Pirkei Avot -- Chapter 6

Quotes, as indicated by number at end after author's name, are from:
(1) In the Paths of Our Fathers by Eliyahu Tauger (Kehot)
(2) Fathers and Sons by Tuvia Kaplan (Targum Press)
(3) Pirkei Avos in the Light of Chassidus by Yekutiel Green (Author)
(4) Tzava'at Harivash by Jacob Immanuel Schochet (Kehot)
(5) The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avot by
Charles Wengrov (Inst. for Mishnah Research)
(6) Pirkei Avos by the Sfas Emes and other Gerer Rabbis by Rabbi Y. Stern(Artscroll)

(7) Midrash Shmuel by Rabbi Shmuel Di Uzeda of 16th century Tsfat, as translated in (3) above
(8) Maharal of Prague: Pirkei Avos by Tuvia Basser (Mesorah)

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Mishnah 1

"[The Torah] clothes him in humility."

Arrogance imposes barriers on a person. He is no longer free to act in a way that is beneath his perceived dignity and station. Furthermore, his intellectual integrity is compromised and his intellectual freedom is limited; he cannot be open to an idea that may prove his opinion wrong and undermine his arrogant self-image. In contrast, true humility leaves a person unencumbered by a preconceived self-image that must be maintained, and hence he is free to pursue all goals.

The arrogant person therefore shares the attribute of finite size that defines physical entities, whereas the humble person has not imposed upon himself any limitations at all, which is a characteristic of the conceptual. Consequently, it is the humble person who is most capable of assimilating Torah, for they both operate in the unbounded realm of the conceptual. Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the most humble person on earth, was more spiritual than any other human being and he was also the most deserving of Torah, as the Rabbis said: "Moshe said, 'Who am I that G-d should give me the Torah?' G-d said to him, 'Since you have considered yourself minor, it will be called by your name, as it is said: "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant.""

Humility and Torah are intertwined. Humility brings success in Torah and Torah wisdom brings humility.

[Maharal of Prague] (8)


Previous Insights on Chapter 6

Mishnah 1

"[The Torah] clothes him in humility."

Arrogance imposes barriers on a person. He is no longer free to act in a way that is beneath his perceived dignity and station. Furthermore, his intellectual integrity is compromised and his intellectual freedom is limited; he cannot be open to an idea that may prove his opinion wrong and undermine his arrogant self-image. In contrast, true humility leaves a person unencumbered by a preconceived self-image that must be maintained, and hence he is free to pursue all goals.

The arrogant person therefore shares the attribute of finite size that defines physical entities, whereas the humble person has not imposed upon himself any limitations at all, which is a characteristic of the conceptual. Consequently, it is the humble person who is most capable of assimilating Torah, for they both operate in the unbounded realm of the conceptual. Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the most humble person on earth, was more spiritual than any other human being and he was also the most deserving of Torah, as the Rabbis said: "Moshe said, 'Who am I that G-d should give me the Torah?' G-d said to him, 'Since you have considered yourself minor, it will be called by your name, as it is said: "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant.""

Humility and Torah are intertwined. Humility brings success in Torah and Torah wisdom brings humility.

[Maharal of Prague] (8)

"Whoever engages in Torah study for its own sake….he gladdens the Omnipresent, he gladdens people."

Happiness flows from completeness, just as grief is the result of loss and deficiency. Since this world was created to provide us with opportunities to enrich our lives through Torah, it is clear that Torah brings completeness into our lives and hence to the entire world. A person who engages insincere Torah study gladdens the Omnipresent, for he fulfills the verse "G-d shall rejoice in His works"(Psalms 104:31) by bringing completeness to His works. Why does learning Torah for its own sake gladden other people? Torah perfects every aspect of the world and hence we are glad that this person improves the world we live in, through his Torah studies.

Maharal of Prague

"Whoever engages in Torah study…he is called "Friend, Beloved."

One who learns Torah for its own sake is called a friend of both G-d and people.

Yet, love is superior to friendship. To be a 'friend' means to associate with another. To 'love' another means that one's very soul is bound up with the soul of the beloved. We conclude that beloved is a higher quality than friend, re'ah, from the verse, "And you shall love your fellow, re'echa, as yourself."

Maharal (8)

"Rabbi Meir says: Whoever engages in Torah study for its own sake merits many things…."
(Av 6:1)

By studying Torah for its own sake, we are demonstrating that the Torah is not only of theoretical interest but is our sole guide for every action that we undertake. Just as everything is determined by G-d, so too every action of the Jew is dominated by the Torah. They very letters of the Torah -- its name (sh'ma) -- are the guiding force behind everything that occurs. By studying Torah for its "name," by negating oneself and subordinating one's actions to the dictates of the Torah, we merit to perceive how the Torah is the guiding force behind all human activity.

Sfas Emes, Bamidbar 5631(6)

According to the Pnei Menachem, the "litmus test" and best indicator that a particular individual is studying Torah for its own sake is that he never forgets the Torah's Divine origins. While this may seem obvious -- and especially to someone who is immersed in Torah -- it is entirely possible that one becomes so absorbed with his own original contributions to Torah that he may momentarily forget the Torah's Divine origins.

Maggidei HaEmes (6)

"….He loves G-d, and [His] creatures. He brings joy to G-d, he brings joy to the creatures……."

What is the difference between loving G-d's creatures and bringing joy to G-d's creatures?
True, loving G-d's creatures is indicative of his ahavat Yisrael, his love for his fellow Jew, including those who are referred to as mere "creatures" without any other virtues, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya chapter 32. Nevertheless, he and the creatures remain two separate entities, despite the love between them, since he has not yet been totally permeated by ahavat Yisrael.
However, when a person brings joy to G-d's creatures, since joy breaks all boundaries and is able to permeate a person's entire being, he and the creatures become merged into one entity, and reach true achdut Yisrael -- the total harmonious oneness of all Jews.

(Hisva'aduyos 5646, vol. 3, p. 431) (3)

"Whoever occupies himself with Torah for is own sake merits many things" (Avot 6:1)

When a Jew occupies himself with Torah, the Torah lifts him up above, and connects him with the One from Whom emanates all things. And when a Jew learns Torah for its own sake, i.e. for the sake of the Torah itself, not only does he receive from the Torah, but he adds to it as well, in the sense that he causes an additional measure of Or Ein Sof (the Infinite Light) to be revealed in the Torah. This is a higher level of Divine Light than was revealed up until that time, as the Sefer HaBahir states regarding King David -- he bound the Torah above to the Holy One, blessed is He.

From Likutei Torah (3)

"Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah…"
The Hebrew word oseek, translated as "occupies himself," relates to the Hebrew word for businessman, ba'al esek. A person's occupation with the study of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his commercial enterprise. Just as a businessman's attention is never totally diverted from his business, the Torah should always be the focus of our attention.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

"…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, 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 relationships to the fullest.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

"The Sages taught [this chapter] in the language of the Mishnah"

When learning, it is a mitzvah to mention the names of the Tannaim mentioned in the Mishnah. Such-and-such a Sage permitted, whereas such-and-such a Sage forbade it. This Sage declared it impure, whereas that Sage declared it pure.

Do not imagine that just as the Holy One, blessed is He, is One, so too, there ought to be only one view expressed in the Mishnah. On the contrary - let it be known that He Himself "chose them and their teaching." The Holy One, blessed be He, Himself learns the Mishnah in this way, with the names of the Tannaim. This is their portion in the Torah, and part of their souls.

One who studies in this way, when his learning is with love and fear, attaches himself to the Tanna - to his root and his light above, and he learns alongside him.

Keser Shem Tov p. 88(3)

"The sages taught [this chapter] in the language of the Mishnah"

One might ask why the study of Pirkei Avot was instituted in such a manner that the chapter studied before the holiday of Shavuot includes beraitot (teachings not included in the Mishnah) rather than mishnayot, which are more authoritative.
It can be explained that the Beraita 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. In this manner, it demonstrates the dynamic allowing for the continuation of the chain beginning when “Moshe received the Torah…and transmitted it.” For it shows how the Torah can be internalized within a mortal mind, and then transmitted to subsequent generations.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

Whoever occupies himself with Torah study for its own sake, etc.

R. Israel Baal Shem Tov said: When a man reads the Torah and sees the lights of the Torah's letters, then even if he doesn't understand the meanings properly, since he reads it with great love and fervor, G-d is not strict and exacting with him even if he doesn't say the words properly. Think of a child whom his father loves greatly, and he asks his father for something. Even if he stammers and doesn't speak properly, his father is greatly pleased, as he dotes on the child. Hence when a man says words of Torah in hallowed love, G-d loves him greatly, and He does not pay strict attention to him to note if he says them correctly. As our Sages taught (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2) his banner (diglo) over me is love (Song of Songs 2:4) -- do not read it diglo (his banner) but liglugo, "his prattle": his prattle is for Me an expression of love.

Likkutim Y'karim, 1 (5)

Mishna 2

"There is no freer man than one who engages in the study of Torah."

Even a king is not as free as one who engages in Torah, for his kingship is dependent on his subjects and hence he is vulnerable to revolt. This thought is conveyed in the Talmudic teaching, "Do not desire the table of kings, for your table is greater than theirs and your crown is greater than their crown."

Sfas Emes (6)


"Every day a heavenly voice emerges from Mount Choreb [Sinai] and proclaims, Woe to mankind for the insult to the Torah"
If no one hears this proclamation, what is the use to proclaim it? And how can anyone say that he does hear it, since sensory reality contradicts him? For who can say that he actually hears the proclamations made in Heaven? So what is the purpose of this proclamation?
Rather, the proclamation made in Heaven is not a verbal sound, for there are no words and no speech in the spiritual worlds, which are worlds of thought.
One has to refine oneself to be able to "read" the "signals" of the proclamation that are taking place in one's thoughts - the pangs of remorse that enter one's mind everyday are the effects of the proclamation. Thus, whenever we are aroused in this world with some fear, we must realize that we are being called upon from Above to connect with the Source of this fear. Similarly, when we are aroused to rejoicing, we must connect with the joy of serving G-d.

The Baal Shem Tov (KabbalaOnline)


My grandfather the Baal Shem Tov asked: Why does no one hear this voice, and if no one hears it, what is its purpose? He explained: Every day, every Jewish soul hears this voice, feels remorse, and contemplates repentance. Yet only the wise man recognizes the Heavenly source of these feelings and thoughts and acts on them. Everyone else is not as astute, however, and pays them no heed.

Degel Machane Efraim (2)

"Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Every single day a heavenly voice emanates from Mount Horeb…." (Av. 6:2)

Every day brings its own challenges, and sometimes even seemingly insurmountable obstacles, along the road to Divine service. Likewise, the Evil Inclination gains additional strength every day (cf, Succah 52b). Anticipating those developments, G-d provided the perfect antidote -- the daily renewal of the Ten Commandments. In the Shema we remind ourselves of this renewal, saying: that I command you today (Deut. 6:6) -- the Enochi, the word "I" with which the Ten Commandments begins, is experienced anew every day. Moreover, this heavenly voice is imploring us to regain our freedom by immersing ourselves in Torah study. Just as we were liberated from Pharaoh, so we can be extricated from the clutches of the Evil Inclination.

Sfas Emes (6)

.."Woe to the creatures because of the insult to the Torah..."

...Because people do not occupy themselves with it. Just as a person involved in business matters is preoccupied with them even when he is not actually busy with them, so should it be regarding a person's involvement with Torah. He must be devoted to the Torah with all his heart and with all soul, and Torah matters should affect him to the very core of his soul. Even a person whose Torah knowledge is limited so that he is not even able to learn by himself, if he occupies himself with Torah he refines the radiance of his soul, so that the light of the essence of his soul illuminates it.

(Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Shneersohn - Ma'amarim 5688 p.127)

To prevent an insult to the Torah, it is not sufficient to merely learn it -- one must be preoccupied with it. As long as this is not the case, the Torah remains "insulted."
To occupy oneself with Torah is obligatory for every Jew. Every Jew must occupy himself with Torah in a manner commensurate with his position in life. If he cannot learn by himself, he should hear Torah from others. The mitzvah of learning Torah is fulfilled when a person knows and understands it. One who occupies himself with Torah, in addition to learning it, aspires to be taught it by the Torah. And he strives to achieve the aim that his learning guide him in fulfilling everything that is written in Torah with love.

Ibid. Ibid. 5700 p. 64 (3)

"The Tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is the writing of G-d."

G-d Himself is written in the Torah, so to speak. For one who purifies himself can apprehend G-dliness within the Torah. He needs no miracles or philosophical speculation to know the truth—the Torah itself enlightens him.

Rav Simcha Bunem of Peshischa (2)

"Only one who occupies himself with Torah study is free"

Torah enables man to free himself of his physical desires and master his material nature. In contrast, one who does not occupy himself with Torah has no direction in life and becomes enslaved to his body, and there is no greater slavery than this.

Sfas Emes (2)

Mishna 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."

This teaching refers to a colleague whose conduct is not above reproach. When a person's own conduct is flawed, it is natural that despite the rational self-justifications that stem from self-love, he would recognize his own failings and humbly look down on himself. One may not, however, view a colleague from whom he has learned Torah concepts in such a manner. For even when the other's conduct is unworthy, he should be honored for the sake of the teachings he communicated.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"…Thus, David, King of Israel, learned only two things from Achitofel, yet he called him his master, his teacher, and intimate friend…."

When learning Torah, it is not only important what is learned, but also whom it is learned from. The Torah of a person, who learns from an upright and fitting teacher multiplies and bears fruit, whereas the Torah of one who learns from a wicked person remains as it was, neither increasing nor bearing fruit.
Achitofel was a wicked person, and therefore the two things which King David learned from him remained only two things, and they did not increase and bear fruit. Nevertheless, David honored him. How much more so should this apply to a person who learns from a saintly master - even if he learns a single letter, but it multiplies and bears fruit, he must honor his teacher.

Keser Shem Tov para.22 (3)

If one learns from his fellow-man one chapter (of Torah), one definitive law, etc.

I heard in the name of the Baal Shem: The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2-14) contain the entire Torah (by allusion and connotation) as R. Sa'adyah Gaon showed.
Now, just as the entire Torah is contained in the Ten Commandments, so is it contained in one word…but this, only if the spirit of the master teacher with whom a person studies has its root-source in the realm of unity. Otherwise, if his spirit is from the realm of division and disunity, the student who learns from him will similarly receive from him disjointed matters of learning. Hence the Mishna says here that David learned from Achitophel no more than two things (two separate, unconnected things, which thus did not contain the entire Torah).

Ben Porat Yosef; Tzofnat Pane'ach (5)


Mishnah 4

"..Eat bread with salt.."

"Go, partake of My bread," the verse states, referring to the Torah, which is compared to bread. Just as bread is not eaten on its own, without any accompaniment, so too, with Torah - it must be learned with understanding and explanation.

"Drink water in small measure" - for one's own benefit, and in order to avoid danger, one should drink water in small measure. So too, with Torah. It is best to avoid entering the depths of the Torah's secrets, for "a stranger who comes close will die."

Midrash Shmuel (3)

“..Eat bread with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of hardship..”

Even if you only have bread with salt, eat! Your eating should be as holy as the sacrifices brought in the Holy Temple. Even if you only have water in  small measure, drink! Your drinking should be proper, like the libations on the altar. Even if all you have to sleep in is the ground, sleep! Your sleeping should also be as required. And even if yours is a life of hardship, live! Always be full of joy and vitality, never ensnared by depression.

Rav Simchah Bunem of Pshischa (2)

"Live a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah"

Do not read this as tichye (live), but techaye (give life). As is well-known, sparks of holiness fell into the realms of evil, and as long as they remain there, they are in a state of great distress - "hardship". Every person must have the intention of giving them life - by extracting them from evil and raising them to the level of holiness.

Maggid of Mezritch's Ramzei HaTorah p.101d (3)

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." Such an approach runs in direct contradiction to the essence of our relationship with the Torah, which revolves around kabbalat ol - absolute acceptance of G-d's law. Any material success we may enjoy should be regarded as 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.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

When a person contemplates the greatness of the Infinite One, and realizes how far he is from the light of G-d's countenance, the matter causes him grief. This is the "hardship" mentioned in the Mishnah. But his consolation is to occupy himself with Torah, through which he merits, "you shall be happy" - in this world." For the Torah is G-d's wisdom, and in it is clothed the light of the Infinite One.
Hence when a person is occupied with learning Torah, he clothes himself in the ferment of the Holy One, blessed is He, and his soul becomes unified with the Infinite One.

Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 27d (3)

Mishnah 5

"Do not seek greatness for yourself"

Do not seek the great expansiveness, vitality, light and sweetness of Torah and mitzvot. Although there is no greater pleasure or joy in the world that exceeds the spiritual delight of Torah, prayer and mitzvot, nevertheless, do it all the the sake of the Creator, to give pleasure before Him, blessed be He.

Notzer Chesed


Learning more than One's Custom

The 100th time a person reviews his studies is not essentially different from the preceding 99 times, and is not indicative of any extraordinary effort. However, the 101st time he reviews his studies indicates that a change has taken place in his soul, and therefore in the revelation of G-dliness in the world. From this point on, his Divine service is very different from the way it was previously.

See "Tanya", chap.15, and "Maskil l'Eitan" ad loc. (3)

By reverent fear

I heard my master and teacher, the Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory, declare that in the physical, material realm, where there is fear there is no rejoicing, and where there is rejoicing there is no fear - except in the worship of G-d. There it happens that in an instance of reverent fear there is love (of the Almighty). Afterward I found this point in the work of Alfazi.

Toldot Yaakov Yosef (5)

Mishnah 6


"Torah is even greater than priesthood or royalty, for royalty is acquired along with thirty prerogatives and the priesthood with twenty-four [gifts], but the Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities, etc."

The human personality is comparable to a well; only a limited amount of water is visible on the surface but it is infinite in its bottomless subterranean assets. By applying the 48 methods of acquiring Torah which correspond to the 48 "wells" mentioned in the Torah, we elicit the tremendous wellsprings of Torah and the enormous potential to grow in Torah learning that lies embedded in every Jew. Each time we are called up to read the Torah, we allude to our own hidden reserves of spirituality, to these hidden wellsprings of Torah that we all possess, by proclaiming, "…and implanted eternal life [of Torah] within us" [from the blessing upon reading from the Torah] - our connection to Torah lies within ourselves.

Sfas Emmes [6]


"Royalty is acquired with thirty distinctions and the priesthood with twenty-four, but for Torah he must have forty-eight."

The three offices of royalty, priesthood and Torah leadership were symbolized in the Holy Temple by three sacred articles, each of which was graced by a "crown" of gold work surrounding the upper border. These are: the Shulchan (Table), the Mizbei'ach HaZahav (Golden Altar), and the Aron (Ark).
The crown upon the Table, which carries the show-bread, corresponds to the crown of kingship, because it is the king's role to ensure the nation's sustenance. The smallest perimeter of any plane of the Table is thirty tefachim (240cm), corresponding to the thirty prerogatives of the king.
The crown upon the Incense Altar corresponds to the crown of the priesthood. The upper surface of the Altar has a perimeter of twenty-four tefachim, corresponding to the twenty-four privileges of the priesthood.
The crown upon the Ark containing the Ten Commandments corresponds to the crown of Torah. The perimeter of the upper surface is forty-eight tefachim, corresponding to the forty-eight qualities of Torah listed in this Mishna.

The Maharal of Prague (8)


"...the Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities, etc."

In the Midrash we find a dispute whether Avraham was 3 or 48 years old when he renounced Terach's idolatry and recognized G-d (Nedarim 32a; Pesikta Rabbati 21:18). These opinions may reflect various stages in Abraham's development and correspond to different character traits associated with Abraham. In particular, we may assume that at age 3, Abraham had already acquired the three attributes later associated with him and his disciples - the traits of a good eye, a humble spirit and a meek soul. By the age of 48, Abraham had already completed the 48 which are prerequisites for Torah acquisition, cited in this Mishnah.

Imrei Emet, Maggidei HaEmet (6).


Torah is acquired by reverent fear

I heard my master and teacher, the Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory, declare that in the physical, material realm, where there is fear there is no rejoicing, and where there is rejoicing there is no fear - except in the worship of G-d. There it happens that in an instance of reverent fear there is love (of the Almighty). Afterward I found this point in the work of Alfazi.

Toldot Yaakov Yosef (5)


"…by a minimum of sleep"

Torah and sleep are two opposites. The Torah is the Tree of Life, whereas sleep is the Tree of Death. If a person enjoys sleeping, and he indulges himself in it, even when he is awake he will have difficulty in learning.

Midrash Shmuel (3)


"…Torah is acquired by...limited pleasure.."

Physical indulgence counters the acquisition of wisdom. However, the expression "limited pleasure" implies that some pleasure is acceptable.
Although the Rabbis extolled the virtue of a life of "bread and salt" in baraita 4, the benefit arises only if there is no alternative. There is no benefit to be had if he can continue to learn without giving up normal comforts. On the other hand, he should avoid extra physical pleasures, for that goes against the nature of Torah, and that is the practice of limited pleasure.

The Maharal of Prague (8)

"…Whoever says a thing in the name of he who said it [originally] brings redemption to the world.."

"He who said it" refers to the Holy One, blessed is He, Who gave us the Torah. When a Jew learns Torah, it must be immediately recognizable that he is learning G-d's Torah. When he quotes something, the He who said it must be evident.
"Brings redemption to the world" - the word "world" in Hebrew (olam) comes from the word (he'elem) - concealment, for in the process of creation, the Creator hides Himself from the creation. When a person learns Torah in the proper manner, he reveals G-dliness in the world, and through this he brings redemption to the world.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (3)

"…Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities….and repeating a saying in the name of the one who said it…."

This final attribute through which Torah is acquired involves much more than merely crediting a source. It implies that certain Torah thoughts are destined to be disseminated through a collaborative effort. The initiator of the thought, whose role is to develop this novel thought but not to teach it to a broader audience, is joined in his efforts by the disseminator, who is capable of relating this insight to others. It is through collaborative efforts such as these that the Final Redemption will be hastened.

Imrei Emes, Maggidei HaEmes (6)

"Quoting a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to the world"

We find that Torah sages frequently relate concepts they have heard from others without mentioning the name of the author. To cite an obvious example: Our sages comment 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.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

Mishnah 7

"Great is Torah, for it confers life upon it's practitioners, both in This World and in the World to Come……"

This mishna seems to contradict the renowned principle that we are not rewarded in This World. While ordinarily this is the case, someone who integrates Torah into the material world (ose'ha) deserves to be rewarded in This World. Moreover, one whose existence is inseparable from Torah merits that even his fate in This World will be conducted on the basis of Torah and not defined solely by the natural laws of the universe

(Adapted from Sfas Emes, Kedoshim 5636).

"Great is Torah, for it confers life upon its practitioners, both in This World and in the World to Come……"

By stating explicitly that Torah provides life in both This World and the World to Come, the mishna is offering assurances to two different types of Jews. To the learned Jew who is far more predisposed to the spiritual values of the World to Come than to the material demands of This World, the Torah gives strength to cope with This World. On the other hand, the simple, unlearned Jew may feel quite comfortable in This World but can only merit a portion in the World to Come by developing a close relationship with Torah and its teachers

(Imrei Emes, Maggidei HaEmes)

“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.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1) 

"It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it:"

The Torah sustains the Jewish people, but only to the extent that the Jews "take hold of it" and recognize its life-giving property.

Rav Yehudah Leib of Gur, the Sefas Emes (2)

Mishnah 8

"R. Shimon ben Yehudah said in the name of R. Shimon ben Yochai: Beauty, strength, wealth, honor, wisdom, old age, ripe old age and children etc.."

The eight qualities descibed in the beraita are neutral qualities. They enhance the righteous and become tools for the betterment of the world in their hands. In the hands of the wicked, however, they can harm their's and the world's well-being.



"Children are pleasing for the righteous and pleasing for the world."

In an extended sense, the term "children" refers to one's students - 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.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

"This is the way of Torah: Eat bread with salt…"

If a person is very wealthy and can afford a comfortable life, then the lifestyle suggested in this bareita will not help his studies. The way of Torah is to sacrifice the physical for the spiritual, but if one can afford to eat meat, then eating bread and salt is not a sacrifice for the sake of Torah. What can a wealthy person sacrifice, which will enhance his pursuit of Torah? He can give up all involvement with his investments, and dedicate all of his time and attention to Torah study.

The Maharal (8)


"Before [literally, 'against'] His elders shall be glory"

Most of the temptations of man's youth become subdued in his old age. However, the desire for glory and honor continues to work "against" him with its full intensity.

Rav Avraham of Slonim (2)

Mishnah 9

"The Torah of Your mouth is worth more to me than thousands in silver and gold."

The Hebrew word for "thousands" also means "learning."
Thus, says David HaMelech, the Torah of Your mouth, i.e., Torah study for the sake of G-d, is worth more to me than learning for silver and gold, for the sake of monetary reward.

Rav Yehudah Leib of Gur, the Sefas Emes (2)


"..at the time of a man's death, neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls escort him, but only Torah study and good deeds.."

A person consists of body and soul. The body, of course, is substance. The soul is form: It animates the body, imparts character and provides the ability to live purposefully. Both the body and the soul of a human being merit the afterlife. Only good deeds provide the kind of bodily substance that continues into the World to Come, and only Torah provides the kind of spiritual substance that carries into the World to Come.

The Maharal (8)

This implies that if the silver and gold were used for Torah and good deeds, then they do also accompany him!

Rav Boruch of Kosov (2)


"..do you wish to live with us in our place.."

R. Yosay refused the man's offer because the man intimated that R. Yosay would be welcome as an advisor, subordinate to the community - "come live with us, in our place." Had the man offered him the position of leader, R. Yosay would have accepted (Maharal).

"..I would give you a million golden dinars, precious stones and pearls."

The person offered Rabbi Yosei, "I will give you a million golden dinars in addition to precious stones and pearls." Rabbi Yosei listened carefully to his words and wondered, ""Why does he say 'I will give you' and not the community? It is not the individual that pays the Rabbi but the community? Moreover, no community in the world pays a Rabbi such a phenomenal salary. Why couldn't they get a Rabbi for much less? Obviosly, this person is looking for someone to be his Rabbi, free him of all his obligation to Torah and mitzvot, and cerify everything he is doing as 'kosher.'" To such a desire Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma responded, "I would rather live in poverty in a place of Torah study than sell myself for money."

Mishna 10

"Five possessions did the Holy One, Blessed is He, acquire for Himself in His world, and they are: Torah, one acquisition; heaven and earth, one acquisition; Avraham, one acquisition; Israel, one acquisition; the Beit Hamikdash, one acquisition….." (Av 6:10)

The purpose of these acquisitions is to enable mortals, who are so removed from G-d's infinite sanctity, to develop a relationship with Him. By marveling at the infinite symmetry of heaven and earth, G-d's handiwork; by following the sterling example of Avraham Avinu who brought many of his contemporaries closer to G-d; by appreciating and benefiting from the unique role of the Beit Hamikdash and Eretz Yisrael -- the Jewish people can acquire an intimate relationship with its Creator.

Sfas Emes (6)

"The Holy One, blessed is He, made five possessions His very own in His world."

The world for "world" in Hebrew is olam, which has the connotations of he'elem -- concealment and hiddenness of G-dliness, which is a product of the process of creation. Through each of these five possessions, which are each "one possession," the revelation of the absolute Oneness of G-d is revealed and the concealment is nullified. Then the world is clearly seen to be "His world."

Biurim 'Pirkei Avot (3)

The Torah, One Possession.

The Torah is still whole and perfect. No one has ever diminished it or subtracted anything from it. When a person settles himself to study Torah with pure faith and a reverent fear of Heaven, the light of the Torah restores the spirit and brings new strength into his comprehension of the grandeur of G-d. Then of course the Torah remains whole and perfect. No human being has ever yet damaged it or taken anything away from it.

18 Elul 1943 - vol 45, p.44 (5)

"Since it is written: 'Until Your people pass over O L-rd, until this people You acquired pass over;' and it says: 'To the Holy people who are in the land, and the noble ones in them, is all My delight'"
The beraisa mentions two proof texts 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 proof text 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.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

"Five Possessions Did the Holy One, Blesses Be He, Make His Very Own"

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. 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 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.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)

Five Possessions Did the Holy One, Blesses Be He, Make His Very Own - The Hebrew word kinyan, 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 that 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.

The Tzemach Tzedek (2)

"Five possessions has the Holy One, blessed be He, acquired as His own in His world…."

Every Jew can attain spiritual fulfillment through these possessions, each according to his level. Some learn and teach Torah. Others do not possess much Torah but attain true fear of G-d by contemplating His greatness, as exhibited in the heavens and the earth. Some emulate our forefather Avraham, drawing Jews to Torah and mitzvos. Others love their people Israel so much that they would give their lives for their fellow Jew. And even if one has none of these qualities, he can lament the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the "exile" of the Divine Presence, and long for G-d's salvation. Even by virtue of these acts, one can achieve spiritual perfection and merit life in the World to Come.

Rav Shlomo of Radomsk (2)

Mishna 11

"All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, 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 Gd. 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.

(Sichot Shabbat Parshat Nitzavim, 5728; Parshas Balak, 5741)

"Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created only for His glory."

A heretic once came to Rabbi Akiva and demanded proof that G-d created the world. "Come back tomorrow," Rabbi Akiva told him. The next day, when the heretic returned, Rabbi Akiva asked him what he was wearing. "A garment," the man replied. "Who made it?" the Rabbi asked. "The tailor," was his answer. When Rabbi Akiva demanded proof, the heretic demanded, "How can you not know this?" Said Rabbi Akiva, "And what about you? How can you not know that G-d created the world?" Our Sages commented: "Just as a house indicates a builder, a garment indicates a tailor, and a door a carpenter, so too does the world tell of the Holy One that He created it."
(Midrash Tanchuma)


The glory of Heaven is experienced in all four spiritual worlds, Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah, Assiyah, as is hinted at in the verse, "All that is called by My Name, for My glory (Atzilus) I created it (Beriah), formed it (Yetzirah), and made it (Assiyah)."

It is true that in the world of Assiyah (the spiritual counterpart of this world) we see that the aspect of evil has gained the upper hand, and that "man's inclination is evil from his youth." Nevertheless, we should be aware that, "G-d shall reign forever and ever." In the future, G-d will clearly be seen to be One, and His Name One, and His glory will be evident even in the world of Assiyah.

Midrash Shmuel (3)


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….

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)


"Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory etc."

G-d is "hidden" in this world in order to allow man the free will to choose good, thereby transforming evil into good and revealing G-d's light. Thus, even G-d's "hiddenness" is ultimately "solely for His glory."

The Baal Shem Tov(2)


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