Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Foreword to Vedibarta Bam - Pirkei Avot

Foreword to Vedibarta Bam - Pirkei Avot

 Email

Much has already been written about the reason for the name Avot. Nevertheless, I take this opportunity to add the following. “Avot” means “fathers,” or better said, “parents.” For a father to become a father, or for parents to become parents, they must first be blessed with a child. With the arrival of the child into the world comes the obligation to rear him or her. This includes assuring the physical and spiritual wellbeing of the child and the instilling of proper morals and values. The latter was conveyed to us in the Torah and expounded by our Sages, particularly in Pirkei Avot.

The tractate begins by relating that Moshe received the Torah on Sinai, and it continues by describing how it was conveyed from generation to generation up to around the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash. What happened afterwards we are not told. However the answer to this query is in the name “Avot.” To this very day it is continuously passed down by the avot — parents — to their children.

The name “Avot” not only offers an answer, but also serves as a reminder. When one holds the tractate in his hand, it, so to speak, says to him, “Remember your obligation as a parent, hand down the Torah to your children just as youravot — parents — did for you when you were a child.”

Thanks to the advancement of technology, our generation has been blessed with an abundance of new sefarim and there is hardly a need for another sefer to fill the already overcrowded shelves. However, as already mentioned in other volumes of Vedibarta Bam, these sefarim are published for personal reasons. Thank G‑d, we were blessed with children and grandchildren who in turn made us avot, and as mentioned above, it is our obligation to pass along Torah and Jewish values to them.

In keeping with the theme of avot — parents — an endeavor has been made to also incorporate in this volume Torah thoughts from my avot, namely my grandfather, Harav Tzvi HaKohen ז"ל Kaplan, and my father, Harav Shmuel Pesach ז"ל Bogomilsky. Included also are some thoughts from other family members as well as some personal innovations. Torah is the language which unites Jewish generations, and we pray that it also will link our family, past and present, together.

Unfortunately, I was very young when my father expired while delivering a derashah on Shabbat in the shul where he served as Rav. I managed to find his Torah thoughts among his writings which were preserved by my mother ע"ה and given to me and my brother, Rabbi Shmuel Pesach שי' Bogomilsky. They were written in a small script more than sixty years ago on various European style notebooks, pads and scraps of paper. Fortunately, I was able to decipher the writings and find the gems presented in this volume. From his chaveirim who learned together with him in the Torah citadels of Grodna, Kamenitz, and Mir, I was privileged to hear of his genius in Torah. Also the letters of ordination in our possession, from the pre-world war Lithuanian Torah giants, attest to his vast Torah knowledge. Hopefully, some day we will have the opportunity to also publish his chiddushei Torah — dissertations on Talmudic subjects.

The Torah thoughts from my grandfather are taken from his notes and also from divrei Torah I remember hearing from him personally. He, too, was an outstanding Torah scholar. From his twenty-seven years as a Rebbe in Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, he has many talmidim who till this day talk of him with high esteem.

The Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a) says, “He who wants to be a Chassid should observe the laws of nezikin — damages.” Rava says that he should follow the teachings of Avot, and others say that he should be observant in the laws of berachot.

It may be said that “berachot” — recognizing the supremacy of Hashem and thanking Him for everything — is an allusion to the relationship between man and Hashem (bein adam laMakom). Being careful not to hurt or injure a fellow man, “nezikin,” represents inter-human relationships (bein adam lachaveiro). To be exemplary, one must conduct himself within these two realms, in accordance with the guidelines and teachings conveyed by “avot” — our ancestors.

It is our fervent wish that our offspring will carefully follow the message of Avot and excel in their relationship with Hashem and their fellow man. Thus, they will be a source of Yiddish and Chassidish nachas to us — their avot.

* * *

It was decided to also call this work on Pirkei Avot with the name Vedibarta Bam. As already explained, in Vedibarta Bam on Bereishit, in Hebrew the word “bam” is spelled with a beit and a mem,” and these are the first initials of my name and my wife’s name — Bracha and Moshe.

The mother is the akeret habayit — foundation of the home. Thus, she spends more time with the children than the father and plays a greater role in instilling values and derech eretz — ethical behavior — in them. Since the purpose of this work is to foster that which we strived to inculcate our children with, and her role was greater than mine, it is only justified that her name be mentioned first.


About The Sefer

There are many commentaries, and collections of commentaries, on Pirkei Avot. The uniqueness of this sefer is the presentation of thoughts in a question-answer format. From my educational experience as a Rosh Yeshivah and principal at the United Lubavitcher Yeshivoth for more than three decades, and a teacher of Pirkei Avot as Rav of Congregation Yeshivah of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. I learned that a thought is better understood and appreciated when it is presented in the form of a question and answer. The question challenges the intellect of the listener and focuses his attention on the thought, which is afterwards delivered as an answer and clarification. This style has been well received and complimented.

With slight variation, all texts of Pirkei Avot are alike. We followed the wording and set up of mishnayot as in the Nusach Ari Siddur of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Vedibarta Bam has become a handbook for many rabbis, teachers, students, and lay people. Many requests have been received to add more stories, anecdotes, and homiletic material. This is especially appropriate in Pirkei Avot, which is taught extensively in many settings to people of all ages, particularly between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah.

I once heard Rabbi Rafael ז"ל Stein, the Baranavitcher Maggid, interpret the words of the Mishnah “Lo hadmidrash ikar ela hama’aseh” (1:17) to mean the main thing is not the derashah — sermon — but the ma’aseh — story. It is the story that makes the speech memorable and enjoyable, and, therefore, wherever possible we added astory. Hopefully it will be a help to the speaker and a delight to the listener.


Acknowledgments

One of the teachings of Yehoshua ben Perachyah is, “Kenei lecha chaveir” — “Acquire a friend for yourself” (Pirkei Avot 1:6). As usual, throughout Avot, commentaries offer many explanations. Here, too, there are different opinions as to what he means by the term “friend,” how one should go about acquiring a friend, and the benefits of having one.

A novel interpretation is that the word “kenei” refers to writing instruments — quills — similar to the expression, “Kenei kol chorshata” — “[Even if] all the trees were quills” — in the Akdamot, the hymn which is recited in many communities on Shavu’ot (Siddur Arizal — R. Shabti of Rashkuv). Just as studying together with a colleague enhances one’s comprehension, likewise, putting Torah thoughts into writing is very advantageous, since in order to do so the writer must have the subject matter clear in his mind.

Using this interpretation of “kenei,” perhaps the Mishnah is also alluding that through a pen — writing — one acquires for oneself a chaveir. From my personal experience, I can attest that through writing the volumes of Vedibarta Bam on Torah, I have, thank G‑d, acquired many new friends. Some I have gotten to know personally, others through correspondence, and others through regards conveyed by mutual acquaintances.

A dear friend acquired through my writings is Arthur Luxenberg. In addition to extending his generosity to publish the works, he presented me with the challenge to write this volume on Pirkei Avot in honor of his father’s seventieth birthday, “biz 120.” His friendship is very much appreciated, and I pray that it go from strength to strength.

May he be blessed with much success in all his endeavors for the furtherance of Torah and Yiddishkeit, and together with his wife enjoy an abundance of good health, happiness, and nachas.

* * *

If my daughter Yehudis Leiter had not dedicated her typing skills to this book, it could never have gotten off the ground. Her devotion to the dissemination of Torah andkibud av are beyond description. May Hashem bless her, together with our son-in-law Shimon, with good health, parnasah beharchavah, and muchYiddish and Chassidish nachas from their children, our lovely grandchildren.

I am very grateful to my good friend Rabbi Yonah Avtzon of Sichot in English for all his assistance in the publication and dissemination of my sefarim. Particularly I am indebted to him for making available his edition of In the Paths of our Fathers — Insights into Pirkei Avot adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It was written beautifully by the prolific writer and talmid chacham Rabbi Eliyahu Touger. It is a masterful piece of work which gives a glimpse at the Rebbe’s greatness and his innovative, unique interpretations. Basically, except for some modifications, the English text of Pirkei Avot in this volume is from his translation, and a few of his ideas in translating the Rebbe’s thoughts were adopted.

An essential part of Rabbi Avtzon’s success is my dear friend Yosef Yitzchok Turner. His patience and skill in layout and typography is what makes this sefer aesthetically attractive. May the two of them have much success in their goal of spreading the teachings of the Rebbe to the English speaking Jewish communities throughout the world, and may they be blessed with all the best materially and spiritually.

Last but not least, is my editor, Dr. Binyomin Kaplan of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has worked with me on all my sefarim, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future, please G‑d. He painstakingly went through every line, and in addition, his knowledge of Torah subjects and keen comments were a valuable asset which enhanced this work immensely. May he and his wife be blessed with the fulfillment of their heart’s desires.

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky

Yud Shevat, 5760


Note on Transliteration and Format

Transliteration generally employs the Sephardi accent, with the following usages:

1. Words with a final hei are spelled with a final “h.”

2. “Ei” (the vowel-sound in “freight”) is used for a tzere.

3. “Ai” is used for the vowel-sound in the word “tide.”

4. An apostrophe is used between distinct consecutive vowels, as in “Ba’al.”

5. An “e” is used for a vocalized sheva, i.e. “bemeizid,” not “b’meizid.”

6. “F” is preferred to “ph.”

7. “O” is used for cholem.

8. Doubling of consonants is generally avoided.

Use of Italics:

Transliterated Hebrew words are generally given in italics without capitalization, except for proper nouns, which are capitalized and, in the case of names, not italicized. Some exceptions are made for very familiar Hebrew words, such as “Torah.”

English and Hebrew:

Names of Biblical persons and names of the books of the Pentateuch are given in Hebrew, but other books of Tanach are given in English; thus “Moshe” is preferred to “Moses,” “Bereishit” to “Genesis,” and “Proverbs” to Mishlei.” Generally English words are preferred to Hebrew ones, but often the content requires the use of the Hebrew.

Exceptions:

Exceptions to these rules most often involve forms already familiar to the English reader, forms that would otherwise be awkward, and ones likely to be mispronounced.

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining