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Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 5 Mishna 19
with select commentaries

Commentaries used in this translation:
Rashi Commentary (1040-1105)
Rambam Commentary (1135-1204)
Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura Commentary (1445-1515)
Tiferet Yisrael commentary (1782–1860)
Rabeinu Yonah (1180-1263)
Derech Chaim - Maharal of Prague (1525-1609) (hebrewbooks.org/14193)
Biur HaGra of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna - (1720-1797)
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai commentary - (1570-1643)
Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azoulai (Chida) commentary - (1724-1806)
Chatam Sofer commentary - (1762-1839), along with Ktav Sofer, and others
Ben Ish Chai commentary - (1835-1909)
and many more..

Commentary Level:
  • Min - (level 1) for basic commentaries as relating to the plain meaning (Pshat).
  • Med - (level 2) elaborates more into the theme.
  • Max - (level 3) deeper in, Maharal of Prague.
  • Max+ - (level 4) more themes in the text.
  • ShortMix - (recommended) short version of level 4.
Suggestion: Read once without commentaries (or min). Then a second time with.

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Chapter 5 Mishna 19פרק ה משנה יט
Whoever possesses these three things is of the disciples of Avraham our forefather; and whoever possesses three other things is of the disciples of Bilaam the wicked.

A good eye, a humble spirit, and a lowly soul - he is of the disciples of Avraham our forefather.
An evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a gluttonous soul - he is of the disciples of Bilaam, the wicked.

What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked? The disciples of Avraham our forefather eat (enjoy) in this world and inherit the World to Come, as written: "I will cause those that love Me to inherit a substance (lasting possession); and their treasuries shall I fill" (Mishlei 8:21).

But the disciples of Bilaam the wicked inherit Gehinom and descend into the pit of destruction, as written: "but You, O G-d, will cast them down into the pit of destruction, bloodthirsty and deceitful men, they shall not live out half their days, but as for me I will trust in You" (Tehilim 55:24).
כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הַלָּלוּ, מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ. וּשְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים אֲחֵרִים, מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע.
עַיִן טוֹבָה, וְרוּחַ נְמוּכָה, וְנֶפֶשׁ שְׁפָלָה, מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ.
עַיִן רָעָה, וְרוּחַ גְּבוֹהָה, וְנֶפֶשׁ רְחָבָה, מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע.

מַה בֵּין תַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ לְתַלְמִידָיו שֶׁל בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע. תַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ, אוֹכְלִין בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְנוֹחֲלִין בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי ח) לְהַנְחִיל אֹהֲבַי יֵשׁ, וְאֹצְרֹתֵיהֶם אֲמַלֵּא.

אֲבָל תַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל בִּלְעָם הָרָשָׁע יוֹרְשִׁין גֵּיהִנֹּם וְיוֹרְדִין לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים נה) וְאַתָּה אֱלֹהִים תּוֹרִידֵם לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת, אַנְשֵׁי דָמִים וּמִרְמָה לֹא יֶחֱצוּ יְמֵיהֶם, וַאֲנִי אֶבְטַח בָּךְ:

Rambam - "a good eye - we already explained many times that this refers to histapkut (being content with what one has).

"lowly soul (nefesh shefala)" - this is zehirut (watchfulness from evil).

"low spirit (ruach nemocha)" - this refers to great humility.

The three opposite traits are:
evil eye - zeal (charitzut) to acquire money.
gluttonous soul (nefesh rechava) - great lust.
haughty spirit (ruach gevoha) - arrogance.
Bartenura - "disciples of Avraham" - he learns from Avraham and goes in his ways.

"a good eye" - he contents himself (mistapek) with what he has and does not desire the money of others. Thus we find by Avraham our forefather who told the king of Sodom "I will not take a thread nor a sandal strap nor anything that is yours" (Gen.14).

"humble spirit" - great humility. Likewise we find Avraham said: "I am but dust and ashes" (Gen.18).

"lowly soul" - watchfulness and abstinence from lusts.
We find by Avraham: "he said to Sarai his wife: 'behold now, I know that you are a beautiful woman to look upon'; [And it will be when the Egyptians see you, they shall say, This is his wife. And they will kill me]" (Gen.12). Until then, he did not recognize her beauty due to great modesty (tziniut).

"evil eye" - by Bilaam we find an evil eye. For he knew it was evil in G-d's eyes that he go to Balak. But nevertheless, he went to receive money, as written: "if Balak gives me a house full of silver and gold" (Bamidbar 24).

"a haughty spirit" - as he said on himself: "he who knows the knowledge of the Most High and sees the vision of the Al-mighty" (Bamidbar 24:16).

"a gluttonous soul" - for if he were not steeped in lust, he would not have advised to send the woman of Moav as prostitutes and our sages said: "Bilaam would have intercourse with his mule" (Sanhedrin 105a).

"I will cause those that love Me to inherit a lasting possession" - Avraham is called "loves [G-d]", as written: "the seed of Abraham, who loved Me" (Isaiah 41).

"I will cause those that love Me to inherit a lasting possession (yesh)" - in Olam Haba (the world to come).

"and their treasuries shall I fill" - in this world.

"men of blood (bloodthirsty)" - Bilaam is called "a man of blood" for through his evil advice, he brought the death of 24,000 Jews.
Sfas Emes on Avot - "a good eye" - all that one sees, he recognizes in it the kindness and goodness of the Creator, blessed be He, and everything is good in his eyes. Through this it becomes good as we find by Nachum Ish Gamzu (who always said: "this too is for the good")..
Merkavet Hamishna - "disciples of Bilaam" - for anyone, whether Jew or gentile, who conducts himself according to Bilaam's traits is called his disciple and it is as if he learned from Bilaam..
Tiferet Yisrael - "disciples of Avraham" - even if he is a non-Jew, nevertheless, he is a disciple of Avraham our forefather who taught the world knowledge of G-d and just character traits. Due to this, he did not say: "disciples of Moshe Rabeinu". For these need to fulfill the whole torah.

"Bilaam.." - he was exceedingly wise like Achitofel (Bamidbar Rabba ch.22). For he advised Balak to cause the Jews to sin cunningly. Likewise he was a great prophet like Moshe Rabeinu. But all this did not help him due to having these three corrupt traits. Every sin in the world is caused perforce by one of these three traits.

They are:
1. error of the intellect which is symbolized by the eye, as written: "a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise" (Ex.23:8), ie their wisdom.
2. through arrogance which is symbolized by the word ruach, as written: "before destruction comes pride, and before stumbling [comes] a haughty spirit (ruach)" (Mishlei 16:18).
3. through physical lusts symbolized by the word "nefesh", as written: "lust of the nefesh" (Isaiah 26:8).
All of these were in Bilaam.

"What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked?" - it is obvious that there is a great difference between them in Olam Haba. Rather he is teaching us that even in this world, good will be bestowed on those who guard these three traits greatly.

"the pit of destruction" - even if he attains all the lusts, wealth, and physical pleasures, nevertheless, his heart worries on the darkness of his day of death. For he does not know when it will come. This will embitter all the sweetness of the world that he tastes.
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai - Ahava b'Taanugim - "a good eye" - some explain that he has no desire at all for possessions of this world. For the little he has appears much in his eyes. But for others, he deems it little and he wants more for them than what he wants for himself. He is not at all jealous of others and is happy to see that others have more than him. This is what the torah says "you shall love TO your fellow as yourself". It did not say: "you shall love your fellow as yourself".

The opposite is the evil eye. What he has appears little in his eyes and what his fellow has appears much. He is jealous of his fellow and is content to have little provided his fellow has less than himself.

He who has a good eye, this teaches he has a lofty neshama (higher soul).

"ruach nemocha (humble spirit)" - humility. This is wholeness of the spirit (ruach) and the opposite is arrogance.

"nefesh shefala (lowly soul)" - to be content with the minimum necessary. the opposite is nefesh rechava (wide soul) which is rechava (wide/gluttonous) in lusts. These three traits teach on wholeness of the nefesh, ruach, and neshama...

"eat (enjoy) this world and inherit the World to Come" - for one who has a good eye and rejoices in his portion - certainly he eats of this world. For he never worries and his life is a life.

But he who has an evil eye will never be satiated by money and "more possessions, more worries". Normally, he does not eat of this world. For his life is not a life.

Likewise for one ho has a ruach nemucha (humble spirit), without arrogance and irritability (gaava v'kapdanut). For if insulted he does not answer. He is always in a state of joy and his heart does not worry.

But it is not so for the arrogant who has a ruach gevoha (haughty spirit). All his days are vexation. For at all times he feels others are slighting his honor. Normally, he does not eat of this world.

Likewise for one who has a nefesh shefela (lowly soul) and he lowers and submits himself and the lusts of his nefesh (soul). All his days he is healthy like an Ulam (hall). But it is not so for one who increases lusts, and especially for relations. He causes evil to himself and weakens his body. So too for excessive bodily lusts (eating). This causes bad illnesses to arise. This is something nature testifies...
Likutei Maharid m'Belz - why did he say "what is the difference between the disciples of Avraham and the disciples of Bilaam" and not simply "between Avraham and Bilaam"? It seems because in his clothing, Bilaam looked like Avraham. It was possible to think that both are the same. Thus externally there was no visible difference between them. But in their disciples, it was already very much recognizable the gaping difference between them.
Siftei Daat on Avot (R.Yerucham Levovitz) - "a good eye, a humble spirit, and a tamed soul" - he mentioned here only matters of middot (character traits). For this is the primary fulfilling of the torah as written in Shaarei Kedusha by R.Chaim Vital. Here is a quote from there: "because of this, the middot were not counted in the mitzvot. For they are the foundation of the whole torah and not an individual mitzvah.. and without rectifying the middot (character traits), it is impossible to fulfill the torah..." end quote.
Chochma Hamatzfon - the words of the mishna make the heart shudder. For it is possible for a man to live 100 years, toiling in torah and fear of Heaven, and to think of oneself as a tzadik (righteous), yashar (just) v'neeman (faithful). But according to the words of the mishna, if he is afflicted with an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a nefesh rechava (gluttonous soul) - he is among the disciples of the wicked Bilaam and is considered in Heaven among the "bloodthirsty men of deceit" and his end is that he inherits Gehinom. How terrifying is this! May G-d guard us from this.
Daat Chochma u'Mussar 1:27 - "What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked?" - this implies that regarding wisdom, there is no difference between them. Indeed our sages brought: "the verse says: 'And never since has a prophet like Moses arisen in Israel' (Devarim 34:10)- this implies [in Israel no] but among the gentiles there did arise and who? - Bilaam ben Beor" (Sifri Devarim 34).

The difference between them is in these traits. Although Bilaam had great wisdom, but he was corrupt in his character traits.

It is clear from here that wisdom and likewise torah are not a remedy for character traits (middot). Rather, the opposite is true. Through middot one merits to torah. The middot are formation vessels (keilim hayotzrot) to torah. From them the whole torah branches out.

If a person is not pure in his middot, the torah itself becomes to him a deadly poison.
Ohr Yahel - "whoever possesses these three things... what is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked? - scripture says: "the spirit of a man can endure sickness; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" (Mishlei 18). Behold - here is the difference between an animal - here is the balance line to define with what man is above the animal!

The animal is constrained and stands on how it was created - as its nature. It does not seek an escape to go out of the bounds of its nature. The animal is content to feed on its trough. It lends its shoulder to bear the yoke of its work and does not lift its head at all.

But man is not like this! His spirit does not rest. It pushes him always to rise up above his current situation. Whether the poor man in his poverty or the rich man in his wealth - all of them turn their gaze upwards!

This aspect (of spirit) places a definition and measure on with what man is above the animals..

What powers drive this spirit which pushes man in this world? All of its powers is but seeking to be free and unrestrained. For this spirit in man is unable to be imprisoned and confined. Therefore, the Jewish people were chosen to receive the torah of G-d only because "Yisrael is the most brazen of all nations" (Beitzah 25).

This spirit of the Jewish people pulls them upwards and when it strengthens leads to ruach hakodesh (holy spirit) from the Source of holiness - it is connected to the foundations of eternity (yesodei hanetzach) - the place of true happiness. Compared to its bliss, all other things and fantasies of pleasures are as nothing. For when this ruach (spirit) intensifies in man, all [material things] that he seeks is as naught!..

If we understand these foundations, namely, the intensifying of the divine ruach, then he who recognizes the Creator of the world and cleaves to Him, how is it conceivable for him to brazenly don might to wage war against this powerful ruach (spirit), namely, the ruach Hash-em (spirit of G-d) within him?

Thus, how great is the amazement and surprise to see a man of tremendous knowledge and understanding like Bilaam the wicked. Our sages reported of him: "in the Jewish people no prophet arose like Moses, but among the gentiles ther indeed rose! (Bilaam)" (Sifri, Zot Haberacha).

Likewise the torah testifies explicitly: "he knew the knowledge of the most High" (Bamidbar 24:16).

And even so, who waged war with him? This stormy ruach (spirit)? - Just this lowly thing! A petty and lowly thing like silver, imaginary honor, and despicable lust - to have relations with a mule? Is this not awesome and wondrous!

Even a young lad will wonder: is it conceivable to exchange closeness to G-d almighty, who creates and sustains the universe, to abandon him and cling to... the company of a mule???

Where is the knowledge of such an enormously brilliant person? This is a tremendous wonder, who cannot stand bewildered? What is this? What caused this? Rise up and be perplexed!

But our sages in their deep wisdom and great knowledge came and revealed to us the primary drive and source of what moves the machinery of this great and wondrous creature called man which includes Bilaam harasha. They are: an evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a gluttonous soul which is "jealousy, lust, and honor which removes a person from the world" (Avot 4:21) - even the greatest man, it removes him from the world - this world and the next (Vilna Gaon).

In truth, they are all things permitted by the torah: money, honor, and lust. We don't find any prohibition on them. The torah does not say: "you shall not have money", "you shall not have honor", "you shall not have lust".

What then is the prohibition in this? - the desire and longing for them - this is the head of all sin!... To yearn for money, for honor, to lust for lust - this is the severe prohibition - this is what removes a person from both worlds!
Chida, devarim achadim, drush chet - "a good eye, a humble spirit, and a lowly soul" - these three traits stem from love of G-d. Avraham loved G-d as written: "Avraham who loved Me" (Isaiah 41:8).

Thus one who has these three traits is among those who love G-d.. For he who has a good eye is not jealous of the good of his fellow. Since his heart is full of love of G-d, certainly he has no jealousy. For if his heart became jealous, then his heart turns away from love of G-d.

Likewise if he lusts bodily desires then his mind is not on love of G-d but on vanities of this world.

So too if he seeks honor he does not love G-d since one who loves G-d knows that He is the King of Honor/Glory while a man is lowly and dark, like a passing shadow.

Thus one who holds on to these traits walks in the path of love of truth which is love of G-d and he is among the disciples of Avraham our forefather, peace be unto him.
Rabeinu Yosef ben Shushan - "gluttonous soul (nefesh rechava)" - a man's want and desire is called "nefesh", as written: "and you shall say, I will eat meat, because your nefesh longs to eat meat; you may eat meat, whatever your nefesh desires" (Devarim 12:20), or "And you shall pay that silver for whatever your nefesh desires, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your nefesh desires" (Devarim 14:26).

"low spirit (ruach shefela)" - it was low because his mind overcame it and lowered it until the ground. And our sages expounded that he did not look at the beauty of Sarah (his wife)..

"spirit (ruach)" - the imagination (dimyon), from it comes the trait of arrogance which is called ruach, as written: "And what comes up on your spirit (ruach) shall not happen at all, that you say, We will be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone" (Yechezkel 20:32).

"I will cause those that love Me to inherit substance (yesh)" - the olam Haba is the true "substance (yesh)". For all matters of this world, its good does not have any substance (yesh) at all but rather absolute inexistence. We only use the term "yesh" (substance) in passing. For really every physical thing disintegrates and eventually disappears completely..
Chatam Sofer, sof sefer vayikra - "the disciples of Avraham inherit (nochalim) the World to Come.. But the disciples of Bilaam the wicked inherit (yorshim) Gehinom and descend into the pit of destruction... - by Avraham it says "NOCHALIM" (inherits/benefits).. while by Bilaam it says "YORSHIM" (inherits) gehinom and descend into the pit of destruction.

Why the change of terms?
(answer:) Our sages taught: "every person has a portion in Gan Eden and a portion in Gehinom. A righteous person takes his own portion and his fellow's portion in Gan Eden while the wicked person takes his own portion and his fellow's portion in Gehinom.

For a great tzadik, even though his portion is much greater than the portion he takes of his fellow, nevertheless, G-d gives him the power to bear both pleasures and even in this world, he tastes of the next world..

But for the thoroughly wicked like the disciples of Bilaam, even though he takes the portion of his fellow in Gehinom, nevertheless he does not at all sit in that portion. Rather, he descends to be'er shachat (pit of destruction) which is the bottom of the pit, much lower than Gehinom.

Therefore this portion (of Gehinom he took) remains barren and a wasteland (since he is much lower down).

Thus he used the term "yerusha" (inherits). For a yerusha applies even though it never reaches his hand. But for a tzadik he used the term "nachala" (inherits/benefits) which implies coming to his hand and benefiting from it..
Chatam Sofer, Drashot 3:38 - "they shall not live out half their days.." - for those who chase lusts do not live out half their days by nature since the lusts cause heartache and disease (since if he has 100, he lusts for 200, etc.) But for the tzadik, even though he also always lusts to reach the next higher spiritual level but nevertheless he says: "I will trust in You" that You will help me. Therefore the lust is sweet (and does not cause heartache and disease).
Yachel Yisrael - this mishna parallels the mishna in chapter 4: "jealousy, lust, and honor remove a person from the world". "jealousy" - this is an evil eye. "lust" - this is nefesh rechava (a gluttonous soul). "honor" - this is ruach gavoah (a haughty spirit).

All these traits are found in the disciples of Bilaam the wicked.

On the opposite spectrum stands the disciples of Avraham, our forefather. "a good eye" - means being content with little. One with a good eye is content with what he has and even rejoices in what his fellow has. He is glad on the good of others.

In grace after meals we say: "may the merciful One bless us as He blessed our forefathers, Avraham, Yitchak, and Yaakov, with all, from all, and all (bakol mikol kol).

This seems a wonder. Is the aspiration of a Jew to be blessed with the good of the whole world? Is it not an exaggeration to request all of the good?

The answer is that it is not just a play on words. If we examine these words we will see that we also say: "as He blessed our forefathers, Avraham, Yitchak, and Yaakov".

We are not requesting plain good but rather as our forefathers were blessed. What is this referring to?

We find by Avraham it is written: "And Abraham was old.. and G-d had blessed Abraham WITH ALL" (Bereisheit 24:1). By Yitzchak, he said to his son Eisav: "I have eaten FROM ALL before you came, and I have blessed him" (Bereisheit 27:33). Also by Yaakov, he said to Eisav: "G-d has been gracious to me and has given me ALL [that I need]" (Bereisheit 33:11).

Thus, we find "with all" by Avraham, "from all" by Yitzchak, and "all" by Yaakov (bakol mikol kol).

When we look at the context of these verses we find that the verse of Avraham referred to when he returned sorrowful from the burial of his wife Sarah. After he was full of trials and had many hardships and was already an old man who sought a son who was born to him in his old age, etc. What does the torah say: "and G-d had blessed Abraham with ALL". How can this be said on such a man who just lost his wife?

We must say that the torah is testifying on Avraham that he truly felt he has all that he needs. This is the blessing of Avraham - perfection in character traits - the ability to rejoice in his portion and to see in this: "only goodness and kindness shall pursue me all the days of my life.." (Tehilim 23:6).

Similarly we find by Yitzchak his son. "and Yitzchak was old and his eyes dimmed" (Gen.27:1) - he was blind. Nevertheless, he told Eisav "I have eaten OF ALL" - i.e. I have all that I need. I merited to taste everything and I lack nothing.

Yaakov was about to confront Eisav. He prepares for the confrontation by praying, sending gifts, and readying for battle. When the moment of confrontation comes, Eisav asks: "what are these gifts I received from you?" Yaakov answers him: "to find grace in your eyes" - this is a gift for you. Eisav replies: "I have much, keep what you have for yourself".

Yaakov replies: "please take my blessing that is brought to you, because G-d has dealt graciously with me, and because I have ALL; and he urged him, and Eisav accepted them" (Gen.33:11).

Eisav told Yaakov: "I have much", ie I indeed have a lot but there is room for more and in the end he is pursuaded by Yaakov's words and he accepts all the gifts.

On the other hand, Yaakov said: "I have all" - I have everything I need. I lack nothing. The emphasis is not on a large amount but rather on being content with what there is.

This is a model of proper outlook - to be content with what there is. This is the blessed outlook we find in all three forefathers - a good eye. they rejoiced in their portion and thanked their Creator for their good.

Now we understand that this is the intent we should have when saying in grace after meals we say: "may the merciful One bless us as He blessed our forefathers, Avraham, Yitchak, and Yaakov, with all, from all, and all (bakol mikol kol).

We want to be blessed with what our forefathers were blessed. We pray to have this wonderful trait, the true wealth of being content with our portion and never feeling that we lack something.... (see there for more)

According to the Magid of Koznitch there is a reason why the Tanna chose this order - a good eye. a humble spirit, and a lowly soul. There is here a logical order. One trait drags in the next trait. Once a person acquires the trait of "a good eye" - to know and recognize G-d's abundant kindliness towards him done every second, then he will have "a humble spirit". He will be aware of his own lowliness relative to the greatness of the Creator of the Universe and this will lead to a nefesh shefala (lowly soul), he will feel always that he is not doing enough in the service of G-d (and therefore not fall into laziness, lusts, etc.)..

The reason is because "yearning" is connected to the ruach (spirit) and the ruach (spirit) can have only one yearning! "one thing have I asked of the L-ORD, that will I seek after; [that I may dwell in the house of the L-ORD all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of the L-ORD, and to enquire in his temple..." (Tehilim 27).

He who desires more than one thing - his ruach (spirit) is not healthy - "but a wounded spirit who can bear?" (Mishlei 18)". Therefore "an evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a gluttonous soul - he is of the disciples of Bilaam, the wicked". But the disciples of Avraham are the opposite: "A good eye, a humble spirit, and a lowly soul". For there is no room in their ruach (spirit) for more than one thing - "but as for me, the nearness of G-d is my good" (Tehilim 73:28).

Afterwards he said: "What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked?"? - ie one may think: "since the disciples of Avraham are far from yearning for matters of this world, if so, they are certainly suffering in matters of this world while the disciples of Bilaam harasha are enjoying them with all good".

Therefore the Tanna said that it is not so. Rather, the disciples of Avraham eat in this world, ie even without a previous yearning nevertheless they eat (enjoy) in this world and also inherit the next world, as written: "I will cause those that love Me to inherit a lasting possession; and their treasuries shall I fill".

On the contrary, the lack of yearning brings the full happiness for they lack nothing! For the primary lacking stems from the yearning - "[all the labour of man is for his mouth] and yet the soul is not filled" (Kohelet 6:7).

But the disciples of Bilaam the wicked inherit gehinom and descend into the pit of destruction - they do not feel any consolation in their souls and also their enjoyment is not full. For they always feel that they still have not attained anything...

Not so for the disciples of Avraham who don't change their state. This is what scripture says: "who shall ascend the mountain of G-d" and most importantly "who shall stand (remain standing) in His holy place? - he who has clean hands and a pure heart.." (Tehilim 24:3)...
Maharal - the matter of Avraham is that he was the head of the Jewish people. And just like Avraham was the head of the Jewish people, so too Bilaam was the head of the (gentile) nations. Bilaam was a prophet to the nations. This is because the head [of a group] has special elevation. For the head is above everything.

We find two things equally by Avraham and Bilaam.
(1) By Avraham it is written: "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his donkey" (Gen.22:3) and by Bilaam "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his mule" (Bamidbar 22:21).

(2) by Avraham it is written: "and he took two of his young men with him" (Gen.22:3) and by Bilaam:"and his two servants with him" (Bamidbar 22:22).

The explanation of this is that since Avraham was elevated in that he was a head and "a father of many nations" (Gen.17:5), therefore it is written by him that he rides on the donkey (chamor)", that is to say, he is elevated above the level of physicality (chomer).

Likewise, by Bilaam it is written: "he rides on his mule".

But there is a difference between Avraham and Bilaam. For by Avraham it says "chamor" which is male. This shows that he had no association at all to the level of physicality (chomer). He just rides upon it and rises above it very much as is fitting according to his level.

Therefore, the chamor (donkey) was male. For he had no connection or association with it. For Avraham was divested and above the level of physicality.

But Bilaam rode on his mule which is female. Without a doubt, a male has a [natural] attachment to a female. This is from G-d. So too, at his level, Bilaam had an attachment to physicality (chibur el hachomri).

This is what our sages said: "Bilaam had intercourse with his mule" (Avodah Zarah 4b)..

Thus they hinted the great difference between Avraham and Bilaam. For Avraham was divested of physicality but Bilaam would attach to the physicality.

You should understand that a man's intellect (sechel) rides on the physicality of the body and there are two powers of physicality which serve the intellect, as we explained earlier (Avot 2:9).

Without a doubt, Avraham was like the intellect. For he fufilled the entire torah through his intellect (conscience). This is what the torah says: "and his two servants were with him" (Gen.22:5) and he told them: "stay here with the donkey (chamor)" which our sages expounded: "a people similar to a donkey (chamor)" (Yevamot 62a).

For these powers which are powers of the body are the "people similar to a donkey (chamor)". And when Avraham would go to serve G-d, to sacrifice his son, to overcome his evil inclination which resides in the body - then he would divest himself of the physicality and powers of the body and tell them: "stay here with the donkey" - "a people similar to a donkey", "and I will go with the lad (Yitzchak and we will prostrate ourselves to G-d) and return [to you]" (Gen.22:5).

For all the time the bodily powers are with the intellect, they obstruct the prostrating to G-d, to submit/humble oneself before G-d, blessed be He.

But when one divests himself of the physicality and its powers, then he goes to serve G-d, blessed be He. But nevertheless he said: "and we will return to you" (Gen.22:5). For man does not become divested completely. Rather, he serves G-d and afterwards returns to his needs, his body and its powers.

Due to this it says by Avraham "[and he took two of his young men] with him (imo)" (Gen.22:3). For this term applies when two things are together but not completely together. They are merely with each other.

On the other hand, by Bilaam it says "and his two servants AT him (ito)" (Bamidbar 22:22) which is like "oto". This term applies when two are joined together completely as Rashi explained using the midrash in parsha Vayera. Regarding the older daughter (Moav), it says "she lied AT (et) her father" (Gen.19:33) while regarding the younger daughter it says: "she lied (im) WITH him" (Gen.19:35).

For the younger one did not begin this. Rather her sister taught her this. Therefore, the verse used a lesser term for her...

Simiarly by Bilaam, since he was very connected and joined (to the physical), it is written: "ito". For he had the three (bad) traits which show his soul was drawn after the physicality.

On the other hand, Avraham had these three (good) traits which tend to the soul divested of physicality.

"A good eye, a humble spirit, and a lowly soul - he is of the disciples of Avraham our forefather" - we find these praiseworthy traits by Avraham.

Regarding a good eye, he would invite guests and do kindness. This is certainly from the trait of "a good eye".

Regarding "a humble spirit", he said: "I am but dust and ashes" (Gen.18:27).

As for "a lowly soul", which refers to being content with what one has and not pursuing the superfluous at all, he said: "I will not take from all that is yours, not from a thread even to a shoestring..." (Gen.14:23). Thus, he did not desire even what he deserved and all the more so for what he did not deserve.

"an evil eye, a haughty spirit, and a gluttonous soul - he is of the disciples of Bilaam, the wicked" - but by Bilaam it was the opposite. The midrash explains on the verse: "he lifted his eyes and saw Yisrael encamped.." (Bamidbar 24:2) - (Midrash:) he sought to harm them by an evil eye.

"a haughty spirit" - he wanted Balak to send more honorable ministers [to honor him]..

"a gluttonous soul" - "if Balak gives me his palace full of gold and silver" (Bamibar 22:18), as Rashi explained there.

These three traits stemmed from the soul of Bilaam who rode upon his mule and had relations with his mule as we explained. For since his soul was attached to physicality, he had all these traits.

It is known that inexistence/death clings to the physical as we explained in many places. Bilaam had an "evil eye" and inexistence/death clings to an "ayin" (evil eye) which destroys everything from the world..

Likewise he had a "haughty spirit" which indicates lacking which pertains to physicality.. And likewise that which he had a "gluttonous soul" to take in the money of others - this is a lacking. For one who is not lacking and is content/suffices on his own - he does not take in from others. He is whole on his own. Thus, these three traits all indicate lacking and inexistence/death which stems from the physical.

And since Bilaam had relations with his mule, he would adhere to the physical and therefore he had all these three traits.

The opposite of this was Avraham who rode on top of the donkey, divested of physicality and therefore he was whole and without lacking in himself. For a good eye is divested of evil which is lacking and of inexistence. He was humble and thus had no haughtiness which is a lacking and a defect.

He had a "lowly soul" content/sufficing with what he has and thus not lacking. For if he were lacking, he would desire the money of others.

This is what the mishna says: "What is the difference between the disciples of Avraham our forefather and the disciples of Bilaam the wicked?". Since for the disciples of Avraham, they do not have lacking and they have wholeness (Shleimut) and thus it is proper for them to eat in this word and inherit Olam Haba. For they do not have lacking and inexistence/death.

This is what the verse says: "I will cause those that love Me to inherit substance (yesh)". For the "yesh" (substance) is the opposite of inexistence and lacking.

"and their treasuries shall I fill" - this refers to the treasury invisible to the eye, namely, Olam Haba. It will be filled for them due to their shleimut (wholeness) and temimut (perfection) without lacking.

But the disciples of Bilaam the wicked inherit Gehinom and descend into the pit of destruction.

This is drawn after their traits which are all lackings. Due to this Gehinom which is inexistence and lacking is proper for them. Thus Gehinom is called "tziah" (wasteland) and "tzelmavet" (shadow of death)" (Yirmiyahu 2:6) and "avadon" (destruction). The term "tziah" reflects that it is lacking and removed from existence.

"descend into the pit of destruction" - ie on the great day of judgment where they descend further into the pit of destruction which is even worse than Gehinom..

"bloodthirsty men" - for they want to swallow other people. All this is due to the inexistence and lacking which clings to them.

"and deceitful men" - for they come out of the trait of justness.

"they shall not live out half their days" - like their traits whereby inexistence clings to them completely and thus it is not proper for them to reach half their days. And in the talmud: "Bilaam was 33 years old when he died, to fulfill the verse: 'they shall not live out half their days'" (Sanhedrin 106b).

Thus the verse says: "but You, O G-d, will cast them down into the pit of destruction" for there they are destroyed - everything according to their trait.. Bilaam who had relations with his mule. This itself caused the inexistence to adhere to him...

Bilaam's level was the polar opposite of Avraham. For the evil is opposite the good. Avraham's level was the complete good. But opposite him was a level of complete lacking and evil which is connected to Gehinom completely... (see there for more).
Chida, Sod Kise Rachamim - "I will cause those that love Me to inherit substance (yesh=310 Gematria); and their treasuries shall I fill" - in the book Kos Yeshuot: there are 613 mitzvot and 7 rabbinical mitzvot (the others are just fences to the mitzvot). The wives of talmidei chachamim split with them and take 310 worlds, half of 620 (i.e. 620/2=310). But in His mercy, G-d gives to the tzadik 310 worlds as a compensation gift for what his wife took.

And in the talmud: "a woman is built like an otzar (treasury), narrow above and wide below in order to hold the fetus. This is the meaning of "I will cause those that love Me to inherit substance (yesh); and their treasuries shall I fill". If you ask: what is 310? It is 620 corresponding to the 613 mitzvot and 7 rabbinical mitzvot. Furthermore what is "to inherit"? They are already his, the work of his hands? On this he said "I will fill their treasuries", ie their wives which are like an otzar (treasury) I will fill. For the wives split with them and thus I will give them an extra 310 worlds as compensation for what their wives took...
Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - the Roshei Teivot of Ayin, Ruach, Nefesh is "Na'ar" and the Roshei Teivot of Tova, Nemucha, and Shefeila is Satan. Thus together it is "naar satan", hinting that whoever has these traits shakes off the Satan from himself. For then the Satan will be unable to prosecute and harm him at all.

On the other hand, the Roshei teivot of ayin raah, ruach gevohah and nefesh rechava is "naar gerar", hinting that he drags (gorer) and pulls the physicality of youth (naar) on himself. And even in his old age, it will not leave him.
Alternatively, the intent is to hint that he will be removed from Gan Eden and dragged to Gehinom and also he will be removed from a good portion and dragged to a bad portion...

Ben Ish Chai, Chasdei Avot - with this we will understand the verse: "and the herdsmen of Gerar fought with the herdsmen of Yitzchak saying 'the water is ours!'". For Yitzchak was a disciple of Avraham and held on to the three good traits and thus he overcame the Satan. But the herdsmen of Gerar held on to the three traits of Bilaam whose Roshei Teivot is Gerar. Therefore, their eye was stingy and evil which caused them to quarrel and say: "the water is ours!".
Chida, Marit Ayin - when he has these three traits, he walks wholly to fulfill G-d's commandments. When you examine "ayin tova, ruach nemucha, and nefesh shefela" - the first letters (Roshei Teivot) spell "Satan". For with these traits, he rules over the Satan and the Satan does not rule over him. He studies torah and fulfills the mitzvot plentifully.

But for the opposite, he gives a hand to the Sitra Achra to rule over him.. They will cling to him and pull him down to the pit of destruction..