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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 16
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 16פרק ה משנה טז
Any love that depends on something, will cease when the thing upon which it depends ceases. But if it does not depend on anything, it ceases not forever. What is [an example of] a love which depends on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar. And [what is an example of] a love which does not depend on anything? The love of David and Yehonatan. כָּל אַהֲבָה שֶׁהִיא תְלוּיָה בְדָבָר, בָּטֵל דָּבָר, בְּטֵלָה אַהֲבָה. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, אֵינָהּ בְּטֵלָה לְעוֹלָם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא אַהֲבָה הַתְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת אַמְנוֹן וְתָמָר. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, זוֹ אַהֲבַת דָּוִד וִיהוֹנָתָן.

Bartenura - "any love that depends on something, will cease when the thing upon which it depends ceases.." - ie any love which depends on something transitory (batel), then when this transitory cause passes, the love also passes. But a love which does not depend on something transitory, rather it depends on something permanent, such as the love of the righteous or the sages - this love never passes. For just like the cause of that love is permanent, so too the love is permanent.

"love of Amnon for Tamar" - because of her beauty.

"love of David and Yehonaton" - to fulfill the will of their Maker. For Yehonaton said to David: "you will be king over Israel and I will be your minister".
Tiferet Yisrael - "any love that depends on something" - ie it depends on something intermediary between the lover and the beloved. For example, the love of a man towards his benefactor whereby he loves the future benefits he hopes to receive, not the benefactor. Thus, really he loves only himself.

"but if it does not depend on anything" - by nature such as a father to a son or to family. Or in mind, such as the love of wisdom or virtue. When he is asked: "why do you love these things?", he is unable to give a reason. This is a love which does not depend on something intermediary between the lover and the beloved.

But if he loves a certain wise man or tzadik (righteous person), or person of good character traits, then this is also considered a love which depends on something. For when the wise man stops toiling in wisdom, etc. then when the intermediary is annulled, the love is annulled.

"Amnon and Tamar" - he loved only himself, not Tamar. He loved the pleasure he hoped to get from her. This pleasure was the intermediary between the lover and the beloved. Therefore when the pleasure he got from her subsided, it is written: "and Amnon hated her.." (Shmuel II 13:15).

"David and Yehonaton" - it did not depend on anything and was great in magnitude like the love of a father to his son which can never be annulled even if the son acts improperly.. So too by Yehonaton, even though he heard that David would take the kingship from him, nevertheless his love did not subside and he even put himself in danger several times for David.
Rabeinu Yonah - a love which does not end is one where [the love exists] even though the person deems he will incur some loss and embarassment such as Yehonatan and David. For even though Yehonatan was fit to be king in place of his father and David would take away the kingship from him, nevertheless his bond of love towards him was strong..

But the love of Amnon towards Tamar is clear and there is no need to elaborate.
Chatam Sofer, Torat Moshe, Emor - and even if it is unconditional only from one side, here too it will not be annulled. For example, if you say David's love for Yehonotan depends on something, namely, since he sees that Yehonotan loves him an unconditional love therefore he loves him. Thus that which David loves Yehonotan depends on something, namely, that Yehonotan loves him.

Nevertheless, this love will never be annulled. For Yehonotan's love for him does not depend on anything and will not be annulled. Thus so too David's love will likewise not be annulled.
Yafe l'Einayim - the Baal Haturim on Bereisheit 24:16 says on the verse: "and Yitzchak brought Rivka to his home.. and she became his wife and he loved her..". This term "and he loved her" appears two times. One is here and the second is by Amnon. In the latter it was a love which depended on something. Therefore it became annulled. But here it did not depend on anything. Therefore it was not annulled". end quote.

That is to say that Yitzchak's love towards Rivka was not due to her beauty like Amnon towards Tamar. Rather it was because "and she became his wife". For "a wife is for children" (ein isha ela lebanim), ie for the mitzvah of having children. And he loved her because she was righteous and pious like his mother Sarah. For this does not depend on his own pleasure/benefit.
Matanat Avot - here the Tanna comes to tell us clearly that it is not possible for me to love a person a true love and then one day this passes and I stopped to love the person.

Rather, if I stopped loving the person when something happened between us, this means I never truly loved the person. All that love was only because of some thing I thought the person would provide for me.

When I found out that the person is unable to provide me what I wanted or that I already got what I wanted from him and he has nothing interesting more to give me, then the cause of that "love" passed and now comes my true view towards him.

For if I had loved this person because his essence finds favor in my eyes and not because of some side matter I hope to get from him, then even if I find out he cannot provide me anything, I would continue to love the person. For I love him and not something else external to him.

Almost everyone stumbles in this matter. For in many places we hear of the concept of love starting from "I love fish" and ending on "I love a woman".

It is told of a certain wise man who was walking on the street and passed a restaurant. As he was walking, he overheard someone eating fish saying: "oh how I love fish".

The wise man asked him: "if you love fish so much why do you eat them, guard them in an aquarium?"

"Rather you love only yourself. And in order to give yourself pleasure, you love to eat fish".

Thus any love which depends on something is not even a temporary love until he gets what he wants. Rather it is not love at all.

The proof of this is that when "when the thing upon which the love depends ceases, the love also ceases".

That is to say the moment the cause of the love is annulled, immediately the love is also annulled and there is no remembrance of it at all.

If this love had something true, it would not have been annulled so quickly. But since it is a love which depends on something, then besides the desire to obtain that cause, there is no love at all.

Only a love "which does not depend on anything", ie only if I love someone even if he does not give me anything - this is a sign that I truly love him and not something else by him. Therefore, such a love "is never annulled". For when I love that person himself, the love will continue as long as he lives since there is no reason for it to end.

This is something especially important to emphasize in our times. For when we see the filth outside on the street and we see our brothers erring and wandering, all the time running after women, putting their whole soul, and all their strength in order to satisfy their base lusts, and furthermore they are not ashamed to call their dirty affairs "love".

Any person who has not been blinded by the mud of this lust understands that there is not there the faintest trace of true love and it is just a fake mask in order to catch the desired prey to fulfill their lusts..

Amnon and Tamar
the story there is well known. Immediately ater Amnon fulfilled his lust with Tamar it is written: "Amnon hated her a very great hatred" (Shmuel II 13:15). It is a wonder. That which appeared at first to be a tremendous love, when the cause of the love was annulled, not only was the love finished but rather an even greater hatred entered took its place.

This is a great lesson and warning to all those people who have "friends" who want to squeeze out some benefit from them. These "friends" pretend to be true friends that will still love them after obtaining their request.

But the Tanna comes to tell those "beloved": "forget this. This 'friend' will not retain a tiny grain of love for even one second after he no longer needs you. Therefore, it is worthwhile for you to divest yourself as fast as possible from such 'friends' and to seek a true friend. And even if you don't find anyone like this it is better to be without love than to get entangled by such "love". For it appears nice at first bu its end is bitter..

David and Yehonatan
for this love had no interests. Rather immediately when the two met it is written: "the soul of Yehonotan bound to David and he loved him like his own soul" (Shmuel I 18:1).

It is unbelievable that a love without any interest already reaches a much higher degree than the fake love which depends on something.

Another surprise is the fact that as time went on it became clear that David stood to take the throne from Yehonatan and there was a good reason for him to be Yehonatan's greatest enemy. But nevertheless, Yehonatan loved him and tried to save him from Shaul even putting his on life in danger for him! For this is the power of a true love which does not depend on anything. It strengthens over everything!
Yachel Yisrael - the love of Amnon to Tamar is an example which sticks out of a love which depends on something.

"And it happened after this Avshalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar. And Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so troubled that he fell sick for his sister Tamar,.." (Shmuel II 13:1).

His love was so intense that he became sick. His friend Yonadov saw his situation and said to him: "Lay down on your bed and make yourself sick." Pretend you are a bedridden sick man. "And your father will come to visit you. Then say to him.. Please let my sister Tamar come and give me food, and prepare the food in my sight so that I may see and eat it at her hand. " (Shmuel II 13:5)

He followed the advice. And when Tamar came he seized her to rape her. She told him: "no, my brother, do not violate me. For no such thing ought to be done in Israel. Do not do this folly. And I, where shall I cause my shame to go? And as for you, you shall be as one of the fools in Israel. But now please speak to the king. For he will not withhold me from you" (Shmuel II 13:12).
She told him - We can get married in a permitted way. Why do in a forbidden way what can be done in a permitted way?! "But he would not listen to her voice; but being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her".

Immediately in the next verse: "then Amnon hated her with a great hatred. And the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her". He then threw her out of his house. The tragic end to this story is that after two years, her brother Avshalom avenged his sister's honor and murdered Amnon.

How is it possible for such a strong love of Amnon to transform instantly to an even greater hatred?

The mishna here says: "any love which depends on something..."

A love which depends on an external cause is not a true love. The proof is that: "when the thing ceases", when the cause is annulled, "the love is annulled". The mishna continues: "What is [an example of] a love which depends on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar".

This is an example of a fake love. There it was proven to everyone that there was no real love.

Amnon thought he loved Tamar. Did he really love Tamar? No, he only loved himself. If he truly loved her, he would have honored her, considered her wants, understood them. But instead he raped her and humiliated her.

The sages came and taught us "when the thing ceases, the love ceases". The love depended on an external cause - Tamar's beauty and Amnon who esentially loved himself desired only her beauty. Therefore, immediately after he got what he wanted, he lost all feelings of love towards her and "he hated her a tremendous hatred". The hatred was even more intense than the love before - when the love was annuled the hatred came.

There are many people who love only themselves, attributing their selfish desires to love of something.
Chida - Petach Einayim - "any love that depends on something, will cease when the thing upon which it depends ceases" - for since there is a bitul (annulment) of the love, then there is hatred in its place. This is as written in the Zohar: "when there is no beracha (blessing), the Sitra Achra (side of evil) comes in" (Zohar Balak 186b). Thus it fits well why he chose Amnon (whose love for Tamar transformed to hatred).

"but if it does not depend on anything, it ceases not forever" - the intent is that it will not be anulled completely. He brings from king David who did kindness towards the descendants of Yehonotan (after Yehonotan was dead) (Shmuel II 4:4).
Ohr Hameir, Lech Lecha - (kabalistic) in Tehilim (104:31): "the glory of the L-ord shall endure for ever: the L-ord shall rejoice in his works", that is to say, G-d's primary glory in creating the world was for the joy He will rejoice and delight in His creations when they go in the just path.

But if all their aspirations are only for their own physical needs, if so what joy is there that He wanted to receive from the creations? For then each man turns to his way without understanding why he came to this lowly world. But the living will put to heart to not feel for his own needs at all. Rather all his aspiration and desire is to the Shechinah (G-d) and rectifying the upper worlds. Then his service will be perfect without a doubt since it does not depend on anything. For "any love that depends on something, will cease when the thing upon which it depends ceases. But if it does not depend on anything, it ceases not forever".

Therefore, those people whose whole being and intent is entirely for their own benefit, then their religious service is incidental. For as long as he feels the benefits and kindness of G-d towards him, he correspondingly increases to thank and praise Him. But if the benefits G-d bestows on him are stopped, his love towards G-d also stops.

Even in times of troubles one also needs to serve G-d. In those [difficult] circumstances G-d manifests towards him now, he must also serve G-d. For the Creator, blessed be He, knows what's best for you better than you do. Thus He metes out to you different things according to what His divine wisdom deems fit. He sends a man suffering sometimes. Everything is for man's good, such as to benefit him in his end.