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רַבִּי חֲנַנְיָה בֶּן עֲקַשְׁיָא אוֹמֵר, רָצָה הַקָּדוֹש בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְזַכּוֹת אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְפִיכָךְ הִרְבָּה לָהֶם תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: י-י חָפֵץ לְמַעַן צִדְקוֹ יַגְדִּיל תּוֹרָה וְיַאְדִּיר:

Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya said:1 “The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundant measure, as it is written:2 ‘The L‑rd desired, for the sake of his [Israel’s] righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious.’”

To make the people of Israel meritorious— לזכות, translated as “to make meritorious,” also means “to refine.” The goal of the Torah and its mitzvos is to refine the Jewish people. This intention is manifest in Pirkei Avos, which teaches us to lift our ethical conduct above the limits of human wisdom and cultivate it according to G‑d’s desire.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 416)

Footnotes
1.
Makkos 23b.
2.
Yeshayahu 42:21.
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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.