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Kol Yisrael - The Opening Mishna before every Chapter

Chapter One

   Chapter One - Mishna 1

Chapter One - Mishna 2

Chapter One - Mishna 3

Chapter One - Mishna 4

Chapter One - Mishna 5

Chapter One - Mishna 6

Chapter One - Mishna 7

Chapter One - Mishna 8

Chapter One - Mishna 9

Chapter One - Mishna 10

Chapter One - Mishna 11

Chapter One - Mishna 12

Chapter One - Mishna 13

Chapter One - Mishna 14

Chapter One - Mishna 15

Chapter One - Mishna 16

Chapter One - Mishna 17

Chapter One - Mishna 18

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Rabbi Chanaya ben Akashya - The Closing after each Chapter

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad Lubavitch

Glossary

In The Paths of Our Fathers
Insights Into Pirkei Avos,
Adapted From The Works of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Shlita


Chapter One - Mishna 3

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

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Antigonus Of Socho Received [The Oral Tradition] From Shimon The Righteous. He Used To Say: "Do Not Be Like Servants Who Serve Their Master For The Sake Of Receiving A Reward, But Rather Be Like Servants Who Serve Their Master Without The Intent Of Receiving A Reward; And Let The Fear Of Heaven Be Upon You."

Do Not Be Like Servants Who Serve Their Master For The Sake Of Receiving A Reward

We find many verses in the Torah which promise rewards for observance of the mitzvos. For example, the Ten Commandments instruct us[15] to "Honor your father and your mother so that your days will be prolonged."

This mishnah, like so many of the teachings of Pirkei Avos, is an expression of mili dechassidusa,[16] pious conduct beyond the measure of the Law. In that vein, it teaches that although every mitzvah generates a reward, a person's focus should not be on the reward, but on the very fact that he has been found worthy to serve G-d.

The reward which the mishnah mentions can also be understood as referring to spiritual attainments such as the love and fear of G-d. Just as a person should not focus on the material rewards he will receive for observance, so too he should not have in mind the spiritual benefits it will bring him.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 5737)

Rather Be Like Servants Who Serve Their Master Without The Intent Of Receiving A Reward

There are other versions of this mishnah[17] which read "be like servants who serve their master without receiving a reward."

What is the difference between these two versions? The version included by the Alter Rebbe in his siddur emphasizes that people will receive rewards for divine service, but that the reward should not be the focus of one's attention. The other version, by contrast, negates the very concept of reward. As the Alter Rebbe would say:[18] "I do not want Your Gan Eden, nor do I want Your World to Come. I want only You."

Although the Alter Rebbe himself was able to reach this rung, he realized that it was beyond the reach of most people. Therefore, when choosing the text of Pirkei Avos to be included in the siddur - a text to be used by all people - he chose the former version.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 5737)

Let The Fear Of Heaven Be Upon You

Our Sages relate[19] that Antigonus of Socho had two talented students, Tzadok and Beitus. When Antigonus taught: "Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward," they turned away in disgust, commenting: "Is it proper for a worker to toil the entire day without receiving any recompense?"

They began splinter groups which coveted material wealth and rejected the core of Jewish practice.

On finding that they could not convince the majority of the people to reject the Torah, they claimed they were true to Torah, but that the only Torah that was G-dly in origin was the Written Law. The Oral Law, they maintained, was merely a human invention.[20]

Antigonus appreciated that his students' error stemmed from a dearth of yiras shomayim, fear of heaven. Therefore he felt it necessary to emphasize the importance of this quality.

(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5742)

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Shmos 20:12.

  2. (Back to text) Bava Kama 30a.

  3. (Back to text) Machzor Vitri, Rashi's commentary to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 19a); see Hemshech VeKocha 5637, ch. 15.

  4. (Back to text) Cited by the Tzemach Tzedek in Derech Mitzvosecha, p. 138a.

  5. (Back to text) Avos d'Rabbi Nossan 5:2

  6. (Back to text) See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Avos 1:3.


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     Sichos In English -> Books -> Other -> In The Paths of Our Fathers

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