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א - שָׁנוּ חֲכָמִים בִּלְשׁוֹן הַמִּשְׁנָה, בָּרוּךְ שֶׁבָּחַר בָּהֶם וּבְמִשְׁנָתָם. רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: כָּל הָעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה לִשְׁמָהּ זוֹכֶה לִדְבָרִים הַרְבֵּה, וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ, כְּדַאי הוּא לוֹ. נִקְרָא רֵעַ, אָהוּב, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמָּקוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, מְשַׂמֵּחַ אֶת הַמָּקוֹם, מְשַׂמֵּחַ אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, וּמַלְבַּשְׁתּוֹ עֲנָוָה וְיִרְאָה. וּמַכְשַׁרְתּוֹ לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק, חָסִיד, יָשָׁר, וְנֶאֱמָן, וּמְרַחַקְתּוֹ מִן הַחֵטְא, וּמְקָרַבְתּוֹ לִידֵי זְכוּת, וְנֶהֱנִין מִמֶּנּוּ עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה, בִּינָה וּגְבוּרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לִי עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה, אֲנִי בִינָה, לִי גְבוּרָה, וְנוֹתֶנֶת לוֹ מַלְכוּת וּמֶמְשָׁלָה, וְחִקּוּר דִּין, וּמְגַלִּין לוֹ רָזֵי תוֹרָה, וְנַעֲשֶׂה כְּמַעְיָן הַמִּתְגַּבֵּר וּכְנָהָר שֶׁאֵינוֹ פוֹסֵק, וְהוֶֹה צָנוּעַ, וְאֶרֶךְ רוּחַ, וּמוֹחֵל עַל עֶלְבּוֹנוֹ, וּמְגַדַּלְתּוֹ וּמְרוֹמַמְתּוֹ עַל כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים.

1. Our Sages taught [this chapter]1 in the language of the Mishnah; blessed is He who chose them and their teaching.

Rabbi Meir said: “Whoever occupies himself with [the study of] Torah for its own sake merits many things; furthermore, he is worthy that the whole world shall have been created because of him. He is called friend, beloved; he loves G‑d, he loves the created beings; he brings joy to G‑d, he brings joy to the created beings. [The Torah] garbs him with humility and fear [of G‑d]; it makes him fit to be a tzaddik, a chassid, upright and faithful; it keeps him far from sin and brings him near to meritorious deeds.

“Others derive from him the benefit of counsel and wisdom, insight and strength, as it is stated:2 ‘Counsel and wisdom are mine; I am understanding, strength is mine.’ [The Torah] bestows upon him royalty, authority, and discerning judgment; the secrets of the Torah are revealed to him, and he becomes like a fountain which flows with ever-increasing strength, and like a never-ceasing stream. He becomes modest, patient, and forgiving of insult to himself; and [the Torah] makes him great and exalts him above all things.”

The Sages taught [this chapter] in the language of the Mishnah One might ask why the study of Pirkei Avos was instituted in such a manner that the chapter studied before the holiday of Shavuos includes beraisos (teachings not included in the Mishnah) rather than mishnayos, which are more authoritative.

It can be explained that the Beraisa reflects the manner in which the Torah descends into the world at large, showing how every new idea developed by an experienced sage was in fact granted to Moshe at Sinai.3 In this manner, it demonstrates the dynamic allowing for the continuation of the chain beginning when “Moshe received the Torah... and transmitted it.”4 For it shows how the Torah can be internalized within a mortal mind, and then transmitted to subsequent generations.

(Sefer HaSichos 5749, Vol. II, p. 481ff)

Whoever occupies himself — The Hebrew word עוסק, translated “occupies himself,” relates to the Hebrew word for businessman, בעל עסק.5 A person’s occupation with the study of Torah must resemble a businessman’s preoccupation with his commercial enterprise.6 Just as a businessman’s attention is never totally diverted from his business, the Torah should always be the focus of our attention.

With [the study of] Torah for its own sake — A person who devotes himself to the study of Torah for its own sake is not concerned with any of the material or spiritual benefits he might accrue. But what about a person who has not attained this level? Since it might be difficult to convince him to proceed on such a selfless path, the beraisa teaches us that through devotion to the study of Torah a person merits many things.

Merits — These merits are merely the side benefits of Torah study; the true reward is the inner bond with G‑d which it brings.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 401ff)

Many things; furthermore... — The “many things” which a person merits are not merely the qualities which the beraisa enumerate.7 The Torah is unlimited. And the “many things,” the blessings and benefits it brings a person devoted to its study, are likewise boundless.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 370)

He loves the created beings — As mentioned in the notes to ch. 1, mishnah 12, the term “created beings” refers to individuals who have no redeeming virtue other than the fact that G‑d created them. Why is a person able to show such boundless love and reach out to these people? Because of his selfless devotion to Torah study.

A person who has personal ambitions involves himself only with people who can help him realize those ambitions. A person who desires to be loved seeks out people who will love him. A person who has no thought for himself, and studies the Torah only because it is G‑d’s word, can open himself to all others, even to those individuals whose only redeeming virtue is that they are G‑d’s creations.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 405-406)

He brings joy to the created beings — This represents a higher level of behavior than the love mentioned previously. Even though a person may love another, the two remain distinct from each other. Happiness breaks down barriers,8 and enables the two to establish a more complete bond.

Nevertheless, although joy represents a deeper bond than love, there is an advantage to love. Because love establishes a connection between two distinct entities, it enables a person to relate to a colleague within the latter’s frame of reference. Because of the more complete bond established by joy, the person might feel that just as he himself does not indulge his own desires, so too, his colleague should learn to be content with little. Love, by contrast, causes one to appreciate what the other person desires and to extend oneself for him. Thus both qualities —- love and joy — are necessary to develop our relationships to the fullest.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5746)

[The Torah] garbs him with humility... it makes him fit... it keeps him far... and brings him near... — The beraisa is emphasizing that Torah study alone cannot endow a person with these characteristics. On the contrary, they can be acquired only through effort and labor. Nevertheless, the study of Torah makes it far easier to attain such qualities.

Others derive from him the benefit of counsel — This refers to the ability to advise others in worldly matters. The study of Torah will develop a person’s powers of understanding to the extent that he will appreciate the proper course of action in worldly matters as well. Thus on one hand, a person who devotes himself to Torah will be above all worldly pursuits. Simultaneously, however, he will find success for himself and others even on the worldly plane.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 401ff)

ב - אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי, בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת מֵהַר חוֹרֵב וּמַכְרֶזֶת וְאוֹמֶרֶת: אוֹי לָהֶם לַבְּרִיּוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה, נִקְרָא נָזוּף, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: נֶזֶם זָהָב בְּאַף חֲזִיר, אִשָּׁה יָפָה וְסָרַת טָעַם. וְאוֹמֵר: וְהַלֻּחֹת מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִי-ם הֵמָּה, וְהַמִּכְתָּב, מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִי-ם הוּא, חָרוּת עַל הַלֻּחֹת, אַל תִּקְרָא חָרוּת אֶלָּא חֵרוּת, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ בֶּן חוֹרִין, אֶלָּא מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה, וְכָל מִי שֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה, הֲרֵי זֶה מִתְעַלֶּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וּמִמַּתָּנָה נַחֲלִיאֵל, וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל בָּמוֹת.

2.Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: “Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb, proclaiming and saying: ‘Woe to the created beings because of [their] affront to the Torah!’ For whoever does not occupy himself with Torah is called censured, as it is stated:9 ‘[Like] a golden ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.’

And it is further stated:10 ‘The Tablets were the work of G‑d, and the writing was the writing of G‑d, charut (engraved) on the Tablets.’ Do not read charut but cherut (freedom), for there is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah.

“And anyone who occupies himself with the study of Torah becomes elevated, as it is stated:11 ‘From Mattanah [the gift] to Nachaliel [the heritage of G‑d], and from Nachaliel to Bamos [high places].’”

Each and every day a Heavenly Voice goes forth from Mount Choreb — Our souls exist on several planes simultaneously. This Heavenly Voice reverberates, and is “heard” by our souls as they exist in the spiritual realms. And this causes our souls as they are enclothed within our bodies to be aroused to teshuvah.12

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 25)

Woe to the created beings because of [their] affront to the Torah! — One might think that a more effective way of motivating people to study Torah would be to emphasize the positive qualities it possesses. But this call is addressed to “created beings”13 — people who have no redeeming quality other than the fact that they are G‑d’s creations. Such people may be too crass and materially oriented to be able to appreciate the Torah’s positive virtues.

Nevertheless, all people possess a soul which is “an actual part of G‑d from above,”14 and thus share an inherent connection to the Torah. Hearing this stiff rebuke may stagger their crass tendencies and awaken their inner bond with the word of G‑d.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 123)

Whoever does not occupy himself with Torah — Again, the word עוסק is used. Based on the explanation given above, this teaching can be interpreted as applying not only to a person who does not study Torah at all, but to one who does not study with the all-encompassing commitment that a businessman brings to his commercial interests.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1228)

Do not read charut but cherut (freedom), for there is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah — Whenever our Sages offer an extended meaning for a word, they do not thereby nullify its simple interpretation.15 Instead, the two reinforce each other. The freedom generated by Torah study results from the fact that the letters of the Torah are engraved.

The difference between letters engraved onto stone and letters written with ink is that engraved letters are part and parcel of the substance onto which they are written. When the Torah is engraved within an individual’s personality, it makes a permanent impression on every dimension of his being. This liberates a person’s conduct, enabling him to express G‑dly truth in all aspects of his life.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5745)

The Torah is called service. Thus when G‑d promised Moshe that He would give the Jews the Torah, He said:16 “When you bring the people out of Egypt, you will serve G‑d on this mountain.” But unlike human bondage, this servitude gives expression to the inner G‑dly nature which every Jew possesses. Therefore it represents true freedom.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 75)

From Mattanah [the gift] to Nachaliel [the heritage of G‑d], and from Nachaliel to Bamos [high places] — The Torah’s ability to elevate a person to a higher and more refined plane of conduct (the “high places” mentioned in the verse) comes as a result of the concepts implied by the previous two locations.

The Torah is “the heritage of G‑d” — an eternal Truth that could not be conceived by man alone. This unlimited Truth — a “gift” freely granted to us by G‑d — enables us to rise above our individual nature and elevate our conduct.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Re’eh, 5740)

ג - הַלּוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ: פֶּרֶק אֶחָד, אוֹ הֲלָכָה אַחַת, אוֹ פָּסוּק אֶחָד, אוֹ דִבּוּר אֶחָד, אוֹ אֲפִילוּ אוֹת אַחַת, צָרִיךְ לִנְהָג בּוֹ כָּבוֹד, שֶׁכֵּן מָצִינוּ בְּדָוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁלֹּא לָמַד מֵאֲחִיתֹפֶל אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי דְבָרִים בִּלְבָד, קְרָאוֹ רַבּוֹ אַלּוּפוֹ וּמְיֻדָּעוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְאַתָּה אֱנוֹשׁ כְּעֶרְכִּי, אַלּוּפִי וּמְיֻדָּעִי. וַהֲלֹא דְבָרִים קַל וָחֹמֶר, וּמַה דָּוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁלֹּא לָמַד מֵאֲחִיתֹפֶל אֶלָּא שְׁנֵי דְבָרִים בִּלְבָד, קְרָאוֹ רַבּוֹ אַלּוּפוֹ וּמְיֻדָּעוֹ, הַלּוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ, פֶּרֶק אֶחָד, אוֹ הֲלָכָה אַחַת, אוֹ פָּסוּק אֶחָד, אוֹ דִבּוּר אֶחָד, אוֹ אֲפִילוּ אוֹת אֶחָת, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִנְהָג בּוֹ כָּבוֹד. וְאֵין כָּבוֹד, אֶלָּא תוֹרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כָּבוֹד חֲכָמִים יִנְחָלוּ, וּתְמִימִים יִנְחֲלוּ טוֹב. וְאֵין טוֹב אֶלָּא תוֹרָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם, תּוֹרָתִי אַל תַּעֲזֹבוּ.

3. He who learns from a colleague a single chapter, a single Torah law, a single verse, a single statement, or even a single letter, must show him honor.

For so we find concerning David, King of Israel, who learned from Achitophel only two things, yet he called him his teacher, his guide, his mentor, as it is stated:17 “You are a man equal to me; you are my guide and my mentor.”

Surely an obvious inference can be drawn: If David, King of Israel, who learned from Achitophel only two things, called him his teacher, his guide, his mentor, one who learns from his peer a single chapter, a single Torah law, a single verse, a single statement, or even a single letter, how much more ought he to treat him with honor!

And honor is due only for Torah, as it is stated:18 “The wise shall inherit honor,” [and it is stated]:19 “and the perfect shall inherit good.” And [true] good is only Torah, as it is stated:20 “I have given you a good teaching; do not forsake My Torah.”

He who learns from a colleague... must show him honor — Pirkei Avos21 has already taught us to cherish the honor of our colleague as our own. Our mishnah, however, is teaching us an additional point, for as will be explained, it refers to a colleague whose conduct is not above reproof.

When a person’s own conduct is flawed, it is natural that despite the natural justifications and rationalizations that stem from self-love, he would know his own failings and humbly look down at himself.

One may not view a colleague from whom one has learned Torah concepts in such a manner. Even when the other person’s conduct is unworthy, he should be honored for the sake of the teachings which he communicated.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5733)

David, King of Israel, who learned from Achitophel only two things — The Baal Shem Tov interpreted22 the phrase, “only two things,” as follows. Generally, when one studies Torah, every concept leads to others, for learning is a self-reinforcing cycle. When, however, one learns from a wicked person like Achitophel,23 the information gained remains inert. Therefore, Achitophel’s two teachings were solitary points of information; they did not have the potential to lead David to further knowledge.

One might ask: The ability of the Torah to bring about an ever-increasing flow of knowledge stems from its connection with G‑d, since “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.”24 Human conduct, no matter how base, cannot detract from the eternal truth and wisdom of G‑d’s word. Why then were Achitophel’s teachings not fruitful?

In resolution, it can be explained that the bond between G‑d and the Torah is not always apparent. It is therefore possible, heaven forbid, for a person to study and even teach Torah without regarding it as different from any other form of wisdom. When this happens, the growth potential within the Torah remains dormant. When, however, a person establishes a connection between the Torah and its G‑dly source,25 the infinite potential surfaces.

Achitophel, a wicked man, taught Torah in a self-contained manner. But David in his humility surrendered himself to the infinite dimension of G‑dliness within Achitophel's dry teachings. This enabled David to breathe life into all he studied, even the two concepts which he learned from Achitophel.

(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5739)

ד - כַּךְ הִיא דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, פַּת בְּמֶּלַח תֹּאכֵל, וּמַיִם בִּמְּשׂוּרָה תִּשְׁתֶּה, וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישָׁן, וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה, וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל, אִם אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה כֵּן, אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ, אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.

4. This is the way [to acquire] Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah. If you do this, “you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.”26 “You shall be happy” in this world; “and it shall be well with you” in the World to Come.

*Live a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah — Both poverty and wealth present challenges to divine service. The challenge of wealth, however, is more severe than the challenge of poverty.

The challenges presented by poverty are for the most part external; day-to-day life is simply more difficult, and it is harder to devote energy to divine service.

The challenges presented by wealth are largely internal. When a person is prosperous, there is a natural tendency for him to think, “My strength and the power of my hand achieved this bounty for me.”27 Such an approach runs in direct contradiction to the study of Torah. For the essence of our relationship with the Torah revolves around kabbalas ol — absolute acceptance of G‑d’s laws, even when they run contrary to one’s own thinking. Any material success we may enjoy should be regarded as a reward given by G‑d, and should not lead to pride.

Few of us today are beset by the challenges of extreme poverty. We do, however, confront the challenges of wealth. To overcome these challenges, we need self-control, and the reinforcement, humility and strength that one person can offer a friend.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, 643-644)

ה - אַל תְּבַקֵּשׁ גְּדֻלָּה לְעַצְמְךָ, וְאַל תַּחְמוֹד כָּבוֹד, יוֹתֵר מִלִּמּוּדֶךָ עֲשֵׂה, וְאַל תִּתְאַוֶּה לְשֻׁלְחָנָם שֶׁל מְלָכִים, שֶׁשֻּׁלְחָנְךָ, גָּדוֹל מִשֻּׁלְחָנָם, וְכִתְרְךָ, גָּדוֹל מִכִּתְרָם, וְנֶאֱמָן הוּא בַּעַל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם לְךָ שְׂכַר פְּעֻלָּתֶךָ.

5. Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not desire honor; let your deeds exceed your learning. Do not yearn for the table of kings, for your table is greater than theirs, and your crown is greater than theirs; and your Employer is trustworthy to pay you remuneration for your deeds.

Do not seek greatness for yourself — As reflected in the first teaching in this chapter and in many other sources, Torah study may bring a person greatness, honor, and position. He should nevertheless refrain from seeking these things. If he is fit for them, they will be granted from heaven.

With regard to honor, the beraisa teaches that we should not only avoid seeking it, it should hold no attraction for us at all, as the teaching continues Do not desire honor.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1240)

Your Employer is trustworthy to pay you remuneration for your deeds — A person might think that since he has personal flaws, his Torah study is of no value, as it is written:28 “To the wicked, G‑d said: ‘What right do you have to relate My statutes?’ ” In reassurance, the beraisa teaches that G‑d can be relied on to appreciate our positive efforts. Ultimately, every individual will turn to G‑d in teshuvah, and will receive reward for all his positive deeds.29


ו - גְּדוֹלָה תוֹרָה יוֹתֵר מִן הַכְּהֻנָּה וּמִן הַמַּלְכוּת, שֶׁהַמַּלְכוּת, נִקְנִית בִּשְׁלשִׁים מַעֲלוֹת, וְהַכְּהֻנָּה בְּעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע, וְהַתּוֹרָה נִקְנִית בְּאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמוֹנָה דְבָרִים. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: בְּתַלְמוּד, בִּשְׁמִיעַת הָאֹזֶן, בַּעֲרִיכַת שְׂפָתַיִם, בְּבִינַת הַלֵּב, בְּאֵימָה, בְּיִרְאָה, בַּעֲנָוָה, בְּשִׂמְחָה, בְּטָהֳרָה, בְּשִׁמּוּשׁ חֲכָמִים, בְּדִבּוּק חֲבֵרִים, בְּפִלְפּוּל הַתַּלְמִידִים, בְּיִשּׁוּב, בְּמִקְרָא, בְּמִשְׁנָה, בְּמִעוּט סְחוֹרָה, בְּמִעוּט דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, בְּמִעוּט תַּעֲנוּג, בְּמִעוּט שֵׁנָה, בְּמִעוּט שִׂיחָה, בְּמִעוּט שְׂחוֹק, בְּאֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, בְּלֶב טוֹב, בֶּאֱמוּנַת חֲכָמִים, בְּקַבָּלַת הַיִּסּוֹרִין, הַמַּכִּיר אֶת מְקוֹמוֹ, וְהַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, וְהָעוֹשֶׂה סְיָג לִדְבָרָיו, וְאֵינוֹ מַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְעַצְמוֹ, אָהוּב, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמָּקוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַצְּדָקוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמֵּישָׁרִים, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת, וּמִתְרַחֵק מִן הַכָּבוֹד. וְלֹא מֵגִיס לִבּוֹ בְּתַלְמוּדוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ שָׂמֵחַ בְּהוֹרָאָה, נוֹשֵׂא בְעוֹל עִם חֲבֵרוֹ, וּמַכְרִיעוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת, וּמַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הָאֱמֶת, וּמַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הַשָּׁלוֹם, וּמִתְיַשֵּׁב לִבּוֹ בְּתַלְמוּדוֹ, שׁוֹאֵל וּמֵשִׁיב, שׁוֹמֵעַ וּמוֹסִיף, הַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לְלַמֵּד, וְהַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לַעֲשׂוֹת, הַמַּחְכִּים אֶת רַבּוֹ, וְהַמְכַוֵּן אֶת שְׁמוּעָתוֹ, וְהָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ, הָא לָמַדְתָּ: כָּל הָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ, מֵבִיּא גְאֻלָּה לָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ בְּשֵׁם מָרְדְּכָי.

6. Torah is greater than priesthood or royalty. For royalty is acquired [together] with 30 tendencies, and the priesthood with 24, but for one to acquire Torah, he must have the following 48 tendencies:

1) study,
2) attentive listening,
3) verbal articulation,
4) an understanding heart,
5) dread and awe, 6) humility,
7) joy, 8) purity,
9) serving the sages,
10) close association with colleagues,
11) sharp discussion with students,
12) sobriety,
13) [knowledge of] Scripture [and of] Mishnah,
14) a minimum of business activity,
15) a minimum of preoccupation with worldly matters,
16) a minimum of indulgence in [worldly] pleasure,
17) a minimum of sleep,
18) a minimum of conversation,
19) a minimum of laughter,
20) patience, 21) a good heart,
22) faith in the sages,
23) acceptance of suffering,
24) knowing his place,
25) being happy with his lot,
26) making a fence around his words,
27) remains modest despite his achievements,
28) being loved [by others],
29) loving G‑d,
30) loving [His] created beings,
31) loving the ways of righteousness,
32) loving justice, 33) loving reproof,
34) keeping far from honor,
35) not being arrogant while studying,
36) not taking pleasure in handing down [halachic] decisions,
37) bearing the burden with his fellow,
38) judging him favorably [giving him the benefit of the doubt],
39) establishing him in [the path of] truth,
40) establishing him in [the way of] peace,
41) deliberating in his study,
42) asking and answering,
43) listening and adding [to his acquired knowledge],
44) learning in order to teach,
45) learning in order to practice,
46) increasing the wisdom of his teacher,
47) properly understanding the intent of what he learns, and
48) quoting a concept in the name of its author.

Indeed, we have learned: Whoever quotes a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to the world, as it is stated:30 “And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai.”

Torah is greater than priesthood or royalty — This beraisa is somewhat problematic. Generally, emphasizing the advantages that one quality possesses over another helps a person orient his priorities and seek the quality that offers the greatest advantage. But it is impossible for an ordinary person to acquire the qualities of priesthood or royalty.31 Why, then, is it necessary to emphasize that Torah study possesses superior virtues?

The intent, however, is that within the realm of Torah itself, there are qualities which represent priesthood (i.e., the ability to summon up one’s most refined potentials) and royalty (the capacity to exercise control over one’s deeds). Rather than seek these virtues, a person should study Torah for its own sake, Torah lishmah. One should devote himself to the Torah for the sole purpose of attaining knowledge.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5724)

Tendencies — The beraisa uses the word “tendencies” rather than “virtues” to emphasize that a person should not be concerned with his own virtue or achievements. Instead, he should humbly view the positive qualities he possesses merely as mediums enabling him to carry out G‑d’s will.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 367)

Close association with colleagues, sharp discussion with students — Appreciating another person’s perspective broadens and deepens one’s own. It follows that the more colleagues and students with whom one associates, the greater the positive influence on one’s growth.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 98)

Quoting a concept in the name of its author — We find that Torah sages frequently relate concepts which they have heard from others without mentioning the name of the author. To cite an obvious example: Our Sages comment32 that Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus never communicated a teaching unless he heard it from one of his masters. Nevertheless, we find many teachings from Rabbi Eliezer in which his sources are not mentioned.

Until a student is able to fully comprehend and internalize a teaching he received, he is required to quote it in the name of its author, for the concept still “belongs” to the teacher. Once he has grasped it completely, however, it is his own; he has acquired it by means of his comprehension, and it is now a product of his own thought.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1178; Sichos Yud-Alef Nissan, 5733; Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5739; Sefer HaMaamarim-Meluket, Vol. II, p. 207)

Whoever quotes a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to the world — Associating a concept with its author enables one to associate the Author of the ten utterances of creation with His statements, i.e., one is better able to appreciate how G‑d’s speech is the life-force for creation. This awareness helps one bring the world to a state of Redemption — when the G‑dly core of all existence will be openly revealed.

(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5738)

ז - גְּדוֹלָה תוֹרָה, שֶׁהִיא נוֹתֶנֶת חַיִּים לְעֹשֶׂיהָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וּבָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי חַיִּים הֵם לְמֹצְאֵיהֶם, וּלְכָל בְּשָׂרוֹ מַרְפֵּא. וְאוֹמֵר: רִפְאוּת תְּהִי לְשָׁרֶךָ, וְשִׁקּוּי לְעַצְמוֹתֶיךָ. וְאוֹמֵר: עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ, וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר. וְאוֹמֵר: כִּי לִוְיַת חֵן הֵם לְרֹאשֶׁךָ, וַעֲנָקִים לְגַרְגְּרֹתֶיךָ. וְאוֹמֵר: תִּתֵּן לְרֹאשְׁךָ לִוְיַת חֵן, עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת תְּמַגְּנֶךָּ. וְאוֹמֵר: כִּי בִי יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ, וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְךָ שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים. וְאוֹמֵר: אֹרֶךְ יָמִים בִּימִינָהּ בִּשְׂמֹאולָהּ עשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד. וְאוֹמֵר: כִּי אֹרֶךְ יָמִים וּשְׁנוֹת חַיִּים, וְשָׁלוֹם יוֹסִיפוּ לָךְ.

7. Great is the Torah, for it gives life to those who practice it, both in this world and in the World to Come, as it is stated:33 “For they [the teachings of the Torah] are life to the one who finds them, and a healing to all his flesh.” And it says:34 “It shall be a remedy to your body and marrow to your bones.” And it is stated:35 “It is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it, and those who support it are fortunate.”

And it [also] says:36 “They are a garland of grace for your head and a necklace for your neck;” and also:37 “It will give to your head a garland of grace; a crown of glory will it bestow on you;” and further:38 “Indeed, through me [the Torah] your days shall be increased, and years of life shall be added to you;” and again:39 “Long life is at its right, riches and honor at its left,” and also:40 “Length of days, years of life, and peace shall they add to you.”

Great is the Torah, for it gives life to those who practice it — “Those who practice it” refers to individuals who observe the mitzvos. By saying “great is the Torah,” the beraisa emphasizes that Torah study surpasses observance of the mitzvos.

And it explains why: “for it gives life.” It is possible that even a person who is fastidious in observing mitzvos will do so listlessly. Torah study inspires an understanding of the bond with G‑d that is established through the observance of mitzvos, and thus infuses one’s observance with energy and vitality.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5729)

Both in this world and in the World to Come — It is possible for a person to err, and think that since the Torah is spiritual truth, its influence would be too ethereal to affect our material world. Therefore the beraisa emphasizes that the Torah grants life in this world.

Conversely, the beraisa indicates that the Torah also grants life in the World to Come. This concept is seemingly obvious. One might ask: why must the beraisa mention it?

In resolution, it can be explained that the beraisa is based on the realization that the Torah imparts G‑d’s essence. One might think that the revelation of this infinite G‑dliness would transcend even the World to Come and a person who studied the Torah would be above that realm. The beraisa teaches that instead, the Torah will grant life to those who merit a portion in that realm, for in that era His infinity will permeate finite experience.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5741)

As it is stated — The beraisa quotes eight different prooftexts because the number eight is associated with the sefirah of binah, “understanding”; the eighth of the ten sefiros which structure the existence of the spiritual realms proceeding upward from the material to the infinite. Binah conveys the essential Divine power that permeates the entire chainlike progression of spiritual existence into the material realm. For on one hand, binah relates to the particular dimensions of a concept, thus recognizing the limitations of worldly existence. Nevertheless, the power of Atik (the spiritual realm in which G‑d’s Light is revealed without limitation or differentiation) is also expressed by binah.


ח - רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יְהוּדָה מִשּׁוּם רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי אוֹמֵר: הַנּוֹי, וְהַכֹּחַ, וְהָעֹשֶׁר, וְהַכָּבוֹד, וְהַחָכְמָה, וְהַזִּקְנָה, וְהַשֵּׂיבָה, וְהַבָּנִים, נָאֶה לַצַּדִּיקִים וְנָאֶה לָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת שֵׂיבָה, בְּדֶרֶך צְדָקָה תִּמָּצֵא. וְאוֹמֵר: תִּפְאֶרֶת בַּחוּרִים כֹּחָם, וַהֲדַר זְקֵנִים שֵׂיבָה. וְאוֹמֵר: עֲטֶרֶת זְקֵנִים בְּנֵי בָנִים, וְתִפְאֶרֶת בָּנִים אֲבוֹתָם. וְאוֹמֵר: וְחָפְרָה הַלְּבָנָה וּבוֹשָׁה הַחַמָּה, כִּי מָלַךְ י-י צְבָאוֹת בְּהַר צִיּוֹן וּבִירוּשָׁלַיִם, וְנֶגֶד זְקֵנָיו כָּבוֹד. רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן מְנַסְיָא אוֹמֵר: אֵלּוּ שֶׁבַע מִדּוֹת שֶׁמָּנוּ חֲכָמִים לַצַּדִּיקִים, כֻּלָּם נִתְקַיְּמוּ בְּרַבִּי וּבְבָנָיו.

8. Rabbi Shimon ben Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: “Beauty, strength, wealth, honor, wisdom, old age, the grace of white hair, and children are pleasing for the righteous and pleasing for the world, as it is stated:41 ‘The grace of white hair is a crown of glory; it is to be found in the path of righteousness;’ and it says:42 ‘The glory of young men is their strength, and the beauty of the elderly is the grace of white hair.’ And it [also] says:43 ‘Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children are their fathers;’ and also:44 ‘The moon shall be abashed and the sun put to shame when the L‑rd of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and honor shall be before His elders.’ ”

Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya said: “These seven qualities which the Sages enumerated [as pleasing for] the righteous were all realized in Rebbi [Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi] and in his sons.”

Beauty — Beauty serves as a virtue only with regard to a person’s relations with others; an attractive person influences others more easily. In a like manner, the other qualities mentioned affect primarily the interaction between a righteous man and his environment, and his efforts to sanctify G‑d’s name by living life in a manner which others will desire to emulate.45

Significantly, this teaching was authored by Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. Although “Torah study was his occupation,” and he sought no worldly calling, he recognized the importance of spreading appreciation of the Torah’s wisdom throughout the world.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5740)

Old age, the grace of white hair — In Hebrew, the termsזקנה, translated as “old age,” andשיבה, rendered as “the grace of white hair,” are not synonymous.זקנהis associated with the Hebrew words זה שקנה חכמה, which mean “he who acquired wisdom.”46 This refers to knowledge gained from texts and teachers. שיבה refers to the serene, tranquil perspective granted only by the many experiences undergone in a long life.


Children — In an extended sense, the term “children” refers to one’s students47 — in many ways the ultimate influence on one’s environment. For through students (who themselves become teachers), the truths one shares become ingrained both in the present and in the future.


These seven qualities... were all realized — Certain of these qualities are contradictory in nature: e.g., physical strength and wisdom, for “the Torah drains a person’s strength,”48 or wisdom and wealth, as it is written,49 “The wise will not have bread.”

Nevertheless, these qualities all stem from the influence of the Torah, and the Torah is one with G‑d. Since in His infinity He is capable of combining opposites, it is possible for these contrasting thrusts to be realized in a single righteous individual.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5728)

Alternatively, it can be explained that these qualities present challenges to a person in his divine service. For example, beauty can stir a person’s bodily appetites.50 Wealth also presents obstacles, as reflected by the verse,51 “Do not grant me position or wealth.” And with regard to honor, our Sages taught:52 “Envy, lust and honor drive a person from this world.”

But despite the challenges, these qualities are granted to righteous men, and a righteous man may not forego them. For they are “pleasing to the world,” facilitating the spread of goodness.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, 5735)

In Rebbi [Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi] and in his sons — One might think that these qualities could only be manifest in a person of exalted standing. Therefore the beraisa:

a) mentions Rebbi only as an example. Surely, there were righteous men before Rebbi who possessed these virtues. By mentioning Rebbi, the beraisa (which was compiled in his era), emphasizes that the manifestation of these traits could be realized in any — and every — generation.

b) mentions also Rebbi’s sons, to include individuals who had not reached his level.

Moreover, the mention of Rebbe’s sons also highlights how the teachings of the beraisa can relate to individuals in later generations. For, as mentioned above, one’s students are also referred to as one’s children. By studying Rebbi’s work — the Mishnah which he compiled — each of us can become one of Rebbi’s “children,” and acquire the virtues mentioned in this teaching.

(Ibid., Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim, 5738)

ט - אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בֶּן קִסְמָא: פַּעַם אֶחָת הָיִיתִי מְהַלֵּךְ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וּפָגַע בִּי אָדָם אֶחָד. וְנָתַן לִי שָׁלוֹם, וְהֶחֱזַרְתִּי לוֹ שָׁלוֹם, אָמַר לִי רַבִּי, מֵאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם אָתָּה, אָמַרְתִּי לוֹ מֵעִיר גְּדוֹלָה שֶׁל חֲכָמִים וְשֶׁל סוֹפְרִים אָנִי, אָמַר לִי: רַבִּי, רְצוֹנְךָ שֶׁתָּדוּר עִמָּנוּ בִּמְקוֹמֵנוּ, וַאֲנִי אֶתֵּן לָךְ אֶלֶף אֲלָפִים דִּנְרֵי זָהָב וַאֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּוֹת, אָמַרְתִּי לוֹ: אִם אַתָּה נוֹתֵן לִי כָּל כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב וַאֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּוֹת שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם, אֵינִי דָר אֶלָּא בִּמְקוֹם תּוֹרָה, וְכֵן כָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר תְּהִלִּים עַל יְדֵי דָוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל: טוֹב לִי תוֹרַת פִּיךָ, מֵאַלְפֵי זָהָב וָכָסֶף. וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא שֶׁבִּשְׁעַת פְּטִירָתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם, אֵין מְלַוִּין לוֹ לְאָדָם לֹא כֶסֶף וְלֹא זָהָב וְלֹא אֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּוֹת, אֶלָּא תּוֹרָה וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים בִּלְבָד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ תַּנְחֶה אֹתָךְ, בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ תִּשְׁמֹר עָלֶיךָ, וַהֲקִיצוֹתָ הִיא תְשִׂיחֶךָ. בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ תַּנְחֶה אֹתָךְ, בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ תִּשְׁמֹר עָלֶיךָ, בַּקָּבֶר. וַהֲקִיצוֹתָ הִיא תְשִׂיחֶךָ, לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְאוֹמֵר: לִי הַכֶּסֶף וְלִי הַזָהָב נְאֻם י-י צְבָאוֹת.

9. Rabbi Yosse ben Kisma said: “Once I was walking on the road when a certain man met me. He greeted me, ‘Shalom,’ and I returned his greeting, ‘Shalom.’

“He said to me, ‘Rabbi, from what place are you?’

“I said to him, ‘I am from a great city of scholars and sages.’

“He said to me, ‘Rabbi, if you would be willing to live with us in our place, I would give you a million golden dinars, precious stones and pearls.’

“I replied, ‘Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold, precious stones, and pearls in the world, I would dwell nowhere but in a place of Torah.’”

And so it is written in the Book of Tehillim by David, King of Israel:53 “The Torah of Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of gold and silver [pieces].” Furthermore, at a time of a man’s passing from this world, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany him, but only Torah [knowledge] and good deeds, as it is stated:54 “When you walk, it [the Torah] shall guide you; when you lie down, it shall watch over you; and when you awake, it shall speak for you.”

[This can be interpreted:] “When you walk, it shall guide you” in this world; “when you lie down, it shall watch over you” in the grave; “and when you awake, it shall speak for you” in the World to Come.

And it [also] says:55 “Mine is the silver, and Mine is the gold, says the L‑rd of hosts.”

Once I was walking on the road when a certain man met me — The Hebrew word used for “met,” פגע, also means “harmed.” The entire encounter was harmful for Rabbi Yosse. As reflected by his answer, Rabbi Yosse’s divine service centered on utter devotion to the study of Torah. Involvement with any other matter, even temporarily, would obstruct this thrust. For this reason,...

He greeted me, “Shalom,” and I returned his greeting, “Shalom” — Although it is proper for a person to be the first to greet another,56 Rabbi Yosse attempted to shy away from this encounter by not offering a greeting. He realized that this person would interfere with his concentration on Torah, and therefore tried to avoid him. Only after the other person greeted him did he return the salutation.

Alternatively, it can be explained that Rabbi Yosse was absorbed in reviewing his Torah studies, and did not at first notice the presence of the other person. It was precisely this intense concentration which aroused the interest of the stranger, for it showed that Rabbi Yosse was a sage of sufficient caliber to lift the quality of Torah life in the stranger’s community.

For this reason, he invited Rabbi Yosse to serve in his town, and promised him...

A million golden dinars, precious stones and pearls — The offer was made so that Rabbi Yosse would not have to worry about his livelihood, and would be able to devote his attention entirely to elevating the spiritual level of the community. Alternatively, this wealth would enable Rabbi Yosse to give tzedakah generously.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Yosse refused the offer, replying...

Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold, precious stones and pearls in the world — Even if his circumstances allowed him to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah in the most complete way possible, and thus reach the pinnacle in the service of refining the world, Rabbi Yosse replied...

I would dwell nowhere but in a place of Torah — The wording he chose — “Even if you were to give me,” and “I would dwell” — implies that the offer was not in itself improper, and might have been suitable for another individual. This approach to divine service was, however, inappropriate for Rabbi Yosse, for his efforts were to be directed solely to Torah study.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, 5734; Parshas Pinchas, 5741)

י - חֲמִשָּׁה קִנְיָנִים קָנָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּעוֹלָמוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: תּוֹרָה, קִנְיָן אֶחָד. שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ, קִנְיָן אֶחָד. אַבְרָהָם קִנְיָן אֶחָד. יִשְׂרָאֵל קִנְיָן אֶחָד. בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, קִנְיָן אֶחָד. תּוֹרָה מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב: י-י קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ, קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז. שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב: כֹּה אָמַר י-י הַשָּׁמַיִם כִּסְאִי וְהָאָרֶץ הֲדֹם רַגְלָי, אֵי זֶה בַיִת אֲשֶׁר תִּבְנוּ לִי וְאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם מְנוּחָתִי, וְאוֹמֵר: מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ י-י, כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ, מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ. אַבְרָהָם מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב: וַיְבָרֲכֵהוּ וַיֹּאמַר: בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵ-ל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ. יִשְׂרָאֵל מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב: עַד יַעֲבֹר עַמְּךָ י-י, עַד יַעֲבֹר עַם זוּ קָנִיתָ. וְאוֹמֵר: לִקְדוֹשִׁים אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ הֵמָּה, וְאַדִּירֵי כָּל חֶפְצִי בָם. בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, מִנַּיִן, דִּכְתִיב: מָכוֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ פָּעַלְתָּ י-י, מִקְּדָשׁ אֲדֹנָי כּוֹנְנוּ יָדֶיךָ. וְאוֹמֵר: וַיְבִיאֵם אֶל גְּבוּל קָדְשׁוֹ, הַר זֶה קָנְתָה יְמִינוֹ.

10. Five possessions did the Holy One, blessed be He, make His very own in His world. The Torah is one possession; heaven and earth are one possession; Avraham is one possession; the nation Israel is one possession; the Beis HaMikdash is one possession.

From where do we know this concerning the Torah? Since it is written: “The L‑rd made me [the Torah] His possession prior to Creation, before His works in time of yore.”57

From where do we know this concerning heaven and earth? Since it is written:58 “Thus says the L‑rd: ‘The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; what house [then] can you build for Me and where is the place of My rest?’” And it [also] says:59 “How manifold are Your works, O L‑rd! You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is full of Your possessions.”

From where do we know this concerning Avraham? Since it is written:60 “And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Avraham by G‑d Most High, possessor of heaven and earth.’”

From where do we know this concerning the people Israel? Since it is written:61 “Until Your people pass over, O L‑rd, until this people You have acquired pass over,” and it [also] says:62 “To the holy people who are in the land, and the noble ones in them, is all My desire.”

From where do we know this concerning the Beis HaMikdash? Since it is written:63 “The place which You, O L‑rd, have made for Your abode; the Sanctuary which Your hands, O L‑rd, have established,” and it [also] says:64 “And He brought them to the place of His holiness, the mountain which His right hand has acquired.”

Five — The framework of spiritual existence consists of four different realms. These are limited frameworks of existence which do not reveal G‑d entirely. The number five points to an even higher domain, where infinite G‑dly light is revealed without definition.65 G‑d desired to make all these realms...

His very own — to draw down His essential light within them, revealing how all existence is...

His world — at one with Him. This concept is also indicated by the expression...

is one possession — which is used in all five instances, i.e., all these five entities express G‑d’s oneness.

Although all five entities mentioned by the beraisa express G‑d’s oneness, in this context the Torah is the most fundamental. (And therefore this beraisa is included in the chapter which focuses on the greatness of Torah.) For the Torah is the medium which, though totally at one with G‑d, extends itself into material reality, making it possible that this world can become a dwelling for Him.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Re’eh, 5737)

Five possessions did the Holy One, blessed be He, make His very own — The Hebrew word קנין, translated as “possession” also implies the means of acquisition through which an entity is transferred from one person’s ownership to another’s. The five things mentioned are all mediums which enable G‑d’s ownership of all existence to become openly manifest. This concept is also emphasized by the expression “in His world,” which highlights the ultimate intent — that it become clear that our world is His world, united with Him. This intent is also reflected in the expression used with regard to each of these five possessions — “one possession” — indicating that the purpose of each is to express G‑d’s oneness throughout the world.


Since it is written: “Until Your people pass over, O L‑rd, until this people You acquired pass over;” and it [also] says: “To the holy people who are in the land, and the noble ones in them, is all My delight” — The beraisa mentions two prooftexts with regard to the Jewish people. The first explicitly states that the Jews have been acquired by G‑d, but describes the Jews when they lived in the desert and were being cared for overtly by G‑d’s miraculous providence.

Since, as explained above, the purpose of the beraisa is to highlight how each of these possessions establishes oneness in the world at large, a second prooftext is necessary. The latter verse, although it does not emphasize G‑d’s ownership of the Jews as clearly, describes them as they function “in the land” — within the natural order of day-to-day existence.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5737)

יא - כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּעוֹלָמוֹ, לֹא בְרָאוֹ אֶלָּא לִכְבוֹדוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כֹּל הַנִּקְרָא בִשְׁמִי וְלִכְבוֹדִי, בְּרָאתִיו יְצַרְתִּיו אַף עֲשִׂיתִיו. וְאוֹמֵר: י-י יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד:

11. All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory, as it is stated:66 “All that is called by My Name — indeed, it is for My glory that I have created it, formed it, and made it;” and it says:67 “The L‑rd shall reign forever and ever.”

All... created in His world — G‑dliness is seldom openly revealed in our world. Nevertheless, this lack of manifestation does not change the reality. Everything, even those entities which appear totally secular in nature...

He created solely for His glory — Moreover, to express G‑dliness is not merely one of the purposes served by these entities; it is the sole reason for their existence.

Therefore a person should not shy away from worldly involvement. On the contrary, in whatever he does and wherever he finds himself, he should seek to find a means of honoring G‑d. For example, new developments in technology and communications need not be ignored, or used only for commercial enterprise. The real purpose of their existence is that they be employed to express G‑d’s honor.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim, 5728; Parshas Balak, 5741)

“All that is called by My Name... I have created it, formed it, and made it” — This prooftext alludes to the four spiritual worlds: Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. “All that is called by My Name” refers to the world of Atzilus, for this is the realm of oneness, appropriately called by G‑d’s name. The phrases “I have created it, formed it, and made it” refer to the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah as reflected by the Hebrew terms (בראתיו, יצרתיו, עשיתיו).

All existence, both spiritual and material, shares the same purpose: to express G‑d’s praise.

This teaching serves as an appropriate conclusion for Pirkei Avos — a work intended to teach mili dechassidusa —pious conduct beyond the measure of the law. When a person realizes that everything in this world and, as alluded to in the prooftext, also in the spiritual worlds, exists only to express G‑d’s praise, he will be more motivated to accept his role in this undertaking, and reflect G‑d’s honor through his pious conduct.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim, 5728)

“The L‑rd shall reign forever and ever” — This phrase refers to the Era of the Redemption. This is the ultimate goal of our pious conduct, to usher in the era in which G‑d’s glory will be revealed in the most consummate manner.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 5744)

See the Publisher’s Foreword, which explains that this chapter is an addition, appended to the original tractate of Avos which is only five chapters.
Mishlei 8:14.
See Megillah 19b; Yerushalmi, Pe’ah 1:4; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 252 notes 20-21.
Pirkei Avos 1:1.
Sefer HaMaamarim-Kuntreisim, Vol. I, p. 516.
See Bayis Chadash, Orach Chayim, sec. 47.
See the gloss of the Midrash Shmuel.
Sefer HaMaamarim 5657, p. 223ff.
Mishlei 11:22.
Shmos 82:16.
Bamidbar 21:19. The Beraisa is offering a homiletic interpretation of the Hebrew names of these places.
See Likkutei Torah, Seitze 36d; Ha’azinu 71d.
See the notes to ch. 1, mishnah 12.
Tanya, ch. 2.
See Halichos Eli, sec. 3.
Shmos 3:12.
Tehillim 55:14.
Mishlei 3:35.
Ibid., 28:10.
Ibid., 4:2.
Above 2:10.
Kesser Shem Tov, sec. 22.
Sanhedrin 106b.
Tanya, ch. 4 and beginning of ch. 23, in the name of the Zohar; see Zohar II, 60a; Likkutei Torah, Nitzavim 46a.
Raya Mehemna, Zohar III, 222b; Likkutei Torah, Shelach 47c, 51a.
Tehillim 128:2.
Devarim 8:17.
Tehillim 50:16.
Tanya, end of ch. 39; Hilchos Talmud Torah, of the Alter Rebbe 4:3.
Esther 2:22.
For the priesthood was conveyed only to the descendants of Aharon, and royalty only to the descendants of David (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:1).
Sukkah 27b.
Mishlei 4:22.
Ibid. 3:8.
Ibid. 3:18.
Ibid. 1:9.
Ibid. 4:9.
Ibid. 9:11.
Ibid. 3:16
Ibid. 3:2.
Ibid. 16:31.
Ibid. 20:29.
Ibid. 17:6.
Yeshayahu 24:23.
See Yoma 86a, Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, the conclusion of chapter 5.
Kiddushin 32b.
Sifri (and Rashi) on Devarim 6:7.
Sanhedrin 26b.
Koheles 9:11.
See Nedarim 9b.
Mishlei 30:8.
Pirkei Avos 4:21.
Tehillim 119:72.
Mishlei 6:22. V. Rashi, loc. cit.
Chaggai 2:8.
Pirkei Avos 4:15; Berachos 17a.
Mishlei 8:22.
Yeshayahu 66:1.
Tehillim 104:24.
Bereishis 14:19.
Shmos 15:126.
Tehillim 16:3.
Shmos 15:17.
Tehillim 78:54.
See Or HaTorah, Bamidbar, p. 210. [In other sources, the number five is understood as referring to a level which exists in complete connection to G‑d’s essence.]
Yeshayahu 43:7.
Shmos 15:l8.
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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.