Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: AVODAH Category:PIRKEI AVOS Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Wed, 01 Dec 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Who is Wise, Strong, Wealthy, & Respected The Mishna in pirkei Avos asks, who is is wise? He who learns from everyone. Who is strong? He who conquers his temptations. Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot. Who is respected? He who respects everyone.

Why does the the Mishna teach us the secret to these four traits and not others? What is the common denominator? The Medrash Shmuel answers that in these four instances the key to true realization of these traits in their true form is exactly the opposite of what the world thinks.

In the eyes of the world someone who knows everything and need not ask anyone is a genius, while the one who asks is considered unlearned, as he needs to ask. The world thinks that someone who can pummel his enemy to the ground is a true strongman while the exact opposite is true. True strength is the ability to walk away from a fight. Society measures wealth in dollars and cents, while the reality is that the more you have the more you want and therefore the more you lack. Real wealth is the person who is satisfied with what he has for he has everything he desires. Honor is perceived as someone who respects no one while all eyes are turned to him. Chazal teach us that real honor, as opposed to outward honorable gestures out of intimidation, is attained by he who honors others.

The Mashgiach Rav Dov Yaffe has another explanation. Most people believe that these four traits are gifts that must be given to a person at birth or somewhere along the way. This is indeed the case according to the world's perception. Brains and strength are something we are born with. Wealth and honor comes as circumstances of life. The Mishna is teaching us that these four traits are indeed attainable and clearly within our reach. But first we must understand the true definition of these traits. Then we can set out to become wise, strong, wealthy, and respected in the truest sense of the word.

Mon, 26 Nov 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Rav Binyomin Finkel - How To Turn Dust Into Gold

The Mishna says in pirkei Avos (6:9), "B'shaas Pitiraso Shel Adam Ein Milavin Lo LiAdam Lo Kesef V'Lo Zahav V'Lo Avanim Tovos U'Margolios", at the time of a person's death when he is escorted away from this world he is not accompanied by gold, silver, precious stones, or pearls, only Torah and Maasim Tovim. Does the Mishna really need to tell us this? Doesn't everyone know that shrouds have no pockets and you cannot take it with you?

Rav Binyomin Finkel answers that the mishna is actually coming to teach us how we can take our money with us. The Mishna tells us that the only way to take our money with us is by using it for Torah and Maasim Tovim. In its raw form form it is worthless but if you have spent your riches supporting Torah and doing good deeds then all the riches will indeed follow you to the next world.

In the olden days and even today alchemists are trying to turn dust into gold. Well no one has been successful yet and what a waste it would be since they are both intrinsically worthless. We on the other hand can turn plain old gold into eternal gold, gold that will accompany you into the grave and onward to the next world. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it yourself at home.

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: A Race To Say Good Morning First? "Hevei Makdim B'Shalom Kol Adam" (Avos 4:20); the simple pshat is that you should greet your friend first and do not wait until he greets you.  The Likutei Basar Likutei brings from the Pri Chaim that it is not referring to greeting people and saying hello before they say it first because then it should say "Hevei Makdim Lishol B'Shalom Kol Adam" you should be first to ask about your friends welfare.

He explains that the Mishna is talking about two people who get into a fight.  Rather than hold a grudge and not talk to your friend, the mishna is advising you that even if you feel that you are "in the right" and that your friend owes you an apology, nevertheless you should go out and seek to make peace rather than wait for your friend to come to you.  If you do so he will no doubt respond in kind and you have been "Makdim B'Shalom".  You were the first to make Shalom!  This is quite a bit harder and requires far greater character refinement than being the first to blurt out "Good Morning" from 20 yards away.

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Should Our Schools Teach The Brightest or The Weakest?

It is often a dilemma in the classroom, do you gear your lessons to the best and the brightest because they are the ones at the end that will make something of themselves. Or do you structure you lessons to include even the weakest children, sacrificing the "stars" by boring them with lessons below their level, for the sake of the children who probably won't shine anyway?

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:1) says "V'Ha'amidu Talmidim Harbei"; you should have many students. Rabbeinu Yona quotes Machlokes between Shammai and Hillel in Avos D'Rebbi Nosson. Shammai says you should only teach worthy students, while Hillel says you should teach everyone. One time Hillel asked if all the students were present. They answered, yes except for the smallest one. Hillel said bring him in as well. This little student was Rebbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai the great tanna that saved Yidishkeit during the Churban Bayis Sheini.

The lesson we learn says Rabbeinu Yonah is that we do not disregard any student to focus on who we consider the children with the greatest potential, because we can never know who will be our future stars.

Tue, 22 Jun 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: If You Are Not Learning You Better Be Working Hard!

The Mishna says (3:5) that someone who is awake at night or on the road alone and lets his mind think about trivial matters instead of Torah, deserves to die. Yet the next Mishna says that someone who throws off the yolk of Torah is hit with the burden of making a living. This implies that he does not warrant death for not learning. Does a person who doesn't learn deserve death or not?

The Derech Avos answers that if a person chooses to work instead of learn than, work he will. He will toil to earn a living and that is acceptable. However someone who chooses to goof around instead of learn; for example when he wakes up in middle of the night and there is nothing else to do except learn but he chooses not to exploit the opportunity to learn, he deserves to die. (Likutei Basar Likutei)

Thu, 27 May 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Are There Too Many Lawyers?

The Mishna 4:12 says "Im Batalta Min HaTorah Yesh Licha Biteilim Harbei K'Negdecha"; literally translated to mean, if you neglect Torah learning you will have much wasted time against it. Rav Shlomo Kluger explains, in his sefer Magen Avos, that people think if they study a profession or open up a business they will profit greatly. This is true if they are the only ones with this idea. However if everybody chooses the same profession there will be a glut in the market and then there is no guarantee that they will even be able to earn a living.

Therefore the Mishna tells us, if you stop learning Torah and choose a profession you should know that there are many like you and you are not guaranteed to realize your dream. However continues the Mishna, "Im Amalta BaTorah"; if you toil in Torah even if there are many like you that all choose to learn Torah you are sure to earn a big payback because "Yesh Lo Schar Harbei Litein Licha"; Hashem has no shortage of reward to give out to all those who learn his Torah.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Rav Chaim Volozhin - The Clothing Won't Help Rebbi Yosi says whoever is Michabed the Torah his Guf or body is respected by the people.  Whoever disgraces the Torah, his Guf is disgraced by the people (Avos 4:6).  What does this mean and what is the connection?

Rav Chaim Volozhin in Ruach Chaim says that sometimes the Yetzer Hara tricks a Talmid Chochom, persuading him that he should wear fancy clothing, not for himself but for Kavod HaTorah.  He represents the crown of Torah and people will respect him more if he is dressed the part.  He learns less to leave time to earn enough money to afford his high style wardrobe.

The Mishna, says Rav Chaim, is telling him that he is making a mistake.  If a person respects the Torah and spends all his time learning it, then his Guf will be respected by the people and it will make no difference how he is dressed.  However if someone is Michalel the Torah in the pursuit of fancy attire, it will not help him since he himself will be a disgrace in the eyes of the people.

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Rav Nosson Gestetner - Achdus Is Often An Optical Illusion The Mishna (4:11) says that, "Kol Kneisia SheHi L'Shem Shamayim Sofa L'Hiskayem, V'SheEina LShem Shamayim Ein Sofa L'Hiskayem".  Any gathering that is L'Shem Shamayim will stand at the end, but any gathering that is not will not stand at the end.  There are two questions here.  First, if there is Achdus shouldn't the gathering succeed?  Second why Sofa L'hiskayem, why only at the end?

MiShel HaAvos brings from Rav Nosson Gestetner a Mashal.  Two people are traveling to the same destination and there are two roads that go there.  Even if they each choose to travel on a different road at the end they will meet in the same place.  However two travelers that are traveling together but to different destinations, although they are now in unity, eventually they will split up and end up in different places.

You can have a gathering with heated debate and many people proposing vastly different approaches to solve a problem.  While there seems to be little achdus, if each person is arguing L'Shem Shamayim they all ultimately will arrive at the same place.  They will achieve Kavod Hashem and Sofa L'Hiskayem.   However if it is not L'Shem Shamayim then even if everyone agrees in very polite fashion on the same course of action, they will eventually end up in far different places, Ein Sofa L'Hiskayem.  Why? Because each one is acting for a different cause, themselves!

Thu, 31 Dec 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Eliyahu Lopian - When One Walks On A Lonely Path He Is Forfeiting His Life The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:4) says "ViHaMihalech B'Derech Yichidi... Harei Zeh MisChayev BiNafsho", and he who walks on a path alone... he has forfeited his life."  What is so terrible about walking on a road all by yourself, that you would deserve death?

Rav Eliyahu Lopian in Lev Eliyahu says that this Mishna is not referring to a physical path, but rather a spiritual one.  We are fortunate enough to have a mesora in hashkafa from Gedolei Olam of previous generations.  There are many great seforim and living tzaddikim that tell us very clearly what our Avodas HaChaim is.  We are given clear boundaries what is for a Yid and what is not.

The Mishna is talking about a person who dismisses all this, saying that the Torah is given to everyone, and each individual can define the Torah as he sees fit.  A person brazen enough to dismiss the teachings and the ways of our heritage, and creates his own synthesis of various polluted hashkafos, paving his own lonely road and creating his own Torah, is Mischayev BiNafsho.

Thu, 19 Nov 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Satmar Rov - Public Servant Do Not Despair "V'Chol HaAmeilim Im HaTzibbur Yihiyu Ameilim L'Shem Shamayim", whoever works with the public should do so L'Shem Shamayim (Pirkei Avos 2:2).  The Meforshim ask that we know that everything must be done with pure intentions, why does the Mishna single out those who work with the public?

The Medrash Shmuel answers that although a person who is busy with the needs of the tzibbur has no time to lean Torah or perform mitzvos he should not despair and not leave his post.  If he does his work L'Shem Shamayim it is greater than everything.

Rav Yoel of Satmar says (MiShel HaAvos) that when a person does a mitzva quietly it is easy for him to do it L'Shem Shamayim.  However when his activities are in the center of the public eye it is very difficult to avoid haughtiness and other invalid thoughts.  To this the Tanna tells us that even when you are the center of attention and you are working for the public, make sure to do it L'Shem Shamayim.  How can you manage this great accomplishment, continues the Tanna?  "SheZechus Avosam Miseiyasan" the merit of your forefathers will enable you to overcome unworthy thoughts.

This is what we say in davening everyday, "L'olam Yihei Adam Yirei Shamayim B'Seser U'BaGalui", a person must fear Heaven, both when he is alone with his holy thoughts and even when all eyes are focused on him and he can barely think clearly. This is the greatest challenge and madreiga that you can reach.

Tue, 01 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Satmar Rov - Where Does Authentic Chesed Come From? Someone once came to the Satmar Rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, and told him that he had been in St. Louis where a Jew kept a house specifically for Hachnasas Orchim for anyone in need, Jewish or not.  This person was beloved and praised y all for his good deeds.  The Satmar Rebbe asked does he keep Torah and Mitzvos, does he believe in Hashem?  The person said no.

If he does not believe, said the Satmar Rov, then what good is his chesed?  What is the point if it is not done for the sake of Hashem and based on the commandment in the torah?

In this light the Maharam Shiff explains the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:17), "Im Ein Torah Ein Kemach" if there is no torah there is no flour.  Avrohom Avinu was the greatest living embodiment of Chesed in the world.  Chazal also tell us that Avrohom kept the entire torah before it was given, even the mitzva d'rabbanan of Eiruv Tavshilin.  The mishna tells us, Im Ein Torah, if not for Avrohom's torah, then Ein Kemach, he would not have performed his great acts of chesed. Avrohom's chesed all came from the Torah. (see Mishel HaAvos)

Thu, 06 Aug 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Ben Ish Chai - Take A Break, Lawyer!

Don't make yourself a a lawyer, Al Ta'as Atzmicha K'Orchei HaDayaim", warns Rebbi Yehuda Ben Tabbai (1:8). The Bartenura says this means that you should not help a party to a court case cleverly devise arguments to win. Let him say it as it is and justice will run its course.

The Ben Ish Chai, in Zchus Avos, says that this mishna alludes to a person's judgement of himself. Chazal tell us that Shaul haMelech made one mistake and lost his kingdom, while Dovid HaMelech made tow mistakes and did not. Why? Shaul, when confronted by Shmuel, argued that he was right. Only later, after Shmuel rebuked him, did he admit his error. Dovid HaMelech, when confronted by Nosson, straight away admitted to his mistake, despite having reasons for what he did that would mitigate his crime.

If you make a mistake before Hashem, do not try to explain to yourself your actions and why it was not as bad as it seemed. Confess and move on, and stop trying to come up with classic lawyerly answers.

Wed, 24 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Does Everyone Get Olam Haba? The Mishna in Sanhedrin, which we say before Pirkei Avos, tells us, "Kol Yisroel Yesh Lahem Cheilek L'Olam Haba", every Jew has a portion in the world to come.  However we find many times Chazal tell us that certain people do not have a cheilek in Olam Haba.

The Yeina Shel Torah brings from the Chofetz Chaim that in this instance the word "Cheilek" means a lot of land, "Chelkas Adama".  Every Yehudi is given a barren field and sent to this world to work on it.  He must plow it and care for it and nurture it until it yields beautiful fruit.  The harder you work the better the results.  

This field is your cheilek in Olam Haba.  If you sit by idly and do not tend it or worse yet you destroy it but pouring on it toxic chemicals, that too will be your cheilek in Olam Haba.  Once you get there though, there will be no opportunity for any improvements.

Sun, 14 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
What's Mine Is Your, What's Yours Is Mine. Is It a Good Thing?

If someone is happy to share his possessions and enjoy other peoples possessions as well, the mishna calls this person an Am Ha'aretz. The Bartenura explains that Am Ha'aretz is a term used for an ignorant person, who in this case thinks he is promoting good social behavior but is ignorant of the fact that the Pasuk says "Sonei Matanos Yichye"; He who hates present will live.

The Maharam Shick argues and says that since sometimes he is on the giving end and sometimes on the receiving end, his receiving is not considered a gift. Moreover he is promoting positive social interaction because sometimes one is in need and someone else has extra and sometime the reverse. By giving and taking a social group can help each other navigate their individual troughs and peeks.

Therefore he says that Sheli Shelach, Shelach Sheli is definitely a wonderful midah worthy of praise. He explains the term Am Ha'aretz to mean a person who for him the world was created, or similarly, a person who will inherit the earth through his mitzva of sharing. He ends by saying that this midah will end Sinas Chinam and bring Moshiach.

Sun, 07 Jun 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Watch Out Tzaddik, It Is A Numbers Game Nitai HaArbeili says , do not associate with a Rasha (Pirkei Avos 1:7).  Why not?  Shouldn't you try to influence him to become better?  The Ba'al Shevet HaMussar in his peirush on Pirkei Avos says that there is a far better chance of him influencing you in a negative manner than vice versa.  Why?

He explains that the greater tzaddik you are, the greater your Yetzer Hara is (Succah 52a).  Therefore no matter how great the tzaddik, he has equal forces within him.  The Rasha on the other hand has cast aside his Yetzer Tov, and his Yetzer Hara dominates him.  By associating with the Rasha and allowing the Rasha's yetzer hara to influence him, the tzaddik is tipping his already delicate balance.  His yetzer tov is now outnumbered two to one.  Unfortunately despite his great tziddkus, it is likely that the majority will rule or at least cause some damage.

Thu, 04 Dec 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: The Alter Of Novhardok Finally Says Good-Bye To The Brush "Yehi Mamon Chaveircha Chaviv Alecha", your friends money should be as dear to you as your own (Avos 2:12).  The story is told about the Alter of Novhardok who during his travels found himself in a small town for Shabbos.  He wanted to clean his clothing in honor of Shabbos so he borrowed a brush from another guest who was a businessman from Moscow. 

After he finished cleaning his clothing he wanted to return the brush but the businessman has already gone early to Shul for Kabalas Shabbos.  On Motza'ei Shabbos he was again unsuccessful as the businessman had already packed his bags and left before the Alter of Novhardok got to him.  The Alter was very troubled how in the world he was supposed to track down a businessman from a huge city like Moscow with the limited details he had about him.  How would he return the brush.  

Seven years later during a conversation on the train with the gentleman sitting next to him, the Alter realized that this person was neighbors with the man whose brush he never returned.  To his great satisfaction and relief, he joyously took the brush out of his pocket and asked this gentleman to give it back to its owner!  (Chaim SheYesh Bahem)

Thu, 27 Nov 2008 03:00:00 +0000 The Mishna in Avos (2:7) says, “Marbeh Nechasim Marbeh Daaga”, he who has more possessions has more worries.  Shouldn’t it be the opposite?  When you have more possessions shouldn’t you have less to worry about?

Rebbi Eliezer Fleckless answers in the name of his Rebbe the Noda BiYehuda.  Chazal tell us, “Ein Adam Meis V’Chatzi Ta’avasoi BiYodoi”, a person doesn’t die, having acquired half of what he wanted to acquire.  This means that the more possessions you have the more you feel you need.  You must then raise the bar to chase down the constantly growing other half.  If so trying to acquire this illusive second half is quite a headache that keeps growing with every success.  Inevitably the pressure and your worries about not achieving your goal of catching a moving target adds worry upon worry.

Thu, 12 Jun 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Fire That Burns Through the Rain Our Gedolim are constantly beseeched by people to provide solutions and cures for all their Tzorus.  How do the gedolim manage to deal with this all day and still maintain their lofty spiritual status?  Do they not get worn out by all of this?  The Likutei Basar Likutei brings the Avodas Yisroel who says that this is truly a miracle.

There were ten miracles that occurred in the Bais HaMikdash on a constant basis.  One was “”V’Lo Kibu Gishamim Aish Shel Atzei Ma’aracha”, the rain did not extinguish the fire on the mizbei’ach.

The word Atzei says the Avodas Yisroel, is like Aitzos, strategies. Gishamim, means literally rain but also Gashmiyus, physical needs.  No matter how bothersome the people’s constant requests for help in Gashmiyus, it did not extinguish the fire of the Kohanims spiritual strategies and zeal from the mizbei’ach from which they served Hashem.

Tue, 01 Apr 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Are You Running For Public Office? Is it good to have a position of power in the government?  The Maharsha says in Sotah 41 that in previous generations people with great wealth ran away from public positions.  Nowadays they spend their wealth chasing these positions.  This he says is a big mistake.  The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:10) says "Al Tisvada L'Reshus"; don't become familiar with the government.  Rabbeinu Yonah says the reason is that the pressure of answering to the government is so great that one will ultimately throw off the pressure and responsibility and replace it with allegiance to the government's needs because of fear.  Moreover one mistake (which inevitably will occur) and you can pay with your money or even your life.

The Peleh Yo'etz says that this Mishna refers to someone who seeks government office.  That he says is quite foolish for why would someone want this job with all its pitfalls?  However he says if you are "appointed to a high position then this is a decree from Shamayim and you should not run away from the job.  You should daven to Hashem to guide you and help you succeed.  You should use your position to help your fellow Jew.  Stay modest and don't be arrogant in front of the people, especially the goyim. Respect every person no matter what their standing is because you never know...

Thu, 21 Feb 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Be A Real Man

"B'Makom She'Ein Anashim Hishtadel Li'Hiyos Ish", in a place where there is no man try to be a man, says the famous Mishna in Pirkei Avos (2:6). But what does this mean? The Mefarshim say that we all act differently when someone is watching us. To ourselves we can justify any behavior and therefore we are not embarrassed of ourselves. When another person is watching us the justifications don't help. We know exactly how our behavior will look in their eyes and all our excuses will not help so we behave differently. Like Rav Yochanan Ben Zakkai said to his talmidim your fear of heaven should be like your fear of man.

Therefore the Mishna in Pirkei Avos tells us, even when there is no one watching you, try to be objective. Try to see your actions through the eyes of someone other than yourself. Even when "there is no other man" says the Mishna, "try to be that other man".

Thu, 14 Feb 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Work Isn't Necessarily Bitul Torah, Bitul Torah Is

The Mishna says in Pirkei Avos (4:12), "Limit your business activity and learn Torah... If you are Mivatel Torah you have many bitulim against it." Shouldn't it say if you do not limit your work you have many bitulim? Another question is why do you have "many" bitulim against it?

Rav Chaim Brisker said that when they ask you in Shamayim if you learned a great deal of Torah you will be justified in answering that you didn't have time because you needed to work long hours to support your family. However if during your free time you didn't learn and wasted your precious opportunities with Havlei Olam Hazeh, you will not only be held accountable for the time you wasted but also the time you spent working to support your family. Why? Because you now have proven that even had you not been working you would not have learned since you had no misgivings about squandering the perfect opportunity. Now the fact that you work will not be an acceptable excuse for you lack of learning.

So from this one instance of Bitul Torah suddenly you have opened up a can of worms and let out many more charges against you for things which you originally were protected against and you now need to explain all the Bitulim.

Thu, 24 Jan 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Without Bread There Is No Torah

"Im Ein Kemach Ein Torah" (Avos 3:21) Every Kollel Yungerman has been attacked with this Mishna at some point in his life by a person who felt that they should be working instead of learning. The typical response is the next words of the Mishna "Im Ein Torah Ein Kemach", if not for our Torah there would be no financial success. We are the power behind you. This answer doesn't usually resonate well with the other side since often the learner believes it even less than the businessman.

The Baalei Mussar ask why is it that in Birchas HaMazon where we thank Hashem for the food he provides us we also thank him for the Torah? In fact you are not Yotzei Birchas HaMazon if you leave out thanks for the Torah. He answered that without Torah who needs food? Life wouldn't be worth living. Any thanks for the food needs to bound to the fact that we learn Torah or else the food is meaningless.

Im Ein Torah Ein Kemach says the Mishna. True we need the businessman's generosity, his kemach, to support Torah. We would starve otherwise and would not be able to learn. But, answers the "Real" Ben Torah, even if I have nothing to eat I choose to live my life with Torah. To spend my days chasing Kemach is a life not worth living. Because without the Torah what would I benefit from all my Kemach?

Thu, 10 Jan 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Keep Yourself Smelling Nice

Nitai HaArbeili says, Harchek MiShachein Ra, V'Al Tischaber LaRasha" (Avos 1:7); keep far from a bad neighbor and don't associate with a Rasha. In Avos D'Rav Nosson it adds the word "even for Torah". With this Rav Chaim Brisker explains why Yaakov was kicking to get out of Rivka's stomach when she passed a shul. He says that although he was learning with the Malach inside her womb he had a terrible chavrusa in Eisav.

Why is merely being near a Rasha so terrible? After all what kind of ill effects can he have if no interaction takes place? The Bartenura explains that a Rasha in your presence will have bad effect on you even if you have nothing to do with him. He gives an example of a clean person who goes inside a tannery. While he may be clean person nevertheless when he comes out he will stink. So too being near a Rasha, while we think we haven't changed, we won't realize the spiritual stench that has overcome us. (Toras Chaim)

Thu, 13 Dec 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: There Is No Such Thing As "Too Much of a Good Thing"

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says "Marbeh Basar Marbeh Rima"; the more you indulge in food and put on weight you are only servicing the worms that will feast on you in your grave. Then the mishna continues with the downside of too much indulgence in other worldly pleasures. Afterward the Mishna takes a turn for the good and tells of the upside of even more torah and even more study.

The Maharam Schick explains that the Mishna is trying to show you what is really good in this world. The litmus test is that good things get better the more you have, whereas bad things are only good in measured doses. At some point what you thought was good comes back to haunt you. The lesson is that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing, but it is important to know what is truly good. So take the challenge and gorge yourself to find out the truth!

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos - Throw Yourself To The Lions and Spare The Foxes

The Mishna says (4:20) "V'Hevei Zanav L'Arayos V'Al Tehi Rosh L'Shu'alim"; be a tale to the lions and don't be the head of the foxes. Rabbeinu Yonah explains that it is better for you to be a lowly student by someone who is much wiser than you since you will grow from it every day. Your alternative with your limited knowledge is to be a Rav but only to those weaker than you. In that situation where you never learning only spewing forth what you already know, you will become less learned every day.

Rav Shlomo Kluger in Magen Avos says that this refers to a sacrifice a person can make for the Tzibbur. If you are far better than the people around you, you will look like a tzaddik and make them look like resha'im in comparison. However if the company you choose to associate with is much greater than you, they will gain in stature in comparison to you and you will shrink in stature compare to them. Nevertheless says the Mishna, for the public's sake it is better for you to be a Tale of a Lion and look bad than to be the Head of a Fox and look good.

Thu, 22 Nov 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos - How Do Our Superstars Measure Up?

If you look at almost all societies of the world you will notice that the people in society that are most looked up to are usually top rate physical specimens and are respected for their natural talents and abilities, be they entertainers or athletes. Cripples, blind people, and people with other kinds of handicap are usually shunned. Even the so called "stars" lose popularity as they get older. Not so by Klal Yisroel. Look at the religious newspapers and all you see are older men who are not known for any physical prowess. Yet they are sought after and idolized by the masses.

This is how the Shevet Mussar explain the strangely phrased Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:6). Rebbi Yosi says, he who honors the Torah, his "Guf" is honored by the people. Why does it says that his body is honored? Why not that "he" is honored? He answers that our claim to stardom is solely based on Torah and middos. Those who possess it and excel in it are honored regardless of their physical appearance or stature. Even if they are blind and crippled it wouldn't make the slightest dent in their popularity and the respect shown for them. If fact help will come in all directions totally absolving them of any handicap.

No one ever thought twice about the physical appearance or capabilities of Rav Elyashiv or Rav Chaim Kanievsky or Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, or Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz or Rav Shmuel Auerbach etc. They are our superstars and their whole being is the standard for perfection and not a subject of critique. Why because they carry the torch of the Torah for our generation and therefore their bodies are respected.

Thu, 15 Nov 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos - How Does A Real Man Fight? He Runs Away!  The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:2) says "Ben Azzai Oimer, Hevai Ratz LiMitza Kala UBorai'ach Min HaAveira"; run to an easy mitzva and run away from an aveira.  Why all the running?  The Likutei Basar Likutei brings from the Medrash Shmuel who explains that mitzvos are not just waiting for us like low hanging fruit.  We need to work to catch them.  Even the easy ones require our efforts.  Why?  Because the Yetzer Hara chases them away in order to keep us from doing them.  Sometimes when you undertake to do something good which you think is not a big deal suddenly at every turn you run into another difficulty.  That may be sign that you are on to something good and the Yetzer Hara is trying his best to discourage you.  Keep running you will eventually catch it.

However when it comes to aveiros the Yetzer Hara runs after us and brings them to our doorstep on a silver platter.  Even if we run away from them he chases after us constantly dangling the temptation in front of us.  So if we controlled ourselves once it's not enough we need to gird our loins with courage and fight him off time after time or better yet suggest Ben Azzai run far away and don't turn back. 

For example many times during a conversation I have an urge to say lashon hara yet I control myself.  Unfortunately two minutes later something else is said that makes me want to say that piece of lashon hara even more.  This can happen a few times until I finally succumb.  The only real solution is to politely say this topic of conversation is leading down the wrong path let's change the subject.  Oh, if I only knew how to run fast :(

Thu, 08 Nov 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Who Is Responsible For the Death of Children?

The gemara (Kesuvos 8b) tells a story of the young child of Reish Lakish who died. Someone wanting to console him got up and said that children die because of aveiros. This shocked those present who felt this was adding insult to injury. The speaker explained that Hashem was angry at the aveiros of the generation and this holy child was worthy to be the Kapara for the generation. Similarly we find that the death of a Tzaddik is a kapara for the generation.

This is can be seen in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:1) that says "Hayeludim Lamus, V'HaMeisim L'Hachayos, V'HaChayim Ladun". This Mishna can be interpreted to explain this phenomenon. When there are aveiros in the generation "the Children will die". Similarly, "the death of Tzaddikim will bring life to those around them" as a kapara. But all of us who witness these tragedies and feel spared should remember that "Those of us still living will one day face a day of reckoning" for our sins and the deaths of the innocent that were meant to save us. (Likutei Basar Likutei)

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: "Chaval" To Take It With You

The Mishna (2:2) says any Torah that has no work with it will become null and void. The Maharam Shick says that this means a person must learn Torah in place where he can "work" with the people. He can apply his torah to influence people and teach them torah as well. If he learns in isolation with no connection to the others, warns the Mishna, when he dies all his learning will go down with him. But if he uses it to influence others, even when he dies his torah will live on.

This reflects an idea of the Chasam Sofer, he says. Avrohom's legacy lived on because of his work and toil to teach the world about Hashem. Chanoch on the other hand lived a pure and holy life but in solitude. Therefore when Chanoch died the pasuk says in Parshas Bereishis (5:24) "V'Einenu" he was no longer because everything he learned and accomplished disappeared with him.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos - A High Price For An Esrog?

One year there when was a dire shortage of Esrogim the Vilna Gaon sent a delegation to procure him an Esrog. Unfortunately after combing the neighboring countries they still could not find one. Finally their efforts bore fruits and they found someone with a kosher esrog suitable for the Vilna Gaon. The problem was that the owner refused to part with it for all the money in the world. After the delegation begged and begged the owner finally said he would give the Vilna Gaon the esrog on one condition; the owner would get the Schar in Olam Haba that the Vilna Gaon would earn for the mitzva of shaking the esrog that year.

Realizing they had no choice they took the esrog and with trepidation traveled back to Vilna to tell the Gaon about the esrog and the high price they paid. When they came to the Gaon ashen faced and brought him the esrog he asked them what was troubling them. When they told him the story the Gaon broke out in a huge smile and exhibited tremendous happiness. Confused, the delegation asked him why he was so happy. He explained that since he understood the tremendous reward for mitzvos it detracted from his service of Hashem. Now that he will shake the esrog without any reward whatsoever he can do the mitzva like it says in Pirkei Avos (1:3) "Hevu KaAvadim Hamishamshim Es HaRav Shelo Al Minas Likabel Pras"; Be like a slave that serves his master not for the purpose of receiving a reward.

Thu, 16 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Was Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin Too Lavish?

When Rav Meir Shapiro went collecting money to build the majestic building of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin which was unparalleled in beauty and comforts in the history of Yeshivos, one of the potential donors complained to him that the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (6:4) demands of talmidei chachomim "Pas Bamelach Toichal"; you shall subsist on bread and salt.

Rav Shapiro answered that although it says "Eved Loivah L'Ish Malveh"; a debtor is a slave to his creditor, nevertheless the torah teaches us halachos that demand of the creditor to treat the debtor with tremendous respect. The debtor must act with one attitude and the creditor with another.  So too, although the torah tells those who want to acquire torah that they must be willing to live life with only the bare basics, nevertheless when talking to the donors the torah promises "Eitz Chaim He LaMachazikim Ba, V'Somcheha MiUshar", the torah is a tree of life and whoever supports yeshivos without deciding how much is enough, will be blessed with good fortune and happiness.  (Likutei Basar Likutei)

Thu, 09 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: The Best Child Doctors, The Worst Child Doctors

The enigmatic Gemara in Kedushim states "Tov ShebiRofim LiGehinom"; The best of the doctors go to Gehinom. It is said in the name of Rav Chaim Volozhin that there are two approaches to healing an illness. A doctor can devise a slow long treatment process with bearable doses of medication or he can bombard the patient with medicines to kill of the diseases swiftly but leave enormous damage in its wake.

Similarly with a parent or rebbi trying to "cure" a child from his spiritual and character defects there are also two approaches. Either you can softly and gradually over time cajole the child on to the right path with love and attention or you can blast him to where you want him to be in life by embarrassing him with one good scream. The downside to the latter method is that the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:15) says "Hamalbin Es Pnei Chaveiro BiRabim Ein Lo Cheilek B'Olam Haba"; if you embarrass someone publicly you have no share of Olam Haba.

Therefore warns the gemara in Kedushin the best of the doctors who can miraculously cure a child of his ills in one fell swoop will do wonders for the patient but he will ultimately find himself in Gehinom. (Toras Chaim)

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Layman vs. Rabbi

The Noda B'Yehuda the legendary Rav of Prague in the 1700's asks why does the gemara say "Gadol Yegia Kapoi Yoser MiYirah Shamayim"; greater is one who toils to earn a living than one who has Yirah Shamayim. Of course if you earn you own keep AND have yirah shamayim you are on a higher level. If you have no yirah shamayim you are certainly on a lower level. 

He explains that what it means is greater is the one who earns a living with the work of his hand than someone who is offered a position as a Rav because they think he is a yirah shamayim. This can be the explanation of the Mishna (1:10) better to work than to be awarded a salaried Rabbinic position.

The Kotzker Rebbe offers a different explanation. He says our mishna is referring to the different aspects of a Rav's job. "Ehoiv Es HaMelacha"; The Rav should love the work he performs in his duties as a Rav and do it with dedication, "U'Snah Es HaRabbanus"; He should hate the pomp, glory, and honor that is associated with the job.

Thu, 26 Jul 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Since When Are Popular People Necessarily Tzadikim?

The mishna says (3:13) whoever his fellow man is pleased with him, Hashem is also pleased with him. Does Hashem need people to tell Him who is really good? Moreover it isn't the externalities of a person that make him a tzaddik. There is more to this than meets the eye and the real battle won and lost in ones heart and mind far from the critical eyes of ones neighbor. Only Hashem can know the real intentions of a person.

The Yalkut Yehuda says that sometimes people do not serve Hashem for Hashem's sake but rather for selfish purposes. They love themselves and they want the fringe benefits that come along with being a good Jew. They may want Olam Haba or kavod from their peers. Self centered people are usually not beloved by those around them. Selfless people are genuinely admired and respected. Therefore says the mishna, the litmus test of the intentions of one's Avodas Hashem is to see what the people around him think. If they like him then his service to Hashem must indeed come from a pure heart and he is certainly beloved in Shamayim.

Thu, 12 Jul 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Pirkei Avos: Rav Elyashiv Distinguishes Between Rebbi Yosi Ben Kisma's And Bilam's Similar Reaction To Money

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:22) warns not to be greedy like Bilam. The Medrash Rabba proves that Bilam was greedy because he put money on the highest pedestal by saying even "if he received a house full of gold and silver he can defy Hashem's word."

Strangely in the following Perek the Mishna tells a story of Rebbi Yosi Ben Kisma who while on the road bumped into a person who offered him a vast fortune to come live in his city. His reply, eerily similar to Bilam, was that if he was given "all the gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls in the world he would only live in a Makom Torah. Why was this different than Bilam's attitude?

Rav Elyashiv in the Divrei Aggada answers that Bilam wanted to curse Bnei Yisroel but to show how tightly his powers were restricted he wanted to show that even the most important thing in the world cannot move him. That "thing" should have been life itself. By speaking of money he placed it ahead of life on his priority list.

Rav Yosi however was offered money to do something that was in his power to do if he chose. Not to go live in a city that is not a Makon Torah does not require one to give up his life. Therefore he responded that no pleasures in the entire world would lure him away from his precious Torah because money was not important to him.

Thu, 28 Jun 2007 03:00:00 +0000