Wisdom of the Sages (Pirkei Avot)

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Chapter 6

 

Shabbat Afternoon, Tammuz 17, 5779 (July 20)
 
Other Chapters
Introductory verse for each chapter
Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Concluding verse for each chapter

New Insights for Introductory Verse

 

"All Jews have a part to [in] the World to Come"

The reward for a Torah-observant life is Olam Haba - the World to Come - but one might impertinently wonder if there is unlimited room in heaven. Perhaps wide-spread observance would lead to celestial overcrowding. Therefore, we introduce Pirkei Avot with the information that Hashem has provided every Jew with accommodations in the next world. Secure in the knowledge that Hashem is in no danger of becoming an overburdended host, the individual Jew need only concern himself with securing his own place.

(Yismach Moshe) (9)

 

Previous Insights for Introductory Verse

 


"… a part to [in] the World to Come"

It is significant that the mishna does not say, in the World to Come, which would refer to the eventual reward attained after our life on earth. Instead, it says to the World to Come. Even in This World, every action of the Jew is blessed with the aura of Olam HaBa. This Divine gift is not always apparent. However, if one penetrates beneath the surface one detects a certain sanctity in every deed of the Torah-true Jew. This inner kedusha is derived from the sacred radiance of the World to Come that is enjoyed in some small measure in This World. In fact, the primary purpose of man's creation is that by virtue of his proper conduct he can elicit the latent Divine Spark that propels this material world. By doing so he can in some measure help to perfect the world.

Maggidei HaEmes (6)


"...they are the stem of My plantings..."

The stem is that straight, vertical branch which first comes out of the ground, before it develops side branches that extent in different directions. Eternity is symbolized by the straight and true, and hence the nation of Israel is called the "stem of my plantings," for it is directed towards G-d. That early trunk is the primary structure of the tree and it defines the direction of a tree's growth. This metaphor contrasts Israel with the other nations who, like side branches turning from the trunk, become sidetracked from the quest for eternity.

"...My handiwork, in which to take pride."

A finite creation such as this world does not adequately reflect G-d's greatness. Only the eternal World to Come can evince the perfection of the eternal Creator. Since Israel completes the World to Come, as its primary citizens, they are a principal part of that world's tribute to G-d's greatness.

Maharal of Prague: Pirkei Avos by Tuvia Basser (Mesorah)


"...In which to take pride."
Since every Jew’s soul is an actual part of G-d, each and every Jew — man, woman, and child — praises G-d by virtue of his very existence. “Even the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds.”
This teaching serves as an introduction to each chapter of Pirkei Avot because Pirkei Avot focuses on ethical development and personal refinement. When one becomes aware of the essential G-dly core of every individual, one appreciates: a) the necessity to refine oneself so that this essential quality can be expressed, and b) that every individual, regardless of his present level of development, has the potential to achieve such refinement.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)


Insights for Concluding Mishnah


“…To make the people of Israel meritorious…”
Lezakot, translated as ‘to make meritorious’, also means ‘to refine’. The goal of the Torah and its mitzvos is to refine the Jewish people. This intention is manifest in Pirkei Avot, which teaches us to lift our ethical conduct above the limits of human wisdom and cultivate it according to G-d’s desire.

Lubavitcher Rebbe (1)


An alternative translation: G-d gave them much Torah and mitzvot to refine and purify them.

One would expect the Torah to reflect the oneness of its Author. Why then does the Torah contain so many different elements? Why aare the mitzvot so varied and detailed?

Because G-d wished to refine the human being. And since the human being posseses many facets, the Torah and its precepts are multifacated as well. Each aspect of the human mind and deed can be refined by another aspect of Torah. (Mikveh Yisrael; Biurim)

Additionaly, a person is transformed by his deeds. Thus the more mitzvot he actually performs the greater the transformation of his character (Chinuch 16).


 

  • It is a universal Jewish custom to read a chapter of Pirkei Avot each week, starting with Chapter One on the Shabbat afternoon following the end of Pesach, and completing Chapter Six on the Shabbat preceding Shavuot.
  • Many also have the custom to continue repeating the cycle until the Shabbat preceding Rosh HaShanah.
  • The text may be found in most prayerbooks, all printings of the Mishna, and in many excellent annotated editions.
  • ASCENT is now in its second year of presenting an additional Chassidic insight for each week of the five-month Avot 'season.'

(1) In the Paths of Our Fathers by Eliyahu Tauger (Kehot)
(2) Fathers and Sons by Tuvia Kaplan (Targum Press)
(3) Pirkei Avos in the Light of Chassidus by Yekutiel Green (Author)
(4) Tzava'at Harivash by Jacob Immanuel Schochet (Kehot)
(5) The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avot by
Charles Wengrov (Inst. for Mishnah Research)
(6) Pirkei Avos by the Sfas Emes and other Gerer Rabbis by Rabbi Y. Stern (Artscroll)
(7) Midrash Shmuel by Rabbi Shmuel Di Uzeda of 16th century Tsfat, as translated in (3) above
(8) Maharal of Prague: Pirkei Avos by Tuvia Basser (Mesorah)

(9) Vedebarta Bam on Pirkei Avot by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky
(10) [commentary on] Pirkei Avot by Rabbi Yosef Marcus

 


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