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This site is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg who were murdered at their Chabad House in Mumbai. This is the place to learn more and ask those questions you were always too shy to ask.

5:48 AM

Pirkei Avos Chapter 3

Posted by Scholar

"Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin." (3:1)

QUESTION: There is a "wondrous Midrash" which says Adam sinned because he only saw two, but not three. What is the interpretation of this Midrash?
ANSWER: Akavya ben Mahalaleil says, "Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin: From where you came — from a putrid drop; And to where you are going — to a place of dust maggots and worms; And before Whom you are destined to given an accounting — before the Supreme King of Kings."

Adam was an exception among the entire humanity. He was the creation of G-d's hands. Consequently, "From where you came — from a putrid drop" did not apply to him. Thus, the Midrash is saying that Adam sinned because only two of the three things upon which to reflect and avoid sin applied to him."

"He has no share in the World to Come." (3:11)

QUESTION: The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) lists all those who do not have a share in the World to Come, why are these not mentioned there?
ANSWER: Since our Mishnah says Hamechaleil — one who profanes — hamevazeh — one who degrades — in present tense and does not say mi shechile — one who profaned — mi shebizah — one who degraded — in past tense, it is understood that the Mishnah is talking of people who are in a constant rebellious state against Hashem. They have no remorse and do not repent. Thus, they are included in the category of apikoros — one who disparages Torah and its scholars — which is listed there in the Mishnah.

"If there is no proper social conduct, there is no Torah." (3:17)

QUESTION: Why is there no Torah if there is no "derech eretz" — "proper social conduct"?
ANSWER: According to the Midrash (Shochar Tov 8:2) the angels opposed Hashem's giving away Torah to man, and wanted it to be left in heaven for them. Hashem told them, "You cannot receive the Torah since it states, 'You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk' and when you visited Avraham, you ate meat and milk?"

Though angels do not eat physical food, out of respect to their host they altered their nature and ate in Avraham's house, since it was properderech eretz — etiquette — as our Sages say, "When you come into a city, conduct yourself according to its customs" (Shemot Rabbah 47:6). Thus, thanks to the fact that eating is customary in this world, and it is proper derech eretz to follow the customs of the place one visits, we became the recipients of Torah and not the angels.


Isha Shiri said...


Great blog, thanks sharing!


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