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Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 2 Mishna 1
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 2 Mishna 1פרק ב משנה א
Rebbi says: what is the proper (straight) path that a person should choose? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious to other people.

Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot. Consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its loss.

Look at three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin: Know what is above you: a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds are inscribed in a book.
רַבִּי אוֹמֵר, אֵיזוֹהִי דֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה שֶׁיָּבֹר לוֹ הָאָדָם, כֹּל שֶׁהִיא תִפְאֶרֶת לְעוֹשֶׂיהָ וְתִפְאֶרֶת לוֹ מִן הָאָדָם.

וֶהֱוֵי זָהִיר בְּמִצְוָה קַלָּה כְבַחֲמוּרָה, שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ מַתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁל מִצְוֹת. וֶהֱוֵי מְחַשֵּׁב הֶפְסֵד מִצְוָה כְּנֶגֶד שְׂכָרָהּ, וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה כְנֶגֶד הֶפְסֵדָהּ.

וְהִסְתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים וְאִי אַתָּה בָא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה, דַּע מַה לְּמַעְלָה מִמְּךָ, עַיִן רוֹאָה וְאֹזֶן שׁוֹמַעַת, וְכָל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ בַסֵּפֶר נִכְתָּבִין.

Machzor Vitri he was called Rebbi because he was spreading torah (marbitz torah) in the Jewish people more than all the nesiim (leaders) before him. Therefore, it was not needed to mention him by name, since he was the "Rebbi" of that generation..
Meorei Ohr - "Rebbi says" - he was called by three names, "Rebbi", "Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi", and "Rabeinu haKadosh". This is because he had three crowns. One, the crown of wisdom. Thus, from the side of his wisdom, he was called "Rebbi". Two, the crown of leadership and royalty. Thus, "Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi" (Rabbi Yehuda the Prince) . For he was a descendant of king David and extremely wealthy.. Three, the crown of holiness. Thus, "Rabeinu HaKadosh" (our holy Rabbi).. Before his death, he raised his hands above and declared that despite all his wealth, he did not take any needless benefit from the world whatsoever, not even for his little finger.
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai - Ahava b'Taanugim - in chapter 1, he brought the order of the Tradition (from Sinai) and the mussar of every sage. When you examine their words, you will see each sage said only 3 mussars and no more. And he who said more than this (ex. Hillel) split his mussar into groups of three teachings and no more. Perhaps the reason is that since the early sages, namely, the "men of the great assembly" and Shimon Hatzadik, said three things, therefore the later sages were forced to say no more than three things (at a time). For it would not have seemed proper to say more than three things due to the honor of the early sages who said no more than three things.
Bartenura - "harmonious for the doer (before G-d), and harmonious for other people" - that it be pleasing to oneself and to other people. This will happen when one goes in the middle way for each trait and does not veer to one of the two extremes.

For example, if one is very stingy, it may be pleasing to himself since he amasses wealth, but other people do not praise him on this trait. On the other hand, if he donates more than is proper, people who receive charity from him may praise him, but it is not pleasing to himself since he comes to poverty due to this.

But, the trait of generosity, which is the middle path between stinginess and scatterring one's money - it is pleasing to oneself. For he guards his money and does not scatter away more than is proper. And it is pleasing to other people. For they praise him for having given what is proper for him to give. So too, for all the other traits.
Rashi - "harmonious for the doer" - it is pleasing to oneself and to others.

"harmonious to other people" - that it is right to the whole world. For there is no sin that a man commits which he does not regret afterwards and tell himself: "[oy] what did I do?" and he is ashamed of it from other people. But if an opportunity to do a mitzvah or a just way comes to his hand, he should fulfill it and then he will rejoice greatly over it and also people will praise him and be pleased with him.
Rabeinu Yonah - "Whatever is harmonious for the doer (before G-d)" - when one does the mitzvot, the Holy One, blessed be He, prides (mitpaer) in them and thus they are a pride to he who did them. For G-d's pride is the true pride of people. Therefore, one should choose for himself this path.

"for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - how enormous it is. For even a minor mitzva, its reward is high above. Thus be careful not to lose such a great profit..
Meiri - "whatever is harmonious for the doer (l'oseha), and harmonious for other people." - some explain "l'oseha" (doer) to refer to the Holy One, blessed be He, since He is the Doer and Maker of everything.. the intent is that in one's deeds, a person should choose that which is pleasing to Heaven and to the public. For sometimes, a person's deeds are evil to Heaven but good to the public, while other times it is the opposite. The main thing is for one to choose the middle way.. For if he veers too far to one side, even if the deed itself is good (to Heaven), people will consider him a "foolish pious" (chasid shoteh)...
Chida - Mussar u'Pshat, Kisei Rachamim, Mesechet Sofrim 1:9 - Rebbi says - the straight way one should choose is: "Whatever is harmonious for the doer, and harmonious for other people". It is not enough that it is good in one's eyes (the doer). Rather, it needs to also be good in the eyes of others. And even if it is good in one's eyes and in the eyes of others, it is still not enough until it is according to the Torah. Thus he continues: "Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one". For the mitzvot and laws of the Torah are not according to human intellect. Every tiny detail therein contains tremendous mountains (tilei tilim) of lofty secrets.
Vilna Gaon - as written: "and find favor and good understanding in the eyes of G-d and man" (Mishlei 3:4).
Orech Apaim sec.3 - The holy Rabbi Moshe Leib from Sasiv wrote this explicitly in his book Likutei HaRamal, here is a quote:"Contemplate in solitude at least 2 hours 'what is the proper path that a person should choose?' (Avot 2:1). This is the guide for the ways of service, and without this you will always be far from it."
Path of the Just, ch.3 - "The summary of all the matter is that a man must contemplate with his intellect always, at all times, and also during the fixed appointed time of solitude, what is the true path according to the Torah that man must walk upon? And afterwards, to come to reflect on his own deeds to ascertain if they are traveling in this path or not. For through this certainly it will be easy for him to purify himself of all evil, and to correct all of his ways..."

And in Derech Etz Chaim the Ramchal writes: "Behold a man, most of his years are spent in thinking thoughts on his businesses, occupations of this temporary world. Why does he not put to heart even one hour also on thinking these other things - what is he? Why did he come to this world? Or what does the King of kings seek from him? What will be the end of his matter? This is the biggest and most powerful medicine that one can find against the yetzer. It is easy and its effects are great. Its fruit is many, in that a man should stand each day for at least an hour, free from all other thoughts, and to think only on this matter that I've said... (see there)"
Tiferet Yehoshua - a man does not recognize himself. He does not see straight even his own face. Every man is biased on himself and bribed by his own interests. He has a positive view of himself. Even if he is full of sin, he sees himself as a tzadik (righteous man). When a miser gives a small coin, he considers himself to be a generous hearted person. Likewise for other similar cases.

When a man is confused whether or not to do something. Is this act good or evil? How can he know the truth?

Therefore our holy Rabbi said: "what is the proper (straight) path that a person should choose?"

The matter can be tested by two things. One that the act is harmonious to the doer himself and also that the Holy One, blessed be He, and the holy torah praises and prides on this act, and also human beings praise the doer and his deed.

Through this it will be clarified that the act is indeed good.
Tiferet Yisrael - "Which is the proper way (derech)..." - there are three things in this world which one should perfect himself in (mashlim atzmo bahen).

One, the way (derech) of obligations to G-d and man. Namely, the explicit mitzvot in the Torah.

Two, the way (derech) of middot (character traits). These are not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. But it is implied between the words which character traits are proper for man to adopt and which ones he should refrain from. For example, arrogance versus humility, anger versus forbearance, miserliness versus squandering or the like. The character traits are like intermediaries between man and his obligations towards other people.

Three, (derech eretz). These are not like the character traits which harm others. But people will look down on him. For example, if his body or clothing is not clean (end of Sotah), or he is not modest in doing his needs (Berachot 62a), or he is a voracious eater (Pesachim 49a), or drunkard (Nazir 23a), or excessive after marital relations (Berachot 22a), or lazy (Pesachim 50b), or impulsive (Berachot 43b), or eats publicly in the marketplace (Kidushin 40b), or habitually silent (Avot 3:13), or habitually sad (Shab.30b), or changes from the custom of the place he is at (Pesachim 50b), so too for many other similar things.

On all of them Rebbi says that a man should "choose" to do all three ways in a manner that the act itself is pleasing and also pleasing in the eyes of others when they observe this in him, i.e. that it also be suitable to the level of the person doing it.

Alternatively, that one's thought be good. Through this it will be "harmonious to the doer". Namely, to the person doing the mitzva. and harmonious to others, namely, that the act itself appear good to others...
Siftei Daat on Avot (R.Yerucham Levovitz) - in tractate Shekalim (3:2):
"The one who made the appropriation [in the temple] did not enter the chamber wearing a bordered cloak, or shoes, or sandals, or tefillin, or an amulet, lest he become poor and [people] say that he became poor because of a sin committed in the chamber, or lest he become rich and [people] say that he became rich from the appropriation in the chamber. For one must be free of blame before human beings just as he must be free of blame before G-d, as it is said: 'And you shall be guiltless before the L-ord and before Israel' (Numbers 32:22), and it says: 'And you will find favor and good understanding in the eyes of G-d and man' (Proverbs 3:4)"
This Halacha was said on everyone, even Aharon and his sons. But in truth, is there any grounds to suspect them on this? Likewise, the Rambam rules as Halacha: "it is forbidden to lend anyone money without witnesses, not even a torah sage" (Hilchot Milve 2:7). His source is from the talmud:
"Rav Ashi sent word to Ravina on the eve of the Sabbath: 'Please, let me have [a loan of] ten zuz, as I just have the opportunity of buying a small parcel of land.' He replied, 'Bring witnesses and we will draw up a bond.." (Bava Metzia 75b).

But in truth did Ravina suspect Rav Ashi? We learn from here a great foundation in: "you shall be guiltless before the G-d and before Israel", namely, all a man's deeds need to be absolutely clean and pure, completely clear, open to the eyes of everyone, such that they do not have the slightest room for suspicion or remote [negative] thought whatsoever from anyone, not even one who is not so intelligent. For if one's deeds have any complaint even from one who is not so intelligent, this is not good. This is the foundation of the law of: "you shall be guiltless before the G-d and before Israel"
Misgeret Zahav - "what is the straight path.." - it seems to me to explain this deep teaching with an analogy. This analogy is adorned and decorated with precious stones and pearls of the words of our holy Rebbi, honorable prince and holy man of Israel.

He who wants to make a straight road or path to some city, he must first prepare the work of building the road. This constitutes three conditions.

One, that two people hold the ends of the measuring rope, one person on one end and the other person on the other end.

Two, that the two people holding the rope stand aligned, opposite each other, without deviating or twisting.

That the rope itself not having any knots or deviations. Rather it needs to be pulled out to very great precision. For the slightest deviation will result in the road being crooked. This is what the holy Rabeinu said:
If you wish to stand on the secret of G-d and to know the path of truth of the divine service, ask yourself in the way of analogy: "what is the straight path and desirable measuring rope, the "threefold rope which is not easily broken" (Kohelet 4:12), of the threefold Torah given to a threefold people, namely, the Torah and mitzvot?

Then, according to this analogy, imagine and picture to yourself as if the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself in His honor and glory, were holding one end of the rope. And you, human being, are opposite Him holding the other end, Who above and you below, both opposite each other.

This is what he said: "whatever is praiseworthy for the doer (before G-d), and praiseworthy from other people". For in our analogy, it is also necessary for both to stand aligned opposite each other, and as the great psalmist wrote: "I have placed G-d before me constantly; because [He is] at my right hand, I will not falter" (Tehilim 16:8).

And the rope itself needs to be pulled very straightly, without any crookedness. This is the intent of: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one", i.e. just like by the measuring rope, that through the slightest crookedness or deviation, immediately the measure is ruined and the final result will not come out properly.

So too, the "total" which is called by the name: "the reward given for the mitzvot" (matan scharan shel mitzvot) is ruined immediately even through the tiniest lacking. Understand this.

(Translator: see also ch.1 of the Path of the Just "any slight deviation found in the employed means will be very noticeable in the end result derived from their combined contributions...")
Chachma U'Mussar 1:10 - "what is the proper path?" - the reason he said "proper path" (derech yeshara) is as follows. How can one truly know whether the path he chooses for himself is "harmonious to other people"? It is explained by Rabeinu Yonah that he should imagine to himself what people would tell him if he were to ask them for advice on this. This is the path one should choose for himself.

In Mishlei 12:15 it says: "[the lifestyle of the fool is right in his own opinion] but wise is the man who listens to advice". For one who listens to advice, this is a sign that he is an intelligent and thinking person.

For the mark of (geder) of intellect is to ask advice of one greater than himself in order to become wiser and more proper in every thing. For seeking advice is to align oneself more to the point of rightness (nekudat hayashrut) and not veering from it right or left.

Therefore, he submits himself to the words of the wise man and follows them and eventually he recognizes the ways of the wise and becomes wise.

But the mark (geder) of "will" is to do what his heart wishes. Therefore, he will not ask advice, not only from others, but also not even from himself. For "that's what I want". What use does such a person have for advice which teaches on duties and just points which are contrary to his will?

Thus, one who does not submit himself and all his matters to do according to the advice of a wise man who knows and seeks his success, this is a sign that he is a "person of will" (baal ratzon), the opposite of a man of intellect, and his mattters are all generally along the path of "self love", leading to destruction...
Binyan Ariel - R.Yaakov Hillel ch.1 - (kabalistic) "harmonious (Tiferet)" - the sefirah of Chesed (kindness) is the conduct of actual beneficence to below (hanhagat hahatava b'poel hoyotzet el hatachtonim). Namely, the attribute of Chesed bestows good without limit or distinction between the good and the bad. For "love blinds fairness" (Gen.Rabba 58:8), i.e. the fairness of justice. On the other hand, the sefirah of Gevurah is the attribute of strict justice without any mercy, as our sages taught: "let justice drill through the mountain" (Sanhedrin 6b), i.e. the straightness and power of Justice which reaches to exactly what is deserved below. But the conduct of the sefirah of Tiferet is the attribute of mercy which bestows below. It is the trait balanced between chesed and din and decides (machraat) between them, in the secret of Mishpat. It is called the attribute of Truth. It is the golden middle way which conducts the world rightly, in the manner of "the left pushes away while the right draws close" (Sanhedrin 107b)...
Chida - Zeroa Yamin - (kabalistic) "which is the straight path that a man should choose?" - roshei teivot (first letters) of Derech Yeshara Sheyavor is Shin-Dalet-Yud (Name of G-d), which hints to Yesod. On this he said: "kol shehi tiferet".
"kol" refers to Yesod.
"shehi" refers to Malchut.
"tiferet l'oseha" - to Malchut, bechinat nefesh asiya.
"v'tiferet lo min haAdam" - this refers to the woman (one's wife). The hint is that she comes from him, "etzem matzamav"... (see there)

The Gurei HaArizal wrote that Rebbi was a nitzutz (soul spark) of Yaakov avinu, and Yaakov was attached to (the Sefira) of Tiferet. Therefore he said: "kol shehi Tiferet". end quote.

We may also hint that Yaakov avinu, peace be unto him, was a gilgul of Adam HaRishon as written in the Zohar and the writings of the Arizal. This is what Rebbi said: "kol shehi" - "bechinat nefesh", "tiferet". "v'tiferet lo min haAdam", a hint to Adam HaRishon. "vehevi zahir b'mitzva kala..", not to add on to it as did Adam HaRishon. He forbade on Chava to touch (the tree of knowledge) without telling her that it is just a Geder. "kebachamura", as the ikar mitzva. (He told her touching it is also forbidden as the ikar mitzva). Through this she stumbled as our sages said.
Chida - Marit HaAyin - "what is the straight path (derech)" - as our sages said on the verse: "and David and his men were walking on the derech", in the derech (path) of humility. We may say they expounded the word "derech" to refer to humility. For one who is humble puts to heart always that he is walking in the "derech kol haaretz" (the way of all the land), and in all of man's days he is walking on the way and closer to death. With this thought which is true, he will be humble. For what profit does a man gain in a world which is not his? With what can he pride himself when he is on the way towards death?.. This is what Rebbi said. For he was exceedingly humble and would flee from honor...

And even though the Holy One, blessed be He, desires humility, nevertheless, one should not refrain from doing the mitzvot because of humility. Namely, so people won't say you are someone who runs after mitzvot or who is zealous to fulfill mitzvot properly. Do not refrain from fulfilling the mitzvot or their fences because of this reason. For humility which annul a mitzva or zeal in a mitzva will not endure. Thus, "be careful of a minor mitzva as with a major one, etc".
Bartenura - "be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one" - to be zealous and quick in a light mitzva just like one is zealous and quick in a weighty mitzva.
Tiferet Yisrael - "be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one" - the difference in reward and punishment between mitzvot is not only in quantity but also in quality. For every mitzva grants a different perfection to the soul. The needs of the soul are like the needs of the body. For example, wine and gold are more valuable than bread and iron. But the latter are more needed. So too, there are mitzvot whose reward is high and lofty. Others may be not as much, but they are more needed for the lower levels of the soul. Thus, the Holy One, blessed be He, concealed knowledge of their reward so that one will pursue all of them. For one needs all of them.

"the loss of a mitzvah against its reward" - the loss you will incur in the temporary world through doing the mitzva versus the reward in the eternal world.

"the reward of a sin against its loss" - the gain in profit or pleasure you will get in committing the sin versus the loss in the eternal world.
Tiferet Yehoshua - consider what you lose when you don't do a mitzva and what you gain when you don't do a sin.

This matter of mitzvah and sin is different from other matters. When a merchant sits idle and does not engage in business, he does not profit. But he does not lose also.

However, for matters of mitzvah and sin, it is not like this. For when he does not do a mitzva, not only does he lack the mitzvah. But, he also trangresses a sin when he loses the mitzvah.

Likewise for "reward of sin versus its loss". If a man commits a sin, not only does he incur a debt and will be punished. But he also loses the reward for refraining from doing the sin.

This is what the sage exhorts us: go and consider what is before you, whether in doing a mitzvah versus not doing it or whether in doing a sin versus not doing it...

The commentaries ask what is the explanation of "reward of mitzvah"? What reward is there on sin? Perhaps we can explain the mishna in this manner:

Consider the loss you will incur when you don't fufill the mitzvah versus the great reward if you had fulfilled it. And the reward of sin you will receive if you do not transgress the sin, versus the terrible punishment waiting for you if you transgress it.
Daat Chachma u'Mussar 2:70,59 - "be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one" - it does not say here be careful of a small mitzvah as with a big mitzvah. But rather "a light mitzvah as with a weighty one". For the measure of "big" and "small" is different altogether.

A big mitzvah is a clean mitzvah. It has no leaning to the physicality (chomer), pure from any impurities and mixtures of any self will, even the slightest - this is a big mitzvah - even if it is a "light mitzvah".

And so too if the mitzvah has a leaning to the physicality (chomer), etc, even the slightest, then even if it is the weightiest of the weightiest - it is called a small mitzvah.
Etz Hadaat Tov v'Rah - siman 284 - "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - this is difficult. For it is evident that the reward for a major mitzva is greater than that for a minor mitzvah. How then can he say: "for you do not know the reward.." The answer is from what was said earlier: "do not be as servants who serve their master in order to receive reward" (Avot 1:3). Thus if one runs after the big ones, it is apparent that he seeks great reward. But if he runs [even] after the minor ones, then this is only to fulfill the command of the Creator, blessed be He.

Zerah Yitzchak - "the reward given for the mitzvot" - that which he said "giving of reward" (matan scharam) and not "payment of reward" (tashlum schara), this is because the Holy One, blessed be He, is not obligated to pay anything. The reward He gives is solely a gift. As the Midrash says on the verse: "Who has preceded me, that I should repay him? [All that is under the whole heaven is mine"] (Iyov 41:11)
Chatam Sofer end of Vayikra - "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - this is difficult. For certainly there are minor and major mitzvot as our sages said: "if for a light mitzva the Torah said: 'in order to benefit you and prolong your days, how much more so for a major mitzvah' " (Chulin 142a).

Hence, there are minor and major mitzvot and the reward for minor ones is not as great as for major ones.

Let us see.. When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Avraham our forefather: "your reward is very great" (Gen.15:2), Avraham answered Him: "what can you give me since I am going childless".

Thus, even though Avraham was 75 years old, it seemed to him that he has no reward for all his toil. And even so, he served Hash-em and even offered up his life (in Ur Kasdim as the Midrash says), and stood up to many trials since the age of 48. And all this for what? He did not hope for any reward but nevertheless served Hash-em out of love.

So too we his descendants are under duty to follow in his footsteps. Even though we already know that the "reward is very great", but nevertheless, we need to serve Hash-em out of love, as if we know nothing about reward. Thus, automatically we should: "be careful of a minor mitzvah like a major one".

Even though the major one's reward is greater than the minor one's, but nevertheless "we do not know the reward for mitzvot" at all. This is the meaning of: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot", like Avraham our forefather, peace be unto him, and there is no distinction between minor and major mitzvot. Rather, I wish only to do the will of my G-d.
Sfas Emes on Avot - "be as careful (zehir) with a minor mitzvah as with a major one" - i.e. regarding the zehirut (carefulness) in the mitzva. For the receiving of the reward (for zehirut) depends primarily on this. Thus, there is no difference between a light and weighty mitzva. As for the mitzva itself, he is not referring to that. For on that it is said: "according to the difficulty is the reward" (Avot 5:22).

"for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - i.e. you do not need to know. For your toil in this is not in order to receive reward. Nor is it to know rewards, but rather to do the command of G-d, whether for a light or weighty mitzvah. The plain meaning is difficult. For it implies that if one knew the reward given for mitzvot, he would choose the weighty mitzva (with more reward) and that would be like "on condition to receive reward" (Avot 1:3).

We may also answer that "reward given" refers to the lofty power of the mitzvot, how enormously powerful it is.

"for you do not know the reward.. - since the reward is infinite and for that which is infinite, parts do not apply. For it is impossible to count it and weigh it.

Another explanation, all the reward depends only on the effort. Therefore, when you are careful of a light mitzva, its reward is greater than a weighty one without effort.

Alternatively, the explanation is that there is no difference of reward between the mitzvot. For everything depends on the quality of the doing [of the mitzvah] (shelemut ha'asiya). And sometimes this depends on a successful or favorable time (shaah mutzlachat v'et ratzon) and then the reward is very great.
Chida - Zeroa Yamin - "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - in the book Manot HaLevi, it was told that a poor man asked the emperor Alexander Mokdon for tzedaka (charity). The emperor gave him a large city as a donation.

His amazed servants asked him: "you are a great king and no one can tell you what to do, but please explain to us why you did this? For even if you gave this poor man ten dinars (coins), he would have considered it a great gift since he never had so much money in his hands."

The emperor answered them: "he asked me, and I donated to him something which for me is small and little". end quote.

From here we can learn a little bit of the immensity of the reward for those who fulfill the mitzvot. For the little which the Eternal G-d of the world gives is incomprehensibly immense from our perspective. This is what he said: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah.. for you", i.e. from your relatively small perspective, you are unable to fathom "the reward given for the mitzvot", which the King of kings gives. For it is beyond the ability of human intellect to grasp (due to its immensity).

After some time, I saw a small mussar book called: "Tzemach Tzadik" which had on page 16 the story of Alexander Mokdon in the following version:

A poor man went before the emperor Alexander Mokdon and asked him for a small coin as charity. The emperor then gave him a large city as a donation.

The poor man said: "my master, the emperor, it is not befitting to me such a great gift".

Alexander answered: "ah my brother, but it is not befitting me to donate such a small gift like you asked. Thus, it is not up to me to understand what is befitting for you to receive but rather what is befitting for me to give".
Daat Chachma u'Mussar 2:45 - "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - for the mitzvah itself is as nothing, completely annulled relative to the very many consequences. The most primary thing is the many outgrowths that come afterwards. Thus it is evident that you cannot know the "reward given for the mitzvot".

For even though for the mitzvot themselves, it is known which are weighty and which are light.

But since the primary thing is the offsprings (consequences) and the level of purity which follow the beginning and start of the mitzvah, then just like by plant seeds, you cannot know which will grow better and produce more fruit, since there are many factors.

This is what the Rambam wrote: "The weighing [of sins and merits] is carried out only according to the wisdom of the Knowing G-d. For only He knows how to measure merits against sins" (Teshuva 3:2).

Only He can weigh all the endless future consequences. Therefore, certainly "you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot".
Chachma u'Mussar 1:102 - it is proper to know that besides the reward for doing the mitzvot themselves, there is also a special matan schar (reward) for having brought nachat ruach to the Holy One, blessed be He. For it is a great simcha before Him when His sons guard His mitzvot, and all the more so for torah study which weighs like all the mitzvot.

For He wants the good of the whole world, and especially the good of His treasured people, the children of Israel, on whom it is written: "you are sons to the L-ord your G-d" (Devarim 14:1). How great is His joy when He can benefit them by giving them reward for mitzvot, an infinite good. Thus, besides the reward of mitzvot themselves which is too great for us to receive, on this that he brought nachat ruach and caused joy to the Holy One, blessed be He, how much more so can we not receive it. For its reward is enormously great.
Ruach Chaim - "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - i.e. the reward is not fathomable even to the prophets, for "no eye has ever seen" (as brought in Berachot 34b). And for something so precious as this, how could one say: "I will not toil in a small mitzva. For its reward is little"?

The reward of a mitzva is not finite. It is eternal, such that even the reward of a small mitzva is unknowable to you and is not knowable even to the prophets.

Alternatively, "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one". For sometimes one can receive more reward for the small mitzva than for the major one. Since for the major mitzvah, it is possible that one refrains from transgressing it due to great fear of its punishment. But for the light mitzva, he abstains only out of fear of the Creator who commands on it (thus his merit is greater).

Alternatively, when you do a light mitzvah, let it be with great carefulness and meticulousness like a severe mitzva. But if you encounter a light mitzvah and a severe mitzva, such as to save a man drowning in a river, or the like, then do that and skip the light mitzva.

As known, Torah (study) is called severe relative to other mitzvot. For a man is exhorted to toil in it and fulfill it day and night. And likewise "talmud Torah is as all of them" (Kidushin 40b). But nevertheless, they said that if a mitzva cannot be done by others, one is obligated to pause his Torah study to do it. On this also he said: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah.."
Alei Shur II 2:4 - our sages taught us clearly the value of small deeds:
"be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one" (Avot 2:1)

In the beginning of Parsha 'Eikev': "'it will be on account (lit.on the heel) of your listening that the L-ord, your G-d, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers (Devarim 7:12) - Rashi explains there [why the word "heel" was used]: "if you listen to the light mitzvot which people trample with their heels, then 'the L-ord your G-d will keep for you the covenant..'"

And in the Midrash there: "'it will be on the heel of your hearkening.. (Devarim 7:12). This is as written in Tehilim: 'Why should I fear on the days of evil? The sins of my heels surround me' (Tehilim 49:5) - David said: 'Master of the World, I do not fear the major sins in the Torah because they are severe. But I do fear the small sins. Perhaps I sinned in them because they are light and You said 'be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one'. Thus, 'it will be on the heels of your hearkening'...
'How great is Your goodness that You have laid away for those who fear You...' (Tehilim 31:20) - this refers to the reward for the light mitzvot." (Midrash Tanchuma Eikev 1)

In the talmud (Avodah Zarah 18a): "Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse: 'the sins of my heels surround me'? (Tehilim 49:5) - Sins which one treads under his heel in this world surround him about on the Day of Judgment".
In this small world (of little things) we find all that relates to reward and punishment. It is a wonder! For we are so used to thinking of big things in Torah and mitzvot (i.e. great feats), but really when we reach the world of action, everything depends on small deeds specifically!

This is the wisdom of man's makeup. It is also so in the larger physical world. Matter is not made up of enormous chunks but rather of tiny atoms so minuscule that the eye is unable to see them. Likewise, the human body is built up from tiny cells which can only be seen with a powerful microscope.

It is also so for man's spiritual makeup - it is made up of deeds which one tramples with his heels, whether for good or for bad.

This knowledge should cause a transformation in our thinking. Usually when a person wants to change the world, he thinks of some grand theory or on some worldwide organization for peace or righteousness. So too, one who wants to rectify himself thinks of great deeds of chesed (kindness) or holiness.

But for the small deeds which are not at all difficult on a person, what perfection could one possibly get from those?? But the truth is that a man is built up specifically through small deeds.. just like a person's body is healed specifically through tiny medicine pills which have only one milligram or so active ingredient...

Furthermore, small acts do not rouse one's internal rebelliousness! One who takes on a big heavy resolution will feel very well in just a few days a powerful internal rebellion which strengthens more and more against him.

But for a small act which does not burden a person at all, it does not have enough to rouse this [rebellion] and flies in "under the radar"...

This is the first foundation in the work of mussar - never under any circumstances should one work on deeds which weigh heavily on himself. Everything we will bring in later chapters involve only small acts... it is proper to work on one area preferably for 6 months but no less than 3 months.. (see there for more)
Chachma U'Mussar 1:43 - the wicked also seek mitzvot. But specifically those that are big and lofty such as saving lives or the like. But this is not the way of the Tzadikim (righteous).

As known, three angels came to Avraham, our forefather. They appeared to him as arabs. But nevertheless, he prepared for them a big feast. He ran before them, him and his wife, as if it was a meal for thousands of people.. a whole parsha is written there.

Thus, this is the way of the Tzadikim - even for the smallest of the smallest mitzvot, they labor greatly in it like the weightiest of the weightiest, as our sages said: "Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one". Why? Because for the wise man it is understood that there is no "light (commandment)" before G-d, blessed be He. This is for one who realizes the great light hidden (ohr hagadol haganuz) in his deeds. Therefore, the deeds of the wicked are specifically in the big things. For they don't have eyes to see.
Siftei Daat on Avot (Daat chochma umussar 1:72) - "be as careful" - for there is no difference between them whatsoever. They are all equal. For they are decrees of the King and there is nothing light before Him.

This is what our sages said (Sanhedrin 8a):
" 'You shall hear the small and the great alike' (Devarim 1:17) - Resh Lakish says: This verse teaches that a law-suit involving a mere perutah (small coin) must be regarded as of the same importance as one involving a hundred manah. For what practical purpose is this laid down? If it is to urge the need of equal consideration and investigation, is it not self-evident! Rather, it is to give the case priority, if it should be first in order."

Rashi explains: "if a judgment of a peruta came and afterwards a judgment of a hundred manah, rule on the first one".

Regarding that one must judge truthfully, whether it is a pruta or a hundred manah, that is certainly obvious. For the judgment of the torah is not like that of the nations. In the courts of the nations, they will certainly not at all accept to judge and deliberate on a courtcase for a mere peruta. Rather, they will mock him and throw him out. But in the judgment of torah, a case of a hundred mana and one of a single pruta are both equal in all respects. For they are both considered equal in the judgment of theft.

But why in truth must one precede if a case of a peruta came before one of a hundred mana and it is forbidden to judge the case of a hundred mana since it came afterwards?

Rather, certainly the foundation of the matter is that in torah and mitzvot, there is no difference whatsoever between a small thing and a big thing, and one must not make any distinction between them. This is also what our sages said: "the Holy One, blessed be He, does not grant greatness to a person until he first checks him wih something small.." (Shmot Rabba 2:3).

Likewise regarding sins, without a doubt there is no difference between a big one and small one, between a light and weighty one. Behold, we find sometimes one person opens a door and those sitting and learning interrupt their learning to look who entered. And we don't put to heart that there is no difference regarding bitul torah, between bitul torah of one second versus bitul torah of a whole day, and on one unnecesary looking applies all the punishments mentioned on bitul torah which is greater than all other sins (Sifri Eikev).

This is none other than enticements of the yetzer so that one would ignore small things such as bitul torah of one second or stealing one pruta or embarassing a person with one word. This is what our sages said:
"What is the meaning of the verse: 'the iniquity of my heel emcompasses me about'? - sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment." (Avodah Zara 18a).

I was educated in Kelm. There they were very meticulous on this. My outlook is that I cannot bear to see small sins, for they are equal in my eyes to big ones. Thus it is my way in the yeshiva to be meticulous on things and small sins. For example, I cannot bear to see when the students push each other. For this is equal to me like murder, since it truly demonstrates on bad middot. In my opinion, one who does not admit to this has no portion in the torah of Moshe. This is what our sages said: " 'for G-d will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil' (Kohelet 12:14) - what is 'including every hidden thing'? - For example one who kills a bug or spits before his friend and his friend is disgusted.." (Kohelet Raba 12).
Divrei Binah (Admorei Biala) - it is written: "the soul of man is the candle of G-d, searching all his innermost being" (Mishlei 20:27), i.e. just like for one who goes to a dark place and takes out a candle to illuminate it, so too is the candle of G-d. For a mitzva is a candle. In truth, a mitzva is like a candle which illuminates a man. Only that it depends on the soul of man. According to how much a man has purified his soul will be the corresponding illumination of his mitzvah. Namely, that it rouses others to desire the mitzvah. Not only that but "searching all his innermost being" - it rouses oneself to repentance, whereby he "searches all his innermost being".

This is the meaning of: "Whatever is harmonious (Tiferet) for the one who does it", that the mitzvah becomes harmonious and beautiful through its doer. And through this - "and harmonious to other people", that he rouses others also to do the mitzvah and inspires inside them a desire for torah and mitzvot..

Alternatively, the primary trait of Tiferet hints that a man needs to pride himself (lehitpaer) that he merited to be among the servants of G-d, as one who prides himself that the king himself personally commanded him to do some service. Then, indirectly this trait will correspondingly be roused above. Namely, that G-d prides Himself on us, that He has such a holy people. Thus, "tiferet lo min haadam" - i.e. pride to Him, i.e. to G-d - that this trait is correspondingly roused and G-d prides Himself on him.

"be as careful (heve zahir).." - from the term zohar (shining light) as written: "the wise will shine as the shining of the sky..." (Daniel 12:3). Namely, since all the torah purifies man's soul and illuminates it like the shining of the sky (zohar harakia), as known. For the 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments correspond to the limbs and sinews of man's body and through the mitzvah, he illuminates and shines his body.. and this matter applies equally to all mitzvot. Thus, in this it is not relevant to make a distinction between a light and weighty mitzvah.
Chida - Zeroa Yamin - "look at three things and you will not come to sin..." - which are known and true to you, and which you admit to. Only that it needs constant looking and contemplation. Through this, you will not come to sin nor even to the "hands of sin (yedei aveira)", which are bad thoughts or forbidden words..
Meiri - "know what is above you" - i.e. that you believe in His existence.

"look at three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin" - that one's thought always turn to these things and he will not come to sin at all..

"a seeing eye, a hearing ear" - i.e. that one believes in His providence (hashgachato) and right justice (yosher mishpatav), to know and understand that although Hash-em is above the highest of the high, but nevertheless, He sees the lowly ones, i.e. He watches over those below to feed each man the fruit of his deeds, and that He will pay back to each person according to his ways.

"all your deeds are inscribed in a book.." - you will inevitably be punished for the sins unless you repent from them..
Chida - Ahavat David derush 13 - "look at three things" - by this constant looking one annuls all the sins. For the Kli Yakar wrote that all the claims of the yetzer hara are that the pleasures of this world are visible to the eye, as written: "for it is desirous (taava) to the eye" (Gen.3:6). From this is drawn most sins, and our sages said: "the yetzer hara rules only on that which the eyes see" (Sotah 3b).

Through looking at these three things, the looking of the yetzer hara becomes annulled (mitbatel). Thus: "look..and you will not come to sin", i.e. the [constant] looking at the vanities and pleasures of this world. For this looking [at three things] annuls the other one (of the evil inclination)..
(Translator: hence as long as one keeps his eye on these three things, the "looking of the yetzer hara" is annulled. As soon as he stops, the "looking of the yetzer hara" is reactivated and pulls him slowly towards sin).
Tosfot Yom Tov - "know what is above you" - since this "looking" is not with one's physical sense sight, but rather with one's intellectual sense of sight (reiat hasechel) Thus, he said "know".
"what is above from you" - if a weak man is above a mighty man, nevertheless the mighty man fears the weak man. All the more so if the mighty man is above.

"from you" - he did not say only "above" but "above from you", i.e. not far above but rather just above you mamash (actually). This is as the verse: "I have placed G-d always before me" (Tehilim 16).
Rabeinu Yonah - "know what is above you, etc." - i.e. the Holy One, blessed be He, sees and knows all human deeds and remembers them as if they are written in a book before Him, and He will pay back evil deeds with punishments.

It is a wonder why he specified three things which are all saying the same matter, namely, that He knows everything and will in the future pay a person back according to his deeds.

Thus it seems the explanation is that it is an analogy. Just like when one stands before a king or minister or sage or important person, one is embarrassed to do or say anything improper, so too he should consider at all times as if he is standing before the Holy One, blessed be He, in the same way he would be standing before his fellow human being. Through this he will guard his words and ways from sin.
Sforno - "know what is above you..." - know the greatness of the King which you would transgress His word by committing a sin. Know also that despite all His greatness, He does not refrain at all from watching over the lowly ones. Rather, "a seeing eye..". Know also that the punishment for sin does not come immediately so that the delay does not deceive you. Rather "all your deeds are inscribed in a book" - to receive reward and punishment for them [later].
Tiferet Yehoshua - "know what is above you" - see how everything is above you. Even the tiniest creature is beyond your ability to fully understand. All the scientists with all their advanced technology are unable to fully grasp even a mosquito. For G-d is infinite and His wisdom is likewise infinite above the ability of man to ever fully grasp. If a man could understand the wisdom in the formation of even the wing of a mosquito, he would be filled with wonder and be full of praise and song to He who spoke and created the universe. All this is included in the words "know what is above you". By seeing how it is above your limited human intellect, you will understand that everything is from Him and there is a "seeing eye and a hearing ear.."

(Translator: actually even the "simplest" bacteria is far beyond our ability to fully understand. The more the scientists study it the more they open new doors with greater complexity and bigger questions. Likewise for even an atom.)
Chida - Ahavat David derush 13 - "know what is above you" - the Shechina rests on your head above you and you need to anoint it with mitzvot and good deeds (this is for the positive commandments). Corresponding to [refraining from] the negative commandments, he said: "a seeing eye..."
Meorei Ohr - "look (histakel) on these three things" - in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim siman 229: "one who sees a rainbow says... but it is forbidden to look (lehistakel) on it much. In the Biur HaGra commentary there: "the term 'histaklut' (look) refers to iyun harbe (much in depth)".

Thus, here too that which the Tanna says "histakel on three things..", this histaklut (looking) certainly refers to great depth (iyun) and delving of the mind and great contemplation in these three things. Likewise, without a doubt this looking (histaklut) is not through one or two times, that in a day or two it will have an effect on the soul of a man, to fear G-d and not come to sin, and especially so for one whose heart is of stone and hard as a flint. Thus, every day look at these three things, each person according to his makeup, occupations, and temperament.
Daat Zekenim on Pirkei Avot, writings of Rabeinu Yerucham haLevi of Mir - to understand well this matter of "cheshbon" (consideration), let us illustrate. We see that to turn a small canoe in a river, it is enough for one to use a little paddle. But when one wishes to turn around a huge boat in the sea loaded with ten thousand tons of cargo, it is evident that one cannot move it from its place with a paddle.

But lo and behold, we see how the sailor stands next to the steering wheel of the boat and turns the boat to whatever direction he wants.. From this we understand that the steering wheel of the boat is a very powerful mechanism. Likewise, we understand that if there is any malfunction in the boat's motor, certainly, this will cause severe problems in driving the boat.

When we consider the wills and powers in man, we will find that there is no comparison whatsoever between man and even the most powerful boat [motor].

For come and see how through one will, Shechem ben Chamor made such a great revolution in his city until all the men became circumcized. It is awesome to contemplate from this, the enormous power of human will.

Likewise for what is happening in the whole world. From where did all these revolutions come from? Is it not from the will of a few individuals?

This is what our sages said: "there is nothing that can stand before will" There is no metal that human "will" cannot drill through.

In light of this, it is certain that wthout the steering wheel apparatus, a man is unable to steer and veer his will to the direction he wants.

Thus, we must investigate and find out what is the "steering wheel" of man through which he can guide and command his will?

This is what we learned in the mishna and were taught by the "rulers over their inclinations" - "come let us consider the accounting of the world, loss of a mitzvah versus its reward and reward of sin versus its loss".

For the "consideration" (cheshbon) is the steering wheel of man. Through it he can steer his will so that it will be under his power and command and direct it to whatever direction he wishes.

All of a man's success depends on this. When he thinks in all of his deeds the reward of mitzvah and the loss of sin. If he does this, he will be built up in this world and established in the world to come.

But if this consideration (cheshbon) is lost from him, as our sages explained there "avad cheshbon", "avad cheshbono shel olam", it is analogous to losing the steering wheel of the boat. And then what hope is there for him?...
Michtav m'Eliyahu Vol.5 pg.146 - the single way (haderech hameyuchad) to drill feelings of fear of sin into the inner heart is through the way of mental imagery and imagination.. Our sages said regarding the yetzer hara: "the eye sees, the heart desires, and the body does the sin". Rashi explains: "when the eye sees, then the heart desires and automatically (memeila) the body does the sins" (Bamidbar 15:39).

The primary work of the yetzer is to picture images of lusts in a man's imagination. Once he succeeds in this, his work is already done. For the "spirit of folly" already comes on a man (Sotah 3a) and all considerations of Fear of Heaven (yirat shamayim) are annulled. Therefore, the advice is to pre-empt and toil in pictures of yirat shamayim before the situation of trial comes and to deepen in the pictures of fear and the pictures of the sweetness of the spiritual before the pictures of lusts come. For the first picture wins. Furthermore, if one waits till the time of trial, then the pictures of holiness lack the necessary power. For "when the Evil Urge gains dominion, none remember the Good Urge" (Nedarim 32b). Likewise for wars of this world, each army needs to train and prepare at peacetime.If the army waits until war has already broken out - it will fall.

(Translator: this is hard work as Rabbi Dessler himself writes later on there (pg.170): "breaking the yetzer (shevirat hayetzer) is the greatest of sufferings".)
Daat Zekenim on Pirkei Avot quoting Rav Yitzchak Blazer, Shaarei Ohr 41-42, 44 - "consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its loss" - and our sages said:
"What is the meaning of the verse: 'therefore the rulers said, let us enter into an accounting' (Numbers 21:27)? Therefore the rulers - i.e the rulers of their [evil] inclinations said come and consider the accounting of the world - the loss incurred by doing a mitzva against the gain earned through it, and the gain obtained by doing a sin against the loss incurred..." (Bava Batra 78b)
It appears from here that only those who rule over their inclination, who already conquered the war with their evil inclination and rule over it - they can give proper advice to consider the calculation of the world. Thus writes the "Path of the Just" in chapter 3:
"This true counsel could not have been given nor could its truth be recognized except by those who had already gone out of the hands of their evil inclination and ruled over it. [For one who is still held captive in the prison of his evil inclination - his eyes do not see this truth, and he is incapable of recognizing it. For the evil inclination literally blinds his eyes. He is like one walking in darkness, where there are stumbling blocks before him but his eyes do not see them]".
This seems very strange. What wisdom and genius is there in this advice? It is a simple matter and evident to every man that the calculation of loss of mitzva against its reward and reward of sin versus its loss is a good advice and remedy against the yetzer hara (evil inclination), to turn from evil and do good.

The answer to this enigma is that fear of G-d and His punishment is not a natural fear implanted in man's nature like other fears of physical harm. Even if a man knows and believes that Hash-em looks and watches all actions of human beings and nothing is concealed from His eyes and that every act will be brought to judgment to pay back a man according to his ways and according to the fruits of his deeds.. reward of mitzva and punishment of sin, but nevertheless, he is unable to feel this fear unless he toils to attain it.

The root of the matter is that if the path to fear of G-d were like those of fears of worldly dangers which are felt instinctively and which enter man's heart automatically perforce, then the instinctive fear of G-d would force man to do what is good and right lest he be struck by the wrath of G-d and His awesome judgments. This would be a detriment to the principle of free will, the central pillar of torah and mitzvot, and correspondingly one's reward would also be reduced. This is stated clearly by the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva (ch.5):
"Free will is granted to all men. If one desires to turn himself to the path of good and be righteous, the choice is his. Should he desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, the choice is his... man can, on his own initiative, with his knowledge and thought, know good and evil, and do what he desires. There is none who can prevent him from doing good or bad..."
Thus in order for free will to be in man's hands, G-d's divine wisdom deemed proper to constrict the power of fear in man and block man's nature from fear and fright of divine punishment, whether to body or to soul. For these would cause him to be forced in the service of G-d and annul his free will.

Thus, the fear of G-d will not enter in man unless he seeks it and toils and works to attain it...

Thus, when the mishna says: "consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward..", there is no doubt that the intent is to think and contemplate greatly in this, with intellectual depth, a sound heart, and vivid mental imagery.

This is what the rulers of their inclinations are teaching us. A man should not tell himself: "what for? This knowledge of reward for mitzvah and loss of sin is not hidden from me and nevertheless the fear of G-d is far from my innards. What benefit will I then obtain by these considerations?"

On this came the rulers of their inclinations, who already trained their hands in battle to draw near and wage the war of the evil inclination. They advised us that even though faith (emuna) and knowledge alone will not make any fruit whatsoever. But when a man will want to seek wisdom and mussar, cheshbon (spiritual accounting) and knowledge, with great contemplation in every detail of the "accounting of the world" - reward of mitzva and loss of sin, then through its power the man will prevail to conquer the war and be a ruler over his yetzer.

What is the way of this contemplation? To read and contemplate the holy books, to review and repeat verbally the many sayings of our sages in the talmud, midrashim and holy zohar which speak at length on all these matters. Then, his heart will warm up and he will be moved and his soul will feel, to far the awesome and glorious G-d. This is what our sages said: "whoever did not taste agadah did not taste fear of sin" (Avot d'Rebbi Natan 29:7).
Ohr Yisrael hameforash, B'Ikvot Igrot R.Yisrael Salanter - in Genesis 3:1 - "now the serpent was cunning, more than all the beasts of the field that the L-ord G-d had made, and it said to the woman, "Did G-d indeed say, 'You shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden?'" (Ber.3:1).

On this verse, the Sforno comments:
"the serpent" - he is the Satan who is the Yetzer Hara. Greatly damaging yet almost imperceptible. Our sages already said: "the Samech-Mem (Satan) rode on him (on the serpent who had the form of a camel)" (Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch.13).

This means that the power of lust (koach hamitave) which brings to sin (hamachti), does so through the intermediary of the power of imagination (koach hamedamei). The latter sends to him imaginations of physical pleasures which sway him away from the proper path set by G-d.

For when the power of lust joins together with the imaginations of physical pleasures, they command the physical powers to act and sin against G-d. Then when the power of intellect does not rise up and protest, the person goes and commits the sin. This is as our sages said: "the heart and the eyes are the two solicitors of sin" (Yerushalmi Berachot 1:8). On this the torah warns: "you shall not go after your hearts and after your eyes.." (Bamidbar 15:39). (end quote of Sforno)
Thus, the power of lust (koach hamitaave) is unable to achieve it's wish without the power of imagination. The power of lust rides on the power of imagination and commands it to send mental pictures of physical pleasures. Then they both join together to one will and this will sends a command to the physical powers, i.e. to the physical limbs, to act according to its command.

The eyes and heart are solicitors (sirsurim), i.e. mixing together imagery of pleasures to the power of lust and on this the torah warns: "you shall not go after your hearts and after your eyes.." (Bamidbar 15:39). Namely, do not be pulled after the imagery of the heart and eyes because when that imagery joins up with the power of lust, the two join to command the limbs to act against the will of G-d. (translator: for the power of lust gets ignited and intensified by the imagery brought by the eyes and imaginations)

Thus, according to the Sforno, the yetzer hara is the power of imagination which produces mental imagery of physical pleasures to the power of lust. The power of lust is not the yetzer hara. It is merely a power the Creator implanted in man like hunger and thirst. By itself, the power of lust has no evil whatsoever. It is the power of imagination which produces imagery of physical pleasures to the power of lust. This power is called the "serpent" who was "more cunning than all the beasts of the field". The Sforno explains this to mean: "the power of imagination which brings imagery of pleasures to the power of lust was stronger in them (Adam and Chava) than in all the other living creatures, similar to: "the greater the person the greater the evil inclination" (Sukkah 52a).

The Sforno is teaching us that which our sages said: "the greater the person the greater the evil inclination" - this is not referring to the power of lust but rather to the power of imagination. This is the opposite of what we think. We are used to thinking that the yetzer hara is lust and that is what ruins our lives and what we wage a fierce war against..

But the Sforno comes and teaches us that the point of battle is in a different area altogether. Not against the power of lust but against the power of imagination!

This is what "brings a person to the hands of sin". And when does the power of imagination succeed in bringing a man to sin? The Sforno says: "When the power of intellect does not stand up and protest"..

The Sforno says that if the power of intellect rises up against those images and protests against them - one will defeat them.

But the difficulty is enormous. For Rav Yisrael Salanter wrote: "the imagination (dimyon) is as a torrential river and the intellect drowns" (Igeret Hamussar). The imaginations flow mamash (really) like a torrential river, requiring enormous power to go against the current. Thus, the intellect is liable to drown if we do not: "bring it on a boat - the feelings of the soul and stirring of the spirit" (ibid). The boat which can guard the intellect and prevent it from drowning in the powerful river of imaginations is "the feelings of the soul and stirring of the spirit". What is this?

The Saba of Kelm wrote (Chachma u'Mussar part 1, maamar 28) that the world thinks the difference between a righteous man and a wicked man is that the tzadik believes in the existence of G-d and reward and punishment while the wicked man does not believe. But we see from the words of our sages that this view is not correct. The talmud in Shabbat (31):
"What is meant by, 'this their way is their confidence [kesel], and they approve their end with their own mouths selah' (Tehilim 49:13)? The wicked know that their way is to death, but they have 'fat on their loins' [kislam]. But lest you think that it is their forgetfulness, therefore it is stated, 'and they approve their end with their own mouths'"..
The wicked does believe in G-d and the afterlife and knows his end is bitter but even so he does not repent.. Why? The Saba of Kelm says the difference between the wicked and the righteous is only in the power of imagery (koach hatziur). For who does not want permanent, eternal good? But the power of imagery is lacking in the wicked, not his faith. He does not lack knowledge. Only that his knowledge is totally dry, without life. The knowledge did not become tangible living pictures and thus they don't affect him in the least.

What power forms this mental imagery? The power of imagination. Only that for worldly matters, a person does not need to toil to activate the power of imagination. Namely, to picture to himself worldly pleasures. Because these pleasures are tangible to the senses. Thus they activate the imaginations on their own. But for matters of the world to come, the existence of G-d, reward and punishment - these are all (abstract) intellectual matters, not tangible. Thus if a man does not toil to activate the power of imagination, to picture to himself vivid pictures (tziyurim muchashim) of reward and punishment, etc, then the power of imagination will be inactive on the side of holiness and then the pictures one has of the world to come and reward and punishment will be null and void relative to the overwhelming pictures of the sweetness of this world...
The Saba ends: "therefore the command in the Shema comes: 'and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. So that you shall remember and perform all My mitzvot..'" (Bamidbar 15:39).

Hidden in his words is a wondrous explanation. The verse states: "they shall be for you as tzitzit and you shall see them and remember all the commandments of G-d and do them". The plain meaning is that "they shall be to you" - these blue strings "as tzitzit", to see, (lehatzatza), as the verse "peers (metzitz) through the cracks" (Shir 2:9). "you shall see it", that blue string, "and remember..".

Our sages expounded on that verse: "seeing brings to remembrance and remembrance brings to action.. R.Meir says: 'Why is blue different from all other colors? Because blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles sky, and the sky resembles G-d's Throne of Glory.." (Sotah 17b).

Seeing this blue string will activate the power of imagination in the direction of holiness. Namely, that he imagines the sea and the appearance of the sea will remind him of the sky and the sky will arouse a picture of the kise hakavod - this will bring him to do the mitzvot.. but this requires work as before..

If we ask ourselves: "why does seeing tzitzit not arouse in us feelings of yirat shamayim, while for the Chazon Ish he felt: 'great joy and holy feelings to bind oneself strongly to torah and mitzvot'?

Why does seeing the mezuza not knock on our hearts, to take us out of our low spiritual state, while for the Rambam, every seeing roused in him a powerful feeling to elevate his spiritual state?

The answer is that when a person has no dominion on the power of imagination, this power becomes massively destructive. For it succeeds in sending imagery of worldly pleasures to the power of lust and to command the limbs to act according to his will.

Then his power of imagination towards the sweetness of spiritual matters becomes dull and weak, and then automatically all matters of holiness remain dry and without any life. He can see the strings of the tzitzit but they don't tell him anything. He can kiss the mezuzah but remain in the mud like he was!

On the verse: "and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes", the Sifri (Bamidbar 15): "this teaches that the eyes go after the heart".

But the Sifri asks: "or perhaps the heart goes after the eyes?" The Sifri answers: "but aren't there blind people who commit all the abominations of the world?! What then is the verse teaching us: 'you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes'? - it is teaching that the eyes go after the heart".

The Malbim asks: "but our sages said: 'we have a tradition (from Sinai) that the yetzer rules only on what his eyes saw' (Sotah 8a). Furthermore, Rashi writes on this verse: 'the eye sees, then the heart desires, and the body commits the sin'. Hence, it sems the heart goes after the eyes!

The Malbim answers that if the imagery of lust had not conquered his heart beforehand, the seeing of the eye would not have roused his heart. Only because the imagery of the pleasures of this world became chiseled in his heart, therefore, the seeing of the eyes rouses his heart to desire. And since the imagery of the sweetness of this world acquired a dwelling place in his heart, one look is enough to arouse the power of imagination in the direction of Tumah (impurity). And then, the power of imagination and the power of lust merge and the limbs submit to their command.

But if the imagery of the sweetness of spiritual matters were chiseled in his heart, one look at the blue string would rouse the power of imagination, to compare the blue to the sea, and the sea to the sky, and the sky to the "Throne of Glory" and be reminded of the Creator of all - and this remembrance would bring to action. And likewise seeing the mezuza would rouse the power of imagination and give him a knock to rouse him from his slumber and return him to the service of G-d... (see there for more)

(Translator: next time the yetzer pictures to you the delicious taste of that cake, counter back and picture all sorts of mental imagery of health problems, toothaches, weight gain, etc. don't let up until you are free)
Etz Hadaat Tov v'Rah - siman 128 - "all your deeds are inscribed in a book" - even though there is no forgetfulness by the Holy One,blessed be He, but nevertheless they are written in a book in order to instill great awe (eima yetera) on a man in knowing that all his deeds are written down. Thus he will worry and fear and will not sin.
Chasdei David - "all your deeds are inscribed in a book" - (why the need to write them down if Hash-em does not forget?) we may explain as written in the book "Magen Avot" (Maharshak, beginning of ch.3):
It is known that no bad things come from the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself and that He does not accuse (mekatreg) any person of any evil, not even for the most wicked person in the world.

From the side of the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself, no one would ever get punished. Just that from the aspect of the Satan who accuses and claims justice before the Holy One, blessed be He.

Then "the king establishes justice in the land" (Mishlei 29:4) and it is necessary to rule with the attribute of justice.

Thus, if the deeds were not written down, granted that the Holy One, blessed be He, would still remember them forever, but nevertheless the Satan would forget them. For by him there is forgetting. And since the Satan would not accuse, the Holy One, blessed be He, would certainly not recall them. For this is not of the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He.

But nevertheless, the Holy One, blessed be He, desires that the wicked be punished so that they not be corrupted forever (lo yitpakru l'olam). Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, made it so that all the deeds of man be written and thus when the book of remembrances is opened, the Satan remembers the sins and then he accuses (mekatreg). end quote.

The Chida wrote similar to this in his book "Midbar Kadmut" (maarechet 40 ot 11). There he brings the talmud in Kidushin: "for a bad thought, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not consider it as deed" (Kidushin 40a). He writes the reason, namely, that no one knows the thoughts except the Holy One, blessed be He.

Thus, since the Heavenly Beit Din does not know the thoughts, it is unable to punish for them and the Holy One, blessed be He, does not testify on this. For "is there a father who testifies against his son?" (Avodah Zara 3a), (see there and Midrash Sechel Tov, parsha 18:13).

This is what Rebbi exhorts: know that all your deeds are written in a book, and the Satan is able to accuse and claim justice before the Holy One, blessed be He, despite that no bad things come from Him, blessed be He, as before.
Pirkei Moshe - why does it say in passive tense "all your deeds become inscribed (nichtavim) in a book", instead of "all your sins are inscribed (kotvim) in a book" (active tense). The latter would imply that in Heaven all man's deeds are inscribed.

The answer is that it is man himself who inscribes his own deeds, as the talmud says: "man's limbs testify on him" (Taanit 11a)... (for G-d does not want to write or testify on man's sins. Thus, it all happens automatically by the effects "inscribed" on man's soul and on the mystical worlds - Magen Avot).
Yavetz - the "book" upon which man's deeds are inscribed upon is man's own soul, as they said: "man's soul testifies on him" (Taanit 11a). For on the nefesh (soul) is chiseled all the mitzvot and sins.

It is analogous to a man whose body is covered with leprosy but he conceals it with his garment. When his garment is removed, his disgrace (cherpato) is revealed and apparent. So too, the body is the garment to the soul. While it is alive, the blemishes of sins are concealed. But when the body is removed from the soul, the disgrace of the soul is revealed. This is what the verse says: "by the hand of every man he seals so that every man should know his deed" (Iyov 37:7).
Sfas Emes on Avot - "a seeing eye.." - for the "watching over" (Hashgacha) of the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself is on the children of Israel. But it is written: "He does not look at evil in Jacob.." (Bamidbar 23:21), "for evil will not dwell with you" (Tehilim 5:5). Thus, when a man sins, there is a "seeing eye" from the Sitra Achra (other side), thereby, through his sin, he grants dominion (shlita) and "watching over" (Hashgacha) to those eyes who look and watch over sins. But when a man does good, then the Holy One, blessed be He Himself watches over him.

This was the praise of Bilam: "He does not look at evil, etc.", i.e. the Holy One, blessed be He, who rules (sholet) on the children of Israel, does not watch over their bad, except at times of evil, when they have left this [high] level. But nevertheless, the primary hashgacha on the children of Israel never has any accusations (kitrug). Understand this. Due to this, one needs to not sin so as not to cause the seeing of that eye mentioned earlier (of the Sitra Achra). There is also a deep Sod (secret) here.

seeing eye.. - the plain meaning is on man's deeds. But this is difficult for that would be the same as "all your deeds are written in a book". Rather, one can say that "seeing eye" is on the thoughts of the heart (mind). These three correspond to the three areas of service - thought, word, and deed. For "hearing ear" on the words and "all your deeds.." on deeds. One needs to guard all three..
Chida - Ahavat David derush 13 - "all your deeds are inscribed in a book" - it seems from the plain meaning that only the deeds are written.. But I saw in the holy Zohar parsha Nasso 126b: "all that happens in this world is written and everything a person utters from his mouth, and he will give a judgment on everything". end quote.

Although there it refers to the time of a person's death. Nevertheless, we learn from there that the words are also written down just like the deeds. it seems to me the explanation is as my grandfather, the Chesed l'Avraham, of blessed memory, wrote:
"From a word of mitzva is created a good Malach (angel). From a tamei (impure) word is created an evil Malach, and from one of batala (useless word) is created a Malach of batala. Thus, one makes a deed through his speech.. Hence, according to this, the explanation of our mishna is "seeing eye" - the deeds. "hearing ear" - the words. "and all your deeds" - whether actual deeds or those done above through your words - "are written in a book".

According to what we said, this is the explanation of the mishna later: "if you were batel (idle) from the Torah, there are many batelim against you" (Avot 4:5). For when one is idle from Torah, usually he is then involved in devarim batelim (idle talk) and Malachei batela are created from all his words, and he will give a judgment on them in the future. This is the meaning of: "there are many betalim against you", i.e. the malachim (angels) who were created and prosecute against you.

And in the Midrash Rabba (Shmot 13) on the verse: "the weight of a stone and the burden of sand-the anger of a fool is heavier than both" (Mishlei 27:3), G-d is not weary from the mountains, hills, and banks of sand, as written: "He neither tires nor wearies" (Isaiah 40:28). But says the Holy One, blessed be He: "what makes Me tired? one who angers Me by speaking devarim betalim (idle words)", as written: "you have wearied the L-ord with your words" (Malachi 2:17).
Ruach Chaim - "a seeing eye" - one needs to picture in his thoughts always that if a man were to stand above him and meticulously observe all the details of his deeds and hear all his words and record everything, certainly he would tremble and fear wondering "what is this?!"

How much more so when he pictures that the Holy One, blessed be He, "whose glory fills the earth" (Isaiah 6:3), sees and watches over every slight movement of his and hears every slight word of his.

In truth, the Holy One, blessed be He, is the source of sight and hearing itself. And even though a man sees and hears, he still does not know his fellow's true thoughts. Unlike the Holy One, blessed be He, who examines his heart, and as written: "G-d sees into the heart" (Shmuel I 16:7), and everything is written and inscribed above in the book of remembrances. For the actions themselves in their form are chiseled above. "every deed G-d will bring to judgment" (Kohelet 12:14). It did not write: "on every deed G-d will bring to judgment". For the deed itself in its form G-d will bring in judgment".

This is the meaning of "all your deeds are inscribed in a book". The deeds themselves are written. When a man contemplates this certainly fear and trembling will seize him and he will see to it with an open eye that his deeds be as good as possible and he won't come to any sin at all.

These three levels correspond to thought, speech and deed.
"Eye" corresponds to thought, as written: "G-d sees the heart" (Shmuel I 16:7).
"Ear" corresponds to speech, that one hears speech.

While "all your deeds" refers to the [actual] "deeds".

G-d bound all the highest powers to man. Man has the ability to rule over the hosts of Heaven and likewise the mystical worlds are affected by his deeds, whether for good or the opposite..

With one single "looking", man can rectify or destroy several worlds. And as our sages expounded: "do not read 'banecha' (your sons), but rather 'bonecha' (your builders)", i.e. builders of worlds, or the opposite, ch.v. For in man is included all the [divine] powers.. On this it is written: "in the image of G-d", i.e. man is also like G-d, Master of all powers. For man also builds and destroys worlds. His soul is lofty above all the worlds and all of them receive life-force from him. For man is an intermediary and cause so to speak for them to receive life-force from the Almighty..

Thus, "know what is above from you". i.e. above everything is from you, either tikun (rectification) or kilkul (destruction). All your deeds are inscribed there in the inscription of pegam (damage) or tikun (building).

Although the body is but flesh, dust of the earth, vanity of vanities, but for every good matter, a corresponding spiritual power is roused from the holy soul of he who does the mitzva, and the opposite for sin, ch'v.

After doing the mitzva or sin, this power leaves and returns to its root during a man's life.. But the parts of the soul attached during performance of a mitzva go to Eden and enjoy there while those attached during sin go to Gehinom. All this during man's life. After his death, this itself is the reward. For all the good parts (of the soul) join together as one and enclothe him as the "chaluka d'rabanan" (good spiritual garment), while for the opposite, they become a beged tzoim (spiritual garment of filth).

It is necessary for the two to not stick together, and thus this is the kaf hakela (slingshot of the soul) - one soul here and one soul there (slung back and forth from one end of the world to the other). This should be enough for the understanding person. This is the meaning of: "all your deeds are inscribed in a book", i.e. through the imprint made above whether of tikun (building) or pegam (destruction).
Chasdei David - from the language "Rebbi says", it implies there is a machloket (argument) in the matter. This needs explanation. Who is the Tanna that argues on Rebbi?

We will answer as follows. In the beginning of chapter 3:
"Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of sin. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting. From where you came - from a putrid drop; where you are going? - to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting.."

It seems Akavia said three things that are completely different from those of Rebbi and that he argues on Rebbi.

However, I found in the book Magen Avot that he explains Akavia does not argue with Rebbi and that Akavia is coming to expand the words of Rebbi. For according to all the commentaries, Rebbi is giving an advice how a person can distance himself from sin.

Rebbi did not need to say anything new. For the Torah is full of punishments and sufferings which will befall a sinner. Who then is so foolish as to commit a sin and inflict injury on himself?

Rather Rebbi's intent is that we the Bnei Yisrael (Jews) are commanded: "sanctify yourself from what is permitted to you kadesh atzmecha b'mutar lach)" (Yevamot 20a). Namely, that a person not run after needless food, drink, and other bodily pleasures, and that one benefit minimally from this world, and subsist only on the necessary.

This is because although the worldly pleasures are permitted, but nevertheless, they are "yadayim" (handles) to sin. If one does not distance from the permitted to him, he may easily come to sin.

This was Rebbi's intent. He came to give an advice how a person can "sanctify himself from what is permitted to him". Namely, that he know that there is a "seeing eye and hearing ear", i.e. the Holy One, blessed be He, is always right before his eyes. Surely, one would not act thus before a flesh and blood king. How much more so then, before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

So too, Akavia ben Mahalalel is also coming to exhort a person to separate from the superfluous permitted things. Only that Rebbi comes from the aspect of the greatness of the Creator, "know what is above you", while Akavia comes from the aspect of the lowliness of oneself, "know from where you came.."

We need the words of both of them. For if we had only the words of Akavia regarding recognizing one's own lowliness and we did not also have Rebbi's words regarding recognizing the greatness of the Creator, and knowing that He sees all our deeds, then one would do the permitted things and may even stoop to doing the worst lowest acts since he is not standing before the King. Rather, he is [alone] in his home, and he may come to the hands of sin. Therefore, we need the words of Rebbi, to recognize the greatness of the Creator.

Likewise, if we had only Rebbi's words, then even if one recognizes the greatness of the Creator but he does not recognize his own lowliness, then he will imagine to himself that he is also important, and an important person is not so embarrassed, and even if he stands before a king, he is not so careful and does his lusts (for food, etc). But a peasant standing before a king is very careful. Therefore, we also need the words of Akavia, to recognize one's lowliness. end quote.

According to his words, we may say that in this Rebbi and Akavia argue. Namely, with what should one begin to not come to the hands of sin - with the greatness of the Creator or one's own lowliness?

According to Rebbi, one should precede to recognize the greatness of the Creator and look at what is above oneself and know there is an "seeing eye and hearing ear". Through this, he will also see his own lowliness, as the Rama wrote:

"All the more so when one takes to heart that the Great King, the Holy One, blessed be He, Whose glory fills the earth, is standing over him and watching his actions, as it is stated: 'Will a man hide in concealment and I will not see him?' (Jeremiah 23:24), he immediately acquires fear and submission in dread of God, May He Be Blessed, and is ashamed of Him constantly" (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 1:1).

While according to Akavia ben Mahalalel, one should precede to recognize his own lowliness and afterwards recognize the greatness of the Creator.

We find that the holy Rebbi Elimelech and Rebbi Zusha also argued on this. Rabbi Elimelech held one must open with the greatness of the Creator and afterwards contemplate one's own lowliness, while Reb Zusha held first one's lowliness and afterwards recognize the greatness of the Creator.
(Translator: perhaps Rebbi and Akavia are not arguing. It all depends on the person. For example, a sad person could be broken by Akavia's approach and should instead go with Rebbi's approach.)
Translator: - below are some more commentaries on the whole mishna which are difficult to split up.
Ruach Chaim - in tractate Tamid (ch.1, 28a): "Which is the straight path that a man should choose? Let him love reproof, since as long as there is reproof in the world peace of mind comes to the world, good and blessing come the world, and evil departs from the world, as it says, "But to them that are reproved shall come delight; and a good blessing shall come upon them" (Mishlei 24:25).

Rebbi used the same exact expression here: "Which is the straight path that a man should choose? Whatever is harmonious..", i.e. this path is like the mitzva of rebuke for it also bears fruit (good consequences) for the public. Namely, it refrains the public from sin (removes hatred, etc.) and thus brings good and blessings to the world. Understand this.

The masses think that only the Rabbis and Darshanim (teachers) are commanded in the mitzva of rebuke. But in truth this is a mistake. It is a mitzvah on every Jew, even a simple person (am haaretz) who sees in his friend something reprehensible is obligated to rebuke him.

And the main thing is that the rebuker needs to include himself also [in the sin]. For he cannot possibly claim to be clean, and who can say: "I purified my heart.."

A further explanation: by nature, man is prone to sin. This is due either to his physical nature or to the enticements of the evil inclinations which he succumbs after.

On this Rabeinu hakadosh (our holy teacher) establishes that there are three types of sins.

One, intentional sins (mezid).
Two, "saying (the sin is) permitted" (omer mutar).
Three, "unintentional (sins)" (bli kavana).

For many, the unintentional sins are a great stumbling block.

But the intentional sins are less so. For every man of Israel will certainly not accept to listen to the voice of the yetzer, who entices him to sin intentionally. Though sometimes this does happen such as when the Yetzer catches a man suddenly (ex. at a difficult time).. But this occurs only on rare occasions.

However, the unintentionals (shogeg) are very severe, as written: "it is also not good that a soul be without knowledge, and he who hastens with his feet sins" (Mishlei 19:2). The verse includes two types of unintentional sins (Shogegs) - "saying permitted" is included in "without knowledge", while "unintentional" (bli kavana) is included in "hastens his feet".

Namely, he does not look (mistakel) at his ways. Through this, he stumbles and it is considered a sin because he did not look.

All the "unintentionals" (shogegs) come through this, as written: "the iniquity of my heels surrounds me" (Tehilim 49:6), which our sages expounded: "I am not afraid of my big sins, but rather on the (little) sins which I trample with my heels" (Yalkut Shimoni Tehilim 247).

That is to say, the sins committed due to either habit or not contemplating..

On the second category of sins, namely, "saying (the sin is) permitted", i.e. where the yetzer hara rationalizes to him ways it is permitted. For this category it is good to listen and take counsel with others, and as before "love rebukes". On this Rebbi said: "whatever is praiseworthy for the doer (before G-d), and praiseworthy from other people".

On unintentional sins without intent (shogeg bli kavana), he said: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one..".

Namely, that one looks and contemplates his ways so they don't occur.

On the intentional sins (mezid), he said: "consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward.." For to guard oneself from intentional sins (zedonot) at a time when the yetzer of his lust seizes him and when the sin is near at hand - it is difficult to separate. People then already consent, regardless of the consequences (V'harugei beit din bizman habayit hayu matirin atzman lemita).

The only advice given here is to preempt and think in fear of G-d beforehand, before the sin comes to his hand.

Thus, let him look always at the three things and then he will be saved and will not come at all to any sin...
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai - Ahava b'Taanugim - "whatever is harmonious for the doer" - i.e. the good trait is not that which is good in one's own eyes only. For "every man's way is right in his eyes" (Mishlei 21:2). Rather, the good trait is that one's own deeds are good in the eyes of others, or the opposite, that others' deeds are good in one's own eyes.

And all the more so, [it is a good trait] if one's own deeds are good in one's own eyes and also in the eyes of others.

This is the meaning of "and harmonious (Tiferet) from other people (Adam)", i.e. that possessors of intellect (baalei sechel) who are called by the name "Adam" all agree that it is praiseworthy and proper.

Some explain that one should choose the traits and deeds which are praiseworthy in a man (Adam), namely, those traits which stem from man in his being a possessor of intellect (baal sechel). Not those stemming from his flesh and blood aspect like the animals, such as eating, drinking, and copulation. For those are an embarrassment to us not a praiseworthiness (Tiferet). And since this mussar is not reserved for Jews only but rather for all intelligent men, even the non- religious, he used a third person tense.

"Be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one" - since now he is speaking to Jews specifically, he changed to second person. He said that for the commandments of G-d, it is not necessary to choose (a way) like the societal traits (midot medini). For the Giver of the Torah already chose them. This is the meaning of: "be as careful with a light mitzvah as with a weighty one".

"light" and "weighty" is not referring to the aspect of reward. For "you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot". Rather, he called them "light" and "weighty" from the aspect of doing them. For some mitzvot are easy to do at all times, every second. Whenever one wants, he can do them.

On the other hand, some mitzvot are "weighty" to do and there are many impediments. The opportunity may only come once in fifty years. It is also possible that for a mitzva chamura (weighty), one may be zealous in doing it by nature. For he fears that perhaps he will not have the opportunity again. But for a mitzva which is readily available at all times, he may be lazy in doing it and may tell himself: "I'll do it whenever I want".

Therefore, he exhorted not to be lazy and be zealous in doing the light mitzvah just like he is not lazy in the mitzva chamura.

He gave a reason for this. Namely, "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot". For "no eye has ever seen" (Isaiah 64:3) and if you are lazy in the light mitzva, perhaps you will never fulfill it and perhaps its reward is much greater than those which are chamura in your eyes...

"reward given (matan schar)" - the reward is a complete gift. For according to truth (justice), one who sits and does nothing should not deserve any reward. Therefore, he called it "reward given (matan schar)". For it is given as a gift. Thus the Sage is teaching us not to use our logic regarding the reward.

For example, in refraining from a major sin (ex.adultery), perhaps the reward is great just like its punishment is great (death). Or perhaps we may argue the opposite - perhaps the reward for refraining from a severe sin which carries a severe punishment is smaller since one abstained only out of fear of its great punishment. But for a minor sin whose punishment is light, the reward is greater since one refrained only out of love of G-d. Thus, there is room to argue both ways (perhaps the light mitzvah has more reward than the major mitzvah or the opposite). Hence, "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot".

"the reward of a sin against its loss" - consider it like honey mixed with lethal poison.

"Look at three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin" - some explain this like the hand (handle) of a cup. For a sin also has a hand (yad), namely the light things which people "trample with their heels", which seem to a person to be almost permitted. And after he does these things, he is led to "take in" the severe sin itself.

Some explain "hands of sin", according to what our sages said: "one who commits a sin acquires a prosecutor" (Avot 4:11), and it itself comes to pay the sinner back with its own hands. For the reward of sin is the sin itself which comes to exact revenge on him. This is the meaning of: "and you will not come to the hands of sin", i.e. that it comes to take revenge on you with its hands.

"Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds are inscribed in a book"
Rabbi Avraham Azoulai - Ahava b'Taanugim (continued) - "Know what is above from you" - some explain that if you look at these three things [in yourself], you can know and recognize that there is a seeing eye above. For from the fact that you yourself have a seeing eye you can infer and know that: "Will He Who implants the ear not hear or will He Who forms the eye not see?" (Tehilim 94:9). Thus he said "know what is above from you" (from yourself).

Some explain, "Know what is above from you", that even though G-d is in Heaven and you are on the land in your innermost chambers, do not say: "who can see me? who can know me?".

For everywhere "the eyes of G-d watch", on the bad and the good, and He stands "above you", right over your head.

"a seeing eye" - for your eye does not really see (intrinsically). It is merely an instrument prepared to receive sight. Thus you are unable to see in darkness, rather you can see only where there is light. The reason is because the eye itself does not really see (intrinsically), nor does the ear really hear by itself (intrinsically). Thus, if the voice is far away, you cannot hear it. But the eye of G-d sees intrinsically and the ear hears intrinsically. For it itself is the hearing and "[He knows what is in the dark] and light dwells with Him" (Daniel 2:22). Therefore He knows what is in darkness and does not need any other light..
Chida - Kikar la'Eden - before everything, a man needs to straighten out his character traits (middot). This is before fulfilling the mitzvot as Rabeinu Chaim Vital z''l explained in his powerful book "Shaarei Kedusha" (2:8). And if he did not first rectify his character traits, then he did nothing (v'im b'tchila lo yitaken hamidot, lo assa klum). And our sages hinted on this saying: "the punishments for middot (false weights) is worse than that of illicit relations".

Therefore, Rabeinu HaKadosh made an opening for rectifying the middot and said: "Which is the straight path that a man should choose (for rectifying the middot)?" - "Whatever is harmonious for the doer and harmonious to other people..", i.e. the middle way as the Rambam and Bartenura explained. And after rectifying the middot, "Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one".

And since the bad middot stem from the darkness of the physical and the four [meta]physical foundations, as explained in Shaarei Kedusha.

For arrogance stems from the yesod of fire while all lust from the yesod of water and forbidden speech from the yesod of ruach.

Therefore he said: "look at 3 things and you will not come to sin". i.e. bad middot which are the yedei (hands) of sin.

"know what is above you, a seeing eye", who examines the heart.. He can see the pride of your heart in which dwells arrogance from the foundation of fire, as written: "all proud of heart are an abomination to G-d" (Mishlei 16:5).
"hearing ear" - forbidden words from the yesod haruach.
"all your deeds" - of your lusts in food and relations from the yesod of water, "are written in a book".
Maharal - the Tanna started the chapter with Rebbi's words and placed them head of the chapter. He did not place them with the words of the Rishonim (earlier sages in previous chapter) despite that he mentioned there Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, the father of Rebbi, and it would seem proper to place the son (Rebbi) with the father.

But nevertheless, he began the chapter with Rebbi's words for by Rebbi there was Torah and Gedula (greatness/wealth/honor) in one place and he was the head of all Israel. Thus, it was proper to make his words head of the chapter.

Furthermore, due to the greatness of the mussar in his words - "which is the straight path that a man should choose? Whatever is harmonious (tiferet) for the doer, and harmonious (tiferet) to other people" - this matter encompasses all the deeds a man will do. As he says "which is the straight path that a man should choose", i.e. in all his words and deeds that he will do, he should choose this path which is harmonious to him, etc.

And since this mussar encompasses all of man's deeds, it was placed as head and beginning. Likewise for the words of Akavia ben Mahalel. They were placed at the head of chapter 3 for this same reason. And likewise for the words of Ben Zoma (ch.4). For whenever the sage's mussar was all encompassing, it began a chapter. But you should also see our explanation at the end of last chapter. For that which Rebbi's words began the chapter also follows according to wisdom, as we explained there.

"Which is the straight path that a man should choose? Whatever is harmonious for the doer (before G-d), and harmonious to other people" - it is proper to ask:

* After saying: "whatever is harmonious for the doer", why the need to say further: "and harmonious to other people"?

* Why did Rebbi say: "Which is the straight path", while Rabban Yochanan ben Zakaai said (later): "Which is the good path"?

3. He began with a third person tense: "which is the straight path that a man should choose?", and afterwards he uses the second person tense: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah.."?

We will explain as follows. Some ways are themselves good for the person doing them, i.e they are "harmonious (tiferet) for the doer". But they are not "harmonious to other people", i.e. another person who sees it thinks bad of him on this.

Although the way itself may be truly "harmonious" for the person (i.e. it is truly good). Just that it has a bad appearance (chashad) to an outside observer.

Nevertheless, do not choose this way. Because one needs to exempt himself from Heaven and from human beings (tzarich l'tzet yedei Shamayim u'yedei briot).

And all the more so for a Torah scholar. For it is a chilul Hash-em (desecration of G-d's Name) if it seems to people that his deed is not proper and right.

Therefore, he said that the deed must be "harmonious to other people", that this deed be "praiseworthy" also to all people who observe it, and not just that it is praiseworthy to the doer only.

Likewise, he did not say only: "whatever is harmonious to other people". It was necessary to also add: "whatever is harmonious for the doer". For sometimes people praise a person on a deed he did, but his intent was not l'Shem Shamayim (for G-d). For the person merely intends to deceive people, i.e. to appear righteous in the eyes of the public..

Therefore, he added: "whatever is harmonious for the doer", that the way be truly "harmonious for the doer". For if he intends not l'Shem Shamayim, only to show off or the like, one cannot call this: "Whatever is harmonious for the doer", despite that people praise him on this.

The main thing Rebbi is coming to teach is that a person should not say: "since this act is truly proper and good who cares what the public thinks?"

It is not so. For it is proper for a person's deed to be praiseworthy to other people. As you will find everywhere in the words of our sages, it is forbidden to do a deed which appears improper to an observer. And all the more so, if it is itself improper according to the truth and also to an observer.

That which he did not say: "whatever is harmonious to the public" (the literal translation is "harmonious to the man"). This is because not all the public is able to know the praiseworthy way. For sometimes a way appears praiseworthy to one person who is unable to understand (true virtue), but according to the truth, it is not praiseworthy. Therefore, he said: "and harmonious to the man", namely, he who is called Adam (man), who is able to know and understand, not he who is compared to a donkey, who is unable to understand.

Furthermore, "every man's way is right in his eyes" (Mishlei 21:2). Thus, if he had just said: "whatever is harmonious for the doer" it would imply that the path need only be harmonious to himself, and "every man's way is right in his eyes".

Thus he added that it needs to be "harmonious to other people".

And that which he did not just say: "whatever is harmonious to other people", this is because it would imply any path which other people praise him on is good. Thus, he added: "whatever is harmonious for the doer" (that it be truly good)...

That which he used the expression: "what is the straight path", while Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai said (later): "what is the good path that a person should cling to".

This is because he came to say that he should choose for himself the path which is "harmonious to other people", i.e. it appears straight (yashar) to the public. The term "straight" (Yashar) is fitting when referring to the public, as Rashi explained: "good in the eyes of Heaven and straight (Yashar) in the eyes of man" (Devarim 12:28)..

The reason "straight" (Yashar) applies to the eyes of the public is because "Yashar" is said on something which goes straight while the crooked (hameukam) is something which goes crookedly (holech b'ivut). This is something which appears only to the external appearance of human eyes. For straight and crooked is only to the (appearance of the) eye not to the heart.

Therefore, the Yashar applies to the public which see only the appearance of the eye. For man judges only by what his eye sees.

But "good" applies only on a matter which is itself good. Therefore, the explanation of "good" is to Heaven, while "Yashar" is to human beings. For they are capable of perceiving on something and saying it is Yashar. But "good" is beyond the grasp of human beings. For sometimes a person perceives something as good but it is not good. But "Yashar" is knowable to human beings (since it refers to external appearance of the eye)...

Thus, he needed to use here the term "Yashar" and it was not enough to say: "which is the path which one should choose" (instead of "straight path"). For he is asking which is the path which appears straight (yashar) in the eyes of the public. On this he is speaking, and on this he said: "Whatever is harmonious for the doer, and harmonious to other people". This is the Yashar (straight) in the eyes of man.

But for the derech tov (good way) that a person should choose. This matter will be explained by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai later. Here he is only speaking on the derech yashar (straight path) which appears to the eyes of the public.

He also said "that a person should choose" instead of the term "that a person should cling to" which Raban Yochanan ben Zakai used. This is because it is the way of man to choose a "straight path" among crooked paths to go on...

Rebbi says: Which is the straight path that a man should choose? Whatever is harmonious for the doer (before G-d), and harmonious to other people.

Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot. Consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its loss.

Look at three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin: Know what is above you: a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds are inscribed in a book.

He (first) spoke in third person: "Which is the straight path that a man should choose...", and afterwards changed to second person: "Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one". This is so one would not err to think "Be as careful..." is also connected to the previous statement: "Which is the straight path that a man should choose...", i.e. this also is a path to choose - "to be careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one".

That is not at all so. For previously he spoke only on mussar. It is relevant to use the term "choose". For the middot (character traits) are not in the positive and negative commandments. Thus it is relevant "for a man to choose" this trait (middah). But that which he said: "be as careful..." - this is a din Torah (halacha) to be careful of both minor and major mitzvot. Therefore, he changed to second person here so as not to be connected to the previous statement.

That which Rebbi brought these things together is because Rebbi came to teach a person general principles (derachim), whether in middot (traits) or mitzvot.

He began with middot first for "derech eretz kadma le Torah" (human decency precedes Torah), as we explained previously. Thus, the first statement "what is the proper path...", encompasses middot.

Afterwards he said words which encompasses Torah and its mitzvot, namely, "be as careful with a minor mitzvah as a major one"...

"for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - the reason for this is because the reward of mitzvot is that through the mitzvot one attains dvekut (clinging) to G-d, and according to the clinging a person has with G-d (is the reward/pleasure). Thus, it is possible that (sometimes) the dvekut (clinging) to Him one attains through a small mitzvah is greater than through a big mitzvah...

"reward given for the mitzvot (matan scharan)" - he did not say merely "the reward of mitzvot", but instead said "reward given for the mitzvot (matan scharan)". For he came to give a reason why "you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot". Namely, the mitzva has a "reward given". For all "giving" is from the Giver, which is Hash-em, blessed be He. And it is impossible to know what is by Hash-em, blessed be He.

On the other hand, punishment is from the aspect of the sin itself, not from the Giver. Thus it is possible to know the punishment. But the reward is unknowable (since Hash-em is unknowable).

"consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward.." - the explanation is that if an opportunity for a positive mitzva comes and his evil inclination strengthens over him to not do the mitzva. For it requires great cost or exertion to do the mitzva [then he should make this accounting].

Likewise if a negative mitzva comes and his evil inclination strengthens over him to transgress the sin in order to obtain the sin's benefit [he should also make this accounting].

On this he said to: "consider the loss incurred for a mitzvah [against its reward]". For a positive commandment, the "loss" refers to the expense, pain, or exertion for fulfilling the positive mitzvah. For a negative commandment, it refers to the loss of pleasure he would have had if he had not transgressed the negative commandment.

[To summarize], he said to consider the loss one incurs in not fulfilling a mitzvah of the Torah versus the reward he will receive if he fulfills it.

For indeed fulfilling a positive mitzvah carries great reward. Likewise for refraining from transgressing a negative mitzvah. Since, when a sin opportunity comes to one's hand and he forces his inclination and refrains from transgressing it, he will receive great reward for this.

He should also consider the gain and pleasure obtained from committing the sin versus the loss of reward he would have obtained from Hash-em, blessed be He, if he had fulfilled the commandment of his Creator. This is the meaning of "and the reward of a sin against its loss".

Some ask on this: this implies one should do the commandments for the reward, and this contradicts Antignos of Socho who said: "do not be as servants who serve their master in order to receive reward" (Avot 1:3).

This is not difficult. Because here he only spoke against the evil inclination. For sometimes a man says: "the mitzva is difficult for me due to the cost, exertion, or pain in forcing my evil inclination. On this he said: if your evil inclination entices to this, "consider the loss of a mitzva, etc". But certainly, one should not have intent for this (reward). Rather, he should do out of love (like Antignos said, i.e. l'sameach Elokim - to bring joy to G-d, so to speak).

Some ask on this: since he said previously: "for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot", if so, how can he then say: "consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward"? For the reward of mitzvot is not known!

But certainly, this is not at all a difficulty. For the loss of a mitzva is only a monetary loss, exertion, or pain in forcing one's inclination - all things of this world. But the loss of its reward is in Olam Haba (World to Come), and they already said: "better one hour of pleasure in Olam Haba than all the life of this world" (Avot 4:22).

Hence without a doubt, there is no comparison nor equivalence between the loss incurred in doing a mitzva which is of this [fleeting] world to the [eternal] reward of Olam Haba. It is due to this that we certainly cannot know the reward of mitzvot.

With these three things Rebbi said (one, "be as careful with a minor mitzvah..", two, "consider the loss..", three, "look at three things.."), he included all the things needed in the mitzvot of the Torah.

For sometimes a person thinks this mitzva is small, without reward, and due to this he annuls (mevatel) the mitzva. On this he said: "be as careful with a minor mitzvah.."

Sometimes, a person comes to refrain from a mitzva because the positive mitzva requires toil or monetary expense to do it, or for a negative mitzva, when a temptation to sin comes, it may require forcing one's inclination (and this is painful). Therefore, he said consider the loss in fulfilling the mitzva and also consider the reward from Hash-em, blessed be He, in fulfilling the mitzvah.

Likewise for the opposite, he should consider the reward and pleasure he has when he transgresses and refrains from doing the mitzvah and correspondingly to consider the loss he incurs from the sin, namely, the [future] punishment.

Then, certainly, he will choose to do the mitzva.

Sometimes, a person is tempted to commit a sin because (consideration of) its punishment does not enter in his heart since it is in the future. Likewise he does not care about the loss of future reward, and tells himself: "I will have some enjoyment now even though I will not receive future reward".

On this he said: "look at three things, and you will not come to sin..."

"look at three things and you will not come to sin.." - he did not say "look at three things and you will do the mitzva..". For that would imply that it is because he does not look [at these three things] that he does not do the mitzva. That is not so. For a man does not refrain from doing a mitzva when told that no one sees him doing the mitzva.

Thus, he said: "and you will not come to sin", since everything here was said against the evil inclination of man. For thus one's inclination tends to think as if: "no one is watching and G-d has left the land". Corresponding to this he said: "look at three things and you will not come to sin.."

It was also necessary to say: "consider the loss.." since there are many mitzvot such as acts of kindness which carry reward for doing them but which do not carry punishment for not doing them. Thus, on this he said: "consider..the reward for a mitzva"

"a seeing eye" - a man needs to reflect that Hash-em sees everything, to not think ch'v that He does not know the deeds of those below (i.e. in this lowest physical world), as the verse brings on the wicked who say: "He will not see, nor will the G-d of Jacob understand" (Tehilim 94:7). Rather, one needs to know that Hash-em, blessed be He, knows the affairs (inyanim) of those below. He "sees" them fully as the eye of an external observer, not partially as one who merely knows things through being part of them (see there for a deep explanation)..

This is the meaning of "a seeing eye". He used the singular term instead of plural "seeing eyes" because Hash-em does not have physical eyes, nor two eyes like man, ch'v.

"a hearing ear" - for some people believe: "certainly Hash-em knows all of man's deeds.. but not that He supervises and lends ear to watch over (mashgiach) what happens down below. That is inconceivable. For G-d is analogous to a very great human king, whereby due to the king's greatness, if one of the lowly peasants or very simple people were to transgress his word or command, it would not enter in his ear due to its pettiness."

So too, a man thinks that due to the lowliness of man who is on the earth, even though Hash-em knows man's deeds below, but He does not watch over them due to their pettiness and they don't enter in his ear (so to speak).

Likewise a man also sometimes sees something but does not put it to heart because it is insignificant to him. And just like it is proper to say that Hash-em knows everything for otherwise it would be a lacking by Him, ch'v, so too He does not watch over (mashgiach) gross physical human beings of this lowly physical world, as that too would also be a lacking by Him.

Therefore, he said that the matter is not as they think. Rather, there is a "hearing ear". For Hash-em receives the deeds of human beings and they enter in the ear of the "Place" (G-d). The term "hearing" connotes "receiving" (kabbala), i.e. He does not reject the deed, but rather accepts it. Therefore, he said: "a hearing ear".

And since one may still claim that even though Hash-em watches over (mashgiach) the deeds, but why must we say that the watching over (hashgacha) of Hash-em is for the purpose of bringing a person to justice on it in the future? Perhaps the watching over (hashgacha) of Hash-em is only for the purpose of rectifying the evil in the world, not for bringing everything into a future accounting.

On this, he wrote: "and all your deeds are written in a book". i.e. all your deeds are written in a book just like a shopkeeper writes in his book and in the end brings everything into an accounting.

When a person has before him these three things, namely, the knowledge hinted in "a seeing eye", and the watching over (hashgacha) hinted in "a hearing ear", and the accounting, i.e. the reward and punishment hinted in "all your deeds are written in a book" - he will not come to sin. These three things, namely, the knowledge (He exists and sees), the Hashgacha (providence), and reward and punishment - they are the foundation of everything. Thus, when these three things are before a man, he will not come to sin...

"to the hands of sin" - one may ask: either way, if a person does not guard himself to do the mitzva and to not transgress sin, if so, he will also not guard this to look always at these three things.

On the other hand, if a person does guard himself to do what is proper, then just command him to refrain from sin and fulfill all the mitzvot. [Thus, why the need to look at these three things always?]

Certainly we can answer this.

For these three things are easy to do. But the mitzvot are strenuous on him and the evil inclination (yetzer hara) entices him to transgress. Therefore, he said to look on these three things and the yetzer hara will not come. For if he looks on these three things, which is easy to do, he will not come to the hands of the yetzer hara.

This is the meaning of: "you will not come to the hands of sin" (lidei chet). He did not say: "you will not come to sin". For when one's yetzer strengthens over him, it is called the "hands of sin" (yedei chet), i.e. he is near the sin, such as "yad hayarden" (Bamidbar 13:30)...

"inscribed in a book" - this matter is deep.. Do not think man's deeds do not leave an imprint and [create] a form. It is not so. Rather man's deeds leave an imprint which endures.. This is what Moshe said: "And now, if You forgive their sin But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written" (Shemot 32:32)... There is another deep matter here but we cannot elaborate further.

Another question: why did he say "look at three things" and not "know what is above you.." (Avot 3:1)?

Answer: that which he said look at three things was to clarify to you a matter of tremendous wisdom. For man's form was created unlike all other creatures - man alone walks completely upright. Hash-em did this for man in this world because man does not have Hash-em before him. Therefore, he comes near to sin. This (blindness) is to the extent that the sages said: "would that it were that the fear of Heaven be upon you as the fear of flesh and blood" (Berachot 28b).

For man is on the land and he sees a flesh and blood king, and thus has fear of flesh and blood. But man does not see Hash-em. Therefore, Hash-em created man in an upright stance so that he will gaze above and know the Holy One, blessed be He, who "sits in Heaven" (yoshev shamayim) and he will not come to sin.

This is the meaning of the verse: "G-d made it so that they fear before Him" (Kohelet 3:14), i.e. the Holy One, blessed be He, made man in a manner that he fear before G-d. For He created man to gaze above to obtain fear of Hash-em, who sits in Heaven. Therefore, he wrote "look at three things...", as the Holy One, blessed be He, created man to gaze above and not come to sin. We will explain further in the chapter of Akavia (ch.3).
Maharal - Netiv Hatorah ch.17 - "Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot" - the reward of mitzvah which depends on the difficulty of a mitzva on which they said: "according to the difficulty is the reward" (Avot 5:22), this is a separate reward by itself and it is not called "reward of mitzvah". Thus if one did a mitzva with little toil and then another time the same mitzvah with much toil, he will have more reward for the time he did it with great toil than for the time he did it with little toil. But nevertheless, this is not called reward for the mitzva itself. For on reward of the mitzva itself, they said: "hevu..mitzvot".. Rather the reward of the mitzvah is from the aspect of the essence of the mitzvah. And the reward which is on the essence of the mitzvah, man is unable to know. For it is possible and it could be that the reward for a light mitzvah is as much as a severe mitzvah.