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
(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)
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.
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
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).