Wisdom of the Sages (Pirkei Avot)

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Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Shabbat Afternoon, Elul 28, 5778 (Sept.8)
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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Insights for Introductory Mishnah

"...In which to take pride."
Since every Jew’s soul is an actual part of G-d, each and every Jew — man, woman, and child — praises G-d by virtue of his very existence. “Even the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds.”
This teaching serves as an introduction to each chapter of Pirkei Avot because Pirkei Avot focuses on ethical development and personal refinement. When one becomes aware of the essential G-dly core of every individual, one appreciates: a) the necessity to refine oneself so that this essential quality can be expressed, and b) that every individual, regardless of his present level of development, has the potential to achieve such refinement.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

"Every Jew has a part …"

The mishna does not state 'all of Klal Yisrael will merit a portion in the World to Come, but rather is says "yesh" - they presently enjoy a portion in Olam HaBa. Olam HaBa -- The World to Come is not merely relegated to the distant future but rather is something that very much exists in the present. Almost innately, every Jew is assured of a portion in Olam HaBa which can only be fortified as a result of committing certain grave sins.
The fact that Olam HaBa is almost an innate right of every Jew is not only comforting but also helps us appreciate the gravity of those sins which could cause us (Heaven forefend) to forfeit our portion in the World to Come. By committing such heinous aveirot, we are not merely giving up a promised reward but are also yielding something that is already in our hands.

Sfas Emes (6)


"… a part to [in] the World to Come"

It is significant that the mishna does not say, in the World to Come, which would refer to the eventual reward attained after our life on earth. Instead, it says to the World to Come. Even in This World, every action of the Jew is blessed with the aura of Olam HaBa. This Divine gift is not always apparent. However, if one penetrates beneath the surface one detects a certain sanctity in every deed of the Torah-true Jew. This inner kedusha is derived from the sacred radiance of the World to Come that is enjoyed in some small measure in This World. In fact, the primary purpose of man's creation is that by virtue of his proper conduct he can elicit the latent Divine Spark that propels this material world. By doing so he can in some measure help to perfect the world.

Maggidei HaEmes (6)

"...they are the stem of My plantings..."

The stem is that straight, vertical branch which first comes out of the ground, before it develops side branches that extent in different directions. Eternity is symbolized by the straight and true, and hence the nation of Israel is called the "stem of my plantings," for it is directed towards G-d. That early trunk is the primary structure of the tree and it defines the direction of a tree's growth. This metaphor contrasts Israel with the other nations who, like side branches turning from the trunk, become sidetracked from the quest for eternity.

"...My handiwork, in which to take pride."

A finite creation such as this world does not adequately reflect G-d's greatness. Only the eternal World to Come can evince the perfection of the eternal Creator. Since Israel completes the World to Come, as its primary citizens, they are a principal part of that world's tribute to G-d's greatness.

Maharal of Prague: Pirkei Avos by Tuvia Basser (Mesorah)

Insights for Concluding Mishnah

“…To make the people of Israel meritorious…”
Lezakot, 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 Avot, which teaches us to lift our ethical conduct above the limits of human wisdom and cultivate it according to G-d’s desire.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

  • It is a universal Jewish custom to read a chapter of Pirkei Avot each week, starting with Chapter One on the Shabbat afternoon following the end of Pesach, and completing Chapter Six on the Shabbat preceding Shavuot.
  • Many also have the custom to continue repeating the cycle until the Shabbat preceding Rosh HaShanah.
  • The text may be found in most prayerbooks, all printings of the Mishna, and in many excellent annotated editions.
  • ASCENT is now in its second year of presenting an additional Chassidic insight for each week of the five-month Avot 'season.'

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