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Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 5 Mishna 6
with select commentaries

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

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

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Chapter 5 Mishna 6פרק ה משנה ו
Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Temple.
[1] no woman ever miscarried from the scent of the sacred meat [of the sacrifices].
[2] the sacred meat never rotted.
[3] no fly was ever seen in the place of slaughter.
[4] the high priest never experienced a nocturnal emission on Yom Kippur.
[5] the rain never extinguished the wood-fire upon the altar.
[6] no wind ever prevailed over the column of smoke [rising from the altar].
[7] no disqualification was ever found in the Omer, the Two Loaves, or the Shew-bread.
[8] though the people stood pressed together, they had ample room in which to prostrate themselves.
[9] No snake or scorpion ever injured anyone in Jerusalem.
[10] no man ever said to his fellow: "the place is too crowded for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem".
עֲשָׂרָה נִסִּים נַעֲשׂוּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ. לֹא הִפִּילָה אִשָּׁה מֵרֵיחַ בְּשַׂר הַקֹּדֶשׁ, וְלֹא הִסְרִיחַ בְּשַׂר הַקֹּדֶשׁ מֵעוֹלָם, וְלֹא נִרְאָה זְבוּב בְּבֵית הַמִּטְבָּחַיִם, וְלֹא אֵרַע קֶרִי לְכֹהֵן גָּדוֹל בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, וְלֹא כִבּוּ גְשָׁמִים אֵשׁ שֶׁל עֲצֵי הַמַּעֲרָכָה, וְלֹא נָצְחָה הָרוּחַ אֶת עַמּוּד הֶעָשָׁן, וְלֹא נִמְצָא פְסוּל בָּעֹמֶר וּבִשְׁתֵּי הַלֶּחֶם וּבְלֶחֶם הַפָּנִים, עוֹמְדִים צְפוּפִים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים רְוָחִים, וְלֹא הִזִּיק נָחָשׁ וְעַקְרָב בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מֵעוֹלָם, וְלֹא אָמַר אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ צַר לִי הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁאָלִין בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם.

Maharal - "ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Temple.."- as to why miracles were performed in the temple, this is because the temple was holy and G-d's Name was upon there. Thus if no miracles were there, it would be just like other places. This would not be proper. For it was called a temple (mikdash) in that it was holy and separate from nature. Therefore, ten miracles were performed there and as we mentioned earlier, the number ten points to a level above the natural order..

As to why these miracles specifically, you should know that this world is a world of origination and loss (ex. birth and death). But the temple has a quality divested from the realm of origination and loss. Thus, it is proper for all its qualities and miracles performed there to be counter to loss/corrosion.

For as we explained many times, this death/inexistence clings only to the physical. But things divested of the physical are not prone to loss. Therefore, the temple which had holiness, it is proper for it to have divestment from loss which stems from the nature of physical things which are not in the realm of the divested.. Thus all the miracles there were a distancing from loss/corrosion...

As to why the final one speaks of Jerusalem and not just the temple, this is because the ten miracles correspond to the ten sefirot. They are brought here in reverse order starting with the lowest - a woman never had a miscarriage. For the woman is last and receives from another.. The last miracle regarding all of Jerusalem is collective and includes everything. It corresponds to the higher level (Sefirah) which includes everything.. (see there for more).
Ohr Yechezkel chelek gimel, maamar vayishma yitroMaharal - "ten miracles.." - this was only regarding outside, but regarding inside the whole temple was full of miracles. For G-d's conduct in the temple was openly revealed. Everyone saw with their own eyes the conduct of G-d and there was no room at all to attribute it to nature.

Each and every person must recognize this fundamental principle (yesod). For this is the primary service of man - to know that there is no "nature" in the world. Everything was formed by G-d and there is nothing besides Him (ein od milvado).

This recognition is the purpose of the entire creation and this is our primary job (avodah) in this world - to know that there is nothing but Him (ein od milvado).

To reach this fundamental principle (yesod) is no small matter. For we see that despite all of Yitro's greatness, nevertheless he did not reach this understanding of ein od milvado (there is nothing but G-d).

We merited to attain this recognition when the temple stood. For we saw tangibly that nature does not rule at all but rather it is ein od milvado (nothing but Him, i.e. G-d is behind nature).

The more one feels this foundation and primary matter (yesod v'ikar zeh), the more he will be among the mourners of Jerusalem. For he knows and understands what is his primary service and he recognizes that when the temple stood, everyone saw tangibly that there is nothing but Him (ein od milvado).

This is the primary job of man (ikar avodat haAdam) - to attain recognition of this foundation. And even with a small recognition of this, a person can merit great and awesome things. Therefore, every person must strive to acquire for himself recognition in these foundations.
Daat Zekenim - "ten miracles.." - in the Maharal: "since the temple was holy and divested from nature, therefore miracles were performed there outside the natural order of the world".

We find that the forefathers guarded the natural order (see Ramban on Shemot 12:22). When Avraham saw the people working the land in its proper times, he said: "halevai (would that it were) that my portion be in this land", ie he saw that in this land they guarded the natural order and were afraid to go out of its laws and boundaries.

Likewise it is said by the prophet Shmuel when G-d commanded him to go: "Shmuel said to G-d: 'but how can I go? Shaul will hear and he will kill me..'" (Shmuel I 16:2). Even though G-d commanded him to go anoint David as king. For Shmuel guarded the natural order and did not rely on a miracle..

In Michah: "O My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab planned, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him.. so that you may know the righteous acts of G-d" (Michah 6:5).

Behold to know the "righteous acts of G-d" the prophet Michah does not mention the matter of the Exodus from Egypt or the splitting of the Red Sea but rather the story of the blessings of Bilaam. What was so special about that?

Rather the secret of the matter is that Bilaam was evil and had an evil eye. G-d knew just how much [harm] he could do with his evil eye. G-d changed him to the good all that time he sought to curse the Jews and instead of cursing them, he blessed them.. We learn from here that to change the nature of a man from evil to good is an even greater wonder than to change the nature of physical things like the miracles of Egypt or the splitting of the Red Sea.

Thus to know the "righteous acts of G-d", the greatest testimony is that which Bilaam's nature was changed from evil to good and he blessed the Jewish people.

And even so, our sages said: "better the curses of Achi Hashiloni than the blessings of the wicked Bilaam" (Sanhedrin 105b, for his blessings were mixed with evil). For this is the secret of the matter - the nature of something cannot be changed or budged from its place under any circumstances.

This raises the question: the purpose of man's service is to change and perfect himself to become completely good. But how is this possible? For as before it is impossible to change the nature of something.

Our sages teach us a great foundation in this. In the talmud: "a mountain is hard, but iron cuts it. iron is hard, but fire melts it ..". (Bava Batra 10a, Rashi: "softens it")).

The matter is that iron is hard and in truth it is impossible to soften it. Even if we toil for many days to soften it, nevertheless it is impossible for us to change its [solid] nature.

However, "fire melts it". For thus nature was ordained. Fire is a thing antagonist to iron and it can soften iron until it becomes soft like butter.

So too here in our matter. Holiness is a trait like humility or arrogance, etc. The trait of holiness is a trait above nature. Thus, nature melts down and yields to holiness just like hard iron becomes soft as butter before fire.

Even though nature is very strong and it is impossible to budge it and change it in any way. But the trait of holiness is above nature and thus it bends and annuls nature. For this is the secret of holiness...

This is the true explanation to what our sages said:
Said R.Papa to Abaye: how is it that for the former generations miracles were performed and for us miracles are not performed? It cannot be because of their [superiority in] study, because in the years of Rav Yehudah the whole of their studies was confined to Nezikin, and we study all six Orders.. And yet when Rav Yehudah merely took off one shoe, rain would come, whereas we torment ourselves and cry loudly, and no notice is taken of us! He replied: The former generations used to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of [G-d's] name; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of [G-d's] name (Berachot 20a).
For miracles are above nature, the annulment of nature. And "in the measure with which a man measures it is meted out to him?" (Sotah 8b). Thus the early ones who would sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of G-d's Name, and the matter of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) is above nature, from the secret of holiness. Therefore, according to their level of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) they merited miracles which is the annulment of nature.

Thus "10 miracles were performed for our fathers in the temple.." since in a place of holiness, nature bows and yields.