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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 7
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 7פרק ה משנה ז
Ten things were created at twilight on the Sabbath eve. They are: [1] the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach], [2] the mouth of [Miriam's] well, [3] the mouth of [Bilaam's] mule, [4] the rainbow, [5] the Manna, [6] the staff [of Moses], [7] the Shamir [worm], [8] the text, [9] the writing, [10] the tablets [of the ten commandments]. And some say also the mazikim (evil spirits), the sepulcher (grave) of Moses, and the ram of Avraham our father. And some say: [the original] tongs, for tongs are [subsequently] made with tongs.
עֲשָׂרָה דְבָרִים נִבְרְאוּ בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת בֵּין הַשְּׁמָשׁוֹת, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן, פִּי הָאָרֶץ, וּפִי הַבְּאֵר, וּפִי הָאָתוֹן, וְהַקֶּשֶׁת, וְהַמָּן, וְהַמַּטֶּה, וְהַשָּׁמִיר, וְהַכְּתָב, וְהַמִּכְתָּב, וְהַלּוּחוֹת. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים, אַף הַמַּזִּיקִין, וּקְבוּרָתוֹ שֶׁל משֶׁה, וְאֵילוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים, אַף צְבָת בִּצְבָת עֲשׂוּיָה.

Matanat Avot - even though these things were needed only after many years, the Creator needed to create them in the beginning of creation.

For they are not needed in a fixed way by human beings, therefore they were not created during the actual six days of creation but rather at the end of the sixth day near the closure of the creation era. For these things are closer to miracles outside the natural order of the world. Thus, they could not be created in the six days of the creation of nature. Only after the six days were finished and bein hashmashot (twilight) arrived, which is not really part of the day, - then it was the time to create these things...
Bartenura - "twilight" - on the eve of the Sabbath of Genesis, before the creation was complete.

"the mouth of the earth" - to swallow Korach and his congregation.

"the mouth of [Miriam's] well" - which followed the Jewish people in the desert in all their travels..

"the mouth of the mule" - at the twilight it was decreed that it would speak with Bilaam (Bamidbar 22:28).

"the rainbow" - as a sign of the covenant to not bring another flood.

"the Manna" - which fell from the sky forty years in the desert.

"the staff" - used to make the signs (miracles).

"the Shamir" - a sort of worm the size of a barley seed.. [used to cut stone since metal was fobidden]

"the text" - the form of the letters which were chiseled on the tablets.

"the writing" - which was [miraculously] readable from all four angles.

"the tablets" - they were made of saphire..

"evil spirits" - these are the demons. After G-d created Adam and Chava (Eve), He toiled in creating them. When He created their spirit, He did not have time to create their bodies until the Sabbath came. Thus, they remained spirits without bodies (Bereisheit Rabba 7:5).

"the Ram of Avraham" - it was decreed at the twilight that it would get entangled on the foliage at the time of the Akeidah (sacrifice of Isaac).

"tongs" - the tongs are only made with other tongs. Thus, who made the first tongs? Perforce it was created miraculously from Heaven. However, the Talmud rejects this since it is possible to make them with a mould by pouring molten metal in the mould..
Merkevet Hamishna - this mishna teaches an important principle. Namely, it informs us that G-d looks and knows all that will happen from the beginning. He looks and sees till the end of generations and knows that everything He created has a need in its proper time..
Tiferet Yisrael - "twilight" - it does not mean literally that these things were created at the twilight (ben hashmashot). For is it conceivable that the ram of Avraham our forefather or the mule of Bilaam lived thousands of years and the torah conceals this miracle from us? Rather, it means the potential for this was implanted in the creation for it to come out in its time.

"the mouth of the earth" - for the ground was given a power at this place to open it's mouth and swallow the congregation of Korach and close afterwards. It was like a wild animal which opens its jaws and kills its prey in anger and then swallows it and closes its mouth..

"the mouth of the well" - it was a round rock and since Moshe struck it in the desert, it would give out water at all times. This rock rolled with them everywhere in the desert like a portable wellspring. Thus all their forty years in the great fearsome desert, they did not lack water..

"the mouth of the mule" - G-d implanted the first mule the ability to produce this mule in the generation of Moshe.

"the rainbow" - G-d implanted nature with the ability to produce the rainbow effect in the atmosphere in order to be a sign to rebellious human beings that they are deserving of destruction and to recall the kindness of G-d (that He witholds this). For in His mercy, G-d remembers the covenant [with Noah].

"the manna" - it had many wonders. It melted in the heat of the sun like a congealed liquid but nevertheless they needed to grind it and cook it and it did not turn to liquid in the oven. Furthermore, if left overnight, it rotted and became wormy. Even so, on the Sabbath night it did not rot nor become wormy.

Furthermore, every day when they measured in their homes what they collected outside, whether a little or a lot, every person found it was what he needed for himself and his family for one day. On fridays each person found it was a double portion relative to the rest of the week (due to the Sabbath). All these wonders occurred for them in their daily bread all the time they were in the Beit Midrash of Moshe Rabenu (40 years).

This was to make known how much G-d's providence is on His servants who guard the torah.

"the staff of Moshe" - it was made of Sapiron (Saphire) and was created with the Name of G-d engraved in it. It was through the power of this Name that he did the signs (miracles). But when Moshe first found it. he did not know its powers until G-d informed him and told him to take this staff in his hand.

"mazikim" - spirits of destruction. the wicked are punished through them in the next world and sometimes also in this world. They are of much lower level spirituality than ministering angels.

"sepulcher" - for this cave was created miraculously. After Moshe was buried there, it was hidden away, as written: "no man knows of his grave to this day" (Devarim 34:6).

"the ram of Avraham" - it was decreed on one of the rams in the creation era that one of its offsprings would remain ownerless so that Avraham will not offer a stolen ram and that at the time of the Akeidah (sacrifice of Yitzchak), it would run to Avraham and get entangled there by its horns.
Machzor Vitri - "the staff" - with it Moshe split the Red Sea. There was nothing like it in the world. It had the Shem Hameforash (42 letter Name of G-d) chiseled on it. Adam gave it to Shet and every generation bequeathed it to the next until Yaakov descended to Egypt and gave it to Yosef. When Yosef died, the servants of Pharaoh searched everything in Yosef's palace and they brought it to the treasuries of Pharaoh.

Yitro the [future] father-in-law of Moshe was there who was one of the astrologers of Pharaoh. He knew through his astrology the importance of the staff. He took it and implanted it in the garden of his house and it fixed in the ground. He saw through his astrology that whoever was able to pull it out would become the savior of the Jews. Many people tried and failed. When Moshe arrived, he stood and pulled it out. Yitro imprisoned him in a pit in his courtyard. Love of Moshe entered Tzipora's heart and she asked her father for Moshe's hand in marriage. Yitro accepted and he married her to Moshe.

"mazikim" - [evil] spirits and demons, etc. G-d did not finish creating them until the Sabbath arrived. Therefore, the eye does not have the power to see them for they are like a wind..
Gefen Poriah - "mazikim (evil spirits)" - the intent is not that G-d initially wanted to make them with body and soul. For man was intentionally created alone for many reasons as brought in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a). If these (Mazikim) were also created [with body and soul], then man would not have been created alone. Furthermore, is it conceivable that A-lmighty G-d did not have enough time? Without a doubt, He can create a thousands worlds instantly with one single saying.

Rather, G-d intentionally created the world like this. This was to teach human beings that they too should try to do and not be upset if their work may be cut short in the middle before the Sabbath (ie death).
Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - "mazikim" - from this a man can recognize the kindness of G-d towards him and how many hidden miracles and wonders G-d does for him every moment that he does not see.

Thus it is written: "who alone does great wonders [for His mercy endures forever]" (Tehilim 136:4) - ie G-d alone knows what He does, but man does not see or recognize.. Man can recognize this through the matter of the Mazikim. For certainly there are many mazikim which are demons in the world, as our sages said in Berachot: "if the [human] eye were granted permission to see [the mazikim], no one would be able stand up [out of terror].." (Berachot 4a). See there.

Despite this, we see that no man is injured from them. Thus, it is clear from here that G-d performs many great miracles for a man every second to save him from the mazikim. But man does not see this miracle done for him. So too, there are many other miracles done for him every second which he does not see.

Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - "the rainbow" - it represents the "ot brit kodesh" (holy covenant of the Brit) which upholds the world. The rainbow has three (main) colors. This hints that the (righteous) man who upholds the world must be whole, pure, and holy in three areas, namely, (1) thought, (2) speech, and (3) deed. He should not be lacking in his holiness in these three areas.

Through this, he will be worthy of upholding the world. And therefore this was hinted in the rainbow. For G-d gave it to human beings (after the flood) as a sign of the covenant to uphold the world.

Thus, a man should take mussar (a lesson) to sanctify himself in these three areas and not be lacking in any one of them.

For in our many sins and in this bitter exile, the primary (ikar) is lacking in man, namely holiness of thought. In the majority (of torah observant Jews), speech and deed is good, but he does not have a heart. And as scripture says: "For as much as this people draw near, and with their mouths and with their lips do honor Me, but they have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear of Me is a commandment of rote practise" (Isaiah 29:13).

If you examine people closely, you will find many people are in this category. Thus, the primary thing is missing, namely, thought. If so, certainly when we will be whole in the service of G-d, with threefold holiness in thought, speech, and deed - then we will be worthy of the redemption immediately, without any delay.

Thus from the rainbow, a man will be roused in this matter.
Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - "text and writing (ktav v'michtav)" - it is written in the name of Rabbi David Benshushan that "ktav" refers to the written word while "michtav" refers to speech..

Thus, from the written word, man learns knowledge/wisdom. For G-d created the existence of writing in the world so that words can endure and not be forgotten.

Without the written word which reminds on every matter, things would be forgotten. Each generation would not know what happened in the generation before them, whether in the wisdom and knowledge they innovated or the deeds and events which they experienced. All these things need to be known.

If so, a man should also learn mussar in this final exile. For in our many sins, forgetfulness has intensified in the world. A man does not have a broad heart to guard all the things he needs (to remember). And especially in torah study, forgetfulness is very prevalent ch'v.

But in the previous generations, whose hearts were broad, the torah was engraved in their hearts and their memory was wondrous.

Thus, in these generations a man needs to do things so that the torah endures in his heart and not be forgotten, whether it be in being careful and diligent in his studies during his youth, or being careful and diligent in tranquility of mind (yishuv daat) by removing all distracting thoughts when he learns, or being careful and diligent to review every matter many times and also learning it with great enthusiasm and desire.

Every person must find ways to help the torah endure in his heart so that it is as inscribed in his heart with a metal pen. Also one should be careful to write down every chidush (insight) so that it be remembered forever.

All this is more needed in these generations, the end of the exile, when the hearts have diminished.

A man can learn all this from the written word which G-d created in the world so that human beings will not forget things and so they endure for all generations.

So too from the "michtav", which refers to speech, a man should take mussar to be careful of his words. To be careful of uttering improper words, evil speech (slander), falsehood, flattery, useless chatter (devarim batelim) or the like. In our many sins, many people stumble in these things in these generations.

For in our generations, you will not find many religious Jews who commit severe sins written in the torah. In the vast majority of cases it is only sins "which a person tramples with his heels", most of whom depend on speech such as evil speech, falsehood, frivolity (letzanut), flattery, useless chatter, or the like.

For a person makes light in his eyes forbidden speech. He tells himself: "what forbidden act did I do? I merely said some words. What significance is this speech I uttered?"

But he must know in truth that even though speech appears intangible, without substance, and merely just air, nevertheless it produces many great effects whether for good or evil and G-d will be meticulously strict in this. A person will be judged even on light speech on the day of judgment.

Therefore, a man needs to be very careful to guard his tongue. For "life and death is in the power of the tongue" (Tehilim 18:21). Therefore, speech was created as an independent thing (as stated in our mishna) to teach man its great importance. For it is indeed great and a man needs to be careful and guard it. Therefore it was created on the eve of the Sabbath, bein hashmashot (at twilight), to say that a man needs to be especially careful in these generations which are like the twilight on the Sabbath eve.

For in our many sins, most of the war against the yetzer hara and the stumblings of man is in speech. Therefore more rousing is necessary to guard from it.