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Chapter Four (2)

Chapter Four (2)

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יב - רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שַׁמּוּעַ אוֹמֵר: יְהִי כְבוֹד תַּלְמִידְךָ חָבִיב עָלֶיךָ כְּשֶׁלָּךְ, וּכְבוֹד חֲבֵרְךָ כְּמוֹרָא רַבָּךְ, וּמוֹרָא רַבָּךְ, כְּמוֹרָא שָׁמָיִם.

12.Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua said: “Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own, the honor of your colleague as the reverence for your teacher, and the reverence for your teacher as the fear of Heaven.”

Let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own — A student is obligated to revere his master and sit before him in awe.1 Therefore, it is out of place for a teacher to conspicuously honor his student. He should, however, take care to protect his student’s dignity.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5733)


יג - רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי זָהִיר בְּתַלְמוּד, שֶׁשִּׁגְגַת תַּלְמוּד עוֹלָה זָדוֹן. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹמֵר: שְׁלשָׁה כְתָרִים הֵן כֶּתֶר תּוֹרָה, וְכֶתֶר כְּהֻנָּה, וְכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת, וְכֶתֶר שֵׁם טוֹב עוֹלֶה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן.

13. Rabbi Yehudah said: “Be cautious in study, for an unwitting error in [observance due to insufficient] study is accounted as wanton transgression.”

Rabbi Shimon said: “There are three crowns — the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship — but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.”

Be cautious in study —זהיר, rendered as “be cautious,” shares the same root as the wordזוהר, “radiance.” A Jew should always endeavor to add radiance to his Torah study. Although the Torah is G‑dly, every Jew has the potential to increase its light.2

This also explains the need for caution. The fact that there is a potential for increase implies that there is a possibility of error.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai, 5744)

Rabbi Shimon said: “There are three crowns — the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship — but the crown of a good name surpasses them all” — The wording of the mishnah raises an obvious question, for it begins by stating that there are three crowns, and then proceeds to mention four.

This difficulty can be resolved by interpreting the mishnah in terms of our divine service, and appreciating each of these crowns as representative of a different spiritual thrust.

The crown of kingship refers to acceptance of the yoke of G‑d’s kingship — the first step in establishing a bond with G‑d.3 First and foremost, a Jew must give himself over to G‑d with the absolute and total commitment of a subject towards his ruler.

The acceptance of G‑d’s kingship is itself insufficient, for this relationship implies the existence of a gap between subject and Ruler. This shortcoming is overcome by the remaining “crowns,” which enable a person to develop an inner bond with G‑d.

The crown of priesthood refers to the High Priest, who entered the Holy of Holies, the place which held the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Tablets represent a perfect state of unity with the Torah, for unlike letters written on parchment or paper, the Ten Commandments were carved into the stone itself.4 This refers to a person whose desire and pleasure are identified with the Torah.

The crown of Torah refers to a deeper connection. When a person studies Torah, his thoughts become permeated by the Torah’s wisdom, and he is able to internalize his connection with G‑dliness. G‑dliness becomes not merely the focus of his desire and pleasure, but an expression of who he is.

Nevertheless, even when a person has attained these three crowns, he is still a self-contained entity; he has infused his being with the Torah, but has not transcended himself. This is the thrust of the crown of a good name, which refers to a person’s involvement with others and with his environment. For when a person is alone, he does not require a name. When is a name necessary? When one communicates.5

A good name is achieved when a person lives his every day life according to the Torah. For then, the deeds he performs spread G‑dly light throughout the world.

Nevertheless, the G‑dliness encouraged by the performance of mitzvos is often not openly revealed, neither within the world at large, nor even within our souls. Frequently, although a person performs many good deeds, the influence they have on his character is neither immediate, nor direct.

On this basis, we can comprehend our mishnah. In principle, there are only three crowns, for the achievement of a good name — the spreading of G‑dliness throughout the world — is not necessarily a crown; it does not always bring personal fulfillment.

When does a good name become a crown? When, as the mishnah continues, it is עולה על גביהן. This phrase, translated as “are superior,” literally means “ascends upon them.” When the service of spreading G‑dliness in one’s environment follows “upon them” i.e., when it comes as an extension of the three inward thrusts of kingship, priesthood and Torah, it also becomes a “crown.”

When a person has developed himself through these three mediums of divine service, his efforts to spread light in the world also generate inner light, which guides him to a deeper and more encompassing relationship with G‑d.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1214ff)

The concept that the crown of a good name follows after the crown of Torah has a corollary: one’s study of Torah should not be directed merely towards personal development, but should motivate efforts to share this wisdom with others.

Significantly, the author of this teaching is Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, of whom it is said, Toraso umanaso,6 “his profession was Torah.” He devoted himself solely to Torah study, remaining completely uninvolved in worldly concerns. Nevertheless, Rabbi Shimon did not stand aloof from other people, and realized the importance of spreading Torah to individuals who were themselves worldly inclined.7

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 305ff)


יד - רַבִּי נְהוֹרָאִי אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי גוֹלֶה לִמְקוֹם תּוֹרָה, וְאַל תֹּאמַר שֶׁהִיא תָבוֹא אַחֲרֶיךָ, שֶׁחֲבֵרֶיךָ יְקַיְּמוּהָ בְיָדֶךָ וְאֶל בִּינָתְךָ אַל תִּשָּׁעֵן.

14. Rabbi Nehora’ey said: “Exile yourself to a place of Torah, and do not assume that it will come after you, for it is your colleagues who [through discussion and deliberation] will cause it to be clearly established in your grasp; and do not rely on your own understanding.”8

Do not rely on your own understanding — This phrase is an explicit quotation from the Tanach. Why does Rabbi Nehora’ey include it in his directive without mentioning his source? Also, why is this instruction quoted in Pirkei Avos, which teaches pious conduct beyond the measure of the law?

These questions can be answered as follows: In its source, the verse “do not rely on your own understanding” is interpreted9 as a charge to seek out a teacher rather than remaining content with one’s own capacity for comprehension. In our mishnah, by contrast, it comes as the final clause. After a person has exiled himself to a place of Torah, and through discussion with his colleagues has brought Torah wisdom within his grasp, he is capable of responding to situations independently. Nevertheless, he should humbly realize the value of consulting with others instead of relying solely on his own knowledge.10

Herein we also see a connection to the author of the mishnah, Rabbi Nehora’ey. Nehor is Aramaic for “light.” Rabbi Nehora’ey was given that name because he “illumined the eyes of the wise in the study of Torah law.”11 But despite his

high level of understanding, he taught the virtue of taking counsel with others.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Behar, 5733)


טו - רַבִּי יַנַּאי אוֹמֵר: אֵין בְּיָדֵינוּ לֹא מִשַּׁלְוַת הָרְשָׁעִים, וְאַף לֹא מִיִּסּוֹרֵי הַצַּדִּיקִים. רַבִּי מַתְיָא בֶּן חָרָשׁ אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי מַקְדִּים בִּשְׁלוֹם כָּל אָדָם, וֶהֱוֵי זָנָב לָאֲרָיוֹת, וְאַל תְּהִי רֹאשׁ לַשֻּׁעָלִים.

15. Rabbi Yannai said: “We are unable to understand either the well-being of the wicked or the tribulations of the righteous.”

Rabbi Matya ben Charash said: “Be the first to extend greetings to anyone you meet. Rather be a tail to lions than a head to foxes.”

We are unable to understand... the well-being of the wicked12 The commentaries13 mention an alternative meaning: “We do not possess either the well-being of the wicked....” To explain: During the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the wicked were allowed to prosper. G‑d would give them recompense for their few good deeds in this world, and then deny them a portion in the World to Come. In our time — after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash — the wicked are not granted such prosperity.

What is the rationale for such a change? In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, G‑dliness was openly revealed. Therefore those who ignored this revelation and transgressed were considered as blatantly rebelling against G‑d’s will and were not deemed worthy of a portion in the World to Come. After the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, when G‑dliness is concealed, the sins which the wicked perform are considered less severe, and they are not denied a portion in the World to Come. They are, however, also not granted the same degree of prosperity in this life.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah, 5730)

*We are unable to understand... the tribulations of the righteous — One of the Maggid of Mezeritch’s students asked him how it was possible to accept tribulation with joy. The Maggid sent him to his student, R. Zushya of Anapoli.

R. Zushya was poor; he suffered from physical difficulties, and endured many different types of privation. Nevertheless, he radiated happiness. When the student told him the purpose of his journey, he replied: “I don’t know why the Maggid sent you to me. I have never suffered any adversity in my life.”

Not knowing — in the positive sense — is the key. When a person makes a commitment to G‑dliness that is not bound by the limitations of understanding, he is able to appreciate that everything which G‑d grants him is good.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1081ff)


טז - רַבִּי יַעֲקֹב אוֹמֵר: הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לִפְרוֹזְדוֹר, בִּפְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, הַתְקֵן עַצְמָךְ בִּפְרוֹזְדוֹר כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לִטְרַקְלִין.

16. Rabbi Yaakov said: “This world is like an ante-room before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the ante-room so that you may enter the banquet hall.”

*This world is like an ante-room before the World to Come — The World to Come — the Era of the Redemption — reflects the ultimate purpose of creation, when it will be revealed that this world is G‑d’s dwelling.14

To explain the analogy: A person reveals the fundamental nature of his character more easily in his own home. We express ourselves outside our homes as well, but there are always social conventions, personal reservations, and the like. When we’re at home, these constrictions do not apply, and our true nature is revealed. In the analogue, our world is G‑d’s home, the place where His essence and the truth of His Being is manifest.

G‑d nevertheless desired that mortals should fashion His dwelling, for man has a natural tendency to appreciate the fruit of his own labors.15 If, instead, this dwelling were to be granted as an unearned gift from above, the bliss we would enjoy would be tarnished.16 To borrow the metaphor of our Sages,17 we would be eating “the bread of shame.”

And so, in the present era, man’s efforts are directed towards transforming the world into a dwelling for G‑d. For this reason, the present era is referred to as an ante-room, a preparatory phase through which we must pass.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 243ff; Vol. XV, p. 95ff)

*Prepare yourself in the ante-room so that you may enter the banquet hall — These preparations have already been completed. To borrow an expression from the Previous Rebbe:18 We have already

“polished the buttons” — everything necessary to bring about the Redemption has already been accomplished.

(Sefer HaSichos 5752, Vol. I, p. 151ff)


יז - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: יָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶה, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, וְיָפָה שָׁעָה אַחַת שֶׁל קוֹרַת רוּחַ בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה.

17. He used to say: “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come. And one hour of bliss in the World to Come is better than all the life of this world.”

Repentance and good deeds — According to the ordinary conception, the function of teshuvah is to compensate for past faults. Were this its only function, the order of the mishnah should have been reversed, with “good deeds” preceding “teshuvah.”

This would imply that a person’s life work is the performance of good deeds, with teshuvah operating only when there is a need to compensate for error. By placing teshuvah first, the mishnah indicates that the service of G‑d through teshuvah takes precedence. For teshuvah means “return,” the connection of the soul to its G‑dly core. This aspect of teshuvah is of universal relevance, applying even to those who have not sinned.

It is teshuvah of this nature that makes our deeds “good” and grants them luminance;19 i.e., it endows them with a higher level of good than they possessed in their own right.20 For the intense yearning for a connection with G‑d which characterizes the drive to teshuvah invigorates and elevates every aspect of our observance of the Torah.

(Sefer HaSichos 5749, Vol. II, p. 653)

One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come — G‑d’s essence cannot be grasped or comprehended. Nevertheless, through repentance and the performance of good deeds in one’s daily life, a person can establish a connection with this essence. This is the peak of all experience, the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 244ff)

One hour of bliss in the World to Come is better than all the life of this world — The connection to G‑d’s essence generated by the performance of mitzvos in this world is not openly revealed. In the World to Come, by contrast, we will consciously appreciate the bond we share with G‑d.

When seen in this context, the World to Come highlights the pleasure experienced by man, while the present era is characterized by the pleasure generated for G‑d, as our Sages commented:21 “It is pleasing before Me, that I decreed and My will was done.” This is problematic; for the World to Come, the final stage of existence, should be completely satisfying, not only to man, but also to G‑d.

Nevertheless, this is only a limited perspective. The Era of the Redemption and the Era of the Resurrection of the Dead are, to quote Tanya,22 “the ultimate perfection of the creation of this world... and the intent for which it was brought into being.” It is in that era that it will be openly revealed that our world is G‑d’s dwelling, the place where His essence is manifest.

To explain: In contrast to all the other entities in the physical and spiritual realms, the concepts of revelation or hiddenness do not apply with regard to G‑d’s essence. Even when His presence is not revealed, He is there. Indeed, all revelation is by nature limited, and therefore fails to fully express His essence. Therefore, it is in a realm where He is absolutely concealed, our material world, that His essence is manifest.

Nevertheless, just as G‑d’s essence can remain concealed, it also can be revealed. Although the ordinary channels of revelation are not mediums for its expression, it is not compelled to remain hidden. In coming into expression, it remakes and redefines these channels of revelation.

It is a revelation of this nature that will characterize the World to Come. And thus the World to Come reflects a positive advantage for G‑d Himself, as it were, for it is in this era that His essence will be truly revealed in our material world.

(Ibid.)


יח - רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר אוֹמֵר: אַל תְּרַצֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרֶךָ בְּשַׁעַת כַּעְסוֹ, וְאַל תְּנַחֲמֵהוּ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמֵּתוֹ מֻטָּל לְפָנָיו, וְאַל תִּשְׁאַל לוֹ בְּשַׁעַת נִדְרוֹ, וְאַל תִּשְׁתַּדֵּל לִרְאוֹתוֹ בְּשַׁעַת קַלְקָלָתוֹ.

18. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: “Do not placate your fellow in the moment of his anger; do not comfort him while his dead lies before him. Do not question him [about the details] of his vow at the moment he makes it; and do not seek to see him at the time of his degradation.”

*Do not comfort him while his dead lies before him — The concept of descent for the sake of ascent is ingrained in the fabric of our existence. The soul has its source in the spiritual realm, and descends to this material plane because this will enable it to achieve a deeper bond with G‑d in the spiritual realms after death.

By the same token, the period of mourning is clearly a phase of descent, but through it — and this is its purpose — one is able to ascend to a higher rung than was experienced before. Nevertheless, much striving and effort is required for a person to actually feel, while in the midst of a phase of descent, that this downward thrust is intended solely for the purpose of ascent.

This should be the intent of those who comfort mourners — to help them come to such a realization.23 While a person’s dead lies before him, however, this is impossible, for then his feelings of grief are too powerful to be overcome.

(Sichos Yud-Tes Iyar, 5712)


יט - שְׁמוּאֵל הַקָּטָן אוֹמֵר: בִּנְפֹל אֹיִבְךָ אַל תִּשְׂמָח, וּבִכָּשְׁלוֹ אַל יָגֵל לִבֶּךָ, פֶּן יִרְאֶה י-י וְרַע בְּעֵינָיו, וְהֵשִׁיב מֵעָלָיו אַפּוֹ.

19. Shmuel HaKatan said: “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles let your heart not be glad, lest the L‑rd see, and regard it with displeasure, and divert His wrath from him [to you].”

Shmuel HaKatan said — It is difficult to understand why this teaching is attributed to Shmuel HaKatan; it is an exact quote of a verse in Mishlei.24 Among the explanations offered25 is that the verse in Mishlei refers to conflicts with regard to worldly affairs, while Shmuel HaKatan is speaking about conflicts within the realm of Torah, such as when there is a difference between two sages regarding a halachic ruling.26 When the view of one sage prevails over that of another, he should not see it as a personal victory. Rather than focus on the fact that it was his conception that triumphed, he should feel happy that the halachah was clarified. That alone should be the source of his joy.

This teaching reflects the character of its author, Shmuel HaKatan (“Shmuel, the small”), for he was given that title because he always regarded himself humbly.27 Although he was one of the leading Sages of his time, he applied himself to his studies modestly, without taking pride in his achievements.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 44ff)

Alternatively, it can be explained that the verse in Mishlei is referring to a person with whom one shares personal enmity,28 while the teaching of Shmuel HaKatan refers to a person with whom one has no personal disagreement, and who is called an enemy only because he is wicked, and therefore, “it is a mitzvah to hate him.”29

The verse is teaching us that even when an individual’s enemy is wicked, he should not rejoice in his downfall, because the satisfaction that he feels is private in nature, and is not necessarily a reflection of the joy that accompanies “the perishing of the wicked.”30

Shmuel HaKatan teaches a further lesson. Even when one has no personal reason for rejoicing at the downfall of a wicked person, one should not feel happiness. As the Baal Shem Tov taught,31 when a person sees a fault in a colleague, he should realize that he possesses a similar fault. Thus, were he to take pleasure in the fall of a wicked person, he would invite similar retribution upon himself.32

There is an intrinsic connection between this teaching and Shmuel HaKatan’s own life. Shmuel HaKatan was the Sage chosen to author the blessing VeLamalshinin33 (“Let there be no hope for the informers...”34 ) which curses non-believers. Why was this task assigned to him? Because his zealousness bore no trace of hate, but was a reflection of his unbounded love for G‑d.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Chukas, 5741)


כ - אֱלִישָׁע בֶּן אֲבוּיָה אוֹמֵר: הַלּוֹמֵד יֶלֶד לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה: לִדְיוֹ כְתוּבָה עַל נַיָּר חָדָשׁ, וְהַלּוֹמֵד זָקֵן לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה: לִדְיוֹ כְתוּבָה עַל נַיָּר מָחוּק. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר יְהוּדָה אִישׁ כְּפַר הַבַּבְלִי אוֹמֵר: הַלּוֹמֵד מִן הַקְּטַנִּים, לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה: לְאוֹכֵל עֲנָבִים קֵהוֹת, וְשׁוֹתֶה יַיִן מִגִּתּוֹ, וְהַלּוֹמֵד מִן הַזְּקֵנִים, לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה: לְאוֹכֵל עֲנָבִים בְּשׁוּלוֹת, וְשׁוֹתֶה יַיִן יָשָׁן. רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: אַל תִּסְתַּכֵּל בְּקַנְקַן, אֶלָּא, בְּמַה שֶּׁיֶּשׁ בּוֹ, יֵשׁ קַנְקַן חָדָשׁ מָלֵא יָשָׁן, וְיָשָׁן, שֶׁאֲפִילוּ חָדָשׁ אֵין בּוֹ.

20. Elisha ben Avuya said: “He who studies Torah as a child, to what can he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper. And he who studies Torah as an old man, to what can he be compared? To ink written on paper that has been erased.”

Rabbi Yosse bar Yehudah of Kfar HaBavli said: “He who learns Torah from the young, to what can he be compared? To one who eats unripe grapes or drinks wine from his vat; while he who learns Torah from the old, to what can he be compared? To one who eats ripe grapes or drinks aged wine.”

Rabbi Meir said: “Do not look at the vessel, but rather at what it contains; there may be a new vessel filled with aged wine, or an old vessel in which there is not even new [wine].”

Elisha ben Avuya said: He who studies Torah as a child, to what can he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper — R. Ovadiah of Bartenura explains that the advantage of writing on fresh paper is that the writing lasts. The concepts a person learns in his childhood will be retained. This teaching was personified by its author, Elisha ben Avuya. In his childhood, his father had him focus his attention on Torah study.35 When Elisha matured, he was attracted to heretical teachings,36 and ultimately forsook the Torah life-style. Nevertheless, he retained his Torah knowledge, and was able to teach Rabbi Meir many concepts. Since the ink was written on fresh paper, even when the paper was sullied, the writing remained.

The connection between Rabbi Meir and Elisha ben Avuya also enhances our comprehension of the teaching of Rabbi Meir which is included in this mishnah....

Do not look at the vessel, but rather at what it contains — In addition to the obvious lesson, this clause also explains why Rabbi Meir could study Torah from Elisha. Rabbi Meir did not look at the “vessel” — Elisha and his conduct — “but rather at what it contains” — the Torah knowledge he possessed. “Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate. He ate its contents and discarded its shell.”37

(It must, however, be emphasized that this approach is only appropriate for a Sage of the stature of Rabbi Meir. By and large, our Sages have given us the directive:38 “If a teacher resembles an angel of the L‑rd of Hosts, seek Torah from him. If not, do not seek Torah from him.”)

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Emor, 5742)

He who studies Torah as an old man, to what can he be compared? To ink written on paper that has been erased — The first clause of this mishnah is readily understandable. Emphasizing the advantage of studying when young will encourage a person to make the most of his childhood years, and gain as much Torah knowledge as possible. Why, though, does the mishnah continue, stressing the shortcomings of studying when older? What positive lesson can be derived from this?

The point of the mishnah is that age has a meaning beyond that expressed on one’s passport. There are childlike traits of humility, openness and creative spontaneity that should be nurtured throughout one’s lifetime. When a person displays these traits, he will succeed in the study of Torah.

When, by contrast, a person puts an emphasis on wisdom in its own right, his approach becomes rigid and self-contained, for he will learn only what he already appreciates as right, and this prevents him from apprehending the infinite dimensions of G‑d’s Torah.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 40ff)


כא - רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקַּפָּר אוֹמֵר: הַקִּנְאָה וְהַתַּאֲוָה וְהַכָּבוֹד, מוֹצִיאִין אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם.

21. Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said: “Envy, desire, and honor-seeking drive a man from the world.”

*Desire... drive[s] a man from the world — The intent of the mishnah is that the mindless drive to satisfy physical desires generally prevents a person from living a well-balanced life.

On the other hand, although a person may think he wants material objects as ends in themselves, his desire may actually be rooted in the depths of his soul.

Consider. Everything in the world contains sparks of G‑dliness. Mankind has been given the task of refining the material and revealing its innate G‑dliness. Every individual is destined to elevate certain sparks, and this divine service is necessary for his personal growth.

We may be unaware of the spiritual motivation underlying our physical desires and consider them to be physiological or psychological. In truth, however, a deeper force motivates our will. Why does a Jew want children, possessions, or material success? Because his soul has an unarticulated desire to fulfill the G‑dly purpose associated with these seemingly material blessings.

Therefore, when a person feels a desire for a material entity, he need not deem it bad and reject it entirely. He must, however, determine whether this desire stems from selfish motives, or is an expression of his soul’s longing.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 291ff)


כב - הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר: הַיִּלּוֹדִים לָמוּת, וְהַמֵּתִים לִחֳיוֹת (נ"א לְהֵחָיוֹת), וְהַחַיִּים לִדּוֹן, לֵידַע, וּלְהוֹדִיעַ, וּלְהִוָּדַע, שֶׁהוּא אֵ-ל, הוּא הַיּוֹצֵר, הוּא הַבּוֹרֵא, הוּא הַמֵּבִין, הוּא הַדַּיָּן, הוּא הָעֵד, הוּא בַּעַל דִּין, הוּא עָתִיד לָדוֹן. בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁאֵין לְפָנָיו, לֹא עַוְלָה, וְלֹא שִׁכְחָה, וְלֹא מַשּׂוֹא פָנִים, וְלֹא מַקַּח שֹׁחַד, וְדַע שֶׁהַכֹּל, לְפִי הַחֶשְׁבּוֹן. וְאַל יַבְטִיחֲךָ יִצְרָךְ, שֶׁהַשְּׁאוֹל בֵּית מָנוֹס לָךְ, שֶׁעַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה נוֹצָר, וְעַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה נוֹלָד, וְעַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה חַי, וְעַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה מֵת, וְעַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה עָתִיד לִתֵּן דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ, מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים, הַקָּדוֹשׁ, בָּרוּךְ הוּא:

22. He used to say: “Those who are born are destined to die; those who are dead are destined to live again; and those who live [again] are destined to be judged. [Therefore, let man] know, make known, and become aware that He is G‑d, He is the Fashioner, He is the Creator, He is the Discerner, He is the Judge, He is the Witness, He is the Plaintiff, He will hereafter sit in judgment. Blessed is He, before whom there is no iniquity, nor forgetting, nor partiality, nor bribe-taking; and know that all is according to the reckoning.

“And let not your evil inclination assure you that the grave will be a place of refuge for you, for against your will you were created, against your will you were born; against your will you live; against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give an account before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Bribe-taking — In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam explains that this clause teaches that G‑d will not accept the bribe of a mitzvah. Even when a person has performed 1,000 good deeds and only one evil act, the good deeds will not eclipse the evil act. He will receive ample and fair reward for all the good he has done, and just retribution for his misdeed.

The reckoning which G‑d makes of our virtues and shortcomings is not a form of barter. Every mitzvah a person performs creates an eternal bond between him and G‑d, and every sin causes separation between the two.

This highlights the importance of repentance, for teshuvah re-establishes the connection with G‑d that is broken through sin, and indeed has the potential to transform one’s willful sins into merits.39

For this reason, our Sages40 refer to teshuvah as a bribe, and state that this is the one bribe G‑d does accept.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 76ff)

Against your will you live; against your will you die — By saying that a person lives against his will, the mishnah implies that a person’s true desire is to abandon material existence. Saying that a person dies against his will, by contrast, implies that a person desires to continue living within the body.

In truth, both statements are true. On one hand, the soul is a spiritual entity, “an actual part of G‑d.”41 Thus it has a natural desire to rise above the limits of material existence and return to its spiritual source.

Why does it remain within the body? Because it perceives G‑d’s desire for the world to be transformed into a dwelling for Him. And it dedicates itself to the fulfillment of this desire against its own individual will.

Nevertheless, because the soul is an actual part of G‑d, G‑d’s desire for a dwelling in this world is not an external factor, but rather permeates its essential will. Therefore, death — the departure from this material framework — is also against its will.

These two thrusts, though seemingly contradictory, actually reinforce each other. It is only when a person feels the limitations of material existence and desires the spiritual, that he is capable of satisfying G‑d’s desire for a dwelling within this world. If he lacks the drive for spirituality, it is likely that his involvement in the world will be spurred by ordinary material desires, and not G‑d’s desire for a dwelling.

These concepts should be reflected in every individual’s life. On one hand, he should not shy away from worldly involvement, for through such activity he can fulfill G‑d’s desire. Simultaneously, a person should feel that this involvement is contrary to his inner nature — against his will — for his true desire is to be one with G‑d.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1217ff)

Footnotes
1.
See Shabbos 30b, Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Talmud Torah, ch. 5.
2.
In particular, the word the mishnah uses for Torah study, talmud, is also significant. Talmud refers to the didactic analysis of Torah law. In this area, as opposed to the study of the Written Law or straightforward halachic directives, man has a greater opportunity to express his potential. This is also the area were greater caution is necessary lest error occur.
3.
Tanya, ch. 41.
4.
See the essay entitled “Repairing the Breaches,” Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. II, p. 128ff (Kehot, N.Y., 1994) and the sources mentioned there.
5.
See Torah Or 79c; Likkutei Torah, Behar 41c; Balak 67c.
6.
Shabbos 11a.
7.
The number of this mishnah, 13, also contributes an allusion which adds depth to this concept. Shabbos 33b relates that Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Elazar spent 12 years hiding in a cave from their Roman pursuers. When they emerged, they encountered people involved in their day-to-day affairs.

They were unable to understand, “How can people abandon eternal life (i.e., Torah study) and occupy themselves with temporal concerns?” When G‑d saw that they were utterly unable to appreciate the value of other people’s worldly involvement, he ordered them to return to the cave for an additional year. After this thirteenth year, Rabbi Shimon was able to comprehend the Divine intent in worldly involvement, and was motivated to share his Torah knowledge, and use it to refine his environment.

(This concept also points to the spiritual significance of the number 13, which as reflected by the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, relates to a transcendent dimension of G‑dliness. This transcendence enables one to infuse spirituality within our material world. See Or HaTorah, Bereishis 7a and other sources.)
8.
Mishlei 3:5.
9.
See Rashi’s commentary.
10.
See the commentary of Rabbeinu Yonah.
11.
Eruvin 13b.
12.
Our translation follows the first interpretation of the mishnah offered by R. Ovadiah of Bartenura.
13.
Both interpretations are mentioned by R. Ovadiah of Bartenura.
14.
Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
15.
Rashi, Bava Metzia, 38a, s.v. kav shelo.
16.
There is also a deeper rationale. G‑d’s underlying motive in implanting this tendency in man is a desire that man be not only a passive recipient (mekabeil), but also a contributing partner (mashpia) in the work of creation.
17.
Cf. Jerusalem Talmud, Orlah 1:3; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Tzav 7d.
18.
Sichas Simchas Torah, 5689.
19.
See Likkutei Torah, Matos 82a.
20.
See the essay entitled “Teshuvah — Return, not Repentance,” Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I, p. 33ff (Kehot, N.Y., 1993).
21.
Rashi, Vayikra 1:9.
22.
Ch. 36.
23.
This concept is also implied by the traditional expression of comfort, “May the Omnipresent comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” For the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is also a descent for the purpose of ascent — a phase in our progress to the ultimate peaks we will reach in the Era of the Redemption.
24.
24:17-18.
25.
Machzor Vitri, Midrash Shmuel.
26.
In this context, compare the prayer of R. Nechumia ben HaKanah (Berachos 28b).
27.
Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 9:13.
28.
This concept is reflected by the preceding verses, which warn a wicked man “not to lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous, nor to plunder his resting place.”
29.
Pesachim 113b.
30.
Cf. Mishlei 11:10.
31.
Meor Einayim, the beginning of Parshas Chukas. Note the explanation in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 24.
32.
See the notes to ch. 3, mishnah 16.
33.
Berachos 28b.
34.
Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 55.
35.
Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 2:1.
36.
See Chagigah 15b.
37.
Ibid.
38.
Ibid.
39.
Yoma 86b.
40.
Midrash Tehillim commenting on Tehillim 17:2; Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim sec. 670.
41.
Tanya, ch. 2.
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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.