It is customary to recite one chapter of Pirkei Avot [in sequence] on each Shabbat between Pesach and Shavuot at Minchah time. One is to say the Mishnah כל ישראל (All Israel…) before each chapter and the Mishnah “Rabbi Chananya” after each chapter. Some continue to recite one chapter of Pirkei Avot on each Shabbat throughout the summer.

"כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעלם הבא"
All Israel have a share in the World to Come...”

QUESTION: Why was this Mishnah of Gemara Sanhedrin selected as an introduction to Pirkei Avot?

ANSWER: Pirkei Avot encourages man to live morally and ethically, emphasizing the principle that “derech eretz kadmah leTorah “ — “Proper behavior precedes Torah study” (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3).

The reward for a Torah-observant life is Olam Haba theWorld to Come — but one might impertinently wonder if there is unlimited room in heaven. Perhaps wide-spread observance would lead to celestial overcrowding. Therefore, we introduce Pirkei Avot with the information that Hashem has provided every Jew with accommodations in the next world. Secure in the knowledge that Hashem is in no danger of becoming an overburdened host, the individual Jew need only concern himself with securing his own place.

(ישמח משה)

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The word “kol” (כל) is an abbreviation for Kohen (כהן) and Levi (לוי).Thus, the Mishnah says kol YisraelKohen, Levi and Yisrael” — i.e. all Jews regardless of their status — have a share in the World to Come.

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The numerical value of the last letters of the words “Kol Yisrael yeish lahem cheilek le’Olam Haba” — “All Israel have a share in the World to Come” (כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא) is five hundred and forty-one, which is also the numerical value the word “Yisrael” (ישראל).

Thus, these words indicate that every Jew, till the last one, has a share in the World to Come.


"כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא"
“All Israel have a share in the World to Come.”

QUESTION: What is “Olam Haba” — “the World to Come”?

ANSWER: Very briefly, there is a difference of opinion about this between the Ramban (Nachmanodies) and the Rambam (Maimonidies). According to the Ramban (Torat Ha’adamSha’ar Hagemul) it refers to the period of techiyat hameitim — Resurrection of the dead — when the souls and bodies will be reunited. According to the Rambam (Teshuvah 8:1-2 and Pirush Hamishnayot, Sanhedrin 10:1) it is the period of the afterlife — the spiritual realm of souls (Gan Eden).

This Mishnah, however, is referring to the Era of Resurrection. This Mishnah is part of a larger Mishnah in Sanhedrin (10:1) which enumerates among those who will not have Olam Haba the one who says, “There is no reference to the Resurrection of the dead in the Torah.” The Gemara (ibid. 90a) explains that Hashem’s punishments are “measure for measure,” and since the person denied the Resurrection, he loses Olam Haba. Thus, it is obvious that in the context of this Mishnah, Olam Haba is not the afterlife, but the period of the Resurrection.

One’s position in the afterlife (Gan Eden) is a direct result of his conduct in this world; one who has not refined himself will not be found worthy of a portion there. In contrast, although the revelations of the Era of the Resurrection will be vastly superior to those of the afterlife, every Jew will receive a portion.

(ר"ע מברטנורה, סנהדרין — מדרש שמואל, ועי' ביאורים לפרקי אבות ותשובות ע' 391 — כ"ק אדמו"ר)

"חלק לעולם הבא"
“A share in the World to Come.”

QUESTION: It was taught by Eliyahu, “Whoever studies Torah laws every day is assured that he is a ben Olam Haba — a son of the World to Come” (Megillah 25b). Why here doesn’t it say, “All Israel are beneiOlam Habasons of the World to Come”?

ANSWER: Years ago, when a wedding was made in a small village or city, all the residents of the area would attend. The participants were divided into three categories: the family of the celebrants, guests, and the poor of the city who were supported by tzedakah.

All were indeed present at the wedding and participated in the simchah; however, one could easily notice the differences among those present. The family members sat up front, wore new clothing, and danced happily the entire night. The friends sat in the middle of the hall and danced much less than the family members, and in the corner of the room there was a special table at which the poor people would sit.

The same is with Olam Haba. All of Israel have a share. They will all be there, but some will sit in a corner like the poor at a wedding, and others will be there as b’nei Olam Haba and enjoy it like immediate members of the family at a wedding. It all depends on how well they prepared themselves for the simchah.

(עי' לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם עולת חודש, ביאורים לפרקי אבות)

"יש להם חלק לעולם הבא"
“Have a share in the World to Come.”

QUESTION: The word “cheilek” — “share” — is superfluous. It could have said “All Israel have Olam Haba”?

ANSWER: The word “cheilek” is from the word “chelkah” — “a field” or “plot.” Some may own a piece of land and leave it uncultivated, while others develop it and plant fruit and vegetables. Others are more entrepreneurialy inclined and build a house on it, and some build a palace or a skyscraper.

Indeed every Jew has a “cheilek” — “share” — but it is like a piece of uncultivated land, and it is up to the individual to develop it. What he does with his share and what it will look like when he comes to claim it are totally dependent on his deeds in this world.

Pirkei Avot teaches a person how to make the best of his share.

(מעינם של אבות, ליקוט ע"י ר' מרדכי ויס, א"י תשל"ב)

"כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא שנאמר ועמך כולם צדיקים"
“All Israel have a share in the World to Come as it is stated: ‘And your people all are righteous’.”

QUESTION: 1) Instead of “kol Yisrael” — “All Israel” — it should have said, “Lechol echad meYisrael” — “To everyone of Israel”? 2) How could it be that all are righteous?

ANSWER: When Balak was attempting to have Bilaam curse the Jewish people, he said to him, “Go now with me to a different place from which you will see them; however, you will see their edge but not see all of them” (Bamidbar 23:13).

Balak was interested in the destruction of the entire people of Israel. Why did he ask Bilaam to curse them from a place where he could only see some of them?

Bilaam’s attempts to curse the Jewish people were to no avail, and his debut turned out to be a colossal failure. Balak said to Bilaam, “Possibly your difficulty is that you look at the Jewish people as one entity. When you judge them as a whole, you see their collective splendor. Blind your eyes to their general excellence and concentrate only on certain aspects, and hopefully you will be able to find faults in individuals.”

Indeed there are various levels among Jews. While the behavior of many is commendable, there are some whose behavior is sinful and deserving of condemnation. Nevertheless, K’lal Yisrael — the Jewish people as a whole — are a righteous and beautiful people, and as a unit they have a share in the World to Come. As long as one maintains his affiliation with K’lal Yisrael and does not separate himself, he can claim a right to that share. In addition to this general share, each one will earn his respective share in accordance with his own virtues.

* * *

Alternatively, the term “All Israel” is to emphasize that only K’lal Yisrael as a whole has a collective share in Olam Haba, but not the gentile nations. There are righteous gentiles who have a share, too, but this is only on an individual basis (Rambam, Teshuvah 3:5).

* * *

Alternatively, prior to receiving the Torah, the Jews proclaimed, “All that G‑d has spokenna’aseh — we will do” (Shemot 19:8). Why did they say “na’aseh” — “we will do” — in plural, rather than each individual saying “e’eseh” — “I will do” — in singular?

When the Jews heard about the Torah, they realized that it would be impossible for any Jew to fulfill all the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot on his own. Somemitzvot can be performed only by a king, some only by a Kohen, some only in Eretz Yisrael, etc. Nevertheless, when the Jews are united, they are considered to be one entity. Thus, one compliments the other, and it is as though they each have fulfilled all the mitzvot. Therefore, the Torah (ibid.) emphasizes, “Va’ya’anu kol ha’am yachdav” — “All the people answered together” — i.e. through togetherness — “na’aseh” — “we will [be able to] do” — i.e. fulfill all the mitzvot.

The Mishnah is teaching that “Kol Yisrael” — “All Israel” — i.e. when Israel is united all as one, then they are tzaddikim — righteous — and all have a share in the World to Come.

(תורת אבות)