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)
"All that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He
created solely for His glory."
Moreover, to express G-dliness is not merely one of the purposes served
by these entities; it is the sole reason for their existence. Therefore
a person should not shy away from worldly involvement. On the contrary,
in whatever he does and wherever he finds himself, he should seek to find
a means of honoring Gd. For example, new developments in technology and
communications need not be ignored, or used only for commercial enterprise.
The real purpose of their existence is that they be employed to express
Arrogance imposes barriers on a person. He is no longer free to act in
a way that is beneath his perceived dignity and station. Furthermore,
his intellectual integrity is compromised and his intellectual freedom
is limited; he cannot be open to an idea that may prove his opinion wrong
and undermine his arrogant self-image. In contrast, true humility leaves
a person unencumbered by a preconceived self-image that must be maintained,
and hence he is free to pursue all goals.
The arrogant person therefore shares the attribute of finite size that
defines physical entities, whereas the humble person has not imposed upon
himself any limitations at all, which is a characteristic of the conceptual.
Consequently, it is the humble person who is most capable of assimilating
Torah, for they both operate in the unbounded realm of the conceptual.
Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the most humble person on earth, was more
spiritual than any other human being and he was also the most deserving
of Torah, as the Rabbis said: "Moshe said, 'Who am I that G-d should
give me the Torah?' G-d said to him, 'Since you have considered yourself
minor, it will be called by your name, as it is said: "Remember the
Torah of Moshe My servant.""
Humility and Torah are intertwined. Humility brings success in Torah
and Torah wisdom brings humility.
[Maharal of Prague] (8)
engages in Torah study for its own sake .he gladdens the Omnipresent, he
Happiness flows from completeness, just as grief
is the result of loss and deficiency. Since this world was created to provide
us with opportunities to enrich our lives through Torah, it is clear that Torah
brings completeness into our lives and hence to the entire world. A person who
engages insincere Torah study gladdens the Omnipresent, for he fulfills the verse
"G-d shall rejoice in His works"(Psalms 104:31) by bringing completeness
to His works. Why does learning Torah for its own sake gladden other people? Torah
perfects every aspect of the world and hence we are glad that this person improves
the world we live in, through his Torah studies.
Maharal of Prague
"Whoever engages in Torah study he is called "Friend, Beloved."
One who learns Torah for its own sake is called a friend of both G-d and people.
love is superior to friendship. To be a 'friend' means to associate with another.
To 'love' another means that one's very soul is bound up with the soul of the
beloved. We conclude that beloved is a higher quality than friend, re'ah, from
the verse, "And you shall love your fellow, re'echa, as yourself."
"Rabbi Meir says: Whoever engages in Torah study for its
own sake merits many things ." (Av 6:1)
By studying Torah
for its own sake, we are demonstrating that the Torah is not only of theoretical
interest but is our sole guide for every action that we undertake. Just as everything
is determined by G-d, so too every action of the Jew is dominated by the Torah.
They very letters of the Torah -- its name (sh'ma) -- are the guiding force behind
everything that occurs. By studying Torah for its "name," by negating
oneself and subordinating one's actions to the dictates of the Torah, we merit
to perceive how the Torah is the guiding force behind all human activity.
Emes, Bamidbar 5631(6)
According to the Pnei Menachem, the "litmus
test" and best indicator that a particular individual is studying Torah for
its own sake is that he never forgets the Torah's Divine origins. While this may
seem obvious -- and especially to someone who is immersed in Torah -- it is entirely
possible that one becomes so absorbed with his own original contributions to Torah
that he may momentarily forget the Torah's Divine origins.
" .He loves G-d, and [His] creatures.
He brings joy to G-d, he brings joy to the creatures ."
is the difference between loving G-d's creatures and bringing joy to G-d's creatures? True,
loving G-d's creatures is indicative of his ahavat Yisrael, his love for
his fellow Jew, including those who are referred to as mere "creatures"
without any other virtues, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya chapter 32. Nevertheless,
he and the creatures remain two separate entities, despite the love between them,
since he has not yet been totally permeated by ahavat Yisrael. However,
when a person brings joy to G-d's creatures, since joy breaks all boundaries and
is able to permeate a person's entire being, he and the creatures become merged
into one entity, and reach true achdut Yisrael -- the total harmonious
oneness of all Jews.
(Hisva'aduyos 5646, vol. 3, p. 431) (3)
"Whoever occupies himself with Torah for is own sake merits many things"
When a Jew occupies himself with Torah, the Torah lifts him up above,
and connects him with the One from Whom emanates all things. And when a Jew learns
Torah for its own sake, i.e. for the sake of the Torah itself, not only does he
receive from the Torah, but he adds to it as well, in the sense that he causes
an additional measure of Or Ein Sof (the Infinite Light) to be revealed in the
Torah. This is a higher level of Divine Light than was revealed up until that
time, as the Sefer HaBahir states regarding King David -- he bound the Torah above
to the Holy One, blessed is He.
From Likutei Torah (3)
"Whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah "
The Hebrew word oseek, translated as "occupies himself," relates to
the Hebrew word for businessman, ba'al esek. A person's occupation with the study
of Torah must resemble a businessman's preoccupation with his commercial enterprise.
Just as a businessman's attention is never totally diverted from his business,
the Torah should always be the focus of our attention.
" he brings joy to the created beings"
This represents a higher level of behavior than the love mentioned previously.
Even though a person may love another, the two remain distinct from each other.
Happiness breaks down barriers, and enables the two to establish a more complete
Nevertheless, although joy represents a deeper bond than love, there
is an advantage to love. Because love establishes a connection between two distinct
entities, it enables a person to relate to a colleague within the latter's frame
of reference. Because of the more complete bond established by joy, the person
might feel that just as he himself does not indulge his own desires, so too, his
colleague should learn to be content with little. Love, by contrast, causes one
to appreciate what the other person desires and to extend oneself for him. Thus
both qualities -love and joy - are necessary to develop relationships to the fullest.
"The Sages taught [this chapter] in the
language of the Mishnah"
When learning, it is a mitzvah to
mention the names of the Tannaim mentioned in the Mishnah. Such-and-such
a Sage permitted, whereas such-and-such a Sage forbade it. This
Sage declared it impure, whereas that Sage declared it pure.
imagine that just as the Holy One, blessed is He, is One, so too, there ought
to be only one view expressed in the Mishnah. On the contrary - let it be known
that He Himself "chose them and their teaching." The Holy One, blessed
be He, Himself learns the Mishnah in this way, with the names of the Tannaim.
This is their portion in the Torah, and part of their souls.
One who studies
in this way, when his learning is with love and fear, attaches himself to the
Tanna - to his root and his light above, and he learns alongside him.
Shem Tov p. 88(3)
"The sages taught [this chapter] in the language
of the Mishnah"
One might ask why the study of Pirkei Avot was instituted
in such a manner that the chapter studied before the holiday of Shavuot includes
beraitot (teachings not included in the Mishnah) rather than mishnayot,
which are more authoritative. It can be explained that the Beraita
reflects the manner in which the Torah descends into the world at large, showing
how every new idea developed by an experienced sage was in fact granted to Moshe
at Sinai. In this manner, it demonstrates the dynamic allowing for the continuation
of the chain beginning when “Moshe received the Torah…and transmitted it.” For
it shows how the Torah can be internalized within a mortal mind, and then transmitted
to subsequent generations.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
Whoever occupies himself with Torah study for its own sake, etc.
Israel Baal Shem Tov said: When a man reads the Torah and sees the lights of the
Torah's letters, then even if he doesn't understand the meanings properly, since
he reads it with great love and fervor, G-d is not strict and exacting with him
even if he doesn't say the words properly. Think of a child whom his father loves
greatly, and he asks his father for something. Even if he stammers and doesn't
speak properly, his father is greatly pleased, as he dotes on the child. Hence
when a man says words of Torah in hallowed love, G-d loves him greatly, and He
does not pay strict attention to him to note if he says them correctly. As our
Sages taught (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2) his banner (diglo) over me is love
(Song of Songs 2:4) -- do not read it diglo (his banner) but liglugo,
"his prattle": his prattle is for Me an expression of love.
Y'karim, 1 (5)
is no freer man than one who engages in the study of Torah."
a king is not as free as one who engages in Torah, for his kingship is dependent
on his subjects and hence he is vulnerable to revolt. This thought is conveyed
in the Talmudic teaching, "Do not desire the table of kings, for your table
is greater than theirs and your crown is greater than their crown."
"Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Every single day a
heavenly voice emanates from Mount Horeb ." (Av. 6:2)
day brings its own challenges, and sometimes even seemingly insurmountable obstacles,
along the road to Divine service. Likewise, the Evil Inclination gains additional
strength every day (cf, Succah 52b). Anticipating those developments, G-d provided
the perfect antidote -- the daily renewal of the Ten Commandments. In the Shema
we remind ourselves of this renewal, saying: that I command you today (Deut. 6:6)
-- the Enochi, the word "I" with which the Ten Commandments begins,
is experienced anew every day. Moreover, this heavenly voice is imploring us to
regain our freedom by immersing ourselves in Torah study. Just as we were liberated
from Pharaoh, so we can be extricated from the clutches of the Evil Inclination.
.."Woe to the creatures because of the insult
to the Torah."
To prevent an insult to the Torah, it is not sufficient
to merely learn it -- one must be preoccupied with it. As long as this is not
the case, the Torah remains "insulted." To occupy oneself with Torah
is obligatory for every Jew. Every Jew must occupy himself with Torah in a manner
commensurate with his position in life. If he cannot learn by himself, he should
hear Torah from others. The mitzvah of learning Torah is fulfilled when a person
knows and understands it. One who occupies himself with Torah, in addition to
learning it, aspires to be taught it by the Torah. And he strives to achieve the
aim that his learning guide him in fulfilling everything that is written in Torah
Ma'amarim 5700 p. 64 (3)
a Heavenly Voice emanates from Mount Horeb and proclaims: "Woe to mankind for
[its] insult to the Torah!"
My grandfather the Baal Shem Tov asked: Why
does no one hear this voice, and if no one hears it, what is its purpose? He explained:
Every day, every Jewish soul hears this voice, feels remorse, and contemplates
repentance. Yet only the wise man recognizes the Heavenly source of these feelings
and thoughts and acts on them. Everyone else is not as astute, however, and pays
them no heed.
Degel Machane Efraim (2)
"The Tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is the writing of
G-d Himself is written in the Torah, so to speak. For one who
purifies himself can apprehend G-dliness within the Torah. He needs no miracles
or philosophical speculation to know the truth—the Torah itself enlightens him.
Rav Simcha Bunem of Peshischa (2)
"Only one who occupies himself with Torah study is free"
enables man to free himself of his physical desires and master his material nature.
In contrast, one who does not occupy himself with Torah has no direction in life
and becomes enslaved to his body, and there is no greater slavery than this.
Sfas Emes (2)
"..anyone who occupies himself
with the Torah becomes elevated.."
Torah matters are important
"Woe to the creatures because of the insult to the Torah"
- because people do not occupy themselves with it. Just as a person involved in
business matters is preoccupied with them even when he is not actually busy with
them, so should it be regarding a person's involvement with Torah. He must be
devoted to the Torah with all his heart and with all soul, and Torah matters should
affect him to the very core of his soul. Even a person whose Torah knowledge is
limited so that he is not even able to learn by himself, if he occupies himself
with Torah he refines the radiance of his soul, so that the light of the essence
of his soul illuminates it. (Ma'amarim 5688 p.127)
"He who learns from a colleague a single chapter, a single Torah
law, a single verse, a single statement or even a single letter, must
show him honor."
This teaching refers to a colleague whose conduct is not above reproach.
When a person's own conduct is flawed, it is natural that despite the
rational self-justifications that stem from self-love, he would recognize
his own failings and humbly look down on himself. One may not, however,
view a colleague from whom he has learned Torah concepts in such a manner.
For even when the other's conduct is unworthy, he should be honored for
the sake of the teachings he communicated.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
" Thus, David, King of Israel, learned only two things from
Achitofel, yet he called him his master, his teacher, and intimate friend ."
learning Torah, it is not only important what is learned, but also whom it is
learned from. The Torah of a person, who learns from an upright and fitting teacher
multiplies and bears fruit, whereas the Torah of one who learns from a wicked
person remains as it was, neither increasing nor bearing fruit. Achitofel
was a wicked person, and therefore the two things which King David learned from
him remained only two things, and they did not increase and bear fruit. Nevertheless,
David honored him. How much more so should this apply to a person who learns from
a saintly master - even if he learns a single letter, but it multiplies and bears
fruit, he must honor his teacher.
Keser Shem Tov para.22
If one learns from his fellow-man one chapter (of
Torah), one definitive law, etc.
I heard in the name of the Baal Shem:
The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2-14) contain the entire Torah (by allusion and connotation)
as R. Sa'adyah Gaon showed. Now, just as the entire Torah is contained in
the Ten Commandments, so is it contained in one word but this, only if the
spirit of the master teacher with whom a person studies has its root-source in
the realm of unity. Otherwise, if his spirit is from the realm of division and
disunity, the student who learns from him will similarly receive from him disjointed
matters of learning. Hence the Mishna says here that David learned from Achitophel
no more than two things (two separate, unconnected things, which thus did not
contain the entire Torah).
Ben Porat Yosef; Tzofnat Pane'ach (5)
"..Eat bread with salt.."
partake of My bread," the verse states, referring to the Torah, which
is compared to bread. Just as bread is not eaten on its own, without any accompaniment,
so too, with Torah - it must be learned with understanding and explanation.
water in small measure" - for one's own benefit, and in order to avoid
danger, one should drink water in small measure. So too, with Torah. It is best
to avoid entering the depths of the Torah's secrets, for "a stranger who
comes close will die."
Midrash Shmuel (3)
with salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground, live a life of hardship..”
Even if you only have bread with salt, eat! Your eating should be as holy
as the sacrifices brought in the Holy Temple. Even if you only have water in
small measure, drink! Your drinking should be proper, like the libations on the
altar. Even if all you have to sleep in is the ground, sleep! Your sleeping should
also be as required. And even if yours is a life of hardship, live! Always be
full of joy and vitality, never ensnared by depression.
Simchah Bunem of Pshischa (2)
"Live a life
Do not read this as tichye (live), but techaye
(give life). As is well-known, sparks of holiness fell into the realms of evil,
and as long as they remain there, they are in a state of great distress - "hardship".
Every person must have the intention of giving them life - by extracting them
from evil and raising them to the level of holiness.
of Mezritch's Ramzei HaTorah p.101d (3)
a life of deprivation, and toil in the Torah"
Both poverty and wealth
present challenges to divine service. The challenge of wealth, however, is more
severe than the challenge of poverty. The challenges presented by poverty are
for the most part external; day-to-day life is simply more difficult, and it is
harder to devote energy to divine service.
The challenges presented by wealth
are largely internal. When a person is prosperous, there is a natural tendency
for him to think. "My strength and the power of my hand achieved this bounty
for me." Such an approach runs in direct contradiction to the essence of
our relationship with the Torah, which revolves around kabbalat ol - absolute
acceptance of G-d's law. Any material success we may enjoy should be regarded
as given by G-d, and should not lead to pride.
Few of us today are beset
by the challenges of extreme poverty. We do, however, confront the challenges
of wealth. To overcome these challenges, we need self-control, and the reinforcement,
humility and strength that one person can offer a friend.
" and live a life of hardship and
toil in the Torah.."
When a person contemplates the greatness of
the Infinite One, and realizes how far he is from the light of G-d's countenance,
the matter causes him grief. This is the "hardship" mentioned in the
Mishnah. But his consolation is to occupy himself with Torah, through which he
merits, "you shall be happy" - in this world." For the Torah is
G-d's wisdom, and in it is clothed the light of the Infinite One. Hence when
a person is occupied with learning Torah, he clothes himself in the ferment of
the Holy One, blessed is He, and his soul becomes unified with the Infinite One.
Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 27d (3)
Learning more than One's Custom
The 100th time
a person reviews his studies is not essentially different from the preceding 99
times, and is not indicative of any extraordinary effort. However, the 101st time
he reviews his studies indicates that a change has taken place in his soul, and
therefore in the revelation of G-dliness in the world. From this point on, his
Divine service is very different from the way it was previously.
"Tanya", chap.15, and "Maskil l'Eitan" ad loc. (3)
By reverent fear
I heard my master and teacher, the
Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory, declare that in the physical, material realm,
where there is fear there is no rejoicing, and where there is rejoicing there
is no fear - except in the worship of G-d. There it happens that in an instance
of reverent fear there is love (of the Almighty). Afterward I found this point
in the work of Alfazi.
Toldot Yaakov Yosef (5)
" Torah is acquired by a minimum of sleep"
and sleep are two opposites. The Torah is the Tree of Life, whereas sleep is the
Tree of Death. If a person enjoys sleeping, and he indulges himself in it, even
when he is awake he will have difficulty in learning.
Midrash Shmuel (3)
is acquired with thirty distinctions and the priesthood with twenty-four, but
for Torah he must have forty-eight."
The three offices of royalty,
priesthood and Torah leadership were symbolized in the Holy Temple by three sacred
articles, each of which was graced by a "crown" of gold work surrounding
the upper border. These are: the Shulchan (Table), the Mizbei'ach HaZahav (Golden
Altar), and the Aron (Ark). The crown upon the Table, which carries the show-bread,
corresponds to the crown of kingship, because it is the king's role to ensure
the nation's sustenance. The smallest perimeter of any plane of the Table is thirty
tefachim (240cm), corresponding to the thirty prerogatives of the king. The
crown upon the Incense Altar corresponds to the crown of the priesthood. The upper
surface of the Altar has a perimeter of twenty-four tefachim, corresponding to
the twenty-four privileges of the priesthood. The crown upon the Ark containing
the Ten Commandments corresponds to the crown of Torah. The perimeter of the upper
surface is forty-eight tefachim, corresponding to the forty-eight qualities of
Torah listed in this Mishna.
The Maharal (8)
Physical indulgence counters the acquisition of wisdom.
However, the expression "limited pleasure" implies that some pleasure
is acceptable. Although the Rabbis extolled the virtue of a life of "bread
and salt" in baraita 4, the benefit arises only if there is no alternative.
There is no benefit to be had if he can continue to learn without giving up normal
comforts. On the other hand, he should avoid extra physical pleasures, for that
goes against the nature of Torah, and that is the practice of limited pleasure.
" Whoever says a thing in the name of he who
said it [originally] brings redemption to the world.."
who said it" refers to the Holy One, blessed is He, Who gave us the Torah.
When a Jew learns Torah, it must be immediately recognizable that he is learning
G-d's Torah. When he quotes something, the He who said it must be evident.
"Brings redemption to the world" - the word "world" in Hebrew
(olam) comes from the word (he'elem) - concealment, for in the process
of creation, the Creator hides Himself from the creation. When a person learns
Torah in the proper manner, he reveals G-dliness in the world, and through this
he brings redemption to the world.
Lubavitcher Rebbe (3)
" Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities .and
repeating a saying in the name of the one who said it ."
final attribute through which Torah is acquired involves much more than merely
crediting a source. It implies that certain Torah thoughts are destined to be
disseminated through a collaborative effort. The initiator of the thought, whose
role is to develop this novel thought but not to teach it to a broader audience,
is joined in his efforts by the disseminator, who is capable of relating this
insight to others. It is through collaborative efforts such as these that the
Final Redemption will be hastened.
Imrei Emes, Maggidei HaEmes (6)
"Quoting a concept in the name of its author brings redemption to
We find that Torah sages frequently relate concepts
they have heard from others without mentioning the name of the author. To cite
an obvious example: Our sages comment that Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus never communicated
a teaching unless he heard it from one of his masters. Nevertheless, we find many
teachings from Rabbi Eliezer in which his sources are not mentioned. Until
a student is able to fully comprehend and internalize a teaching he received,
he is required to quote it in the name of its author, for the concept still “belongs”
to the teacher. Once he has grasped it completely, however, it is his own; he
has acquired it by means of his comprehension, and it is now a product of his
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
"Great is Torah, for it confers life upon it's practitioners,
both in This World and in the World to Come "
This mishna seems to contradict the renowned principle that we are not
rewarded in This World. While ordinarily this is the case, someone who
integrates Torah into the material world (ose'ha) deserves to be rewarded
in This World. Moreover, one whose existence is inseparable from Torah
merits that even his fate in This World will be conducted on the basis
of Torah and not defined solely by the natural laws of the universe
(Adapted from Sfas Emes, Kedoshim 5636).
"Great is Torah, for it confers life upon
its practitioners, both in This World and in the World to Come "
By stating explicitly that Torah provides life in both This World and the World
to Come, the mishna is offering assurances to two different types of Jews. To
the learned Jew who is far more predisposed to the spiritual values of the World
to Come than to the material demands of This World, the Torah gives strength to
cope with This World. On the other hand, the simple, unlearned Jew may feel quite
comfortable in This World but can only merit a portion in the World to Come by
developing a close relationship with Torah and its teachers
“Great is the Torah, for it gives life to those
who practice it”
“Those who practice it” refers to individuals who observe
the mitzvos. By saying “great is the Torah”, the beraisa emphasizes
that Torah study surpasses observance of the mitzvos. And it explains why: “for
it gives life”. It is possible that even a person who is fastidious in observing
mitzvos will do so listlessly. Torah study inspires an understanding of the bond
with G-d that is established through the observance of mitzvos, and thus infuses
one’s observance with energy and vitality.
"It is a tree
of life to those who take hold of it:"
The Torah sustains the Jewish people,
but only to the extent that the Jews "take hold of it" and recognize its life-giving
Rav Yehudah Leib of Gur, the Sefas Emes (2)
"Children are pleasing for the righteous and pleasing for the
In an extended sense, the term "children" refers to one's students
- in many ways the ultimate influence on one's environment. For through
students (who themselves become teachers), the truths one shares become
ingrained both in the present and in the future.
"This is the way of Torah: Eat bread with salt "
If a person is very wealthy and can afford a comfortable
life, then the lifestyle suggested in this bareita will not help his studies.
The way of Torah is to sacrifice the physical for the spiritual, but if one can
afford to eat meat, then eating bread and salt is not a sacrifice for the sake
of Torah. What can a wealthy person sacrifice, which will enhance his pursuit
of Torah? He can give up all involvement with his investments, and dedicate all
of his time and attention to Torah study.
The Maharal (8)
"Before [literally, 'against'] His elders shall be glory"
of the temptations of man's youth become subdued in his old age. However, the
desire for glory and honor continues to work "against" him with its
Rav Avraham of Slonim (2)
"Neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls
escort him, but only Torah study and good deeds.."
A person consists
of body and soul. The body, of course, is substance. The soul is form: It animates
the body, imparts character and provides the ability to live purposefully. Both
the body and the soul of a human being merit the afterlife. Only good deeds provide
the kind of bodily substance that continues into the World to Come, and
only Torah provides the kind of spiritual substance that carries into the
World to Come.
The Maharal (8)
"The Torah of Your mouth
is worth more to me than thousands in silver and gold."
word for "thousands" also means "learning." Thus, says
David HaMelech, the Torah of Your mouth, i.e., Torah study for the sake of G-d,
is worth more to me than learning for silver and gold, for the sake of monetary
Rav Yehudah Leib of Gur, the Sefas Emes (2)
the time of a man's death, neither silver nor gold accompany him - only Torah
and good deeds"
This implies that if the silver and gold were used
for Torah and good deeds, then they do also accompany him!
of Kosov (2)
"Five possessions did
the Holy One, Blessed is He, acquire for Himself in His world, and they are: Torah,
one acquisition; heaven and earth, one acquisition; Avraham, one acquisition;
Israel, one acquisition; the Beit Hamikdash, one acquisition .."
The purpose of these acquisitions is to enable mortals, who are
so removed from G-d's infinite sanctity, to develop a relationship with Him. By
marveling at the infinite symmetry of heaven and earth, G-d's handiwork; by following
the sterling example of Avraham Avinu who brought many of his contemporaries closer
to G-d; by appreciating and benefiting from the unique role of the Beit Hamikdash
and Eretz Yisrael -- the Jewish people can acquire an intimate relationship with
Sfas Emes (6)
Holy One, blessed is He, made five possessions His very own in His world."
The world for "world" in Hebrew is olam, which has the connotations
of he'elem -- concealment and hiddenness of G-dliness, which is a product of the
process of creation. Through each of these five possessions, which are each "one
possession," the revelation of the absolute Oneness of G-d is revealed and
the concealment is nullified. Then the world is clearly seen to be "His world."
'Pirkei Avot (3)
The Torah, One Possession.
Torah is still whole and perfect. No one has ever diminished it or subtracted
anything from it. When a person settles himself to study Torah with pure faith
and a reverent fear of Heaven, the light of the Torah restores the spirit and
brings new strength into his comprehension of the grandeur of G-d. Then of course
the Torah remains whole and perfect. No human being has ever yet damaged it or
taken anything away from it.
18 Elul 1943 - vol 45, p.44 (5)
"Since it is written: 'Until Your people pass over
O L-rd, until this people You acquired pass over;' and it says: 'To the Holy people
who are in the land, and the noble ones in them, is all My delight'"
The beraisa mentions two proof texts with regard to the Jewish people. The first
explicitly states that the Jews have been acquired by G-d, but describes the Jews
when they lived in the desert and were being cared for overtly by G-d's miraculous
providence. Since, as explained above, the purpose of the beraisa is to highlight
how each of these possessions establishes oneness in the world at large, a second
proof text is necessary. The latter verse, although it does not emphasize G-d's
ownership of the Jews as clearly, describes them as they function "in the
land" - within the natural order of day-to-day existence. The Lubavitcher
"Five Possessions Did the Holy One, Blesses
Be He, Make His Very Own"
Five - The framework of spiritual
existence consists of four different realms. These are limited frameworks of existence
which do not reveal G-d entirely. The number five points to an even higher domain,
where infinite G-dly light is revealed without definition. G-d desired to make
all these realms…
His Very Own - to draw down His essential light
within them, revealing how all existence is…
His World - at one
with Him. This concept is also indicated by the expression…
Is One Possession
- which is used in all five instances, i. e., all these entities express G-d's
oneness. Although all five entities mentioned by the beraisa express G-d's oneness,
in this context the Torah is the most fundamental. (And therefore this beraisa
is included in the chapter which focuses on the greatness of Torah.) For the Torah
is the medium which, though totally at one with G-d, extends itself into material
reality, making it possible that this world can become a dwelling for Him.
Did the Holy One, Blesses Be He, Make His Very Own - The Hebrew word kinyan,
translated as "possession," also implies the means of acquisition through which
an entity is transferred from one person's ownership to another's. The five things
mentioned are all mediums that enable G-d's ownership of all existence to become
openly manifest. This concept is also emphasized by the expression "in His world,"
which highlights the ultimate intent - that it become clear that our world is
His world, united with Him. This intent is also reflected in the expression used
with regard to each of these five possessions - "one possession" - indicating
that the purpose of each is to express G-d's oneness throughout the world.
The Tzemach Tzedek(2)
"Five possessions has the Holy One, blessed be He, acquired as His
own in His world ."
Every Jew can attain spiritual fulfillment
through these possessions, each according to his level. Some learn and teach Torah.
Others do not possess much Torah but attain true fear of G-d by contemplating
His greatness, as exhibited in the heavens and the earth. Some emulate our forefather
Avraham, drawing Jews to Torah and mitzvos. Others love their people Israel so
much that they would give their lives for their fellow Jew. And even if one has
none of these qualities, he can lament the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and
the "exile" of the Divine Presence, and long for G-d's salvation. Even
by virtue of these acts, one can achieve spiritual perfection and merit life in
the World to Come.
Rav Shlomo of Radomsk (2)
"Whatever the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world,
He created only for His glory."
A heretic once came to Rabbi Akiva and demanded proof that G-d created
the world. "Come back tomorrow," Rabbi Akiva told him. The next
day, when the heretic returned, Rabbi Akiva asked him what he was wearing.
"A garment," the man replied. "Who made it?" the Rabbi
asked. "The tailor," was his answer. When Rabbi Akiva demanded
proof, the heretic demanded, "How can you not know this?" Said
Rabbi Akiva, "And what about you? How can you not know that G-d created
the world?" Our Sages commented: "Just as a house indicates
a builder, a garment indicates a tailor, and a door a carpenter, so too
does the world tell of the Holy One that He created it."
"...He created only for His glory..."
glory of Heaven is experienced in all four spiritual worlds, Atzilus, Beriah,
Yetzirah, Assiyah, as is hinted at in the verse, "All that is called by My
Name, for My glory (Atzilus) I created it (Beriah), formed it (Yetzirah), and
made it (Assiyah)."
It is true that in the world of Assiyah (the spiritual
counterpart of this world) we see that the aspect of evil has gained the upper
hand, and that "man's inclination is evil from his youth." Nevertheless,
we should be aware that, "G-d shall reign forever and ever." In the
future, G-d will clearly be seen to be One, and His Name One, and His glory will
be evident even in the world of Assiyah.
Midrash Shmuel (3)
"All that He created in His world.."
is seldom openly revealed in our world. Nevertheless, this lack of manifestation
does not change the reality. Everything, even those entities which appear totally
secular in nature .
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)
the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory
G-d is "hidden" in this world in order to allow
man the free will to choose good, thereby transforming evil into good and revealing
G-d's light. Thus, even G-d's "hiddenness" is ultimately "solely
for His glory."