Midrash Sh'muel Pirkéi Avot - Rabi Shmuel Di Uzeda -


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Midrash Sh'muel Pirkéi Avot - Rabi Shmuel Di Uzeda -

  1. 1. Midrash Shmuel A Collection of Commentaries on Pirkei Avot Compiled by Rabbi Shmuel Di Uzeda, of blessed memory, one of Rabbi YitzchakLima's senior disciples and author of the works Iggeret Shmuel and Lechem Dimah Translated into English by R. MOSHE SCHAPIRO and R. DAVID ROTTENBERG ‫לאינטרנט‬ ‫והוכנס‬ ‫הועתק‬ www .hebrewb ooks.org ‫תשס״ט‬ ‫היים‬ ‫ע״י‬ Jerusalem, 5754 — 1994 ‫התשנ״ד‬ ‫ירושלים‬
  2. 2. ‫שמורות‬ ‫הזכויות‬ ‫כל‬ ,‫דתות‬ ‫לעניני‬ ‫המשרד‬ ‫בסיוע‬ ‫לאוד‬ ‫יוצא‬ .‫לישיבות‬ ‫המחלקת‬ ,‫תורה‬ ‫ומוסדות‬ ‫ארגונים‬ ‫אגף‬ hfkxyu tnsocuce &*.zoyh *esyxch And cbe puMtcAnon I / of a^nusaqpcs /na p*2nascl WORKS J1KL » p.0.k.60fe»a1^l€m, isyel ‫״‬ f f ‫יי‬ gyw^ammynynn ‫^זזץד‬ Yew?" jonviv jGcho ‫מ.ד‬ fax 972-2-894317 ‫פקס‬ 02-280^735 :‫טל‬
  3. 3. ‫ומיוחדת‬ ‫רבה‬ ‫ברכה‬ ‫זה‬ ‫קדוש‬ ‫ספר‬ ‫להוצאת‬ ‫שיהיה‬ ‫שביקש‬ ‫התורם‬ ‫ע״י‬ ‫שם‬ ‫בעילום‬ ‫התורה‬ ‫וזבות‬ ‫בשמים‬ ‫נרשם‬ ‫שמו‬ ‫היקרה‬ ‫משפחתו‬ ‫בל‬ ‫ועל‬ ‫עליו‬ ‫תגן‬ ‫ויעליח‬ ‫ישכיל‬ ‫יפנה‬ ‫אשר‬ ‫ובכל‬ ‫תעמוד‬ ‫המחבר‬ ‫הרב‬ ‫וזכות‬ .‫ביתו‬ ‫בני‬ ‫ולכל‬ ‫לו‬
  4. 4. Preface We are overjoyed to present the English Judaica-reading public with Rabbi Shmuel UzidaJ s monumental work, Mirdrash Shmuel. This sefer served as an important reference source of Torah principles, ideals and values, for many generations. Rabbi Shmuel Uzida compiled the commentaries on Pirkei Avot by the greatest Torah scholars of his day, as well as of past generations. Many of the sources he quotes — expecially those which remained in manuscript and were never published — are no longer extant. Thus, in addition to supplying us with a collection of various commentaries in a concise framework, Midrash Shmuel is also a chronicle of excerpts from rare works which have vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again. The name Pirkei Avot (Chapters• of the Fathers) is descriptive of the ideological significance of these six chapters of misha: The elemental structure of Torah values and ideals upon which the entire edifice is balanced. Anyone who has even the most minimal understanding of human psychology and interpersonal relations will discover new horizons as he explores the subtle ideas conveyed in this sefer. Study of Chapter of the Fathers will assist the inquisitive and creative individual perceive new insights into the meaning of life in general and Torah observance in particular. Rav Moshe Schapiro did more than merely translate Midrash Shmuel; he also condensed many of the
  5. 5. explanations in such a way as to enable the modern, English-speaking reader to emerge with a clear understanding of the mishna. Through the study of this sefer, it is possible to come to terms with the trials and tribulations we all experience in our everyday existence, as well as earn a sizeable portion in the Next World. Many people today are in search of true happiness and satisfaction; they can rest assured that if they will fulfill all the ideals written in this work, they will be happy for the rest of their lives, and will infuse those with whom they come in contact with a sense of well-being. One should study this sefer carefully and review it often, for due to its complexity and depth, its message is sometimes evasive. Even after one has reached understanding, he will forget everything unless he reviews it often. Machon HaKtav, which has until today published more than 100 holy works concerning every conceivable field of Torah scholarship, continues to render important and valuable sefarim into the English, French, and Spanish languages. Joyous and blessed are the donors who have assisted us in our efforts, and who have helped support the numerous talmidei chachamim who toil in their effort to present Jews of this generation with Torah wisdom. May HaShem bless them for their efforts! May all who have contributed towards the publishing of this important work be blessed with all the blessings mentioned in the Torah!
  6. 6. Translator's Introduction Rabbi Shmuel Uzida, the author of Midrash Shmuel, set for himself a most challenging goal when he decided to write this sefer. It is an anthology of commentaries on Pirkei Avot by the foremost Torah scholars of Tzfat in the years following the death of the Ari'zal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory. In addition to compiling the numerous commentaries on each mishna, Rabbi Uzida also contributed his own explanation. It is clear from the great complexity of the commentaries that it must have taken Rabbi Uzida a good many years of devoted, exacting work to complete this gigantic work. There were many difficulties in translating this work. The authors use of florid, elegant Hebrew makes Midrash Shmuel a difficult text to read, and needless to say, to translate. Often, very similar ideas are repeated in the name of different commentaries, which reveals the author^ great concern for accuracy. In light of these facts, it was decided that a faithful, line- by-line translation would result in a cumbersome text that would invariably tire the reader. Instead, we chose to paraphrase only the commentaries which shed the most light on each mishna. Needless to say, it would be presumptuous of us to suggest that we are worthy of determining which explanations truly disclose the most truth. However, after much deliberation, it became clear that, for the sake of the sefer, only those commentaries which most appeal to the average Jew, s mind should be translated. It is hoped that we have made the correct choices.
  7. 7. The following is an excerpt from a letter by Maimonides to Shmuel ibn Tibbon, in which he outlines the responsibilites of a translator. We have attempted to apply these principles to the best of our ability in this translation of Midrash Shmuel: One who wishes to translate from one language to another, and tries to translate word by word, maintaining the order of both the subject and the words, will find his work very difficult, and will ultimately end up with a translation that is highly questionable and confusing. Rather, one who translates from one language to another must first understand the concept. Then he should relate and explain the subject according to his understanding, providing a clear exposition in the language into which he is translating. This is impossible without transposing the order of words. Moreover, the translator will sometimes have to use many words to translate a single word, while at other times he will have to use a single word to translate many. He will have to add and delete words so that the concept may be clearly expressed in the language into which he is translating.
  8. 8. 1 Midrash Shmuel Chapter One 1-1 Moshe received Torah from Sinai, and transmitted it to Yehoshuah, and Yehoshuah to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Members of the Great Assembly. They said three things: "Be deliberate in judgment, sustain numerous students, and make a fence to the Torah." An explanation is required to understand why Rebbi Yehudah HaNassi chose to describe the manner in which the Torah was transmitted from generation to generation specifically in this tractate. This tractate, unlike other tractates of the Talmud, does not discuss the laws regarding any specific mitzvah. Instead, it teaches general rules of ethics and positive character traits. Scholars of other nations have also composed books regarding this subject, basing themselves on misconstrued principles fabricated by their own imaginations. Thus, in order to emphasize the difference between the principles discussed in this tractate and the false doctrines of the scholarly men of the nations, the mishna stresses that these principles were received by Moshe from Sinai. These are
  9. 9. 2 CHAPTER ONE not merely hypothetical theories devised by the authors of the mishna, but are, rather, the divine revelation which Moshe received at Mt. Sinai. (Rabbeinu Ovadiah Bartenurah) Alternatively, we may offer a different answer: It is an established principle that the retention of Torah and wisdom can only be achieved by a person who fears sin. As the Tanna says, "Anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will endure" (Avot 3:11). The fear of Heaven is the repository where Torah and wisdom may be kept safe, as the verse says, "And he shall be the stability of your times, a store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure" (Yeshayahu 33:6). It was this exalted state of Heavenly fear which enabled Moshe, Yehoshuah, and the Elders to receive and transmit the Torah. Thus, by prefacing the mishna with the transmission of the Torah from generation to generation, Rebbi emphasizes that the comprehension of Torah is dependent on the attainment of Heavenly fear and ethical perfection. The mishna should have ascribed everything to either the receiver or to the giver. That is, it should have said either "HaShem gave Torah to Moshe, and Moshe transmitted it to Yehoshuah," or "Yehoshuah received Torah from Moshe, and the Elders from Yehoshuah." Instead, the mishna says "Moshe received Torah, and he transmitted it to Yehoshuah...." Were it not for Moshe Rabbeinu's successful debate with the angels, the Torah would not have been given to mortal man. Thus, by using the words "Moshe received
  10. 10. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 3 Torah,‫י‬‫י‬ the mishna is attributing the reception of the Torah entirely to Moshe Rabbeinu. As the Sages say in reference to the verse "And the Lord said to Moshe, 'Write for yourself these words; for after the tenor of these words have I made a covenant with you and with Israel," — HaShem said '1 have given Torah to Israel on your merit.‫״‬ ‫י‬ The angels argued against giving the Torah to man, as the verse says, "What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" The verse "Forever, O Lord, your word stands fast in the heavens" (Tehillim 119:89) also alludes to the debate between Moshe and the angels. The decisive claim in favor of giving the Torah to mortal man was that certain verses in the Torah are not applicable to spiritual beings, but rather specifically to humans. For example, the Torah says "You went down to Paroh and became enslaved," and "Do not kill," and "Do not commit adultery." There is an alternative answer to this question. In His infinite wisdom, HaShem foresaw that Moshe would not be able to receive the Torah in its entirety, as the verse says, "You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You do crown him with glory and honor‫י‬ ‫י‬ (Tehillim 8:6). For this reason, the mishna uses the words "Moshe received Torah": Moshe received as much Torah as his soul was able to perceive. This also explains why the mishna did not say "Moshe received the Torah," since this would imply that he received the entire Torah. Thus, the mishna says "Moshe received Torah" — as much as he was capable of receiving.
  11. 11. 4 CHAPTER ONE This explanation also answers a different question: Why does the mishna say "Moshe received Torah from Sinai" and not "Moshe received Torah from HaShem"'} The answer is that, out of concern for the honor of Heaven, the author of the mishna did not want to explicitly assign an incomplete act to HaShem. Instead, he chose to attribute this imperfect act to "Mount Sinai." For this reason, the mishna says "from Sinai." Similarly, if the purpose of the mishna were to inform us of where Moshe received the Torah, it should have said "in Sinai." Instead, it says "from Sinai," which does not teach where the Torah was received, but rather, from whom it was received. Regarding this last question, Rav Avuhav offers an alternative explanation: The mishna specifically said "from Sinai" in order to teach that Moshe received the Torah directly from HaShem. The use of this form is found elsewhere in Scripture, for example: "And many people shall go and say, 4 Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the G‫־‬d of Ya, akov...for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Yeshayahu 1:3). "From Zion" here means "From the Sages who sit in Zion." In addition, the numerical value of the letter mem ‫מ‬ (from) is forty, which alludes to the forty days during which Moshe ascended to the divine realms, and which ultimately led to HaShem giving the Torah to the Jewish People. It also alludes to the forty generations from Moshe until Rebbi and Rav Ashi, which implies that they were also present in Sinai when the Torah was given to the Jewish People. Attributing an action to a giver implicitly accords him with more importance than the receiver. Conversely, if an action is attributed to a receiver, he is considered the
  12. 12. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 5 more essential party. With this idea in mind, we may now understand why the mishna says "and Moshe transmitted it to Yehoshuah." This indicates that Moshe Rabbeinu, who imparted his knowledge, was spiritually greater than Yehoshuah, the receiver of that knowledge. In contrast, Yehoshuah, s spiritual stature was almost equal to that of the Elders and of the Prophets. For this reason, the mishna does not refer to the following generations as either receivers or bestowers. However, in relationship to the Members of the Great Assembly, the Prophets were spiritualy superior, and this is why the mishna uses the word "transmitted" once again. (Rav Moshe Almoshnino) Alternatively: Moshe Rabbeinu reached an exalted state of prophecy, his mind merging with the greater Unity of Divine Awareness. In this supremely elevated spiritual state, the notion of a giver and a receiver cease to exist. Instead, the perceiver, the perceived, and the knower all blend into one consciousness of all-knowing understanding. Thus, the mishna says "Moshe received..." ‫־־‬ beyond the ordinary exchange between a giver and a receiver, one who reaches this level of prophecy enters into an all-knowing state where knowledge suddenly becomes a part of his own consciousness. (Rav Shem Tov ben Shem Tov) Alternatively: Why does the mishna again use the word "transmitted" when referring to the Members of the Great Assembly? It would have been sufficient to say "...and the Prophets to the Members of the Great Assembly." The word "transmit" connotes a complete transfer of information. Thus, the mishna teaches that the Members
  13. 13. 6 CHAPTER ONE of the Great Assembly, who were the last generation before the decline of the generations began to accelerate in earnest, obtained a transmission of the Torah which was as clear as that which Yehoshuah received from Moshe Rabbeinu. In reference to the following generations, the word "received" is used, as in "Antignos Ish Suko received....‫יי‬ The word "received" connotes an imperfect transmission of information, through which the receiver was only able to acquire as much knowledge as his capabilities allowed. This implies, then, that a large portion of the Torah that Moshe received at Sinai was forgotten by the generations following the Great Assembly. Why does the mishna say "and transmitted it to Yehoshuah," instead of saying "And gave it to Yehoshuah?" Furthermore, we know that Moshe first taught the entire Torah to Aharon, then to Aharon, s sons, then to the Princes of the Tribes, and then to the entire Jewish Members. If so, why does the mishna say that Moshe transmitted the Torah to Yehoshuah? In answer to the first question, perhaps the word "transmit" intimates that an individual should not consider his Torah knowledge as if it were his own possession, to do with as he likes. Nor is it an object to be handed down to one, s offspring as an inheritance. Instead, one must regard himself as the safekeeper of an extremely valuable object owned by the king. As it would be unthinkable to deposit such an object with an irresponsible guardian, so, too, Torah must only be transferred to a worthy keeper who, in turn, will take care to transfer it to other righteous guardians.
  14. 14. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 7 The answer to the second question is as follows: In order for the Jewish People to continue to fulfill the mitzvot, they must have a leader to guide them and rule over them, as the verse says, "Her gates are sunk into the ground; he has destroyed and broken her bars; her king and her princes are among the nations; there is no Torah...‫יי‬ (Eichah 2:9). Thus, it is imperative that in every generation a suitable leader take charge over them, induce them to fulfill the mitzvot, punish the wicked, and reward the righteous. The verse "Cursed be he who does not maintain all the words of this Torah to do them" (Devarim 27:26) refers to a leader of the Diaspora who had the capability to reprimand the wicked but refrained from doing so. Yehoshuah was selected to assume the role of Leader of the Jewish Members; this was what Moshe Rabbeinu transferred to Yehoshuah. (Rav ben Shem Tov) There is a deeper explanation: Paradoxically, sometimes it is necessary to make decrees which contradict the precepts of the Torah in order to ensure its own perpetuation. As the Sages say, Jerusalem was destroyed because they did act according to the laws of the Torah.‫י‬‫י‬ Certain situations demand that the Beit Din make decrees which, although they seem to contradict the precepts of the Torah, are necessary to avoid eventual damage to the Torah and the Jewish People, as the verse says, "It is time to act for the Lord — they have made void Your Torah" (Tehillim 119:126). Of course, not every individual has the authority to make such decrees. Moshe Rabbeinu gave Yehoshuah this authority, and this is what is meant by "...and transmitted it to Yehoshuah." Yehoshuah then transmitted this authority to the Elders, and they to the Prophets, until eventually the Members of the Great Assembly were encharged with this responsibility. This
  15. 15. 8 CHAPTER ONE is one of the reasons why the Oral Law was not to be written - it was to be transmitted to the next Beit Din, thereby giving them full authority to interpret it as they deemed necessary. There is another answer to the question: The mishna is not referring to the Oral Law; instead, it refers to the esoteric secrets of the Torah. Moshe did not teach the esoteric tradition to just anyone; instead, he revealed these mysteries only to Yehoshuah. In turn, Yehoshuah transmitted the esoteric tradition to the Elders prior to his death, as the verse says "And Yehoshuah called to all the Elders...." However, an explanation is required as to why Yehoshuah did not follow Moshe Rabbeinu's example and transmit the secrets to one individual, transmitting them instead it to the entire group of Elders. Two answers may be given: Perhaps he did transmit it to one of the Elders, and that Elder taught another elder, and so on. On the other hand, it is possible that he decided to teach the entire group of Elders because when HaShem decreed that the secrets of the Torah should be transmitted to one worthy individual, this was only possible when the Jewish Members were gathered together in the Desert. Once the Tribes entered Eretz Yisrael, they partitioned off the Land and separated from each other, each Tribe settling on its own portion of land. Had Yehoshuah selected an individual from one of the Tribes and transmitted the esoteric secrets only to him, tribal discord would have resulted. Thus, he saw fit to reveal the esoteric secrets to the entire group of Elders, which consisted of six representatives from each Tribe. Furthermore, had
  16. 16. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 9 he only taught one individual, people would have been forced to travel great distances in order to learn from him alone. By teaching the entire group of Elders, Yehoshuah fulfilled the verse, "Judges and officers shall you make for yourselves in all your gates...and they shall judge the People with righteous judgment" (Devarim 16:18). (Rav Avuhav) Why does Tractate Avot, which deals with ethics, precede the tractates which discuss the Laws of Damages?" Regarding the Laws of Damages, the Talmud says, "One who wants to attain the trait of piousness should fulfill the Laws of Damages, and some say the Ethics of the Fathers.‫י‬ ' Thus, we see that Pirkei Avot appear adjacent to the Laws of Damages. Alternatively: There are four essential categories of Damages, referred to as the Arba Avot Nezikin, (Four categories of Damages) and the order of the Tractates implies that the study of Pirkei Avot will prevent one from committing one of the four Avot Nezikin. (Rav Yosef Nachmiash) Be deliberate in judgment The mishna warns dayanim against making a hasty deliberation of the law. Instead, they must investigate the law patiently and thoroughly, in order to avoid making faulty legal rulings, as the verse says, "Surely I shall take the appointed time; I will judge with equity" (Tehillim 75:3). Regarding this idea, Rav Baruch ben Melech quotes the verse "How is the faithful city become a harlot! It was full of judgment, righteousness lodged in it....‫י‬ ‫י‬ (Yeshayahu 1:21) That is, correct judgment will only
  17. 17. 10 CHAPTER ONE result from the case being left to "lodge" overnight. In addition, Rav Moshe Alshkar explains that the mishna teaches that the disputing parties must be given ample time to reach compromise before the judicial decision is pronounced. After the decision has been made, it is no longer possible to reach further compromise. The verse "When my heart was embittered, and I was pricked in my reins; I was foolish and ignorant then; I was like a beast before you" (Tehillim 73:21) illustrates this idea. That is, when I delay my heart from pronouncing a legal ruling, then I am dumbfounded, for I realize how far I was from the truth. (Rav Shimon bar Tzemach) Alternatively, this may mean that ample time should be devoted towards ,determining the legality of an action. However, if the law is known, a Judge should not delay unnecessarily before pronouncing the ruling. Or, it is possible that the mishna warns against assuming the role of a Rabbi prematurely. As the Sages say Rabbim Chalalim Hipila — this refers to a disciple who makes legal rulings before attaining Rabbinical Ordination. The verse says, "But let him that glories glory in this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises faithful love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, says the Lord" (Yirmi'ahu 9:23). The verse is explaining that the only way to come to know HaShem is by emulating Him. Thus, regarding the Almighty, the verse says, "He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well with him; was not this to know Me says the Lord" (Yirmi'ahu 22:16). (Rabbeinu Yonah)
  18. 18. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 11 The mishna may also be explained in this: The claimant and defendant must make a careful assessment before deciding which dayan to appoint to preside over a dispute. Or, it is possible that the mishna teaches that a dayan should not aspire to preside over a dispute; instead, he should refuse to accept the appointment unless the parties persist in their request. Alternatively, the mishna advises the disputing parties to try to reach a compromise before coming to the Court, since people who do bring their disputes to the Beit Din often become enemies. Perhaps the mishna is also warning the disputing parties to choose their words carefully, since a persons own admission is stronger evidence then even one hundred witnesses for the opposing side. Also, a disputing party should not interrupt the other, s speech, for this is not a proper way to conduct oneself while in the presence of the dayanim. Alternatively, it is possible this refers to the witnesses — they must take care to state their testimony honestly and accurately. Also, they should not volunteer their testimony. Instead, they should wait until they are requested by one of the parties to testify, since their testimony on the behalf of one of the parties might well cause the other party to harbor hatred against them. {Rav Yitzchak Karo) The word o^inn(deliberate) stems from the word ‫מתנה‬ (gift). This implies that a dayan must not accept a bribe. Instead, he must determine the ruling free of charge, in the same manner that one gives a gift. Alternatively, the word ‫מתונים‬ stems from the word ‫מתונים‬ (readily available). That is, the dayan must consider the claim of both parties with as much care as he would devote towards formulating his
  19. 19. 12 CHAPTER ONE own claim in a monetary dispute. After determining which party is liable, he must obligate that party to compensate the claimant, as the verse says: "Hear the small as well as the great; do not be afraid of the face of any man..." (Devarim 1:17). (The Ritvah) Sustain numerous students Instead of saying "Teach numerous students," the mishna chose to use the word "sustain." By selecting this word, the mishna implicitly obligates the wealthy to financially support Torah scholars, thus enabling them to devote their total concentration towards their studies. A person who supports Torah scholars is sure to be rewarded, as the verse says: "Zevulun will be joyous when he goes out." That is, as a reward for supplying the Tribe of Yissachar with all of their physical needs, thereby enabling them to study Torah without interruption, Zevulun will feel joyous and serene even when they will go out to do business. Although it is natural for people to feel trepidation at this time, the Tribe of Zevulun will feel secure in the knowledge that Yissachar, s Torah study will protect them from misfortune. This explanation is also evident from the use of the word ‫הרבה‬ (much) instead of ‫רבים‬ (many) — in addition to encouraging Sages to teach many students, the mishna also urges the wealthy to provide continuous and generous financial support to Torah scholars. Alternatively, it is possible that the author of the mishna intended to exclude Beit Shamafs opinion that "One should only teach Torah to a student who is worthy, modest, virtuous, and G-d‫־‬fearing." Instead, the way of Beit Hillel should be followed: "One should teach every person; no one who wishes to learn Torah should be rejected." This is the intention of the words "Sustain
  20. 20. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 13 numerous students." However, one should not ignore the potential danger of teaching an unworthy student. It is for this reason that the mishna continues "and make a fence to the Torah." Although no one should be turned away from entering the Beit Midrash (House of Study), esoteric teachings should only be revealed to each student in accordance with his level of devotion. A sage must guard his mouth from revealing profound esoteric truths to an unworthy student. A sage must always consult his disciples before pronouncing a halachic ruling, as it says, "I have learned much from my teachers, but I have learned the most from my disciples." Having numerous disciples will also minimize the time required to arrive at a halachic decision, since a student's questions will invariably intensify the dialectic level of argumentation and deliberation. As a support for this explanation, Rav Efraim quotes the following talmudic reference: "When Rav was asked a question regarding a treifah animal, he used to gather ten people together and say, 'Whoever can prove that this animal is kosher, let him speak up!'" (Rav Shem Tov ben Shem Tov) There is a more profound concept behind this decree: Only a person who is knowledgeable in Torah is considered a creature made in the image of G‫־‬d. Thus, by educating students, one in effect creates additonal images of G‫־‬d. A practical reason to accept numerous disciples is that one never knows which student will bear fruits. The more students one has, the more likely it is that one of them will become a spiritual leader of the Jewish Members. Similarly, a father should not think, "It is sufficient that one of my children will study Torah.‫י‬ ‫י‬ It is also possible
  21. 21. 14 CHAPTER ONE that the mishna is encouraging the wealthy to provide long-term accomodations for numerous Torah scholars. (R. YitchakKaro) The mishna warns not to study Torah alone, as the verse says: "A sword upon the liars, and they shall become fools; a sword upon her mighty men, and they shall be dismayed" (Yirmi'ahu 3:36). This verse refers to people who study Torah alone. The Talmud also emphasizes the importance of studying Torah with other people: "He who loves to learn in public with his Rav will reap a bountiful harvest in Torah." (Rav Matitiahu Ha'itzri) In the days of Moshe Rabbeinu, students used to stand during study and the Rav used to sit. The word ‫והעמידו‬ (sustain) in the mishna stems from the word ‫עמוד‬ (stand). This warns students to remain standing while in the presence of their Rav. Alternatively, we may answer that the Members of the Great Assembly reinstituted the attributes "The Great, Mighty, and Awesome G-d, the Supreme G-d" into the silent prayer: The directive to sustain numerous students supports the attribute "The Great," the directive to make a fence for the Torah fulfills the attribute "The Awesome," since the Torah is awe inspiring, as the verse says, "My covenant was with him for life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear with which he feared Me, and was afraid of My Name" (Malachi 2:5). The directive to be deliberate in judgment stems from the attribute "Mighty," since Judgment and might are both manifestations of the Sefirah of Gevurah. (Rav Yosef Nachmiash) And make a fence to the Torah
  22. 22. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 15 The Torah says: "Therefore shall you keep My ordinance, that you do not commit any one of these abominable customs, which were practised before you, and that you not defile yourselves in them; I am the Lord, your G-d" (Vayikra 18:30). The Sages understood this to mean "Make a fence around My prohibitions." In reference to this, David HaMelech said, "I understand more than the Elders, because I keep your precepts" {Tehillim 119:100). That is, in addition to keeping the negative precepts, I will also restrain myself from acting in a manner which people find displeasing. This will distance me even further from transgressing Your precepts ‫־־‬ if peopled approval becomes important to me, then certainly I will take precautions against displeasing You. Some commentaries say that the mishna advises a sage or teacher to speak clearly and concisely. Otherwise, the listeners will grow tired, and consequently, become distracted. In this vein, David HaMelech said, "My heart overflows with a goodly matter; I relate my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer" (Tehillim 45:2) This statement teaches four elemental principles of public speaking: 1) One must think before speaking. 2) The speech should be concise and brief. 3) The subject of discussion should be of interest to the audience. 4) The speaker should be well versed in the content of the speech. Rav Menachem, of Beit Meir, writes that the importance of limiting one's speech is illustrated by Avot DeRav Natan: "The Almighty Himself limited His speech, as it says 'And
  23. 23. 16 CHAPTER ONE at this House, which is high, every one that passes by shall be astonished; they shall hiss and say, "Why has the Lord done thus to this Land, and to this House?" And they shall answer, "Because they forsook the Lord, their G-d, Who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt...'' (Melachim A 9:8-10). We see that HaShem did not write in the Torah that the Temple would eventually be destroyed. Instead, the first mention of this subject is in Sefer Devarim, which was written by Moshe Rabbeinu. This teaches us that even HaShem withholds Himself from saying everything. (Rav Moshe Alshkar) The mishna obligates the rabbinical authorities to make decrees which will distance individuals from succumbing to their Evil Inclination and transgressing Torah precepts. For example, the Torah says: "Do not approach a woman when she is unclean." The Sages then decreed that, in addition to the prohibition against conducting sexual relations with such a woman, it is also prohibited to kiss or touch her in any manner. The Sages say, "A fenced vineyard is very different than an unfenced one." For this reason, a person who violates a rabbinical decree incurs public lashing. In contrast, one who fulfills these decrees is rewarded generously, as the verse says: "Moreover, by them is your servant elightened, and in keeping of them there is great reward" (Tehillim 19:12). The verse "Keep your heart with the greatest vigilance, for out of it are the issues of life" (Mishlei 4:23) also proves this idea. That is, Shlomo HaMelech said, "I will guard my heart even from the decrees which safeguard Your precepts, since they are also a source of eternal life." (Rav ben Shem Tov)
  24. 24. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 17 The mishna warns every individual to take precautions against succumbing to sin, especially in areas where he feels particularly vulnerable. (Rav Yitzchak Karo) And Yehoshuah to the Elders The mishna refers to the generation of Sages which succeeded Yehoshuah as the ‫זקנים‬ (Elders), not as "Prophets,5 ' even though they preceded the generation of Prophets. There are three possible reasons for this: Before Shmuel's lifetime, prophecy was a very rare occurrence, as the verse says, "And the child Shmuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no frequent vision" (Shmuel A 3:1). Thus, although the Elders preceded the Prophets, they were not endowed with the power of prophecy. Alternatively, it is possible that they did have prophecy, but, because their prophecies were not deemed meaningful to future generations, they were not recorded in Scripture. Thus, the mishna does not refer to them as Prophets. Alternatively, it is possible that the Elders' level of prophecy actually surpassed the Prophets' state of prophetic vision: Unlike the Prophets, who were only capable of maintaining a prophetic state while in isolation, the Elders were able to do so while in the presence of others. (Rav Matitiahu Hayitzri)
  25. 25. 18 CHAPTER ONE 1-2 Shimon HaTzadik was one of the last of the Great Assembly. He used to say: "The world stands on three things: on Torah, Avodah (Service), and on Acts of Lovingkindness." Shimon HaTzadik explains that the Great Assembly saw it fit to emphasize the first mishna's three principles "Be deliberate in judgment, sustain numerous students, and make a fence to the Torah," because these principles specifically represent the three pillars upon which the world stands: "Sustain numerous students" represents "Torah"; "Make a fence to the Torah" represents "Avodah"; and "Be patient in judgment" represents "Acts of Lovingkindness." Being deliberate in judgment is considered an act of kindness, since there is no greater kindness than vindicating the virtuous party in a monetary dispute, as is proven by the Sages' statement: "One who makes a correct judicial decision partner is considered a partner to the Almighty in the process of Creation," and regarding Creation, another verse says: "I have said the world is built by love; You did establish your faithfulness in the very heavens" (Tehillim 89:3). This idea was illustrated by David Hamelech himself: "And David executed judgment and justice to all his people" (Shmuel B 8:15). The King demonstrated complete impartiality when he presided over a monetary dispute, not allowing the financial status of either party to influence his decision. However, if the liable party was a destitute person, David Hamelech would pay
  26. 26. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 19 his fine for him. In this manner, David practiced both justice and the performance of acts of lovingkindness. In addition, Shimon HaTzadik suggests that the world's continued existence is dependent on man perfecting himself through Torah study and the performance of righteous deeds. There are two types of righteous deeds: interpersonal acts of kindness, and the performance of the Mitzvot. Thus, "Torah" refers to the study of HaShenCs doctrines, "Avodah" alludes to the performance of His Mitzvot, and "Acts of Lovingkindness" refers to the performance of kind deeds towards others. The verse "The ways of Zion are mourning because none come to the Festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness" (Eichah 1:4) describes the consequence of disregarding these obligations in clear and unequivocal terms: "Because none come to the Festival" alludes to the pilgrims who used to flock to Jerusalem for the three Festivals whose custom it was to give generous presents to the poor. But because of the Jewish People's unwillingness to continue these acts of lovingkindness towards each other, the Almighty caused the pilgrimages to cease. Consequently, the prosperity which the pilgrimages gave to the residents of the Holy City came to an end as well. "All her gates are desolate" refers to the Houses of Learning where Torah was studied — a lack of dedication towards the study of Torah caused their destruction. "Her priests sigh" refers to the interruption of the sacrificial offerings, which resulted from disregarding the sanctity of the Temple and the laws concerning the Sacrifices.
  27. 27. 20 CHAPTER ONE "Avodah" refers to the sacrifices offered in the Beit HaMikdash. Following the destruction of the Temple, prayer replaced the sacrificial offerings, as the verse says: "O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall rehearse your praise" (Tehillim 51:17). Both wealthy and poor people are capable of performing kind deeds. For example, even offering advice to someone in need of it is considered a chessed, as the verse says: "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart" (Mishlei 27:9). (Rabbeinu Yonah) Rav ben Shem Tov points out a difficulty: The mishna says that the entire world, which is composed of both physical and heavenly entities, stands on three pillars. However, the three pillars of the world presented here are concepts applicable only to human beings. Why would man's unwillingness to fulfill these three principles affect the well-being of the heavenly realms as well? There are various ways to answer this question: Perhaps it is true that the heavenly realms would not be destroyed. Still, the destruction of the physical world would change the face of Creation to such a large extent that it could no longer be considered a "world." Alternatively, one may posit that even the heavenly realms would suffer the fate of the physical world, since, as the Midrash teaches, the entire Creation came into being only for the sake of Man. Or, one may answer that since Man is a microcosm of the entire Universe, his destruction is, in a certain sense, the destruction of the entire Creation. Alternatively, it is possible that the three pillars refer to the three different realms of existence: "Torah" refers to the realm of supernal thought, "Avodah" refers to the
  28. 28. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 21 sphere of the constellations and the luminary bodies, and "Acts of loving kindness" refers to the physical world. "Torah" refers to the areas of Torah study which specify the principles of faith and divulge the esoteric truths. "Avodah" alludes to the practical fulfillment of the Torah — Mitzvot, Sacrificial Offerings, and laws pertaining to the festivals and forbidden foods. "Acts of loving kindness'' refers to the laws regarding interpersonal relationships. (Rav M. HaYitzri) "Avodah" refers to the obligation to serve HaShem with one's entire heart, as the verse says: "And it will come to pass, that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love HaShem your G-d, and to serve Him, with all your heart and with all your soul" (Devarim 11:13). Even if "Avodah" is to be understood in its simple sense, referring to the Sacrificial Offerings, the intention of the person bringing the offering is nevertheless the most important factor. This idea is proven by the fact that an offering can be rendered invalid by a Cohen's inappropriate intention. (Rav Y. ben Nachmiash)
  29. 29. 22 CHAPTER ONE 1-3 Antigonus Ish Suko received [the oral tradition] from Shimon Hatzadik. He used to say: "Do not be like slaves who serve the Master in order to receive a reward. Rather, be like slaves who serve the Master not in order to receive a reward; and the fear of Heaven be on you." The Ba'al HaAkeidah and Rav Yitchak Abarbanel both point out the following difficulty: What is wrong with fulfilling the Mitzvot in order to receive a reward? The Torah itself states that a person should honor his parents "in order that your days shall be lengthened." An additional proof that one may fulfill the Mitzvot in hope of getting reward is the Sages' statement: "The Almighty wanted to bring merit to Israel, and thus gave them much Torah and many mitzvot." Moreover, the Almighty said: "You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your G-d has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess" (Devarim 5:30). Thus, an explanation is necessary to understand why Antingonus discourages one from expecting reward for fulfilling Mitzvot. The difficulty may be answered in this manner: According to Rashi's commentary, it is possible to say that Antigonus' directive only refers to physical reward. It is perfectly in order, however, to perform the Mitzvot expecting spiritual reward. In the case of a person who performs the Mitzvot purely for the promise
  30. 30. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 23 of physical reward, it is bound to eventually happen that he will not receive his expected reward. When this occurs, he will most likely discard the Mitzvot of the Torah, taking up the pursuit of satisfying his physical desires instead. For this reason, one must fulfill the Mitzvot without expectation of physical reward. In this manner, one's faith is guaranteed to remain unscathed in all circumstances. (Rav Y. Abarbanel) In truth, there is also a simpler answer to the difficulty. Although it is the Almighty's Will to reward those who fulfill his precepts, it would nevertheless be appropriate for His subjects to serve Him selflessly. Now, this possibility seems clearly contradicted by the Talmud's statement: "One who says T will give a selah to tzedakah (charity) on the condition that my son live and that I will inherent a portion in the World to Come' is considered a righteous person." Actually, there is no contradiction, however, since the mitzvah of tzedakah is unlike all other 14mitzvot. Regarding all other mitzvot, the verse says "Do not test the Lord your G-d" (Devarim 6:16), while concerning tzedakah the verse says "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House, and put Me to the test with that, says the Lord of Hosts" (Malachi 3:10). In addition, the difficulty may be answered by making the following observation: In the reference quoted above, the Talmud says that such a person is "Considered a tzadik (a righteous person)"; however, it is interesting to note that such an attitude does not merit him to be considered a chassid (a pious person). Thus, we may infer that Antigonus' admonishment is directed specifically towards those people who strive to reach piousness, a
  31. 31. 24 CHAPTER ONE higher spiritual level than righteousness. This is supported by the Sages' statement: "He who wishes to become a pious person should study Pirkei Avot" A further consideration will reveal an additional solution to the difficulty. The mishna uses the words ‫עבדים‬ (slaves) and ‫משמשים‬ (serve). The word ‫עבד‬ comes from the same root as the word ,‫עבודה‬ which connotes arduous labor, as in the verse: "And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage ‫קשה‬ ‫עבודה‬ in mortar, and in brick and in all manner of bondage in the field..." (Shemot 1:14). In contrast, the word ‫משמשים‬ comes from the root ,‫שימוש‬ which connotes relatively light work: The Sages say: "Service ‫שימוש‬ of the Torah is greater than the study [of the Torah,] as the verse says 4 ...here is Elisha son of Shafat, who poured water on the hands of Eliyahu' (Melachim B 3:11)." Considering that HaShem liberated us from our state of bondage in Egypt, we are, in effect, His slaves. Thus, it would be fitting that every moment of our lives be spent in strenuous effort to fulfill His Will. Regrettably, we fall far short of this goal, and instead, find it difficult to set aside any time at all to devote towards the service of G-d. Antigonus' admonishment concerns this very shortcoming: Considering that we are incapable of serving G-d as a slave serves his master, but serve him instead as a disciple serves his teacher, at the very least we should not expect to receive reward for our minimal efforts. Rather, we should be grateful that HaShem does not castigate us for our shortcomings. However, those rare individuals who do fulfill the obligation to serve HaShem as a slave serves his master are entirely justified in expecting reward for their efforts. It is interesting to note that the second clause of the mishna seems to merely repeat the first clause in the
  32. 32. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 25 negative. However, this is not the case. Instead, the mishna teaches us that there are three basic attitudes that people adopt concerning their service to HaShem: 1. To serve G-d on condition that a reward is forthcoming. 2. To serve G-d unconditionally, yet nevertheless hoping to receive reward 3. To serve G-d without any ulterior motives whatsoever. The first clause of the mishna prohibits the first position. However, were it not for the second clause, one could infer that the second attitude is the ideal position. Thus, the second clause of the mishna teaches that, although there is no prohibition against adopting the second position, the third position is the ideal one. And the fear of Heaven be on you That is, even though the ideal is to serve HaShem out of love, it is still preferable to serve Him out of fear than to serve Him in hope of receiving reward. Or, perhaps the mishna teaches that if the Jewish People succeed in serving HaShem without expecting reward, the nations of the world will in turn fear the Jews, as the verse says: "All people of the earth shall see that you are called by the Name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you" (Devarim 9:10). Alternatively, it is possible that Antigonus teaches us to draw inspiration from the sun: Concerning the sun, the Sages say, "It is as painful for the sun to appear as menstruation pains are painful to women. Even so, the verse says: 'He is like a bridegroom coming out of
  33. 33. 26 CHAPTER ONE his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run a race"' (Tehillim 19:6). We must also serve HaShem in this manner, no matter how difficult this may be. There is another way to explain this statement. By mentioning the Heaven, the mishna reminds us of the consequence of failing to fulfill the precepts of the Torah. As the verse "And the heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron" (Devarim 28:23) testifies, the heavens are one of HaShem, s primary means of meting out punishment to His Creation for having transgressed His Will. Although the earth is also used to mete out punishment to mankind, it is secondary to the heavens, since the principal cause of a poor crop is lack of sufficient rainfall. The Torah also relates various incidents where the heavens were used to exact punishment on mankind. For example, "Then the Lord rained upon Sedom and upon Amora brimstone and fire from the Lord, out of heaven" (Bereshit 19:24). This statement may also be understood as referring to HaShem. That is, if the Jewish People fulfill Antigonus' directive, He will fear for their well-being in the same manner as a father fears for the welfare of his children. Or, perhaps it teaches that if the Jewish People will follow the Torah, the heavens will fear them, for when Jews say, "He makes the wind blow," the winds will begin to blow, and when they say, "He makes the rain descend," the rain will immediately begin to descend. (Rav Y. Karo) After emphasizing the importance of serving HaShem out of love, Antigonus stresses the need to have fear of Heaven as well. One should not relate to G-d in the same manner as a son relates to his father. Instead,
  34. 34. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 27 one should serve Him out of love and fear simultaneously. (Rav Efraim) Even after succeeding against the Evil Inclination, a person should continue fear succumbing to sin. In addition, he must constantly weigh his deeds, searching for hints of sin. Furthermore, a righteous person must accept hardships and affliction without anger. Instead, he should ascribe these unfortunate occurrences to his sins, and feel fortunate to receive his punishment in This World instead of in the Next World. (Rav Menachem the Beit Meir) Although Antigonus warns against serving HaShem for the sake of reward, one should also not act as a free agent, sometimes serving Him and sometimes not. Instead, one should consider himself a true slave. In this manner, he will come to serve Him out of love and fear. This may be achieved by pondering that it is within His capabilities to give reward; one will then come to love Him. And by pondering that He is capable of meeting out punishment, one will come to fear Him. However, one should not love Him and fear Him merely because of the promise of reward or the threat of punishment; consider how mighty and awesome He must be if he can give reward and mete out punishment to Man, and then you will become a willing slave of the Almighty. (The Ramah) Antigonus warns against learning Torah from a rav who does not fulfill the Torah for its own sake. As the verse says: "For the Priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek Torah at his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). If he is a priest of the Almighty, then one is permitted to learn Torah from him. However, if he fulfills the Torah for ulterior motives, then he is not a Priest of
  35. 35. 28 CHAPTER ONE HaShem, but rather, a priest of that desire which controls his actions. Consequently, his Torah study will also be flawed, since authentic Torah study can only be attained by someone who serves HaShem with no ulterior motives. (Rav Matitiahu Yitzhari) After stressing the importance of serving HaShem out of love, Antigonus saw fit to re-emphasize the importance of having fear of Heaven. However, love of G-d is mentioned before fear of G-d because it is considered more worthy. The verse "He will charge His angels for you, to protect you in all your ways... For he has yearned for Me and I will deliver him; I will elevate him because he knows My Name" (Tehillim 91) implies that two angels protect a person who loves Him. However, a person who fears Him is only protected by one angel, as the verse says: "He encamps the angel of HaShem around those who fear Him." (Rav Yosef Nachmiash) One must serve HaShem as a member of a household serves the head of the family. Unlike a slave who tries to shirk his duties, a member of the household fulfills his obligations willingly. So, too, one must serve HaShem, as the verse says: "Please, HaShem, for I am Your servant, son of Your handmaid'‫י‬ (Tehillim 116). (Rav Moshe Alshkaf)
  36. 36. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 29 1-4 Yosi ben Yo'ezer from Tzreidah and Yosi ben Yochanan from Jerusalem received from them. Yosi ben Yo'ezer of Tzreidah says: "Let your house be the sages' conference house, allow yourself to be soiled by the dust of their feet and drink in their words thirstily." Shimon HaTzadik taught that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah, and Kind Deeds. Each of the three Sages who preceded him discuss one of the three pillars in more depth. Antigonus' statement, "Do not be like slaves who serve the Master in order to receive a reward," illustrates the principle of Avodah (Service). Yosi ben Yo'ezer's directive elucidates the principle of Torah, while Yosi ben Yochanan, in the next mishna, was concerned with the concept of Kind Deeds, as is evident from the next mishnah. Perhaps this also explains why the mishnah says "received from them" and not "received from him" ‫־־‬ this tells us that they received the tradition from both Antigonus and Shimon Hatzadik. The mishnah teaches that a person who opens his doors to sages will undoubtedly merit to learn a great deal of Torah. However, this requires that he fulfill the following two conditions: 1. He must not allow himself, the host, to feel superior over the sages, his guests. Instead, he must cling to the dust of their feet and act humbly in their presence, as if they were the host and he the guest.
  37. 37. 30 CHAPTER ONE 2. No matter how much Torah he hears from the sages, he must not take Torah study for granted. Instead, he should drink in their words thirstily. (Rav Y. Abarbanet) Drink in their words thirstily A person should not think that if he has already heard the sages discuss a particular subject of Torah that there is nothing to gain from hearing them once again. In truth, there is much knowledge to be gained from taking note of their choice of words and making inferences from their manner of speech. (Rav Yosef Ya'avetz) Perhaps this emphasizes the importance of studying Torah during one's youth, when the body still craves food and drink. The Torah which a person studies during this period of his life endures for many years. (Sefer Lev Avot) Allow yourself to be soiled by the dust of their feet This means that one should follow the Sages' advice and heed their decrees. This is analogous to following a person closely on a dirt road: the person who follows becomes dirty from the dust raised by the first traveler. Or, perhaps this refers to the manner in which they used to learn in the past: the students sat on the ground at the Rav's feet while he sat on a chair. (Rav Ovadiah) The mishnah also teaches that a person who subjugates himself to the Sages will eventually merit that his home is visited frequently by Torah scholars, who will come to take counsel with him and ask him for advice. In time, his willingness to submit his will to the sages' words will
  38. 38. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 31 result in his becoming the foremost Torah scholar of the generation. There is another way to explain the mishnah: "Let your house be the sages' conference house" teaches that one must extend hospitality to the Torah scholars of his own city as well as to those from other cities. In reference to these out of town scholars, the mishnah says: "Allow yourself to be soiled by the dust of their feet" ‫־־‬ that is, invite them to lodge in your home. "Drink in their words thirstily" teaches that when a Torah scholar shares an original idea with someone, that person must pretend as if he has never heard the idea before, even if this is not the case. Alternatively, it is possible the mishnah teaches that a person who extends hospitality to Torah scholars will inevitably learn Torah from them. Eventually, he will grow so knowledgeable as to be able to respectfully contest their opinion. This is alluded to by the word ‫מתאבק‬ (soiled by dust), which comes from the same root as the word ,‫ויאבק‬ as in the verse "And a man wrestled ‫ויאבק‬ with him." As two people wrestling with each other cause dust to rise in the air, so, too, sages who argue in Torah study figuratively cause dust to arise. According to Rashi, this means that one should serve the Sages. One might wonder, "Serving them forces me to interrupt the study of Torah!" In answer to this, the mishnah writes: "Drink in their words thirstily" — it is beneficial to periodically take leave of one's own teachers, since this prevents one from growing indolent in his studies. After a short absence, a student will find that he is able to listen to his teachers more eagerly.
  39. 39. 32 CHAPTER ONE This statement can be interpreted in two ways: Treat every sage with great honor, even in excess of what he deserves; or alternatively, the mishna is urging every person, even those incapable of comprehending a Torah scholar's Torah dissertation, to learn Derech Eretz (proper ethical conduct) or worthy personality traits from a sage's behavior. This is alluded to by the words "dust of their feet," which imply that much can even be learned even from a Torah scholar's idle talk. (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) Let your house be the sages' conference house This means that one must make the Beit Midrash his primary residence. One who is able to achieve this goal will undoubtedly make great progress in his Torah study. (Rav Moshe Almoshninu) The Sages used to wear long garments which raised dust behind them when they walked. Thus, the mishnah employs figurative language to entreat one to "follow" the ways of the Sages. (Rav M. Yitzhari)
  40. 40. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 33 1-5 Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem says: "Open your house generously, and make the poor people members of your household, and do not speak excessively with women; ]if[ this refers to one's own wife, certainly it is true of another man's wife." Accordingly, the Sages said: "Whoever speaks excessively with women causes evil to himself, disturbs his Torah study, and eventually inherits Gehennom." Open your house generously, and make the poor people members of your household Rav Yossi ben Yochanan illustrates the third principle mentioned by Shimon HaTzadik: Gemillut Chassadim (Kind Deeds). In order to encourage the poor to approach the houses of the wealthy, he urges homeowners to open an entrance to their homes which is clearly visible from the main thoroughfare. These words can also be interpreted in a different way: The mishna teaches that one should care for the poor in the same manner in which he cares for his own children. Furthermore, one should give his possessions away to the poor under all circumstances, even if this will result in his own children remaining penniless. Or, perhaps the mishna teaches that in order to supply the poor with their every need, one should supply his own family members with only the bare necessities. Alternatively, it is possible that the mishna warns the members of one's household
  41. 41. 34 CHAPTER ONE against behaving arrogantly towards the poor. Instead, they should consider the poor people as equals. Or, perhaps the mishna urges us to give tzedakah (Charity) to the poor with as much pleasure when we give a gift to our children, as the verse says: "Surely give him, that he will not suffer." There is good reason to feel joy when giving tzedakah, as the verse says: "The merciful man does good to his own soul, but he that is cruel troubles his own flesh" (Mishlei 11:17). That is, by giving to the poor, a person causes direct benefit to himself and to his offspring. As the Sages say, "If one is unmerciful to the poor today, in the future people will treat his offspring in the same manner in their time of need.‫יי‬ Conversely, the descendants of a person who helps the poor will, in turn, be helped in their time of need. It is possible the mishna teaches that a person who gives generously to the poor will be blessed by HaShem with wealth and plenty. This is the meaning of the words "Open your house generously" — as a reward for being generous, your house will become an open receptacle to receive HaShem‫״‬s blessings. This idea is illustrated by the verse "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" (Mishlei 22:7) as a reward for giving tzedakah, a person becomes wealthy. Thus, the wealthy are more indebted to the poor for presenting them with the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah then the poor are to the wealthy for providing them with their physical needs. There is another possible interpretation: If one makes a point to invite only poor people to eat, they will feel
  42. 42. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 35 embarrassed to receive handouts. However, if a person becomes renowned as a generous guest to both the poor and the wealthy alike, poor people will no longer feel they are being fed handouts. Instead, they will feel as honoured guests, equal in stature to the wealthy guests who eat at their host's table. The mishna forbids giving charity to someone who is undeserving of receiving it. In reference to this, the verse says: "He that oppresses the poor may well bring him gain, and he that gives to the rich, may nevertheless come to want" (Mishlei 22:16). That is, a person who gives charity to someone who is undeserving does not fulfill the mitzvah. The only thing he accomplishes by this empty gesture is to diminish his wealth. (R. Matiti'ahu Yitzhari) The above verse can be explained in a different manner. By giving charity to a person who does not have a legitimate need for it, one causes him untold damage, for the Sages say that someone who takes charity unnecessarily will eventually become impoverished. Conversely, one who withholds money from a poor person in a certain sense actually benefits him, for HaShem shows mercy towards those who are treated cruelly. The mishna advises to accustom one's family members to live frugally, thereby training them to accept a life of poverty. In this manner, if they become impoverished in the future, they will not suffer embarrassment over their diminished financial status or feel the need to ask for handouts. (Rav Baruch ben Melech) Do not speak excessively with women; if this refers to one's own wife, certainly it is true of another man's wife.
  43. 43. 36 CHAPTER ONE Accordingly, the Sages said, "Whoever speaks excessively to women causes evil to himself, disturbs his Torah study, and eventually inherits Gehennom." After illustrating the importance of showing generosity to the poor, the mishna saw fit to warn male philantropists against conducting prolonged conversations with the poor women who are bound to visit their households asking for charity. If the Sages say that one should refrain from conducting unnecessarily lengthy conversations with one's own wife, out of concern that this will arouse one's desire, then this certainly applies to other women. Alternatively, it is possible that the mishna warns against discussing with one's wife the amount of tzedakah he should give to the poor, since women in general are naturally more miserly than men. Once his wife realizes that her husband is dependent on her advice in such matters, she will eventually dominate his life. She will naturally influence him to spend his time and money in pursuit of what she feels is important and, consequently, he will find less and less time to devote towards Torah study. (R. Yitchak Abarbanel) Women's tendency towards miserliness is derived from the Sages' interpretation of the verse "Avraham hastened into the tent to Sara and said, 'Make ready quickly three measures of Kemach Solet (fine meal), knead it and make Cckes'" (Bereshit 18:6). The Gemarra asks why Avraham said kemach (coarse flour) and also solet (fine flour). The answer is that Avraham foresaw the possibility that Sarah would object against offering their guests cakes of fine flour. Therefore, he increased his request gradually. Initially, he asked her to bake three cakes of coarse flour;
  44. 44. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 37 only after she assented to this request did he instruct her to use fine flour. There is an alternative explanation to this clause. There are two common deterrents against inviting guests (hachnasat orchim): Guests infringe upon a couple's privacy by limiting their freedom to conduct lengthy conversations with each other; and, a husband may feel reluctant to invite strange men to his house out of concern that they will engage his wife in overly-lengthy conversations, during which immodest overtures might be suggested. In order to overcome the first problem, the mishna says: "Do not speak excessively with women; this refers to one's own wife." In this way, one will not become accustomed to conversing at length with his wife. Consequently, he will not be dissuaded from fulfilling the mitzvah of hachnassat orchim as a result of the first reason. In answer to the second problem, the mishna cautions the guest: "Certainly it is true of another man's wife." The fulfillment of these directives by both host and guest will ensure that the mitzvah of hachnassat orchim will prevail amongst the Jewish People. The Sages say that the recommendation against conversing excessively with one's wife is equally applicable when she is ritually pure as when she is impure. When she is impure, conversation should be limited in order to preclude the arousal of physical desire, which in turn may lead to violating the prohibition against having sexual relations with an impure woman. This is what is meant by the words "causes evil to himself — there is no greater damage one can inflict upon himself than by transgressing a Torah precept. On the other hand,
  45. 45. 38 CHAPTER ONE prolonged conversations between a husband and wife, even when she is spiritually pure, take away from the time set aside for Torah study. This is what is meant by the words "disturbs his Torah study." Regarding both of these dangers, the mishna says: "eventually inherits Gehennom." Alternatively, the word "evil" (Ra'ah in Hebrew) alludes to Lillit, the female demon assigned to cause those who think unclean thoughts during the day to spill their seed at night. Shlomo Hamelech writes: "I find more bitter than death the woman" (Kohelet 7:26) — that is, death only uproots man from this temporal world, but a woman is capable of making man lose his portion in the Next World. "Whose heart ensnares and nets'' refers to a woman's innate ability to ensnare a man whom she fancies to commit sin by conducting illicit relations with her. (Rabbeinu Yonah) The word ‫שיחה‬ (speach) connotes trivial conversation, as is evident from the Sages' statement: "[Even] a talmid chachanCs trivial conversation requires study." Thus, we may infer that the mishna only disapproves of conducting lengthy conversations with one's wife if the subject discussed is unimportant. However, it is perfectly in order to discuss important subjects with one's wife at length. (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) The verse "For by means of a harlot, a man is brought to a piece of bread" (Mishlei 6:26) teaches that unchecked lust can distort a person's common sense to the degree that he will be willing to offer a prostitute his last morsel of food in exchange for the opportunity to satisfy his desire. Moreover, a person who commits adultery demonstrates
  46. 46. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 39 that he values the satisfaction of his physical desires more than his own life, since adultery carries the death penalty. (Rav M. Yitzhari) The above verse also teaches that the degree of desire increases in proportion to the gravity of the transgression. Thus, a sinner is willing to lose his wealth in exchange for living with a prostitute, as the verse says: "But he who keeps company with harlots wastes his substance" (Mishlei 29:3). However, in exchange for living with a married woman, the verse says: "And the adultress will hunt for the precious life": for this, a sinner is willing to risk his most precious possession — his very life. The word ‫שיחה‬ refers to the dialogue between husband and wife which precedes sexual relations. Thus, the mishna warns against conducting relations in excess of the guidelines established by the Talmud. (Rav Y. Nachmiash)
  47. 47. 40 CHAPTER ONE 1-6 Yehoshuah ben Parchiah and Nitai Ha'arbeli received from them. Yehoshuah ben Parchiah says: "Make yourself a rav, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge people by giving them the benefit of the doubt." Yehoshuah ben Parchiah's statment is in reference to Yossi ben Yo'ezer's directives concerning Torah study. He advises against learning Torah from different rabbis. Instead, a person should choose one rav from whom to learn Torah. This is analogous to eating various types of food in one meal — the result is usually indigestion. The Talmud says that Rav Yehudah's opinion should not be relied upon for this very reason: he did not have one teacher, but instead, learned from various Sages. Alternatively, the mishna cautions against studying Torah by oneself, as the verse says: "A sword upon the liars, and they shall become fools; a sword upon her mighty men, and they shall be dismayed" (Yirmi'ahu 50:36). Preferrably, one should learn Torah from a rav. However, if one is unable to find a suitable rav, he should study Torah in the company of other scholars. Even if these other scholars delude themselves into thinking that they are more knowledgeable than he, he should subjugate himself to them and continue to study with them. This is what is meant by "Make yourself a rav": A person who does not wish to acquiesce to others to such an extent should not let this deter him from learning with other people. Instead, he should try to acquire a study partner at all costs, even monetary. This is what "Acquire for
  48. 48. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 41 yourself a friend'‫י‬ means. Even if one's study partner should one day act in an unkind manner, one should give him the benefit of the doubt and not judge him harshly. This is what is meant by the last clause of the mishna. Another way to understand the mishna is as follows: It urges Torah scholars to share their Torah knowledge with people who are not able to devote their entire day towards the study of Torah. Even if a scholar does not consider himself sufficiently knowledgeable to be a teacher, the mishna hastens him to "Make yourself a rav." The mishna requires such a person to be like Shmuel the Prophet, who traveled from city to city to teach the people Torah. If people's vanity and arrogance prevent them from becoming his disciples, then he should ask of them to join him in Torah study as study partners of equal standing. This is what is meant by "Acquire for yourself a friend." Rav Yehudah Lirmah asks why the mishna did not instruct that a person acquire disciples, since the Talmud says that a person learns more from his students than he does from his rabbis. The answer is that it is not within one's own power to acquire disciples, since students themselves choose to study with the person who they believe will most enlighten them. A good friend is a very precious commodity; thus, one must tolerate his faults with forbearance. This is the intention of the verse, "He that covers a transgression seeks love, but he that repeats a matter separates close friends" {Mishlei 17:9). That is, a person who tolerates his friend's faults and forgives him for the wrongdoings he has perpetrated against him safeguards
  49. 49. 42 CHAPTER ONE their relationship, thereby ensuring that it will endure for many years. Conversely, one who begrudges his friend for his wrongdoings can be assured that the friendship will soon terminate. (Rabbeinu Yonah) The mishna's exhortation, "Judge people by giving them the benefit of the doubt/' applies only to observant Jews who sometimes commit transgressions inadvertantly. However, one should not give the benefit of the doubt to a professed sinner, as the verse says: "The righteous man who considers the house of the wicked, leads the wicked astray to greater evil" (Mishlei 21:12). That is, contrary to what people believe, the righteous person recognizes who is evil and judges his actions accordingly. In addition, a righteous person realizes that even an evil person's superficially virtuous actions are, in truth, essentially evil in nature. The importance of having a rav is so great that, if one is unable to find a suitable one, he should teach his students Torah in the hope that one day he will be able to learn from one of them. (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) "Make yourself a rav" warns unqualified Torah scholars not to deliberate halachic decisions by themselves. Instead, they should take counsel from the Sages of their generation. (Rashbam) "Acquire yourself a friend" is explained by the verse: "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel" (Mishlei 27:9) ‫־־‬ as the fragrance of incense, which is exterior to a person's being, benefits that person in a way which he cannot benefit himself, so, too, a friend,
  50. 50. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 43 who has an objective perspective of one's personality can benefit one more than one can benefit himself. (Rav Yosef ben Shushan) 1-7 Nitai Ha'arbeli says: "Distance yourself from an evil neighbor, do not associate with an evil person, and do not rule out the possibility of retribution." Many commentaries note that the mishna does not obligate one to distance himself from an evil person. The reason is that people naturally avoid the company of clearly evil individuals. Instead, the mishna teaches something which is not so obvious to people — to stay away from individuals who keep their evilness well-concealed. The last clause of the mishna warns that even after one has distanced himself from evil people, he should not think that he is now safe from the snare of the Evil Inclination. In fact, the opposite is true. The verse "The wicked man watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him" (Tehillim 37:32) indicates that the Evil Inclination's preferred victims are individuals who show progress towards becoming righteous. Alternatively, the mishna warns against keeping company with the following two kinds of individuals,
  51. 51. 44 CHAPTER ONE each one having his particular positive traits as well as his faults. On the one hand, there is the "evil neighbor/' an otherwise righteous person who cannot help but be envious of his neighbors. On the other hand, there is the "evil person" who is essentially evil but, because of his wealth, does not feel jealousy towards others. The last clause of the mishna emphasizes the severity of associating with the latter type of individual. We are taught that we cannot expect to avoid "retribution," which alludes to the evil person's sins, when associating with him. One who thinks himself immune from an evil person's negative influence is informed that he makes a grave mistake, for, in truth, our actions are greatly affected by the environment we live in. Or, it is possible that the mishna conveys a simpler message: One who keeps within close proximity of an evil person will undergo suffering when that person is punished for his evil deeds, as the Sages say: "Woe to the evil person, woe to his neighbour." It is also possible that the mishna teaches a different idea. One who takes Yehoshuah ben Parchiah's advice to heart "Judge people by giving them the benefit of the doubt," may have difficulty distinguishing between good and evil individuals, thereby making the mistake of befriending an evil person. In order to prevent anyone from making such a mistake, Nitai Ha'arbeli explains that ben Parchiah's rule is not applicable to evil people. On the contrary, it is a mitzvah to judge an evil person unfavorably and to assume that their every action is essentially evil, even those actions which seem on the surface commendable. Therefore, regarding a person who fears the potentially dangerous outcome of cutting off
  52. 52. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 45 relations with an evil person, the last clause of the mishna guarantees that the Almighty will protect anyone who strives to distance himself from evil. The last clause really means to say: "And do not rule out avoiding the company of an evil person because of the possibility of unpleasant repercussions.‫יי‬ In answer to why the mishna uses the word "distance" regarding an evil neighbor and "do not associate" concerning an evil person, Rav Moshe Almoshninu writes: It is a mitzvah to help another Jew return to the Torah. However, there is a danger that a person who attempts to fulfill this mitzvah will himself become infected with the evil person, s disease. Thus, the mishna warns that one should only undertake to fulfill this commandment if the evil person makes the initial step forward. Even then, one should remain somewhat distant from the evil person. The mishna warns emphatically, however, against making the initial contact with an evil person in hope of making him return to the ways of the Torah. This is what is meant by "Do not associate with an evil person." There is another way to explain the mishna: "Evil neighbor" refers to the Evil Inclination, which dwells within manJ s soul. The mishna warns to "Distance yourself from an evil neighbor" — that is, restrain yourself from following the advice of the Evil Inclination; instead, run in the opposite direction with all your might. But even someone who is not capable of ignoring the temptations of the Evil Inclination should not actively pursue the fulfillment of his desires, and this is what is meant by "Do not associate with an evil person." The last clause of the mishna, "And do not rule out the possibility of retribution," encourages the sinner to repent, regardless
  53. 53. 46 CHAPTER ONE of the severity of his sins. The mishna actually means to say: "Do not lose hope as a result of the sins you have committed.‫י‬‫י‬ Being that HaShem is boundlessly merciful, He prefers to wait for the sinner to repent rather than punishing him. One must not associate with a wealthy or influential evil person under any circumstances, since eventually he will be punished for his sins. At that time, anyone in his immediate surrounding will also share his fate. Since it is impossible to predict when the punishment will be meted out, it is wise to avoid the company of evil people altogether. This is analogous to befriending the enemy of a mortal king — when the king will give the order to imprison his enemy, he will order his enemy, s acquaintances to be incarcerated as well. Since evil people are HaShem's enemies, one must avoid their company at all cost. (Rabbeinu Yonah) If a common wall shared by two neighbors is afflicted with negah tzara'at (a discoloration which renders the house spiritually impure, occurring as a result of the occupant violating certain transgressions), the entire wall must be dismantled and disposed of. This illustrates in a very practical manner the Sagess statement: "Woe to the Evil man, and woe to his neighbor.‫יי‬ (Rav Efraim) "Distance yourself from an evil neighbour5 ‫י‬ teaches that one must avoid even infrequent contact with an evil person. (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) The mishna teaches that if the evil person lives in oneJ s vicinity, he is obligated to avoid all contact with that person. Regarding an evil person who does not live in one, s
  54. 54. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 47 vicinity, one must also avoid all contact with him even if he is not as evil as one5 s neighbor, since it is highly unlikely that a person who lives in another vicinity will be successful in influencing the evil person to repent. The last clause of the mishna, however, teaches that one is obligated to extend a helping hand to anyone who suffers anguish, even to an evil person. As the Torah says "If you meet your enemy, s ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again" (Shemot 23:5). (Rav M. Hayitzri) 1-8 Yehudah ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shetach received from them. Yehudah ben Tabbai says: "Do not make yourself as the Legal advisers (One of the Judicial Committee); when the litigants stand before you, regard them as evildoers; when they leave your presence, regard them as innocent, if they accepted upon themselves the judicial decision." According to Lev Avot, the term orchei hadayanim refers to a judge who considers himself capable of presiding over a court case alone. Although the law requires three judges to preside over monetary disputes, in order to ensure that all the aspects of the law are included in the deliberation, a judge who overestimates his abilities may consider himself exempt from this requirement. Alternatively, this refers
  55. 55. 48 CHAPTER ONE to a litigant who tries to make each one of the judges believe that he personally requested to have him appointed as judge. In this context, the word Orchei connotes "to appoint/5 The Talmud seems to understand this mishna as referring to a legal advisor who assists litigants in stating their claim in the most effective manner. It relates that one of Rav Yochanan's relatives requested of him to help her formulate her claim in the Beit Din. At first he agreed; however, after reflecting upon this mishna, he decided against helping her. The problem with helping one of the litigants present his claim is that the judges5 decision will be influenced by the legal advisors strategy, rather than by the validity of the litigant's claim. Or, perhaps the mishna warns a judge against favoring an influential litigant's claim over a common person's. This rule is even applicable if one of the litigants is a member of the Judicial Committee encharged with appointing judges to the Beit Din. In this context, the mishna reads as follows: "Do not take the side of the member of the Judicial Committee." Alternatively, the mishna warns a judge against favoring the litigant who requested that he preside over the case. Instead, each one of the judges, even one who was chosen by one of the litigants, must judge both claims with total impartiality. As the verse says: "Judges and magistrates appoint for yourself — the judges were selected from every Tribe, yet they did not favor members of their own Tribe over members of the others. Another possible explanation is that the mishna is
  56. 56. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 49 warning a judge against giving a litigant an indication of what is the decisive factor in the case. This is guaranteed to occur if the judge makes the mistake of considering both litigants as righteous people, since he will let down his guard and inevitably make known which is the decisive factor. Once the litigants become aware of what is the central issue in their dispute, they will then embellish their claims with falsities in hope of proving that the law sides with their claim. In order to avoid this problem, a judge should regard both litigants as evil men. Only after they accept the judicial decision upon themselves may the judge then view them as righteous people. "When the litigants stand before you, regard them as evildoers'‫י‬ refers to litigants who hesitate to accept the legal decision. In contrast, "when they leave your presence, regard them as innocent" refers to litigants who readily accept the Beit Din's ruling upon themselves. (Lev Avot) This teaches that a judge should not consider either of the litigants as a righteous or an evil person, since this notion will effectively negate his ability to judge with impartiality. "When they leave your presence, regard them as innocent" teaches that the judge should consider both litigants, including the one found liable, as a righteous people. He should assume that the litigant found liable has now repented for having made a false claim, and that he will refrain from repeating this transgression in the future. (Rabbeinu Yonah) If one hears a halachic ruling which he does not understand being discussed in the Beit HaMidrash, he should not keep silent and pretend to have understood. Instead, he should ask someone to explain the reason
  57. 57. 50 CHAPTER ONE behind the ruling. (Rav Efraim) This teaches that one should refrain from answering his teacher promptly as litigants answer each other's claim while in the presence of the Beit Din. (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) Even if a judge perceives which litigant is guiltless, he must not assist him in any way to formulate his claim. (Ramah) The mishna prohibits acting in the manner of the judges of the nations, who declare the verdict even when one of the litigants is not present. Instead, the Beit Din may only reveal its verdict in the presence of both litigants. (Rav Baruch ben Melech) 1‫9־‬ Shimon ben Shetach says: "Investigate the witnesses at length and beware of your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.'‫י‬ The mishna warns a judge against interrogating the witnesses in an unhurried manner. By doing so, the judge enables the witness to ponder over his answers and strengthen his claim. Instead, the interrogation should be conducted swiftly, leaving the witness no time to gather his wits about him. In this manner, it will be possible to verify whether or not his testimony is trustworthy.
  58. 58. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 51 "Beware of your words" teaches that it is prohibited to explain to the litigants the reasoning behind a verdict, lest they use this information to lie the next time they are called to court. (The Chassid) Shimon ben Shetach emphasizes the importance of interrogating the witnesses thoroughly because of a tragic personal experience ‫״‬ he once passed sentence upon eighty women in the city of Ashkelon, sentencing them to death by hanging on the basis of false testimony. Subsequently, his son was executed by his own Beit Din on the basis of false testimony. (The Rashbam) 1‫01־‬ Shemaya and Avtalon received from them. Shemaya says: "Love your profession, scorn the holding of public office, and do not make yourself known to the authorities." The mishna teaches that a person should not despise his occupation and regard it as merely a means by which to earn a living. On the contrary, one should feel a sense of satisfaction during the performance of one's labor. Regarding this, the Sages said: "Greater is he who benefits from his handiwork than one who has Heavenly fear." The reasoning behind this statement is as follows: Everything that occurs in one's life, with the exception of one's attainment of the fear of Heaven, is decreed from Above. Thus, a person's choice of occupation is no
  59. 59. 52 CHAPTER ONE coincidence, but rather, the manifestation of a Heavenly decree. By contemplating this concept, a person will eventually come to regard his work as if it were a holy task which can only be fulfilled by him. Even a talmid chacham should not feel embarrassment for earning his living through toiling in some seeminly demeaning profession. This is what the mishna means by "Love your profession, scorn the holding of public office" — the last clause of the mishna teaches that a person who does not adopt a trade runs the risk of becoming suspected of committing theft by the authorities. Alternatively, Shemaya's teaching is in reference to the previous mishna, which outlines the manner in which a judge should behave towards the litigants. He adds that a judge should become totally devoted to his profession by devoting all of his waking hours to the study of Torah. In this manner, he will become totally proficient in all the laws of the Torah and this achievement will make him a truly competent halachic authority. However, such a person is liable to become haughty and feel superior to others who are not as knowledgeable as he. Rather, one must be as Moshe Rabbeinu: Despite his uncontested position as the wisest man of the Jewish People, he continued to behave with humility and self- effacement. Regarding him, the verse says "Do not bring me to feel arrogance." The mishna warns of this danger by saying "Scorn the holding of public office." There are various ways to explain the words "And do not make yourself known to the authorities." Perhaps it is a warning to Jewish judges against becoming a judge in a non-Jewish court. This is prohibited, because joining the non-Jewish authorities effectively validates their authority, thereby indirectly increasing the respectability of idolatrous beliefs. Or, perhaps "authorities" alludes
  60. 60. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 53 to the Evil Inclination, which controls man's actions and feelings. Furthermore, this appellation befits the Evil Inclination, since the main message it drills into man's heart is that he is free of any outside authority to decide his fate and free to act as he chooses. Two things lead towards man becoming completely subjugated to his Evil Inclination: idleness and arrogance. This is why the mishna warns, "Love your profession, scorn the holding of public office." One who follows this advice will not fall prey to "the authorities." The mishna teaches that a person who studies Torah half the day and works the other half is better than one who studies the entire day and does not take proper measures to provide himself with sustenance. As the Sages say, "Torah which does not have work with it will eventually be discontinued." (Rav Moshe Alshkar) The mishna teaches that a person who becomes accustomed to sit idle will find it impossible to begin working when it proves necessary for him to earn a living. As the verse says: "The desire of the lazy man kills him; for his hands refuse to labor" (Mishlei 21:25) — even when he will want to work, his hands will refuse to carry out his instructions. (Rabbeinu Yonah) Since Yehudah ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shetach both discussed how a judge should behave towards the litigants, Shemaya saw fit to teach how to avoid monetary dispute altogether. The majority of monetary disputes are filed by lenders against borrowers who refuse to repay their loan. Thus, one who wishes to avoid monetary disputes should take up a trade. In this manner, he will not be in need of loans. (The Ritvah)
  61. 61. 54 CHAPTER ONE 1-11 Avtalion says: "Sages, be careful with your words, lest they bring about the obligation of exile, and you become exiled to a place of vile waters, and the students who will follow you will drink from them and consequently die. This will result in the desecration of the Name of Heaven.'' Out of concern that Shimon ben Shetach's warning "beware of your words" (mishna 9) be misunderstood as referring exclusively to a judge, Avtalion saw fit to stress that this admonition in truth applies to every sage. Anyone who teaches Torah is obligated to weigh his words carefully in order to ensure that his message is clearly understood by his disciples. One's statements should be precise and unambiguous, leaving no room for misinterpretations. Avtalion goes on to describe the consequences of using indeterminate and enigmatic speech: The Jewish People will "become exiled to a place of vile waters." The term "vile waters" is an allusion to heretics, who will distort the words of the Sages and find in them supports for their heretical beliefs. Eventually, they will claim that their entire belief system is actually based on these Sages' opinions, thus according them a sense of legitimacy and moral esteem. The following generations of disciples will then be taught these falsities, which will cause them to die a spiritual death. Indeed, this would be a desecration of the Name of Heaven. (Rav Almoshninu) The mishna prohibits teachers from revealing the esoteric teachings of the Torah to unworthy students. As the Sages say, "Torah should only be taught to a worthy student, one who is wise and is capable of inferring one idea from another, whose heart worries within him."
  62. 62. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 55 The word "exile," ,‫גלות‬ stems from the word "reveal," .‫גילוי‬ Thus, the mishna in essence says: "Beware of your words, lest you come to sin by revealing the innermost metaphysical secrets of the Torah. This, in turn, will lead you to reveal the Torah to the "evil waters." "Evil waters" alludes to unworthy disciples, from whom future generations will derive their wisdom. The Sages' teachings will soon be distorted by these sordid individuals, who will feed future generations their misconstrued and heretical ideas, eventually resulting in their spiritual demise. There is no greater desecration of Heaven than this. (Rav Y. Abarbanet) Alternatively, the mishna serves as a reminder that one who preaches to others should first make sure that he himself fulfills his admonitions. If he disregards this warning, those whom he teaches will soon perceive his shortcomings and hypocrisy. Since they consider him to be insincere, this will give them a sense of justification for disregarding his words of rebuke. Thus, a sage who does not take heed of this mishna will ultimately be found responsible for the sins of his followers, and it is he who ultimately causes them to suffer punishment for their sins. There is another way to understand this mishna: "Be careful with your words" can be understood as referring to rabbinical decrees which the Sages established in order to protect people from transgressing Torah precepts. The mishna teaches that even a talmid chacham, who because of his great Torah knowledge might consider himself exempt from rabbinical decrees, is obligated to fulfill these decrees, as much as any other Jew. The consequence of disregarding rabbinical decrees is that eventually the person will transgress Torah precepts. Furthermore, such an individual will sooner or later commit the gravest sins of the Torah.
  63. 63. 56 CHAPTER ONE This is the meaning of "Lest they bring about the obligation of exile.‫י‬‫י‬ The Talmud says that three sins bring about the exile of the Jewish People: idolatry, sexual transgressions, and bloodshed. "Exiled to a place of vile waters" describes the misery and anguish which the Jewish People will suffer during their exile amongst the nations, "and the students who will follow you will drink from them and consequently die" reveals the length of the Exile; that is, the Exile will outlast your students, which refers to the following generation. This will be a terrible desecration of the Name of Heaven, for the nations will see the Jewish People, s suffering and say, "Where is your G-d?‫י‬ 5 Such is the consequence of disregarding rabbinical decrees. 1-12 Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel says: "Be one of the disciples of Aharon ‫״‬ love Shalom and pursue Shalom, love people and bring them close to Torah.'5 This mishna teaches that one must pursue Shalom regardless of whether the other party in the dispute reciprocates, as the verse says: "Seek Shalom and pursue it." "Seek Shalom" corresponds to Hillel's statement "Love Shalom," while "pursue it" corresponds to the words "pursue Shalom" First one must strive to achieve
  64. 64. MIDRASH SHMUAEL 57 harmony and peace within one's own home; after experiencing the taste of Shalom and growing to appreciate its importance, one will be capable of helping others attain harmony in their lives. "Love people and bring them close to Torah'5 teaches that one must not do as Shammai, who refused to teach the entire Torah to anyone "while standing on one leg." His refusal implies that Torah study is not easily accessible to ordinary men, but is rather a highly complex set of rules which may only be comprehended only by an elite group of specially gifted individuals. Hillel, on the other hand, was intent on presenting the Torah as something which can be understood by everyone. This approach gave people much-needed encouragement to persist in their studies, and it is his approach which is responsible for the propagation of Torah study amongst the Jewish People. The Sages relate that Aharon HaCohen used to induce sinners to change their ways by befriending them. After becoming his friend, the sinner would think, "If Aharon would know that I violate this precept, he would close his eyes in order not to look at me. I must cease to violate this precept!." (Rav Menachem of Beit Meir) One must pursue Shalom for its own sake, and not in order to receive acclimation. He must bring people close to the Torah because all things other than Torah are falsities and untruths. (The Chassid, Rav Yosef ben Shushan)
  65. 65. 58 CHAPTER ONE 1-13 He used to say: "As a result of the name his name is lost, and he who does not add will be terminated, and he who does not learn incurs death, and he who makes use of the crown has been uprooted." This mishna comes on the heels of the previous mishna's statement "Hillel says: 'Be one of the disciples of Aharon — love Shalom and pursue Shalom, love people and bring them close to Torah.‫י‬ ‫י‬ ‫י‬ It teaches that one who continues the tradition of Aharon is sure to attain people's respect to the same degree that Aharon was respected by the Jewish Nation. Concerning Aharon's death, the verse says: "All the House of Israel mourned him." The Sages say that "all the House of Israel" teaches that Aharon, unlike Moshe, was mourned by both the men and the women of Israel, and that this was due to his continuous efforts to help restore harmony between husbands and wives. Thus, one who follows Aharon's example will also be missed and mourned by many, and this is what is meant by "his name is lost" — that is, people will feel his death as a personal loss. The mishna then teaches the consequence of refraining from mourning a person of such worthy character as required: "he who does not add will be terminated" — that is, he who does not mourn him profusely will himself die prematurely. As the Sages say: "He who does not shed tears for a righteous man's death deserves to be buried alive."