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<<Back to Pirkei Avot Page
Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers
with a select treasury of commentaries on all levels of Torah interpretation
Chapter 5 Mishna 14
with select commentaries


Abbreviations used in this translation:
RSHI - Rashi Commentary (1040-1105)
RMBM - Rambam (1135-1204)
BRTN - Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura Commentary (1445-1515)
TFRT - Tiferet Yisrael commentary (1782–1860)
YONA - Rabeinu Yonah (1180-1263)
MHRL - Derech Chaim - Maharal of Prague (1525-1609) (from hebrewbooks.org/14193)
VLNA - Biur HaGra of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna - (1720-1797)

Commentary Legend:
- for basic commentaries as relating to the plain meaning (Pshat).
- elaborates more into the theme.
- deeper in, Maharal of Prague.
- more themes in the text.

Chapter 5 Mishna 14פרק ה משנה יד
 
There are four types among those who go the Beit Midrash (house of torah study): he who goes but does not do - the reward for going is in his hand; he who does [study] but does not go - the reward for doing is in his hand; he who goes and does - chasid (pious); he who neither goes nor does - Rasha (wicked).
אַרְבַּע מִדּוֹת בְּהוֹלְכֵי לְבֵית הַמִּדְרָשׁ. הוֹלֵךְ וְאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה, שְׂכַר הֲלִיכָה בְיָדוֹ. עוֹשֶׂה וְאֵינוֹ הוֹלֵךְ, שְׂכַר מַעֲשֶׂה בְיָדוֹ. הוֹלֵךְ וְעוֹשֶׂה, חָסִיד. לֹא הוֹלֵךְ וְלֹא עוֹשֶׂה, רָשָׁע.

Bartenura - "he who goes but does not do" - he goes to the beit midrash to listen but he does not study and learn and does not understand.

"he who does [study] but does not go" - he studies and learns in the beit midrash in his home.
Rashi - "he who goes but does not do" - he [himself] does not learn anything but he hears from others.

"he who does [study] but does not go" - he learns in his home.
Tiferet Yisrael - "[those who go to the] Beit Midrash (house of torah study)" - the place where the people are taught with drashas (speeches) with rebukes of mussar (ethics), the emunot v'deot (faith and outlook), derech eretz (ethical behavior), and how to fulfill the mitzvot (commandments).

"he who goes but does not do" - not that he intentionally transgresses their words. For then he would be a rasha (wicked man). Rather, it means he does not have the strength to conquer his [evil] inclination at the time of doing.

"the reward for going is in his hand" - for at least he longs to hear the words of the living G-d. And perhaps over time the words will make a mark on his soul and he will conquer his inclination, for "torah study brings to action".

"he who does [study] but does not go" - he conquers his inclination to do according to the mitzvot of the torah and in derech eretz but he thinks he does not need the words of the torah scholars (chachamim) and their rebukes (and thus he studies at home).

"the reward for doing is in his hand" - he missed out on the reward for going. For if he had went, he would have done more, as written: "he who goes with the wise becomes wise" (Mishlei 13:20).

"Chasid (pious)" - even though his learning is in his hand and he knows what is proper to do, nevertheless he goes to hear words of mussar to strengthen his soul in the way of G-d.

"Rasha (wicked)" - he knows he lacks knowledge but nevertheless he does not want "a scoffer does not love one who reproves him; he will not go to the wise" (Mishlei 15:12).
Rabeinu Yonah - "he who goes but does not do - the reward for going is in his hand" - the explanation is not that he does not do at all of what he heard in the Beit Midrash and he does not fulfill the mitzvot. For then he would be a Rasha gamur (completely wicked) since a wicked person is not just someone who commits sins only.

One who refrains from doing the mitzvot is also called a rasha (wicked). If one does not do the mitzvot nor commit sins - he is completely wicked (rasha gamur). On this the Talmud Yerushalmi says: "one who learns but does not do - better for him had he died in the womb and not been born into the world" (Berachot 1:2).

Rather, the explanation of: "he who goes but does not do - the reward for going is in his hand" is that he does not seek them out to do them. But when the mitzvot come to his hand, he does them.

He fulfills the mitzvot haphazardly not in a fixed way (derech mikre velo bikeviut). For he goes after the vanities of the world. But he is not a Rasha (wicked man) and he has reward.

"he who does [study] but does not go - the reward for doing is in his hand" - he does not go to the Beit Midrash and he does not know how to be meticulous in the mitzvot and to be machmir (stringent) in them. But he does them according to the little knowledge he has. He has reward for this doing.

"Chasid (pious)" - he goes after the mitzvot and is meticulous in all their details and stringencies that he knows and can do and does more than the obligation (lifnim mishurat hadin).

"Rasha (wicked)" - for he does not go after them and even if they happen to come to his hand - he will not do them.
Maharal - "he who goes and does - chasid (pious)" - some ask on this: "what chasidut is there in this? Is one not oblligated to study torah? (Chasid implies doing more than the obligation).

Answer: he could have learned in his house. Instead he went to the Beit Midrash (synagogue). This is certainly better.. For torah study with many people is better. This does not need explanation. For the torah one learns in his house is not like what he learns in yeshiva with many people.
Yachel Yisrael - "he who goes but does not do - the reward for going is in his hand" - just the going itself has value. For by being in the Beit Midrash, a person absorbs holiness and spiritual elevation. In the Midrash: "Rabbi Yehushua ben Levi says: 'whoever enters the batei knesiot and batei midrashot (synagogues and houses of torah study) in this world merits to enter the batei knesiot and batei midrashot in the future. From where do we know this? Because it is written (Tehilim 84:5): "fortunate are they who dwell in Your house; they shall still praise You. Selah (ashrei yoshvei betecha - od yehallelucha selah)'" (Midrash Devarim Rabbah 7:1).

Our sages further said there (ibid): "whoever comes to the synagogue and hears words of torah - merits to sit among the sages in the future (world), as written (Mishlei 15:31): " the ear that hears the reproof of life shall abide among the wise" .

Everyone who hears words of torah - even if he does not understand all that is being said - merits to sit among the sages in the future (world)..

Likewise the Ramah rules in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch: "even if one does not know how to learn, he should go to the Beit Midrash and the reward of going is in his hands" (Orach Chaim 151:1)..
Yachel Yisrael - "he who does [study] but does not go.." - how is it possible that a Jew does but does not go (advance)? If he does (torah and mitzvot) why does he not grow? Why does he remain the same?

Rather, it refers to a Jew who learns torah. He prays and does mitzvot but in the way of rote (mitzvah anashim melumada) - without yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven), without internal joy which springs from love of G-d.

For such a person, his actions do not have any effect on him and do not become part of him. Thus automatically, he stays the same and remains as he was.

In chasidut, a man's station in the world is compared to a man who needs to cross a river covered by a thin sheet of ice. If he stands in the same place, he drowns for the ice under him will break. If he runs fast, he will also drown as the ice will break under his feet.

what should he do? To advance constantly and carefully but to always advance further - to not stop!

Thus it says the four who GO to the beit midrash. Every person wherever he is needs to go all his days if he does not want to sink down, to always advance further..