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Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 4 Mishna 22
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 4 Mishna 22פרק ד משנה כב
Rabbi Elazar Hakapar would say: jealousy, lust, and [desire for] honor remove a person from the world. רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקַּפָּר אוֹמֵר, הַקִּנְאָה וְהַתַּאֲוָה וְהַכָּבוֹד, מוֹצִיאִין אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם:

Bartenura - "lust" - seeking to fulfill one's lust in eating, drinking, intercourse, or the like.

"(desire for) honor" - that people honor him.
Rashi - "jealousy" - which a man has of his fellow, as written: "jealousy rots the bones" (Mishlei 14:30).

"lust" - he lusts for a lot of money, as written: "he who loves money will not be satiated by money" (Kohelet 5:9).

"honor" - for "dominion buries its possessor" (Pesachim 87b).
Rambam - for through these traits or one of them, a person will necessarily lose faithfulness to the torah and will fail to attain virtues of the intellect or character traits.
Siftei Daat on Avot (R.Yerucham Levovitz) - "jealousy, lust, and [desire for] honor" - all other middot (bad character traits) are included in these three traits (Vilna Gaon).
Ruach Chaim - "jealousy.." - through these three traits he wastes all his days to chase after the superfluous.. he wants to be like his fellow in food, drink, honorable garments, etc. etc..
Tiferet Yisrael - "jealousy" - out of jealousy to have as much or more than his fellow, he lusts to amass money even if it entails danger to life.

"lust" - physical lust which causes him sometimes to squander his money or dignity. Likewise due to physical indulgences he becomes lazy from torah and wisdom.

"honor" - this refers to arrogance. Also due to this, he will squander all that he has and endanger himself.

"remove a person from the world" - this world and the world to come. For besides the evils they cause in this world, there is no sin in the world which is not caused by one of these three causes.
Ahava b'Taanugim - "jealousy, lust, and honor" - the Tanna mentioned these three things which "remove a person from the world". Even though there are many things which "remove a person from the world" such as sins which incur the death penalty, but these three things are natural in a man and each one is all-encompassing in that he transgresses the whole torah or most of it. Thus, he did not mention the rest since human nature does not push a person to go after them like these three.

"Jealousy" - one who has jealousy of the good of his fellow and does not want him to have any good or virtue - he transgresses "love your fellow as yourself" which is the general principle of the whole torah (Shabbat 31a). Furthermore "jealousy rots the bones" (Mishlei 14:30), and he will die before his time. Likewise due to jealousy he may come to harm his fellow and incur death or the like.

"Lust" - by nature, a man lusts to have more good than his fellow. Thus he strives with all his might to amass money in permitted or forbidden ways and through great strain. Thus he will fall in the hands of the Beit Din (courts of law) and die or the like.

"Honor" - likewise by nature there are people who wish to have more than their fellow, whether in permitted or forbidden ways and they debase the honor of their fellows who may come to kill them or the like.

Thus, he warned against these three things which are human nature and not other things.

Some explain that these three things correspond to the three things Rabbi Yehoshua brought (evil eye, evil inclination, hatred of others). For jealousy comes from an evil eye. Namely, his eye is evil on others. Lust comes from Yetzer Hara (evil inclination), the inciter of all lusts. Hatred of others stems from honor. For the primary cause that a man hates other people is due to honor. Namely, he thinks they are not honoring him as he deserves.
Sfat Noach 5656 - the parshas (chapters) of Kain, the generation of the flood, and the generation of the tower of Bavel were written because every man has within himself something of these generations and he needs to rectify himself. They correspond to the levels of jealousy, lust, and honor. Kain is jealousy, the generation of the flood is lust, and the generation of the tower of Bavel is honor...
Toldot Yaakov Yosef, Vayeshev "jealousy" - he is jealous of others due to seeing something he does not have, whether in material or spiritual matters. He hates his fellow a baseless hatred (sinat chinam) due to the jealousy. This is the opposite of the humble man who finds favor in the eyes of every man since he sees that all of them are better than himself. Therefore, they hate him and remove him from the congregation of the world (klalut haOlam)...

"lust" - great lust is the opposite of contentment (being satisfied with one's portion) and the whole world is not enough for him. This too removes a person from the world..

"honor" - when troubles come in life he is unable to bear it and they remove him from the world. For "in his pride the wicked man does not seek him; G-d is not in all his thoughts" (Tehilim 10:4).
Meorei Ohr - "jealousy" - such as when a man is jealous of his fellow because the fellow is greater than him in wisdom. He wants his fellow to be an ignoramus (am haaretz) like himself. This is the worst - that he is not wise and wants that no wise men exist in the world. Such a person hates G-d and His torah.

Likewise, even if he himself is wise but nevertheless, he is jealous of his fellow and wants that there not exist in the world a wise man greater than himself. This too is an evil trait which brings to hatred. These traits are likewise found regarding wealth (the rich).

Due to these traits disputes arise and they will come to severe sins such as murder, as written: "if, however, a man hates his neighbor and lies in wait, attacks him and kills him.." (Devarim 19:11), as brought in the Midrash there and as happened to Kain with Hevel..

"lust" - this refers to one who goes after his heart's lust, whether in food, drink, or intercourse, etc..

All this is well known and the damages that result are many and lead to death. For example heavy eating (achila gassa) causes illness and painful death. The siman (sign) of the matter (Bamidbar 11:34): "kivrot hataava" (graves of lust). And when he gives his strength to women (excessive intercourse) old age jumps on him (ie he ages quickly). Likewise he transgresses the will of his Maker to fulfill his lust in forbidden ways and thus he becomes banished from the world to come...

"honor" - this refers to pursuing dominion over others. This takes a person out of this world, for "Rabbanut buries its owner" (Berachot 55a). Thus Yosef died before his brothers. It can also take a person out of the World-to-Come as happened to Yeravam ben Nevat. G-d told him "repent and you, Myself and Ben Yishai will walk in Gan Eden. He asked: "who will be at the head?" G-d replied "Ben Yishai". Yeravam said: "if so, I don't want" (Sanhedrin 102a).
Chochma u'Mussar 2:201 - there is one type of jealousy which is very praiseworthy. Namely "the jealousy of scholars increases wisdom" (Bava Batra 21a). This is when a person wants to attain a virtue just like his fellow. This is good and desirable.

But one who is jealous thinking "why does my fellow have this good thing?" And he wishes that his fellow be without it like him. This is a very evil diseases and it removes him from the world.
Rov Dagan - "jealousy.." - this is analogous to a flesh and blood king who has ministers, deputies, servants, etc. each one appointed according to the level appropriate to them. If one of the lowly servants complains and whines to the king: "why does he serve as deputy to the king, etc. (and I am but a lowly servant)" Immediately, the king's anger is kindled against him and he loses what was in his hands and is punished severely.

How much more so for the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, whose glory fills the world - when the jealous people sit and speak before Him on their good fellows whom they are jealous of. Certainly, they are rebelling against the King. Therefore, they are removed from the world and what is in their hands is taken away, as before.
Chochma u'Mussar 2:305 - "lust" - the way of lust to cunningly trap souls is as follows. At first, it tells a man "but is not this (superfluous) thing permitted?" Afterwards, the person becomes filled with desire to fulfill his lust also in a minor forbidden thing. Eventually, it leads him to fulfill his lust even in a severe forbidden thing.

This is what our sages said regarding the Ben Sorer (wayward son): "just because he ate a tartimar (portion) of meat and drank a half lug of italian wine, the torah says "execute him..". Rather, the torah judges him on his end.. in the end he will seek (torah) but will not find.. and he will rob people. The torah teaches better he die now meritorious and not die guilty [later]".

For after the symptoms of lust begin to flash in him, he will go from the light to the severe more and more. Thus his death now is better than his life..

For this is the way of the lustful. At first it was a very small matter, but afterwards they are immersed in everything forbidden...
Lev Tzadik - in the book Be'er Mayim Chayim: "we spoke about this already many times that the whole matter of lust is the root of the evil klipot. And when a man fulfills his lust willingly, he is cast down and placed under the hands of the klipot and his heart is no longer in his control.

Then due to his habit and his being drawn after the lust he will no longer be able to forego his lust even if it means committing a severe sin. From then he will progress to the worst wickedness and evils."
Chochma u'Mussar 2:48 - man's service is to train himself to go against his will. Man naturally lusts for things like eating, drinking, intercourse, money, etc. Man desires to attain them and wants and rejoices when he attains them.

But the intelligent person will understand that they are ephemereal things and not many people rejoice in them. Therefore, one should strive to desire things which stand and endure forever, pleasant and good in quantity and quality...
Daat Zekenim - "remove THE man from the world" - ha'Adam - THE man (ha-Adam), ie even the well known man, ie a great man (R.Yitzchak Blazer in name of R.Yisrael Salanter. He wrote that these were the final words of R.Yisrael Salanter before his death).
Maharal - "remove THE man (haAdam) from the world" - known that these three things are very prone to this and they removed THE man (haAdam) from the world, namely Adam, the first man.

You will find that the tree which Adam ate from which brought him death - it had these three things.. (see there for more).
Daat Zekenim - "remove THE man from the world" - ie remove a man from the inner world to the external world, the world of the senses. For there exists an inner world with inner limbs, namely, sichliot (spiritual). And there likewise exists an external world with external limbs, namely, physical senses.

These two worlds have no connection whatsoever to each other. And it is possible for a man to be so much immersed in the external world, the world of [physical] senses, until he becomes divested of the spiritual. He "goes out" completely from the inner world.

This is the secret of the matter and severity of jealousy, lust, and honor which remove a man from the inner world and brings him to the external world, the world of the [physical] senses, until he descends ch'v down to the pit (she'ol tachtit).

Man's service is to enter inside the inner world and to go out completely from the external world until he divests himself from the gashmiut (physicality/material)..

We find in the words of our sages that Rav Yosef and Rav Sheshet were blind. It is written in the Teshuvot Hageonim (Siman 178, brought in Choshen Mishpat chelek aleph, 111) that they were blind because they conducted themselves in a matter of piety of Rav who was accustomed to not look outside his four amot (cubits). They were unable to stand up to this until they blinded themselves.

Even though a blind man is exempt from all the mitzvot (kidushin 31a) and considered as a dead man (nedarim 64b), nevertheless, it was worth it for them to blind their eyes in order to not look outside their four amot (cubits).

The secret of the matter is that using (excessively) the external senses,even just physical seeing outside one's four amot, this causes such darkness and blackness to the inner limbs. For the secret and severity of lust is in this that one exits the inner world through using the external limbs and senses... (see there for more. note such extreme levels of asceticism are only appropriate for extremely exceptional sages)
"Matanat Avot" - "jealousy.." - in this mishna, the Tanna (sage) comes to explain to us that jealousy, lust, and honor causes whoever is immersed in them to come out of the real world and live inside a bubble detached from reality.

This is also the reason he continues to pursue these things all the time. For he is immersed in imaginations and fantasies that if he attains what he seeks, he will be the happiest person in the world and all his problems and troubles will disappear.

Let us start to explain each one be'H.

"Jealousy" - the entire existence of the jealous person is that he sees something precious by his fellow which he lacks. He imagines that if only he would attain that thing for himself, he would be extremely happy and full of joy.

But he does not know the basic fundamental principle that every Jew needs to know, namely, that if this were good for you, G-d would have also given you this. And if He did not give you this, then certainly it is not fitting for you.

Besides this, there is another problem of "there is no end to this" (ein le'davar sof). If you think this thing by your fellow will grant you happiness, tomorrow you will find something else by another person which "only that" will grant you happiness.

The day after that you will find yet something else by another person that "there is nothing but that" (ein od milvado) to bring the "true happiness" which you are so waiting for.

Thus you waste your life constantly chasing after some virtual pleasure which you imagine it alone will make you rich and happy and fill you with true satisfaction.

But in the end of the matter, you found no satisfaction from this. All you succeeded was to waste your life amassing more and more portions of "jealousy is rot of the bones" (Mishlei 14:30).

"Lust" - this too is on the same foundation as jealousy. Jealousy is when I see something by someone which I don't have. Lust is more general. This is when a man lusts and is "fired up" after something specific. He begins to imagine in his twisted imaginations how much he will be happy and full of satisfaction after he attains his lust.

Due to this imaginary cloud which envelopes him, he chases after his lusts like a wild animal. He is prepared to transgress the whole torah for this and trample anyone in his path in order to attain his lust. For he imagines that if he could just attain that lust, all the joy of the world will be in his hand.

Our sages already said on this: "there is a small organ in man; he who satisfies it is hungry and he who allows it to hunger is satisfied" (Sanhedrin 107a). It seems to me their intent is not only on the lust for women as is usually explained, but for all lusts which a person lusts for. The more he succeeds in attaining his lust, the more hungry it comes back at him. His lust only increases over time.

"Honor" - here too, the matter is familiar and evident. If a person wants honor from his neighbors and immediate surroundings and he does all sorts of acts in order to impress and draw their admiration, and he is certain that "if I only attain honor from them then that is everything and I will already be tranquil and not need honor from anyone else" - a bitter error is in his hands.

This thought came to him only because he already "came out of the world". He lives inside an imaginary bubble detached from reality.

There are some more severe cases. Some people are certain that the whole world honors them and looks at them with blind admiration. Therefore they permit themselves to do all sorts of "classy things" like the "rich people" which they strive to emulate.

They think that through this, they will appear more honorable in the eyes of people. But everyone standing at the side who looks at their "classy acts" laugh pitifully at those poor people. For due to their great striving after honor, they inherit only more and more disgrace.

May the Merciful One save us from these three reprehensible traits and their branches.
Yachel Yisrael - the Rashbatz explains what is the uniqueness of the THREE mishnas which count the things which "remove a man from the world".

In Avot 2:11, Rabbi Yehoshua said: "an evil eye, an evil inclination, and hatred of others - remove a man from the world". The intent is from THIS world. One who is afflicted by these traits - his life is not a life.

On the other hand, in Avot 3:10, Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas said: "morning sleep, afternoon wine, and sitting with the assemblies of the ignorant - remove a man from the world". The intent here is from the WORLD-TO-COME. For in this world, it appears he is "nicely" wasting his time. He rests nicely, enjoys fine wine, is well mixed socially (daato meurav im habriot), and so on.

His situation will reveal itself only in the end - that in truth he "wasted" his time. Time, which is man's most precious thing, he squandered and wasted it, not utilizing it properly. He will sense this fact only in the world of reward, when he arrives there empty handed and without any merits for receiving reward.

Now comes a third mishna. Rabbi Elazar Hakafar says there are three other evils which are higher than all of them - "jealousy, lust, and honor removes a person from the world" - BOTH worlds. One afflicted by these traits has no tranquility in this world, and of course, he will not enjoy contentment in the World-to-Come.

Thus, these three traits remove a man from this world. No need to elaborate. Whoever is afflicted by one of these, his life is not a life.

The jealous person "eats himself" in seeing all the success of his fellow. The lustful person slays himself in running after his lusts. He who lusts for honor loses his mental composure due to a mere shadow of coldness [from others]. If he does not attain the honor he hopes for, his whole world crumbles down.

Furthermore, one who suffers from these traits loses his portion in the World-to-Come.

The common denominator of these three traits is that they completely engulf a man, not leaving him any opening or room to fulfill his duties in this world.

The jealous person spends his whole life trying to quiet his jealousy. The lustful person spends all his energy trying to quiet his lusts. Likewise, one who chases after honor, all his thoughts revolve around one swivel - attaining honor.

Thus it is evident that such a person is not free to spends his days and seconds on the true purpose [of life]. His acts are not aligned towards doing righteousness and kindliness. His mind is not free to attain wisdom [of torah]. Thus, a man afflicted with these evils inherits pain and anger in this world and humiliation in the future world-to-Come.
Chachmat Hamatzfon, Yitro - without torah, the world cannot endure. For jealousy, lust, and honor remove a person from the world. The torah is like an iron bridge which holds a man to not fall in the raging sea of life.

Thus, all of a man's deliberation (shikul daat) should be only in the torah - to deepen and widen (understanding) from all sides. Namely, that all of one's deeds and matters be on the side of true perfection . Only then can a man stand and endure in life.

The moment he finds that he has no bias of self interest, and he can renounce all of his self if the torah chooses so, and all his gaze and aspiration is solely to seek what is the way of torah - whether this way or that way, and he himself has no personal interest in all the circumstances he finds himself in, and he can renounce all his past and all his habits, and anything that he deems detrimental and distracting, it is proper to distance from them - only then will the torah guide him to all of its successes.