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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 2
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 2פרק ב משנה ב
Rabban Gamliel the son of Rebbi Yehudah HaNassi says: beautiful is the study of torah with the way of the world (Derech Eretz, i.e. work), for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten. And all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work will in the end be nullified and drag [in] sin. And all who toil for the community, let them do so for the sake of Heaven (l'Shem Shamayim), for the merit of their forefathers assists them and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, I [the Almighty] will credit you with great reward as if you had done it (alone). רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הַנָּשִׂיא אוֹמֵר, יָפֶה תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, שֶׁיְּגִיעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם מְשַׁכַּחַת עָוֹן. וְכָל תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהּ מְלָאכָה, סוֹפָהּ בְּטֵלָה וְגוֹרֶרֶת עָוֹן. וְכָל הָעֲמֵלִים עִם הַצִּבּוּר, יִהְיוּ עֲמֵלִים עִמָּהֶם לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, שֶׁזְּכוּת אֲבוֹתָם מְסַיַּעְתָּן וְצִדְקָתָם עוֹמֶדֶת לָעַד. וְאַתֶּם, מַעֲלֶה אֲנִי עֲלֵיכֶם שָׂכָר הַרְבֵּה כְּאִלּוּ עֲשִׂיתֶם

Bartenura - "torah with Derech Eretz" - derech eretz - work or business dealings.

"for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten" - for torah weakens a man's strength and work crushes and breaks the body. Through this, the evil inclination (yetzer hara) will be annulled from him.
Bartenura - If you ask: if so, let one toil in torah always and its toil will "cause sin to be forgotten". Thus why the need for work also? Therefore, he needed to add:

"And all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work will in the end be nullified and drag [in] sin" - since he cannot live without food and he will come to steal from others and forget his learning.

"And all who toil for the community, let them do so for the sake of Heaven" - and not to take a crown for oneself and say: "I did such and such for the public".

"for the merit of their forefathers assists them" - the merit and righteousness of the forefathers of the public stands forever and helps those who toil for the public.. The success is not due to good exertion on the part of the communal workers.

And even though the matter is successful due to the merit of the forefathers of the public and not due to your own efforts, but nevertheless, I will grant reward as if you yourself brought this salvation since you are doing it l'Shem Shamayim... (see there for various other explanations).
Rashi - "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten" - since he learns and toils in torah and a livelihood, he does not covet or steal the money of others.

"with great reward as if you had done it" - even if you did not complete the deed, I will consider it for you as if you had completed it.
Rabeinu Yonah - "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten" - i.e. it removes the yetzer hara, as written: "behold, with iniquity I was formed" (Iyov 51:7). Through exerting oneself in torah and work, the yetzer hara will not gain dominion over him. For all the time he is not full and fat, it will not be sweet for him to do sins. Therefore, he should toil in torah, which weakens man's strength, and also work for his basic needs. And he should never stand idly, lest he indulge himself and his heart grows arrogant and he forgets Hash-em his G-d, similar to: "and Jeshurun grew fat and rebelled" (Devarim 32:15).

"all torah without work will in the end be nullified" - as we learned: "if there is no flour, there is no torah" (Avot 3:21).

"and drag [in] sin" - for idleness brings him to poverty and this drags in many sins and great evils. For due to it he will love gifts and will not live (Mishlei 15:27). He will flatter people, even the wicked so that they give him gifts. When he has no money from the gifts he will steal or the like and bring stolen money of the poor to his home lest he perish from starvation. And when a man reaches these traits, there is no holding back of his spirit. He will not rest nor be at ease until he transgresses all the sins of the torah. For one sin drags another.

On this our sages said: "whoever benefits from the work of his hands, on him scripture says: 'If you eat the toil of your hands, fortunate are you and it is good for you' (Tehilim 128:2) - fortunate are you in this world and good for you in the world to come. Therefore, a wise man needs to know a trade..
Rabeinu Avraham Pritzel on Avot - "And all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work will in the end be nullified" - he will become lacking and poor and go after the doors of donors. And he will not toil in torah.
Sfat Emet on Avot - "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten" - this refers to after sin. Thus "causes sin to be forgotten". But if one does not sin at all, he would take upon himself the yoke of torah. And on this it says later: "the yoke of derech eretz is removed from him"..but without sin, one does not need this orders.
Rambam - "and all who toil for the community.." - this is the word of G-d directed towards those who toil for the public. For sometimes they are prevented from doing a mitzva while toiling for the needs of the public. He said that Hash-em will consider it for them as if they did the mitzva, even though they did not do it, since they are toiling l'Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven).
Meiri - "let them do so for the sake of Heaven (l'Shem Shamayim)" - i.e. those appointed over the tzibur (community), they must toil l'Shem Shamayim - not to pride themselves, aggrandize themselves, nor to put unnecessary fear over the tzibur for their own honor. For whoever acts like this is not concerned about the honor of the tzibur and what is beneficial for them. But rather, for his own gain, to conquer the tzibur and aggrandize himself over them. But when he is l'Shem Shamayim, he leads them justly and bequeaths to them right laws and true torah..
Rabeinu Yonah - "for the sake of Heaven" - not to receive honor nor to rule (lehistarer) over them. Rather, only to guide them in the right path, and everything l'Shem Shamayim.

Even though the merit of their forefathers helps them and their needs are done in their merit and not through your hands, you who toil in their deeds, nevertheless, I wil consider it as if you did it and as if everything was done in your merit.

We may explain further: do not say: "what do I need this hassle of toiling for the public and that they should do good deeds through me? They alone will receive reward for it is their money (that they donated, etc.)!"

It is not so. It is good for you to toil for their needs since the merit of their forefathers assists them and you will succeed more in their deeds than in yours. For the merit of the forefathers is great, and I will credit reward for you as if you did it all and as if you yourself gave the money that they donated through you. You will profit more in your toil for them, than you would have in toiling for yourself. For their deeds are more numerous than yours, and all that you do, G-d will cause to succeed, since the merit of their forefathers helps them. Therefore, it is good for a man to toil very much for the needs of the public, provided his intent is l'Shem Shamayim.
Sforno - even though the needs of the public are many and it is difficult for anyone to deal with them, as our sages said: "lay upon them public affairs, and they will cease by themselves" (Sanhedrin 17a). But nevertheless, when you toil for them l'Shem Shamayim, the merit of their forefathers helps those who toil for them...
Tosfot Yom Tov - there will be very great reward for you since you toil for the needs of the public who are many, and since they are many, the reward is also very much, as if you yourself did much.
Translator: some interpret "derech eretz" to mean not work but "good character traits" as we will see. Perhaps the two are related. For work trains a person to deal with all kinds of people thereby forcing him to improve his character traits.
Tiferet Yisrael - "beautiful is the study of torah with Derech Eretz" - i.e. torah study is beautiful only if it has mussar and humility with it.

"be nullified and drag [in] sin" - for the poverty wil cause him to sin.
Rabeinu Yosef ben Shushan on Avot - when one studies torah, he should fulfill what he learns. His torah should be beautiful in the eyes of others, mingling with them and acting in a pleasing manner, visiting the sick, accompanying the dead (to their grave), consoling the mourners, comforting the weary, honoring even those lower himself. I did not explain derech eretz to mean toil in a livelihood as those bigger and better than me explained. For my heart is not at ease on why he did not say afterwards: "all torah [study] that is not accompanied by derech eretz", but rather: "all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work (melacha)". Thus, the previous teaching: "beautiful is torah with derech eretz" does not refer to work, but to human decency (derech eretz).
Divrei Binah (Admor Biala) - i.e. it is proper and beautiful talmud torah with derech eretz. Namely, even when a Jew is involved in matters of derech eretz, business dealings, and all matters of this world, there should be recognizable in him the torah and torah is within him. This is the beauty of torah - that it be with derech eretz, similar to what I explained on the verse: "you shall speak in them". Namely, that the words of torah be recognizable in all your movements. Even "when you sit in your house and go on the road and lay down and rise up" - the torah should be recognizable in him, in all his deeds and movements.. this is the sign of a true tzadik - that all his words and movements be torah.
Ruach Chaim - "torah with derech eretz" - i.e. also when you toil in derech eretz think in torah. For "toil in both", i.e. when the body who turns to the working of the land and the mind to its thoughts on the work of G-d (torah), "causes sin to be forgotten"
Ruach Chaim - "all who toil for the public should do so l'Shem Shamayim" - for a leader of the public who becomes arrogant over them not l'Shem Shamayim will receive severe punishment (Rosh Hashana 17a). Perhaps due to this, you will refrain from toiling for their needs. On this he said: "consider this in your heart and you will certainly not become arrogant. Namely, picture to yourself that it is not you who is doing. You are just secondary (tafel) to the tzibur. Thus he said "with the tzibur.. for the merit of their forefathers helps them". Then certainly you will not become arrogant and will receive all the reward as if you did it yourself without help.
Chachma u'Mussar 1:242 - this is difficult. Why did our mishna bring this matter of "l'Shem Shamayim" specifically here regarding those who toil for the public? The answer is because in something which affects the masses, one must be extremely careful of corruption (kilkul). Therefore, our sages warned especially of this matter, namely, that all who toil for the public should do so specifically "l'Shem Shamayim". For if it is not "l'Shem Shamayim", it is liable to spoil easily.
Maharal - "beautiful is the study of torah with Derech Eretz.." - it is proper to ask:
"Torah with derech eretz" - it seems he should have said instead: "beautiful is torah when there is derech eretz with it (which would imply torah is primary and derech eretz is secondary, not the oppposite).

Another question: "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten". If the reason depends on working hard, if so, let him work hard in talmud torah alone and not go out to work. Thus it will "cause sin to be forgotten" due to the exertion, if all exertion causes sin to be forgotten.

Another question: "And all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work will in the end be nullified.." - but many torah sages did not have a trade...

Another question: "all who toil for the community.." - what is the connection between these things? It seems to be an independent matter and thus he should have made a separation before this such as: "he would say"...

[Answer:] since the words of Rebbi concerned man's deeds, namely, those deeds relating to divine commandments and also middot (good character traits) which bring a person to Olam Haba, therefore, his son came after him to give mussar in "derech eretz". Namely, worldly conduct which is a preparation to success (hachana el hahatzlacha).

It is know that derech eretz which is needed for worldly conduct (hanhagat haolam) takes precedence over the mitzvot in some aspect. Namely, a man needs first derech eretz (work) and afterwards torah, as we will explain shortly.

But nevertheless, the level of derech eretz is below that of the deeds of mitzvot. For the latter are divine deeds above the level of derech eretz which is needed for worldly matters. Therefore, it is proper for the words of Rabban Gamliel which speak on derech eretz to be after the words of Rebbi.

The explanation of this teaching is that Rabban Gamliel came to say that even for things which are of Heaven, such as torah, a man should not say: "it is enough for me to do those only, and 'whoever guards a mitzvah shall know no evil thing' (Kohelet 8:5)".

Therefore, he may think that he will not involve himself in worldly conduct and work.

Rather, a man needs to make the things of Heaven in proper order, namely, that there be first derech eretz and afterwards torah. Thus, "beautiful is the study of torah with Derech Eretz", to not change the proper order, rather derech eretz should come before.

This is as we explained in the introduction, that "derech eretz preceded torah" (derech eretz kadma l'torah). This follows like the creation of man. For wisdom and intellect always come after things which are not so completely of intellect. So too, it is proper for a man to conduct himself also, to first learn derech eretz which is not a matter of intellect and afterwards to draw close to the torah which is (divine) intellect. This is: "beautiful is the study of torah with Derech Eretz".

Regarding that which he said: "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten", we already explained this matter at the end of the previous chapter. Namely, when a man is whole (shalem), without lacking, he is removed from sin. For sin is "lacking" in man. Therefore, it is not proper for sin to be found in man when he is whole. And when a man is whole with both derech eretz and also torah, he lacks nothing and is removed from sin which is "lacking".

But if he is not with derech eretz or not with torah, he is lacking and lacking drags more lacking. This is unlike when he is whole in all, for then he does not go out of his wholeness (shlemut).

But that which he said "for exertion in both", which implies the reason depends on "exertion", that which he toiled and exerted himself, it seems the intent is as follows.

It is proper for a man to toil in these two areas. For man has body and soul. And torah is shlemut (wholeness) of the soul, while derech eretz, namely, what a man needs for his body, livelihood, and other things, makes whole (mashlim) his body. Thus, when he toils in both, sin will be not be found. For toil in both is to make himself whole while to sin is to make himself lacking. Hence, specifically toil in both. For when man toils in that which makes himself completely whole - this "causes sin to be forgotten" which is lacking of himself.

One should not explain the mishna plainly, namely, that because he toils in these two things "sin is forgotten". For according to that explanation, even if he toiled only in derech eretz or only in torah, it should also remove sin.

Furthermore, it is impossible for a man to be toiling always. It is impossible for him to never rest from toiling in these two things and thus come to sin.

But according to our explanation, all is right. For it is not called that he is toiling to make himself whole unless he is doing so in both derech eretz and torah. Because these two things are the hashlamat (making whole) of man. And when he toils in both, [it is considered that he is] toiling and exerting to make himself whole and removed from sin [at all times], even when he is not actually toiling in these two things. For, he is the man who toils to make himself whole and will not come to sin and transgression. For these are loss of oneself (hefsed atzmo).

But if he toils only in torah, then since he does not toil to also make himself whole in that which is also needed for his body, perhaps he will come to sin and transgression. For one needs to toil in making oneself whole and man is comprised of both body and soul. Thus, although he who toils only in torah makes himself whole in torah, but nevertheless he is a lacking man since he lacks what is needed to make his body whole, and lacking drags in more lacking.

All the more so if he does not toil in torah, which is the making whole of his soul - this man is certainly called a lacking man (adam chaser). But if he toils with that which makes him completely whole until he is whole in both of his parts, then he is removed from sin and transgression which are lackings in man.

But if he does not toil in making himself whole, then even if he has much money and does not lack, it does not cause sin to be forgotten from him. This is why the matter [of "forgetting of sin"] was made dependent on both of them (in the mishna, namely, torah and derech eretz).

You should also know regarding "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten", that he attributed the matter to toil and exertion.

Sin and transgression is found when there is sitting (idly) and not toiling. Our sages hinted on this matter (Sanhedrin 106a):

Rabbi Yochanan says: "wherever it says 'vayeshev (he sat down)', it connotes woes (tzar)":
"Yisrael settled (vayeshev) in Shittim" (Bamidbar 25:1) - what is written afterwards? "and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of the Moabites" (Bamidbar 25:1).
"and Yaakov settled (vayeshev)" (Gen.35:1) - what happened afterwards? Yosef was sold into slavery.
"Yisrael settled in the land of Egypt.." (Gen.47:27), what is written afterwards? - "And the time of his death drew near"...

And in the Midrash (Ber.Rabbah 38): " 'Yisrael settled (vayeshev) in Shittim' - whenever it says 'vayeshev' it connotes corrupting, as written (by the golden calf): 'the people sat to eat and drink, and they rose up to merriment'".

In this Midrash they explained the matter that 'sitting' causes the corruption of man. This is because for a man who is toiling, then from the aspect of his toiling, it is as if the shelemut (wholeness) he has does not exist in actuality (b'poel). And he who is not in a state of actual shelemut - he is moving towards wholeness and thus will not draw lacking.

But when one sits and rests as if he already reached the shelemut - lacking and loss will follow this. For in this world, there is no whole thing which loss does not cling to (everything tends to disintegrate). Therefore, loss and inexistence (he'eder, disintegration) follow after this.

But this is not the case for one who toils and lacks hashlama and is heading towards it. For since he is heading towards hashlama, loss do not cling to him.

Our sages hinted to this (Gen.Rabba Noach piske 10): "when is the yetzer hara (evil inclination) placed in a person? When he comes out of his mother's womb, as written: 'for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth' (Gen.8:21)', 'from his youth' (minurav) is written missing a 'vav', read it mishninar (when he moves) to exit his mother's belly, the evil inclination is placed in him".

Now you will ask - why specifically then?

Know that the reason is as we explained. For "the yetzer hara is the satan who is the angel of death" (Bava Batra 16a). And the yetzer hara placed in man is itself the satan and angel of death which brings man to inexistence and death. For it is all one matter.

Therefore, all the time a person has not come out to the world, i.e. he has not become whole and he moves towards becoming whole, inexistence (he'eder) which is the opposite of existence, does not cling to him and two oppposites cannot co-exist together simultaneously.

But immediately when he exits out of his mother's belly and he exists whole in actuality and no longer moves towards (whole) existence, then inexistence which is the yetzer hara who is the satan and the angel of death clings to him as it clings to all things found (in this world).

The general principle of the matter: the yetzer hara and the satan do not have power on something which goes towards existence. This is the meaning of what our sages said: "wherever it says 'vayeshev (he sat down)', it connotes woes (tzar)".

For whoever toils demonstrates that he is not in [his state of] actual shelemut (wholeness). And he who is not in [his state of] shelemut is prepared and progressing towards existence and wholeness. Thus inexistence, which is the satan, does not cling to this.

But when a man sits and demonstrates thereby as if he is in his [state of] actual shelemut, that he is stationary and does not move towards wholeness, then the inexistence (inexistence/disintegration) which clings to created beings follows after this.

Therefore, "wherever it says he sat, it connotes woes" (Sanhedrin 106a). And likewise what they said in a Midrash: "every 'sitting' refers to corrupting" (Ber.Rabbah 38).

For after a 'sitting' is drawn the yetzer hara who is the satan and who is drawn over the created beings when they are in a state of wholeness (b'hashlama). This occurs when one sits and is stationary...

We have clarified that which they said: "for exertion in both causes sin to be forgotten".

For when a man toils in his two parts, sin is removed. For the yetzer hara in man is not found when none of his parts (body or soul) are in actual shlemut. Thus he is removed from sin for the yetzer hara does not skirmish with him (mitgare bo)...

You should understand further some wisdom. Namely, that these two things mentioned, i.e. toil in derech eretz and toil in torah, they correspond to two evil inclinations that the Holy One, blessed be He, created - the evil inclination of erva (lust) and the evil inclination of idolatry.

Through toiling in derech eretz with his body, a man removes the yetzer of erva (lust), while through toiling in torah with his soul (mind), he removes the yetzer of idolatry.

These things are exceedingly deep and this is not the place to elaborate further. We hinted at them a bit here for it all points to the same matter.

And all torah [study] that is not accompanied by work will in the end be nullified.." - ie since he is a lacking man. For he has no work which makes man whole. And, if there is no work with the torah, this is a lacking in man of what is proper for him, and whatever is lacking in itself has no lasting (kiyum).

"and drag [in] sin" - for that which lacks what is proper for it draws more lacking, namely, sin, the greatest of all lacking... although there were many sages who did not have work, but they did do business trade which is like work. Alternatively, their soul so much desired torah that their torah had lasting (kiyum).

"and all who toil for the community.." - he joined together these two things, namely, torah study and toiling for the public since they are similar and related. Because torah is not like a mitzvah. When one does a mitzvah, he is not toiling in something which is "comprehensive" (hakol).

But when one toils in torah, he acquires a "general" (comprehensive) matter. For any matter which is sichli (transcendent intellect) is "general" (klali) and not specific (prati).

This is what our sages said: "one thing in the torah is worth as much as the whole world, as written: 'all your desirable things cannot be compared to it' (Mishlei 3:15)"

Hence, every thing of torah is considered "general/all-encompassing" (klali). This is also the explanation of: "for a mitzva is a candle and torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23). For a mitzvah that a person does is like a candle, which is a single specific candle. But torah is light and it is not relevant to refer to light as a specific "part" (like a candle). For it is not a part.. Thus, he joined to this [previous] teaching on torah to: "all who toil for the community", ie those who toil for the general (klal). For it is not like one who toils just for a specific thing, since this person toils for something general (klali).

Therefore, he said that one's intent should be l'Shem Shamayim. For when one's intent is l'Shem Shamayim, then certainly it can be said that he toils for something klali (all-encompassing). But if his intent is not l'Shem Shamayim.. to inflate himself or pride himself, he is not doing for the tzibur (public) who are the klal (general). And even if his intent is for these [specific] people who are the tzibur, nevertheless, what he does for them is not considered doing for the "klal". Rather, only if he does l'shem shamayim, ie because one should benefit the tzibur because they are a klal and it is proper to benefit the tzibur which is a klal.

This is considered "l'shem shamayim". For Hash-em, blessed be He, is with the tzibur. Therefore, our sages said: "one may attend to communal affairs on the Sabbath" (Shab.150a).

This is because the matters of the tzibur are considered matters of shamayim. Thus, they are in the category of "matters of Shamayim" (cheftzei shamayim) which are permitted (on Shabbat). This is what he said: "let them do so for the sake of Heaven", for the good of the tzibur which is a matter of Heaven (mili d'shamayim).

"for the merit of their forefathers assists them and their righteousness endures forever" - the explanation is that the fathers, namely, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, their merit helps when one toils for the needs of the tzibur. For the "fathers" are fathers of the klal (general). They are not called fathers of the individual (prat). For each individual (prat) has his own specific father. But the fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, are fathers of the klal. Their merit stands and helps the needs of all those that they are fathers to.

Therefore, "their righteousness endures forever". Just like the klalim stand forever, and the klal ie the tzibur is not considered like the individual (prat). For the individuals pass and change, but the klal stands forever.

Even if this tzibur which he toiled for also passes and changes, nevertheless, the name "tzibur" which is the klal, was on them and stands in being a klal. Therefore, "their righteousness endures forever", ie he has great merit in doing good to the tzibur which is the klal and the klal stands forever.

This merit starts from the fathers who were the fathers from the beginning of the world and stands forever. This is what he said: "their righteousness stands forever", ie how great of a merit they are doing for the merit of the fathers helps them and it is as if they are doing a merit which started from the fathers who lived at the beginning of the world and this merit stands forever.

This is what he said: "their righteousness endures forever", ie how great is their merit! For the merit of the fathers helps them and it is as if they do a merit which starts from the fathers, who were in the beginning of the world, and the merit stands forever. Thus is a matter klali. It stands forever and therefore those who toil for the pubic, their merit starts from the fathers and spans until the end of generations, till they did a merit from the beginning of the world till its end.

If the leaders of the Jewish people would understand these things, they would toil with all their strength for the public l'shem shamayim and not for their own benefit.

"And as for you, I [the Almighty] credit you with great reward as if you had done it" - even though the merit of their fathers helps those who toil for the needs of the public, but nevertheless, I will count it as if you yourself did this, not the merit of the fathers. Thus, he did not say "and as for them.." but rather "and as for you..". For the former would imply that it goes back on the forefathers and I would count it as if the forefathers did this, since their merit caused all this. But when he said: "and as for you..", he is speaking to those who toil for the public. This great merit is counted on them, despite that the merit of the fathers caused it...

"for the merit of their forefathers assists them" - as if the forefathers are called their own specific fathers, just like the forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov are called the fathers of all Israel. For since one toils for the needs of the tzibur, it is considered as if he is many (Rabim).

You will find this [idea] when the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himsellf to Moshe in the burning bush. He said: "I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov..." (Shemot 3:6)., as if they were the fathers of Moshe specifically.

Moshe initially thought: "I am the G-d of your father" was referring to Amram. Thus, G-d added: "the G-d of Avraham.."

If so, why the need to say: "the G-d of your father?" Because G-d knew Moshe would refuse to go as His emmissary and say: "who am I to go to Pharaoh?"

Thus, G-d told him: "behold you are toiling in the needs of the tzibur, and the forefathers are fathers to one who toils for the needs of the many, just like they are fathers to the many, and their merit will assist you, as it says: "all who toil for the community, let them do so l'Shem Shamayim, for the merit of their forefathers assists them". Thus He said: "I am the G-d of your father".

This assistance to one who toils for the needs of the tzibur is that Avraham supports his right hand and assists him whether in speech or deed. Yitzchak pushes away and destroys the accusers (mekatregim) on the left side and the opponents of this deed. Yaakov shows him the proper path and the proper deeds to do, as written: "If G-d will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, etc." (Ber.28). Understand this well...

Thus, a man should strive for the good of the tzibur with all of his strength and efforts, as much as he is capable of doing... (next mishna)
Ben Ish Chai - Chasdei Avot - "torah WITH derech eretz" - this needs examination. For he should have said "torah AND derech eretz", each one by itself, and then praise each one individually as deemed fit. For certainly we cannot say that both are equal and should be praised equally. Why did he bind and join them together so closely?

It seems to me to explain, with G-d's help, that he came to teach us the following. Sometimes, one may find himself in a situation where he is obligated by torah to do something, but according to derech eretz (common decency) it appears strange and improper to do. But one who is wise will do this in a proper manner. Then, by doing it in this proper manner he fulfills his torah law duty and also his duty of derech eretz.

I will illustrate with a story of a very rich man whose wife gave birth to a son. He prepared a big feast for the eighth day and invited all the big people of the city in honor of the brit mila.

In that city there were three great and famous torah sages. He invited all three to the party of that night, sending each one an invitation letter as was the custom.

When the invitation letter reached the hands of one of the three sages, he thought to himself: "how could I go to this party? I know that this rich man's party will continue into the entire night. Furthermore, it is not the way of these people to sing praises and songs to Hash-em, but rather only secular songs with all sorts of musical instruments like the custom of the gentiles. Moreover, I will be forced to miss my fixed torah studies on that night and also from reciting Tikun Chatzot (midnight prayer)."

Therefore, he devised an excuse plan for himself to write a letter that he is unable to come due to being a bit sick and not feeling in such good health. Therefore, he is unable to come to the king's table.

The second wise man found out that the first one wrote an apology letter. He thought to himself that if he also writes an apology letter, the rich man will think that their words are not true and are just an excuse to not eat and drink from his food and that they don't trust him in the laws of forbidden food, and this will lead to strong animosity, hatred, and disputes.

Therefore, he agreed to come and decided to do so. The third wise man also was very pained by the invitation. But he thought like the second wise man, that if he does like the first wise man, the rich man will say that this excuse is false and that they are disgusted by his food and drink. Therefore, he also came to the party like the second wise man.

When they arrived, each one sat on a different side of the hall, and they were far from each other. When the musicians began to play the music, the second wise man thought to himself: "what benefit do I have from this sound of music? Better that I ponder in my mind by myself on a difficult sugya (subject) in the talmud that I learned today.

It was a very deep sugya (topic), and that day I had 3 difficult, very strong questions. Two of them were in the commentators and they left them as "tzarich iyun" (needs further investigation), i.e. they were unable to answer them. The third one, he himself found and did not find an answer.

Thus, he contemplated and investigated in his mind on these difficult questions and did not put to heart to hear the sounds of music. He was like a deaf man who does not hear.

His heart was occupied on that sugya to answer those three powerful questions in it. He received great assistance from Heaven and found three good and important answers to these questions and he rejoiced very greatly on this.

Around this time, the time for Tikun Chatzot (midnight prayer) arrived, namely, tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah. He leaned his head on the wall next to his table, put a garment over his head as if he wanted to rest a bit due to fatigue overcoming him and to rest his head a bit while sitting among the guests. This was as the custom of guests when many hours in the night passed, they sleep a bit while sitting.

But he did not sleep. Rather, he recited the Tikun Chatzot silently so that no one would hear his voice, not even those sitting next to him, and he cried during tikun Rachel as his custom. No one noticed anything at all. For he did everything in a total whisper.

Within half an hour, he finished everything and removed the garment from his face and sat up straight as he sat before the Tikun Chatzot.

While the guests were sitting to hear the music, he returned to investigate in his mind in the depths of the sugya and to deduce chidushim (novel insights) of torah until the party was finished.

The guests all got up and left for their homes and none of them sensed anything at all of what happened by him. For they saw him sitting with his face towards the musicians.

But as for the third wise man mentioned earlier who also came to the party, after the musicians began to play music for half an hour, he felt increasingly pained on the waste of time at this party and the loss of torah study night. He was not comfortable in his seat and kept moving back and forth, sometimes to his right, sometimes to his left.

All the guests near him felt how he was very pained on being at this party. For they could see him turning to the right and to the left, sometimes leaning his head on the wall, sometimes putting his head downward, sometimes eyes closed, sometimes eyes open, in such a way that it was evident to all the eyes of the guests that he was very agitated and did not enjoy this party.

After the time of Chatzot (midnight) passed, he saw on his watch that two hours passed since midnight. He became terribly rattled and could no longer hold himself and continue sitting in his place. He got up suddenly and entered the porch in the outer courtyard behind the place of the party.

He sat there on the ground and covered himself with his garment to recite the Tikun Rachel. He screamed out in a loud voice and great crying: "on the rivers of Bavel, there we sat and cried.." as was his normal custom every night, that he reads Tikun Chatzot in his home with great wailing.

The rich man and all the guests became scared of the sound of crying and the words "on the rivers of Bavel..", and he yelled out: "what is that?! Is it Tisha b'Av today?! What is he reading!?"

For the rich man never recited Tikun Chatzot in his life and he also never heard it from others. Only he would go on the eve of Tisha b'Av to the synagogue and hear the chazan before the evening prayer say: "on the rivers of Bavel..", with great crying.

Therefore, he was surprised on the reading of that wise man and he become very furious. Some of the guests who hate the torah sages told him: "this is the way of all the torah scholars, to change the times and periods as they wish". They began to mock and scorn the torah scholars.

But the rich man scorned them back and silenced them, telling them: "if this fool did a foolish thing, why should you mock and slander all the torah scholars? Isn't there here in our party a torah scholar who sits and rejoices in our party, and he is sitting among the guests from the beginning of the night until now, and does not show any change in his sitting. Only this crazy man did a foolish thing, and broke the line of derech eretz. You are not permitted to speak badly against the torah scholars just for that.

The mouths of the scorners was stopped in silence due to these words of the rich man.

Thus, the first wise man who fled from the party and did not come due to bitul torah, did not avail in annuling this mocking which the strong men tried to mock the torah scholars.

On the contrary, the strong men would tell the rich man: "also that first torah scholar who wrote you a letter, he too is disgusted by your food and drink and gave you a false excuse not to come".

But the second wise man who came to fulfill proper derech eretz after the rich man invited him to participate in the party in honor of the mitzvah of Brit Mila - he fulfilled his duty also from the side of torah. For he sat at the party and pondered words of torah without being noticed. Rather, everyone thought he sat and rejoiced on the sounds of music like all the other guests.

Thus, he fulfilled his duty from the side of torah and also from the side of derech eretz.

Great benefit resulted in his conduct to annul and drive off the mockings of the strong men against the torah scholars, who brazenly opened their mouths to mock all the torah scholars.

Due to his conduct, the rich man silenced them and scorned them, and the torah scholars became honorable in his eyes.

But the third wise man broke out of the boundary of derech eretz in fulfilling the torah in reciting Tikun Chatzot, and he did not know how to hold on to both and fulfill both like the second wise man. He brought shame to himself, his torah, and to the torah scholars and their torah. For the strong men found an opportunity to scorn everything.

On this and similar, the tanna came to teach wise mussar so that if a time comes when fulfilling torah conflicts with fulfilling derech eretz, one needs to be wise to find a way to fulfill both...
Daat Chachma u'Mussar 2:105 - Those who toil for the congregation stand before a difficult riddle. For it is impossible for them in any way to pave a path to the heart of the congregation.

They are in great confusion. How and with what intent should one conduct himself with the congregation? They consider it a problem which can be solved by human powers. But this is a mistake. For one does not know the inner soul of a person. Thus not only is it impossible in any way to find the path to the heart of the congregation, but so too the path to one's own self he will not find in any way.

For this is beyond the powers of man. Thus, all of a man's service is only the "l'Shem Shamayim". This is what needs to be from man's side. And then, he will be led and established on the true foundation and not fall - "[Know Him in all your ways] and He will direct your paths" (Mishlei 3:6). And our sages said: "And all who toil for the community, let them do so for the sake of Heaven (l'Shem Shamayim)".

Only in this way is the service of man. Whether he works on himself or whether he works on the tzibur.
Chida - Zeroah Yamin - "and all who toil, etc. And as for you, etc." - he started in third person and ended second person "and you". Perhaps this is to hint that one should toil l'Shem Hamayim in a hidden manner. For since he is l'Shem Shamayim, he works truthfully secretly, without showing or telling his work and labor to others, because he toils (solely) for His blessed Name. If he does thus, Hash-em who knows and is a witness, will reveal his righteousness and publicize his matter. On this he said: "and you", second person tense..
Chida - Kikar l'Eden - "And all who toil for the tzibur, let them do so l'Shem Shamayim" (Kabalistic) - we may say, if the tzibur is in pain, they should toil for the honor of the Shechina. For we learned: "When a person suffers, what does the Shechina say? As if, "Oy My head is light; My arm is light" (Mishna Sanhedrin 6:5), and all the more when the congregation is in pain that there is pain, so to speak, to the Shechina. Toil with this intent - to alleviate the pain of the Shechina, so to speak.

Chida - Marit Haayin - (kabalistic) - i.e. l'yached Kudsha berich Hu u'Shechintei. "Shem" is Malchut. "Shamayim" is "Kudsha berich Hu", and to remove the pain from the Shechina, so to speak...