as indicated by number at end after author's name, are from: (1)
In the Paths of Our Fathers by Eliyahu Tauger (Kehot) (2)Fathers and Sons by Tuvia Kaplan (Targum Press)
(3)Pirkei Avos in the Light of Chassidus
by Yekutiel Green (Author) (4) Tzava'at Harivash by Jacob Immanuel
Schochet (Kehot) (5) The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avot by Charles
Wengrov (Inst. for Mishnah Research) (6) Pirkei Avos by the Sfas Emes and
other Gerer Rabbis by Rabbi Y. Stern(Artscroll)
(7) Midrash Shmuel by Rabbi Shmuel ? of 16th century
Tsfat, as translated in (3) above (8) Maharal of Prague: Pirkei Avos
by Tuvia Basser (Mesorah)
He [Hillel] used to say: "...The bashful person cannot learn,
neither can the short-tempered teach..."
A student should not be too bashful in front of his colleagues to say,
"I do not understand." Rather, he should ask and ask again,
even several times.
Would Say: 'Which is the right path that a man - adam - should choose for
Rebbi (Rabbi Judah 'the Prince') speaks about
an "adam," a person who like himself has reached a level of personal
fulfillment, and yet is forced to suffer the pains of exile. At present, this
is relevant to all of us. Since mankind as a whole has fulfilled all the divine
service required of us, we collectively on the level of "adam." We must
know what is the right path - the most direct and effective means to bring about
the coming of Moshiach and the raising of the world to a higher plane of divine
" Which is the right path
that a man should choose for himself? That which is honorable to himself and brings
him honor from man ."
Although action or deed is the
final of the three garments of the soul, thought, speech and deed, and is the
product of thought and speech, nevertheless, profound thought and a stirring speech
are still not called honorable. True honor is only through correct action -- tiferet
le'osey'ha -- literally "[brings] honor for one who does it". Hence
the path of action is called the correct path which a man should choose.
5705, p.206 (3)
" Know what is above you -- an Eye that sees ."
A seeing eye: it would be beneficial for a man to cast his gaze from one
end of the world to the other in order to witness Divine Providence. A hearing
ear: It would be correct for a man to hear the announcements of the messengers
of the supernal Beis Din and the bas kol (literally, "echo",
referring to a voice from Heaven) which comes out from Mount Chorev. However,
our sins prevent us from this and we must smash the evil husks and then we will
be able to see and hear. Are recorded in a book: In the supernal sefirot
(sefer -- book -- and sefira -- an emanation of divine light --
have the identical root) of your soul. And in this way a person dims and obscures
the light of the soul.
Keser Shem Tov 22c:53d (3)
as careful with a "minor" mitzvah as with a "major" one."
word for "careful" zahir, also means "glowing", or "shining". Thus, the
mishnah informs us, the soul should shine and glow in the fulfillment of a "minor"
mitzvah just as it shines in the fulfillment of a "major" one. Ultimately, "the
Torah desires the heart". (Sanhedrin 106b)
The Baal Shem Tov (2)
is above from you."
We sometimes neglect our worship of G-d
due to a lack of self-esteem. We forget that our prayer and Torah study bring
blessings to the highest worlds, and that even the angles are sustained by our
holy actions. How much more would we strive to serve G-d in awe and joy, weighing
our every action and word, if we believed that our Divine service had such an
effect. This is the message of the mishnah: Know that everything above, all the
upper worlds and angels, is from you — it depends on you and your Divine service.
Rabbi Yaacov Yosef of Polonnoye
"Know what is above you.."
of Mezritch would say: "Know that everything above" - all that transpires
in the spiritual realms - of "from you" - dependent on your conduct.
Each of us has the potential to influence the most elevated spiritual realms.
upon Three Things and you will not come to sin "
Reflect in such a way that it appears to you as if you really see it with your
eyes. Such reflection affects a person deeply and touches him to his very core.
Therefore, the mishnah promises him, "You will not come to sin."
(Maamarim 5678, p. 81) (3)
Reflect upon three things: in
order to reveal the store of the awe of heaven buried and concealed in the understanding
of the heart (transcending time and space) one must first bring it into thought
in the mind. Afterwards a person must contemplate this deeply in his thoughts
for an extended period of time until it is actualized from its state of potential.
Then he will turn away from evil and do good in thought, speech and action, because
of G-d Who "looks down and sees and hears and listens and understands all
of man's deeds, and He searches his heart and kidneys." (Toras
Shmuel 5,636, chapter 193) (3)
"All Torah-study not combined with work will in the end cease"
The word "work" implies that one must "work" at loving
one's fellow Jew to ensure the endurance of one's Torah study. Simple
love of another Jew is not enough; rather, it must be done in a way of
actually working at and being occupied with loving another Jew.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, in the name of the Baal Shem Tov)
is good [to combine] the study of Torah with an occupation, for the effort required
by them both keeps sin out of mind; whereas all Torah-study not combined with
work will in the end cease, and lead to sin "
and prayer must be carried out with intellectual comprehension. When a study-period
is over, or when a person finishes his prayers, the state of gadlus hamochin,
"intellectual maturity," disappears, and is replaced by katnus hamochin,
"intellectual immaturity," which gives rise to anger, strife and lashon
hara. In order to avoid this, a person must engage himself in work. But Torah
study unaccompanied by work will eventually lead to sin.
(Kesser Shem Tov
“All Torah study not combined with work will eventually cease
and lead to sin”
Although the obvious meaning of the term “work” is actual
labor, there is the possibility of an extended interpretation. My father-in-law
[and predecessor] related that R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would quote the
Baal Shem Tov as explaining that in this context, “work” refers to ahavas Yisrael
— our efforts to establish bonds of love with other Jews. For Torah study to be
perpetuated, it must be coupled with ahavas Yisrael. R. Levi Yitzchak explained
that this teaching brought about a fundamental change in his life, motivating
him to dedicate himself to the welfare of his fellow Jews. Why does the mishnah
refer to ahavas Yisrael as “work”? To teach us that we must strain to extend our
ahavas Yisrael to include even those whom we have no inclination to love. And
we must use every means possible to reach out to others.
"Beware of the
authorities, for they befriend a person only for their own purpose."
Hebrew word for "authorities" (reshut) also means "permitted
actions." For the evil inclination hides in man's desires to eat and drink
and imbues them with false sanctity. They seem to be man's friends. Leading him
to holiness, but only for their own purpose: to cause him to cleave to physical
pleasure. Therefore, says the mishnah, beware of permitted actions.
Yitzchak Meir of Gur (2)
Hillel Said: "...Do not condemn your fellowman until you have stood
in his place."
One should never criticize his fellowman until he establishes a commonalty
with him. Even when a person's conduct seems worthy of reproof, one should
not talk to him with a condescending attitude. By focusing instead on the
essential connection which all men share, we can nurture the positive qualities
in others and enable them to surface.
Rabban Gamliel used to say: "Make His will your will, so that
He may fulfill your will as though it were His will. Set aside your will
for His will, so that He may set aside the will of others before your
This teaching conveys a fundamental lesson: Each of us has the ability
to remake G-d's will, as it were, to arouse a new desire on His part.
To apply this principle: A person might think that since it is G-d's will
that we are in exile, we should resign ourselves to the situation. Nothing
is further from the truth. G-d is anxiously waiting for us to arouse a
new will on His part. He is waiting for us to motivate Him to bring the
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
" the more charity, the more peace."
Peace is achieved when we are free
from interference and opposition. A lack of peace poses a barrier to Torah and
to every one of life's pursuits and we therefore need peace to meet with success
Securing peace requires that people do not harass each other, even
within the bounds of law. Peace is abrogated when people press the law to its
limit to get their own way, for such behavior creates contention. Conversely,
peace is fostered when a person is so charitable that he is willing to forgo his
True charity is peace itself, and is characterized by
one's willingness to forgo money that is rightfully his, out of a sense of duty.
The kind of charity where a person gives only out of the goodness of his heart
does not bring peace. The heart that moves on to donate to charity will not necessarily
move one to concede an argument, for he may only be willing to give up his rights
when he feels like it, but will not succumb in the face of conflict.
is the person who can act charitable when compelled, and not just out of good
will, who can foster peace. Even when compelled to give charity, his sense of
responsibility overrides his sense of autonomy and his right not to give. Clearly,
this is the person who can bring peace into the world.
Maharal of Prague
" and do not say, "When I am free I will study,"
for perhaps you will not become free." (Avot 2:4)
The phrase, when
I am free I will study, may actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you proclaim
that you do not intend to learn Torah until you have time, then you will be punished
for such an attitude by being deprived of the leisure to learn Torah.
to the Kotzker Rebbe, the phrase "perhaps you will not become free"
may not be an indication of what will occur but rather a description of the individual's
frenetic lifestyle. Some people never have time -- neither now nor at a later
date. Since by virtue of your lifestyle you may never have time to learn Torah
-- an intolerable situation -- you would be well advised to commence learning
Torah now, and not put it off. In fact, your primary challenge in This World may
be to overcome all your temporary distractions and study Torah.
Fulfill His will: This refers to the type of service known in
Kabbalah as iskafiya - subjugating yourself and your will in order
to "turn away from evil and do good." Set aside your will: This could also be rendered as "absolutely
nullify your will," and refers to the type of service known in Kabbalah
as is'hafcha, where a person has reached such an elevated level
of Divine Service that he does not need to force himself to do G-d's will.
He has transformed his will completely, so that his will and G-d's will
are not two separate things. Rather, he cherishes G-d's mitzvos ad delights
in them to such an extent that his only will is
Tzedek, Or HaTorah, Nasso, p.230 (3)
"Set aside your will.."
By setting aside your own will in order to fulfill G-d's will, you transform
your nature from bitter to sweet. This applies to "turning away from evil," by
completely rejecting those things which oppose G-d's will, as well as to "do good,"
learning to want what one does not want naturally, and learning not to want what
one naturally wants. By nullifying your will to His will, you will drive out the
evil from within yourself.
Likutei Torah, Nasso, 24c (3)
" nor can everyone who is preoccupied with much business
become a scholar."
A sage is comparable to a spiritual
doctor, whereas a desire for wealth is comparable to an illness. If you see a
"doctor" attempting to amass wealth, do not place much hope in his ability
to heal others.
boor cannot be fearful of sin "
The Kotzker Rebbe
pointed out that the mishna may be interpreted "in reverse." Anyone
who is truly afraid of sinning will not remain unlearned. Realizing that most
transgressions result from ignorance, he will insist upon becoming more learned
and immerse himself in Torah.
Maggidei HaEmes (6)
an ignoramus be a chassid.."
A chassid (literally, one who is endowed
with chesed, kindness) one who is suffused with love. Just as light in a physical
sense cannot shine without being radiated from some physical source, such as a
candle wick or firewood, etc. so too with spiritual love. It cannot be drawn down
from above without the proper vessels in which it can be contained. The Torah
a Jew learns, and the mitzvot he performs are the vessels for containing love
and awe of G-d, whether love and awe which are generated by the intellect, or
whether love and awe which transcend the intellect. An ignoramus is not one who
makes vessels suited to revealing love. Hence, regarding him it is said, "nor
can an ignoramus be a chassid."
Torah Or, 96c; Maamarim 5672 p.178
"Do not judge your fellow man until you find yourself in
This is why the Sages cautioned us (Avot 1:6),
"Judge every man in a favorable light." For in judging his fellow-man
favorably, in a good, kindly light, a person won't pass any harsh judgment on
himself, and he will never be subjected to any punishment in his lifetime.
is in this sense that the Sages say, "Do not judge your fellow man until
you find yourself in his situation." It means that this you should know:
You are not shown by Heaven any action of another person to pass judgment on it,
until you have arrived actually at his situation, because you have done the same
kind of deed as your fellow man.
Heaven therefore shows you the other's
deed, for you to judge it -- and as you pass judgment, so will it happen to you.
Consequently, you should always see to it that you judge him favorably, leniently;
and in this way you will also judge yourself favorably and leniently.
" A Boor cannot be Sin-fearing.." Alacrity
leads to cleanliness. Cleanliness leads to purity. Purity leads to holiness. Holiness
leads to fear of sin. Hence, the fear of sin is a very elevated level, which follows
the acquisition of several other positive characteristics. A boor is a worthless
individual who certainly does not fear sin. Midrash Shmuel (3)
such a person feared sin, he would not remain a boor. Rather, he would make every
effort to study and acquire knowledge.
Rav Menachem Mendel
of Kotzsk (2)
those whose fear of sin is greater than their wisdom, their wisdom is retained"(see below 3:9). If someone is clearly a boor, and is devoid of wisdom, this
is a sign that he did not give fear of sin precedence. Were he to have had the
fear of sin, the secrets of Torah would have been revealed to him, and he would
not have been a boor. Midrash Shmuel (3)
Even if a person is
a scholar, but despite his learning he is a boor, i.e. he is like a nutshell which
looks pretty on the outside, but which has nothing inside, he cannot be one who
fears sin. Ma'amarei Admor HaZaken, Haketzarim, p. 305 (3)
who fears sin is more praiseworthy than one who fears punishment. For one who
fears punishment is like a person who takes care of his health only because he
hates the medicine he must take when he is sick. One who fears sin however is
like one who fears the sickness itself; he fears the sin itself and the imperfection
it causes. Such fear of sin stems from a great love of G-d, for he knows that
with each sin, his love ceases. True love includes the fear of falling out of
The Tzemach Tzedek (2)
"He also saw a skull floating on the water..."
Once the Rebbe Rayatz explained the significance of the words rabba
emunateycha -- great is Your faith, which are recited every morning in the
Modeh Ani prayer: "It is not sufficient to have faith that the Creator is
the One and Only. Rather, there must be "lots of faith," (a literal
rendering of rabba emunateycha), i.e. one must believe that G-dliness is in everything,
and in every place.
We can also explain our mishna, "He also saw a
skull floating in the water," according to the above principle: When you
see a person whose faith does not pervade his entire existence (in the way mentioned
above), despite his Torah learning (which is compared to water), so that his emotional
responses do not conform to what he knows is proper, nor do his actions correspond
to his level of understanding, he is merely a skull floating on the water. He
does not have a body, nor a heart, nor arms and legs "
HaSichos 5697 p. 240 (3)
"He also saw a skull floating on the
Our Rabbis explain that this refers to the skull of Pharaoh,
who was drowned in punishment for having Jewish boys drowned in the Nile. When
Hillel saw Pharaoh’s skull, he realized that this was an extraordinary phenomenon,
and contemplated the matter, gaining this insight.
Why did G-d cause this to
happen? The fact that Hillel learned a lesson from the skull and shared it with
others enabled the skull to come to eternal rest after thousands of years of drifting
on the waters. This is the intent of the phrase “he said to it,” which can also
be translated “for it.” Hillel made his statement for the skull’s benefit. Once
the skull had communicated its lesson, it had fulfilled its purpose and could
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
"If you have learned
much Torah, do not claim special credit for yourself, since for that very purpose
you were created."
If you have learned much Torah, and you have
achieved a high level of comprehension, do not claim it for yourself, as if it
were only for you. Rather, disseminate it to others, since for that very purpose
you were created-to learn and to teach, and you are duty-bound to transmit Torah
Midrash Shmuel (3)
have learned much Torah, do not give yourself credit, because for this [purpose]
you were created."
If you have learned much Torah, the insight
gained from the Torah will itself ensure that you not take undue credit for yourself.
Only one who has learned little immediately gives himself credit for his accomplishments.
Yehuda Leib of Gur, the Sefas Emes (2)
Rabban Yochanan ben
Zakkai received [the oral tradition] from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say:
If you have learned much Torah, do not claim special credit for yourself etc.
who takes credit for himself, even though he does not become conceited, is worse
than an ordinary, unsophisticated Jew. The latter prays and recites tehillim with
all his strength, and with subservience (kabbolas ol) of the loftiest level of
Divine service. When a learned scholar takes credit for himself, he shows that
essentially he only serves himself, and that his learning is really no better
that any of the other passions and delights that people indulge in for their own
enjoyment. Such learning is not called Divine service at all.
U'maayan p. 104 (3)
to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities."
He would enumerate
them, but not elaborate upon them. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai did not discuss his
students' noble qualities at length or in detail. He merely indicated one quality
for each of his disciples. After assessing each of his students thoroughly, Rabbi
Yochanan singled out that particular quality which would serve as the disciple's
starting point and guiding light.
Midrash Shmuel (3)
ben Chananya, praiseworthy is she who bore him."
refers to a "refined physical nature," as we will now explain. Since
our will to do something actually results in action, it is clear that the nefesh
is ultimately linked to the body. In contrast to our coarse physical nature that
is ready to act for its own gratification, this element may be understood as a
refined physical nature that will submit to noble, selfless intentions. Rabbi
Yehoshua's praise is phrased as "praiseworthy is she who bore him" because
his exemplary quality is the refined physical nature which he inherited from his
mother. Family characteristics are passed from parent to child and physical qualities
are primarily derived from the mother. Therefore, Rabban Yochanan alluded to Rabbi
Yehoshua's refined physical nature by pointing out that his special quality was
inherited from his mother.
Maharal of Prague (8)
"He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities.."
of these students possessed a quality in which he surpassed all others. As a teacher,
Rabbi Yochanan did not push them all in a single direction. Instead, he appreciated
their uniqueness and endeavored to give each the opportunity to develop his own
This concept can be applied on a larger scale. Each person possesses
a particular virtue in which he surpasses all others, even the leaders of the
generation. He (and those who help him in his growth and development) should not
seek universal conformity, but should strive to cultivate this unique gift.
Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
He would enumerate them, but not elaborate
upon them. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai did not discuss his students' noble qualities
at length or in detail. He merely indicates one quality for each of his disciples.
After assessing each of his students thoroughly, Rabbi Yochanan singled out that
particular quality which would serve as the disciple's starting point and guiding
Midrash Shmuel (7)
" Rabbi Eliezer
ben Horkanos is like a cemented cistern that loses not a drop ."
is particularly remarkable that Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkanos, who did not begin
studying Torah until he was twenty-eight years old, nonetheless, acquired complete
mastery over every aspect of Torah to the extent that he never forgot anything
he learned. (His remarkable retentive powers are likened to a pit sealed with
lime that does not lose a drip of water.) His extraordinary memory may be attributed
to his exceptional love of Torah. For him, Torah was not merely studied, but actually
integrated into his very being, becoming a part of him.
“Rabbi Shimon ben Nasanel fears sin”
When he prayed
to be spared from sin, it was with the same intensity with which one would pray
to be saved from a lion.
Rabbi Yehudah Leib of Gur, the Sefas
"Rabbi Eliezer says ..Warm yourself by the fire of the Sages,
but beware of their glowing embers lest you be burnt.."
is compared to fire - "My words are like fire," and every person must
warm himself by their heat until he is capable of revealing novel insights (chiddushim)
in Torah. However, one must also beware. Rabbi Eliezer instructs us, "Warm
yourself by the fire of the Sages" - make sure that your innovations are
according to the teachings of our Sages. And "beware of their glowing embers
lest you be burnt," if you contradict their teachings.
"Repent before your death.."
though a person was wicked all of his life, he should not despair of G-d's
infinite mercy and forgiveness. Complete repentance is always accepted by G-d.
“A good eye”
If an “evil eye” can harm even
one who has done no wrong, all the more so can a “good eye” bring benefit to one
who has no special merit.
Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur
your friends honor be as precious to you as your own."
Let the honor
your friend gives you be as precious to you as the honor you give yourself. Just
as the latter is quite insigificant, since one who honors himself is considered
foolish, so is the honor you receive from others.
the Maggid of Mezritch (2)
"Let all your actions be for the sake of Heaven"
"for the sake of Heaven" should also be for the sake of Heaven.
Menachem Mendel of Kotzsk (2)
"Let all your deeds be for
the sake of heaven."
It is written, In all your ways, know Him (Proverbs
3:6). This is a great principle…. In all his actions, even in ordinary physical,
material things that a man does, it is necessary that they should be a service,
a worship for the need and purpose of Heaven alone, without any other motivation.
Even to the very slightest degree there should be no personal motivation, but
all should be only for the sake of Heaven.
Baal Shem Tov (5)
Our Rabbis identify this directive with the verse, “Know Him in all your
ways.” But it is possible to distinguish between the two.
deed “for the sake of Heaven” implies that although it is performed with G-dly
intent, the deed itself is mundane. To “know G-d in all your ways” implies a deeper
bond — one that plays a part in every worldly activity.
To cite an example:
When one eats a meal with the intent of using the energy generated from the food
to serve G-d, one’s eating remains a mundane act. In contrast, when one eats on
Shabbat, or when one partakes of sacrificial offerings, the eating itself
is considered a mitzvah, an act of connecting to G-d.
In a large sense,
this difference reflects two approaches with regard to the oneness of G-d. In
the first, our material world serves as a means by which to establish a bond with
G-d. This implies, however, that its actual material substance remains separate
from G-d. The second approach maintains that even material existence can become
unified with Him.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe(1)
"..Do not make your prayer a routine, token
"Prayer without concentration is like a body without
a soul." Since a person prays three times a day every day, there is a fear
that his prayers will become mere habit. For this reason, the author of our mishna
declares, "do not make your prayer a routine, token act," without any
concentration or intention. Pray like a person who has to beseech the king for
Midrash Shmuel (3)
"Be meticulous in Kriyat
Sh'ma and Prayer (the Amidah) ."
Particular importance is attached
to reciting Shema and praying on time, for those hours are a time of grace, and
are particularly favorable. In addition, the supernal "unifications"
which take place during the Shema and prayer are effective only when they are
recited at their proper time.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav [mehadura
basra] 1:8 (3)
"Do not make your prayers a fixed, set
This denotes that a man should not pray about matters
that concern only his own needs, but he should rather pray constantly for the
Shechinah, the Divine Presence, that is should be redeemed and rescued
from exile. This is why the Mishnah adds "but rather an appeal for mercy
and an entreaty for grace before the omnipresent G-d": It signifies that
a man should pray constantly before the "omnipresent" - meaning on behalf
of the Shechinah, which is called "omnipresent," as we know.
Similarly, the Zohar (Tikkuney Zohar, vi) states that those who pray for themselves
and not for the Shechinah are called dogs of arrogant spirit who shout and exclaim,
"Hav, hav!" - "Gimme, Gimme!" (In other words, their entire
prayer amounts to so much barking.) This too, is the sense of the verse, One thing
I have asked of the L-rd, that I will entreat (Psalms 27:4). It means to convey:
"For the sake of the Shechinah I entreat and pray before Thee, to
repair the imperfection and defect that was made by sinful deeds."
Shem Tov; Likkutey Amarim (5)
Eliezer said: Be diligent in the study of Torah; know what to answer a heretic;
and know before Whom you toil, and Who your employer is that will pay you the
reward of your labor."
One might conclude that if a person learned
those parts of Torah which would provide an answer to a heretic, but he never
met one to defeat, that he learned in vain. This is not so - "know before
Whom you toil." G-d desires the heart of man, and He will certainly pay you
your reward, just as if you had actually met a heretic and had defeated his spurious
Midrash Shmuel (3)
A heretic It
should be noted that an apikoros, who believes that the world was not created,
and who denies the existence of G-d, has no rectification and elevation. The Ba'al
Shem Tov taught that a gentile idol worshiper has more of a chance of being rectified
than an apikoros. In the future G-d will pour out his wisdom and truth even upon
the nations of the world, but not on a heretic. Their only rectification is total
Tzemach Tzedek, Or HaTorah, NaCH, p.
A man once came to the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher
Rebbe. He complained of being plagued with thoughts of doubts about the Creator.
The Rebbe asked him, "Why do you care?" Surprised, the man hesitated
for a moment, then replied, "Because I am a Jew." The Rebbe promptly
responded, "If that be the reason, everything is fine."
"Do not consider yourself wicked"
Literally, the mishnah
states, "do not be wicked by yourself." One who divorces himself from
the community and remains by himself is automatically considered wicked.
Moshe Yechiel of Azrov (2)
whom you toil."
As explained in Tanya, knowledge refers to an inner
bond. Every person has the potential to develop such an inner bond with G-d. Although
he labors for Him as a servant, there is nothing preventing him from establishing
a deeper connection.
This also affects the nature of a person's relationship
with G-d with regard to reward and punishment. Although there are many intermediaries
by which G-d dispenses the reward granted for observance, a person must know "who
his Employer is, and who will pay him the reward of his labor," and realize
that the source for the reward is always G-d Himself and not the intermediaries.
Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
workmen are lazy.."
Man is naturally lazy, some more so than others,
but no one is really immune to this shortcoming. This does not only apply to wagon
drivers, but also to those who learn Torah day and night. This is particularly
true when they are required to toil in Torah, in the manner of middos Chassidus,
beyond the requirements of the law.
Rabbeinu Yonah; Midrash Shmuel (3)
are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it."
this mishna we can infer an extremely vital principle -- that it is never too
late to change the moral course of one's life. If indeed we were obligated to
complete our mission, then one might rationalize that it is already too late.
But since we only need to commence it, then it is never too late in life to at
Sfas Emes (6)
The Workmen are Lazy
Sages demand that "a person apply himself to the words of Torah like an ox
to the yoke, and a donkey to a load." But his yetser makes him sluggish
and casts a spell of laziness upon him (from the element of earth in the animal
soul), so that he will not toil in serving G-d in a way that demands effort (Tanya
chap. 25) The yetser hara does not trouble itself for nothing in making
him sluggish and casting a spell of laziness upon him. For the Midrash informs
us that laziness is especially effective in initiating a person's downslide!
Maskil l'Eitan p. 739 (3)
"It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work, and he is not
free to desist from it."
A person is never required to do more than he can. On the contrary, G-d
gives each person a mission which he can fulfill without having to face
challenges which he is unable to overcome. Even if at times a person feels
daunted by the task facing him, he must know that "he is not free
to desist from it" and must persist. Even when he does not naturally
feel joy in his Torah service, he should persevere; such full-hearted
dedication will lead to personal fulfillment.
" Much reward will be given to you; and your Employer is trustworthy
to pay you the reward for your labor."
This indicates that in addition
to the reward you earned, an additional gift will be given to you. And "your
Employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward for your labor."
"It is not incumbent upon us to complete the work"
A person is never required to do more than he can. On the contrary, G-d
gives each person a mission that he can fulfill without having to face challenges
that he is unable to overcome. Even if at times a person feels daunted by the
task facing him, he must know that…. "He is not free to desist from it" - and
must persist with kabbalas ol. Even when he does not naturally feel joy in his
Torah service, he should persevere; such full-hearted dedication will lead to