both fields. Therefore the mishnah continues...

Be of humble spirit before every person — Despite your own virtues, look for the virtue in others, and regard yourself humbly. Such a person is promised...

If you toil much in the Torah, there is ample reward to be given you — The word “toil” implies a struggle. In consideration of such efforts, the reward one receives is “ample” — above the limits of our world.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Eikev, 5728)

Be of humble spirit before every person — There are two reasons for approaching others with humility: a) The entire Jewish people is compared, by analogy, to a human body.28 No organ or limb can exist alone. Moreover, every limb complements the functioning of the others. Thus, regardless of the extent of an individual’s virtue, every other Jew can contribute something to his growth. Therefore humility is always in order.

b) Everyone possesses weaknesses and failings. When considering others, we must always look at them favorably and attribute their failures to extenuating circumstances. But such rationalizations should not be offered with regard to oneself. We must confront ourselves and the challenges we face honestly. When taking this factor into account, there is reason to be humble before every person — Jew or gentile, regardless of his upbringing or background.

These concepts enable us to appreciate a difference of opinion regarding the appropriate version of the text of this mishnah: For the term “every person,” some texts use the Hebrew word האדם, while others use the word אדם, without using the ה as a modifier. The commentaries explain that האדםrefers to Jews and gentiles alike,29 while אדם refers to Jews alone. The first explanation is relevant only with regard to Jews, for complementary unity applies only within our own people. The second explanation, by contrast, applies with regard to both Jews and gentiles. For when a person fails to live up to the potential he was granted, he should feel humble before all the rest of G‑d’s creations.

In his text of the mishnah, the Alter Rebbe chooses the version that employs the word אדם, for the mishnah emphasizes how a person’s efforts in Torah study should not lead him to pride, and this is primarily relevant with regard to the Jewish people. When referring to the mishnah in other contexts,30 however, he uses the term האדם, for his intent is to emphasize the humility that stems from self-confrontation.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1211ff)


יא - רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בֶּן יַעֲקֹב אוֹמֵר: הָעֹשֶׂה מִצְוָה אַחַת, קוֹנֶה לּוֹ פְּרַקְלִיט אֶחָד, וְהָעוֹבֵר עֲבֵרָה אַחַת, קוֹנֶה לּוֹ קַטֵּגוֹר אֶחָד, תְּשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים כִּתְרִיס בִּפְנֵי הַפֻּרְעָנוּת. רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן הַסַּנְדְּלָר אוֹמֵר: כָּל כְּנֵסִיָּה שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם, וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם.

11. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: “He who fulfills one mitzvah acquires for himself one advocate, and he who commits one transgression acquires against himself one accuser. Repentance and good deeds are like a shield against retribution.”

Rabbi Yochanan HaSandlar said: “Every assembly [whose purpose is] for the sake of Heaven will be perpetuated, but that which is not for the sake of Heaven will not be perpetuated.”

He who fulfills one mitzvah acquires for himself one advocate — The simple meaning of this mishnah is that the performance of a mitzvah creates an angel that will act as an advocate for the person in his final judgment.31 Nevertheless, the fact that the mishnah uses the expression “acquires” rather than “creates” implies something deeper. In addition to the angel created by each mitzvah he performs, a person acquires One advocate; the One becomes an advocate for him. For every mitzvah a person performs, regardless of his intent,32 connects him to G‑d. Conversely...

He who commits one transgression acquires against himself one accuser — Here also, the intent is that “the One” becomes an accuser, because through sin, a person disrupts the connection between himself and G‑d.

(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Eikev, 5738; Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai, 5741)

Repentance and good deeds are like a shield against retribution — Here we are not speaking about a person’s individual judgment, but about a defense against the spirit of retribution that causes hardship and misfortune in the world at large. When a person performs a mitzvah and turns to G‑d in teshuvah, he gains a shield. This can be compared to a soldier who goes into battle wearing a helmet. Because of the dangers of combat, he takes protective measures. Although our world is fraught with danger, by fulfilling the Torah and its mitzvos — and particularly those mitzvos associated with protection (e.g., tefillin and mezuzah) — a person can ward off harm.

(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Eikev, 5738)

Every assembly [whose purpose is] for the sake of Heaven will be perpetuated — An “assembly” — a grouping together of different people — runs contrary to the nature of our world, which is characterized by division and self-interest. For such an assembly to “be perpetuated,” i.e., that the oneness achieved be extended over time, requires a Divine blessing. This blessing is encouraged when the intent of the participants is for the sake of Heaven.

(Ibid.)

When many people come together for the sake of strengthening each other in the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, the gathering inspires each individual and endows him with the strength to overcome challenges. Moreover, the bonds established between the participants will also be perpetuated. For the bond established through the shared observance of the Torah and its mitzvos is eternal, transcending the boundaries of time and space.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Emor, 5734; Yechidus Klalis, Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan, 5752)

Footnotes
1.
Tehillim 119:99.
2.
Mishlei 16:32.
3.
Tehillim 128:2.
4.
I Shmuel 2:30.
5.
Bereishis 1:27.
6.
See Koheles Rabbah 1:34; Ramban and Bechaye end of Parshas Chaye Sarah.
7.
See ch. 1, mishnah 12, as explained in Tanya, ch. 32.
8.
Pirkei Avos, the conclusion of ch. 6.
9.
Taanis 20a ff.
10.
The obligation to run to perform certain mitzvos is an explicit duty (see Berachos 6b, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 90:13), and thus need not be mentioned in Pirkei Avos, which is intended to teach a commitment beyond the measure of the law. Moreover, there are many mitzvos for which it is impossible to literally run.
11.
Likkutei Amarim of the Maggid of Mezeritch, sec. 259.
12.
Shabbos 77b. See also the Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, ch. 25.
13.
V. supra, Pirkei Avos 3:1.
14.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De’os 2:3
15.
Sotah 5a.
16.
Torah Or, Megillas Esther 91b.
17.
Cf. Yoma 86a.
18.
V. supra, 1:13.
19.
See the commentary of R. Ovadiah of Bartenura and others.
20.
4:15.
21.
Given to us as a wage, in contrast to wealth that comes from G‑d.
22.
Loc. cit.:14.
23.
Pesachim 50b, Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 1:7.
24.
Bereishis Rabbah 68:4.
25.
1:2, 4:1.
26.
Kesubos 68a.
27.
See Sotah 28a. Note also the comments of the Maharil (Likkutim), who relates that when Rabbeinu Tam wished to broaden his understanding of a difficult passage, he would place golden coins on his study table.
28.
Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4; Likkutei Torah beginning of Parshas Nitzavim.
29.
See Tosafos, Yevamos 61a.
30.
Tanya, ch. 30.
31.
R. Ovadiah of Bartenura. See also Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 11a.
32.
In contrast, the strength of the angel the person created through the performance of a mitzvah depends on the person’s intent.
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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.