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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 10
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 10פרק ה משנה י
There are four types of character in men. One who says "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours" - this is the trait of a middle (average) person, though some say this is the trait of Sodom. "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine" - Am Haaretz (ignorant man). "what's mine is yours and what's yours is yours" - chasid (pious). "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine" - Rasha (wicked).
אַרְבַּע מִדּוֹת בָּאָדָם. הָאוֹמֵר שֶׁלִּי שֶׁלִּי וְשֶׁלְּךָ שֶׁלָּךְ, זוֹ מִדָּה בֵינוֹנִית. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים, זוֹ מִדַּת סְדוֹם. שֶׁלִּי שֶׁלְּךָ וְשֶׁלְּךָ שֶׁלִּי, עַם הָאָרֶץ. שֶׁלִּי שֶׁלְּךָ וְשֶׁלְּךָ שֶׁלָּךְ, חָסִיד. שֶׁלִּי שֶׁלִּי וְשֶׁלְּךָ שֶׁלִּי, רָשָׁע.

Bartenura - "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours.. middle person" - I don't want to benefit you and I wish that you do not benefit me.
Rashi - middle person, i.e. he is not a tzadik (righteous) nor a rasha (wicked).
Bartenura - "some say this is the trait of Sodom" - it is near to come to the trait of Sodom. For since he is habituated like this, then even in a case where his fellow benefits and he loses nothing, nevertheless he will not want to benefit his fellow. This was the trait of Sodom. They tried to drive away guests from their land even though there was plenty of room and they had nothing to lose.
Ahava b'Taanugim - "some say this is the trait of Sodom" - for if today one tells his fellow: "I don't need to, what's mine is mine, what's yours is yours", tomorrow he will say this even to a poor man. This was the trait of Sodom. For they did not strengthen the hand of the poor and destitute. Thus, since this trait brings a man to acquire the trait of Sodom, it is proper to call it midah Sodom (the trait of Sodom).
Avodat Yisrael, avot 5:9 - the people of Sodom were non-believers, they denied the existence of the Creator. Due to this, they made sure not to help any poor person.. The word "Sodom" hints to their wickedness. For Sodom is letters Samech-Mem hinting to the evil inclination which blinds the eyes of man to not look at the existence of G-d. The middle letter "Dalet" means "Dal" (poor). For man is poor and has no strength without G-d's help. This is Sodom - Samech-Mem Dal - to blind them from the Dalet and make them think it is their own power and the might of their hands which accomplishes for them (kochi v'otzem yadi).
Bartenura - "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine - am haaretz (ignorant)" - he benefits others and benefits himself equally. This promotes the welfare of the land (yishuv haaretz). But he does not know scripture. For it is written: "he who hates gifts shall live" (Mishlei 15:27).

The term "am haaretz" refers everywhere to one who wants [to promote] the welfare of the land (society) but he lacks wisdom to discern between the proper welfares.
Maharal - "am haaretz (ignorant)" - for when he says "what's mine is yours", this is not due to generosity and goodness of heart. Thus he also says "what's yours is mine". For a generous, good hearted person does not seek from others like this.

Rather, it is as if he said: "what's mine is yours" in order that it be also "what's yours is mine". Namely, my money is your money and your money is my money.

On this the Sage said that this trait is the trait of an am haaretz (ignorant). For if he had intellect and wisdom, this would dictate that what belongs to a man is his.

But this person who says: "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine", he does not place boundaries and distinction between his money and the money of others. Rather this one is worth like that one. Certainly, this goes out of the bounds of wisdom.

For wisdom sets everything according to what is proper to be and gives boundaries to everything.

Therefore, one who says "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine" is an am haaretz and has no wisdom at all. Due to this he has no [perception] of measure and boundary...
Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - "am haaretz (ignorant)" - the Chasid is honored among the Chasidim but not among the wicked. Likewise, the wicked man is honored among the wicked but not among the Chasidim (pious).

On the other hand, the am haaretz (ignorant) is foolish and misleading. It is possible for him to be honored among both types.

For when he says: "what's yours is yours", the Chasidim will think he is also a Chasid like them and he will be honorable among them.

And when he says "what's yours is mine", the wicked will think he is wicked like them and he will be honorable among them...

With this we will understand the verse: "my son, fear G-d and the king, and do not mingle with changing ones" (Mishlei 24:21). That is to say [do not mingle] with the am haaretz which are changing, ie they change their deeds and tongue. For sometimes they appear as Chasidim saying "what's mine is yours" and sometimes they appear as the wicked saying: "what's yours is mine".

Thus they are changing, transforming every second from this to that. Therefore do not mingle with them. For these will easily entice you to be like them and do like their deeds.. But for the wicked, he does not need to warn you against. For his evil is openly apparent and he has no good aspect. Thus, certainly you will flee from him on your own and not mingle with him.
Bartenura - "what's mine is yours and what's yours is yours (Pious)" - he benefits others with his possessions but does not [take] benefit from them.
"chasid (pious)" - for he does beyond what justice dictates.
Daat Zekenim - "what's mine is yours and what's yours is yours - pious" - the Bartenura wrote: "he benefits others but does not [take] benefit from them." We can explain this as the Sabah wrote in his letters:
"a man needs to walk in G-d's ways, as written: 'you shall walk in His ways' (Devarim 28:9).

When we investigate at the foundation of His ways, we find that G-d gives to others but others do not give to Him. They need Him but He does not need His creations.

Thus, man needs to resemble G-d in this manner. Namely, to always benefit others and not receive gifts from them."
Chatam Sofer, Ketav Sofer chadash, Avot - "what's mine is yours and what's yours is yours - pious" - some ask: isn't this obvious? For since he said: "what's mine is yours", then all the more so "what's yours is yours".

We can answer according to what our sages said: "the poor man does more for the rich man, than the rich man does for the poor man" (Midrash Ruth Rabba 5:9).

For the rich man does not give anything of his to the poor man, as written: "give to Him of His [for you and yours belong to Him]" (Avot 3:7).

The portion the rich man gives to the poor man was only as a deposit in the hands of the rich man. And for the tzedaka (charity) he gives to the poor man, he is blessed and becomes more rich.

If so, the poor man does a kindness to the rich man by taking from him and the rich man does not give anything of his to the poor man. He gives only the portion of the poor man which G-d graced him with.

This is what he says: "what's mine is yours", ie what I have is not only mine but also it will be yours.

"what's yours is yours" - ie even what I (the rich man) gave you is yours not mine. I am not giving you from mine that you should think I am doing you a favor. Rather "what's yours is yours". This is your portion [which G-d entrusted me with] and I am not giving you anything of mine. This is a chasid. Thus the question is answered.
Rashi - "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine - wicked" - I receive your good but nevertheless you will not have anything to do with me - this is a trait of the wicked.
Ben Ish Chai, Birkat Avot - that which he said by the Chasid (pious) "what's yours is yours" - this is superfluous. For by the Chasid, there is no point in saying "what's yours is yours". Rather the primary point of the Chasid is "what's mine is yours".

Likewise, regarding the wicked, that which he said: "what's mine is mine" - this is superfluous. For it is not a chidush (novel idea) regarding the wicked...

We can explain as follows. The trait of the Chasid is to benefit others and give them of his - even though they do not benefit him nor ever give him anything at all, even at a time he needed them.

But the wicked is the opposite. For he is ungrateful. He does not want to benefit others, not even those who benefited him many times and gave him much of their own. Nevertheless, he does not want to benefit them at all whatsoever.

This is what the Chasid says: "what's mine is yours", ie I accept to benefit you of my possessions even though your trait is "what's yours is yours", ie that you do not benefit others at all and I never received any benefit from you whatsoever. For what is yours is always only yours.

But the wicked says the opposite: "what's mine is mine", I never give you anything ever, even though you benefit me many times and say "what's mine is yours".. certainly such a person is an ingrate and it is proper to call him wicked. For this is a trait of the wicked.
Rabeinu Avraham Pritzel on Avot - these four traits are the four divisions which human beings inevitably fall into in their societies. They are two extremes and two in-betweens.

For the Chasid who says: "what's mine is yours and what's yours is yours" - he is the opposite of the wicked man who says: "what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine".

But the middle trait which is called: "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours", some call it the trait of Sodom. For there is a reason for both names. He who calls it the middle trait, this is proper. For it is in-between the two extremes; he does not want to burden his fellow and does not want his fellow to burden him.

But he who calls it "the trait of Sodom" is also saying properly. For the people of Sodom were evil and sinners. Their deeds are known, they hated each other and despised charity and acts of kindness, not helping each other.

But the am haaretz (man of the land) who seeks the public welfare, to benefit himself and also others, on him it is said: "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine". For through this the welfare of society will endure, since when this one lacks the other will fill his lacking and vice versa.

But the primary of everything is: "love your fellow as yourself" Vayikra 19:18). This is the command for proper guidance of people in society with each other.

One who habituates in this will overcome his [negative] character dispositions (ex. anger) as he says in the next traits (next mishna).
Matanat Avot - "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine - wicked" - this trait is the complete opposite of G-d's traits. For G-d wants only to give as much as possible and He does not at all seek to receive anything back.

It seems difficult that this person is called a wicked person (rasha). For this title usually applies only to one who commits sins. What sin is there in not helping others and only taking from them?

The answer is simple. For the concept of a "mitzvah" is to fulfill the will of G-d while the concept of a "sin" is to do an act which is against the will of G-d.

Thus one who seeks only to receive wherever possible and he refuses to give anything of his to others - there is no greater opposite of G-d's will than this. And he who does the opposite of G-d's will, this rightly gives him the title "wicked".
Yachel Yisrael - how can a person divest himself of the trait of Sodom? how may he break this trait?

The Yavetz advises: increase giving tzedaka (charity) and do so with joy. Give and give, more and more, until one is habituated in this and it becomes second nature. This is what Shlomo said: "a man's gift broadens him and brings him before the great" (Mishlei 18:16) - the giving itself will make his heart broad, open to give to his fellow.

Due to this reason, the Rambam writes (commentary to Avot 3:15) that it is better to give 100 coins to 100 poor people rather than 100 coins to one poor man. This is to habituate oneself in the trait of generosity through repeated acts of giving.

"wicked" - from his side, the wicked man is not willing to give anything. He wants only to take, only to receive. "what's yours is mine" - give me, you owe me. Evidently, "what's mine is mine" - he does not want others to benefit from him.

Such a person is not satisfied with what he has. He covets what others have. Amassing possessions stands at the head of his thoughts. All his days he thinks how to gain from his fellow. Where can one profit more? He is not concerned for others.

The outlook of the wicked man is that he himself won't give a penny, he will not diminish what he owns. But he will never let others think like him.

For such a person, as long as he can fulfill his desires, he will act lawfully. But when he cannot attain his desires easily, he will demand and take by force.

Lust for money brings many sins. Firstly, he transgresses the commandment: "do not covet" (Shemot 20:13). He transgresses it when he strives to attain what does not belong to him, even if he is prepared to pay for it! All the more so when he takes it against the will of its owner. For then he transgresses "do not steal" (Shemot 20:11), "do not oppress" (Vayikra 19:13) and a host of other severe sins.

Likewise, many bad character traits result from chasing money such as jealousy or the like.

"chasid (pious)" - the Chasid (pious) lives with a feeling of being indebted to the Creator and His world. He always seeks opportunities to give, help, donate. When he gives to others, he wants nothing for himself.

Our sages bring as a model of this Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa: "every day a heavenly voice proclaims: the whole world is sustained in the merit of Chanina, My son, and Chanina, My son, is sustained by a [mere] kab of Carobs for the whole week" (Berachot 17b).

The other extreme is Alexander Mokdin. He was the king of a huge empire, many nations were conquered under him. He ruled over half the world. But this was not enough for him and he continued his journeys of conquest until he reached the faraway "mountains of darkness"..

The midrash reports that when he reached the country "Katzya", he received from the king of Katzya a gold loaf of bread on a gold platter. Alexander who was hungry understood the hint. For the king of Katzya succeeded in giving him the mussar that he lusts for money..

Alexander sought to observe how they judge in Katzya. He sat and listened to the court case before the king.

One person bought a ruined property from another. What was the problem? After buying the property, the new owner dug the ground there and found a hidden treasure. He did not want to take it for himself claiming he bought a property and not a treasure. The seller also concerned for theft did not want to take the treasure claiming he sold the property and everything in it.

The king of Katzya heard the claims and asked one of them: "do you have a son?", he answered "yes". He asked the other: "do you have a daughter?". He answered: "yes".

The king ruled: "let them join together in marriage and the treasure will be theirs".

The king of Katzya saw the amazement in the face of Alexander Mokdon and asked him: "did I not judge properly?" Alexander replied "not good".

"if this case came before you, how would you have judged it?"

Alexander replied: "I would have commanded that their heads be chopped off and not only that the treasure be confiscated but also all their possessions".

The king of Katzya was shocked and asked: "is there rain in your land?" - "yes" Alexander replied.

"does the sun shine there?" - "yes".
"are there grazing animals" - "yes".
"it seems the rain falls and the sun shines only in the merit of the animals!"

For in the land of Alexander Mokdon, the land whose customs and laws are the epitome of acquiring, of "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine", man lives in the merit of the animals.

The midrash brings the verse "man and beast you save, O L-ord." (Tehilim 36:7). Sometimes man is saved in the merit of the animals.