102 – Ethics of the Fathers – Perkei Avos 1:3 – Do You Love God? Understanding Your Purpose – A Powerful Parable about a Blind Thief – A Great Story about a Jewish Business Man- Peace in Your Home – Honor Your Husband, Honor Your Wife
Perkei Avos 1:3 Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.
The Torah Podcast Transcript
102 The Torah Podcast – Do You Love God? – Understanding Your Purpose – https://globalyeshiva.com
Pirkei Avos 1:3 – Do You Love God? – Understanding Your Purpose
The third Pirkei Avos in chapter 1 reads like this, “Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon HaTzaddik. He used to say, ‘Do not be like the servants who serve their master in order to receive reward. But rather, be like the servants who serve their master in order to not receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.’” So, Rashi explains, what does it mean that we shouldn’t serve God in order to receive reward? He says like this, that we shouldn’t say that we’ll do a mitzvah in order to fulfill our own personal needs. Rather, we should serve God from love, and we should accept everything that God does with love. And Rashi further explains, “What does it mean that the fear of heaven should be upon you? You have to believe, you have to have fear of heaven, because in this world there is no schar mitzvah. We don’t receive a reward in this world for the mitzvos. Like it says, today to do them, but not today to receive reward. We don’t get reward in this world, and therefore a person should do the mitzvos just because of love, not because of reward.
Now, what Rashi means is the real reward is really reserved for the next world. Obviously, we do get blessings in this world. And the Rambam brings down the halacha in Hilchos Teshuva chapter 10, halacha 4 that says like this. “The sages of the previous generation declared, should one say, “I will study Torah in order to become wealthy, and I will be called the Rabbi. Or, that I will receive my reward in the world to come. The Torah teaches, if you are careful to observe My commandments to love God, implying that all that one should do should be only out of love of God.” The sages also said, “Desire His commandments greatly. Desire His commandments, and not the reward for His commandments.” Now he brings down our Mishna. “In a similar manner, the great sages will commanded to the brilliant students in private. Do not be like the servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward. Rather, since He is the master, it is fitting to serve Him out of love.” And that’s our Mishna that we just read before.
So, the Rambam brings it down to the halacha. The law is that you should not serve God and will receive reward. You have to do it out of love. And the Rambam explains, “Why did they only used to teach this Mishna in private? Because people will make a mistake, that’s where the tzaddukim started. They went off the derech, they went off the way because they read this Mishna and they understood that there’s no reward at all. In other words, why should I serve God at all if there’s no reward, so there’s no purpose to being religious? But that was a misreading of the Mishna, and there really is a reward in the next world. The reward just happens to be not in this world.
And the Rabbeinu Yona explains that we shouldn’t serve God in order to receive a reward. Why not? This is not called perfect service, because you’re not doing it for your master. Rather, you’re doing it in order to receive reward. So, why should you do it? Rather, because of the chessed that Hashem has done for us. All the good that Hashem has done for us up to now, and because of the greatness of God. And he explains that that’s called serving God out of love. If you serve Him for everything that He’s done for you before, and because of His greatness, because of God’s greatness, that’s called serving out of love. And at the end of the Mishna that says, “You should have the fear of God,” What is the fear of God? Because of God’s greatness we’re afraid God is so great and so big, and also because He has the ability to punish. So, love comes out to be everything that God’s given us up to now because of His greatness, and fear comes out to be that He has the ability to punish, and also because of His greatness. And those are the pure reasons for serving God.
And the Rabbeinu Bachye explains also that serving God in order to receive reward, that’s not called pure service. “Not only that,” he says, “It’s not fitting to do such a thing, to have the intention to receive reward for the mitzvos at all. It’s not a reason to do the mitzvos. But rather, we should be doing them out of love. But even so, that’s why it says at the end of the Mishna that the fear of heaven should be upon you, “Because if you have tremendous love for Hakadosh Baruch Hu, God-forbid you could become light headed,” he says – kalos rosh. “And you might come into averos because of that.” You might come to sin. So, you have to have both qualities. You have to have the love of God, and the fear of God. And he also says another very beautiful thing. He says, When you do a mitzah, what’s the reward? A mitzvah. The mitzvah itself, the next mitzvah itself is the reward. And you shouldn’t be looking at any other type of reward at all. He says, “Why? If he’s somebody who does that, it’s like he drank from poisonous waters.” And he doesn’t have the merit to taste from the river of honey, of the Torah itself. In other words, once you taste the sweetness of Torah, the spirituality of Torah, how could you possibly think of getting physical rewards? It’s ridiculous, because he says, “Don’t think that the mitzvah and its reward are two separate things. They’re one thing, because when you do a mitzvah, your soul feels it. And the light of the mitzvah goes into your neshama. Therefore, the real merit that we get when we do a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself, the pleasure that we get from doing the mitzvas – schar ha mitzah mitzvah. Also,” he says, “By averas. When a person sins, he gets a ruach stus, a bad spirit goes into him, and he feels horrible. That itself is the onesh. When you do a sin, the sin itself is the onesh.” This is what he says.
And the Rashbatz explains that these two qualities of love and fear are really zerisus, which means the energy that you need to do the mitzvas, and the fear has to do with being careful not to do averas, which means the positive mitzvos and the negative commandments. And he says that somebody who really has love of God, even if it’s difficult and even if his life has all kinds of problems, it won’t stop him at all from serving God. He won’t even think about it. That’s on the positive side. And if he has a fear of God, he won’t think to do averas. And he explains that fear of God doesn’t mean the fear of punishment. What’s his proof? He has a beautiful proof, because the possuk said by Avraham Avinu, just as he is about to shecht Yitzhak, the angel came and said, “Stop,” and told him, “Now I see that you’re a yiras shemayim. Now I see you have the fear of God.” He says, “It couldn’t be fear of punishment. What could be a greater punishment than his son passing away? He wasn’t afraid of punishment.” So, you see the fear of God just means the fear of the greatness of God.
And the Bartenura explains, “What’s the loshen pras? The language is reward, but pras actually means not the direct consequence of what you’re doing. It’s not like when you work and you get paid. No, a pras means something extra. So he says, “Even something like that, even a perk – for example, when you do mitzvos you want Hashem to look kindly upon you. You want to feel that extra level of spirituality.” He says, “That, a person shouldn’t serve God for even a small perk like this. Rather, you should just serve Him from love alone.
But the Tosefos Yom Tov explains – and we know it’s a famous Gemara in Bava Basra that says that if you give tzedaka on the condition that your son will be healed, you’re considered a tzaddik gamur. You’re considered a totally righteous person. So, here we see an example of a person who gives tzedaka, he does the mitzvah of tzedakah, and he wants to receive a reward. He wants that his son will be healed, and that’s called a tzaddik gamur. So, what is this Mishna talking about? So, he explains that he is still considered a righteous person. But we must know there are much higher levels. That’s the lowest level. We have to do things on a higher level, and we shouldn’t do it for the reward.
And the Tiferes Yisroel explains, “What does it mean that we should be like a servant? There are two types of servants. One where you own the work of the servant, one when you actually own the body of the servant.” He says, “We should be like servants that God owns our bodies.” We shouldn’t have the chutzpah to ask for reward. How could we possibly ask for reward? Hashem owns us.
And the Maharal asks, “How can it be that we should serve God not to receive a reward if it’s written many places in the Torah that we receive a reward? Like it says, “in order that I should do good to you , that I should also give you long life”, and in many other places. So, we see from the mitzvas we get reward in this world. So, he wants to explain that you shouldn’t do it in order to receive the reward. Of course, you’re going to receive rewards. Of course you’re going to receive blessings. But you shouldn’t be doing it for that reason. For sure, the essential way to serve God is out of love. And if you do it for the schar, that’s not called the essential service. That’s not what we’re here for. What are we here for? He explains, man’s whole purpose in life is to serve God. It’s not just we take God on the side, “Yeah, I’m also religious. That’s not called being religious. Being religious means that you look at your life in the service of God. Everything you do should be to serve God, and not to receive the reward, and not as a side thing. He explains, “The essential service that man should do is because he loves God, and he desires to do the mitzvos. And by this he will come to cling to God.” But he explains, “This is not a simple thing, as we know, because the love has to be love just for the love of God itself. Because we recognize his greatness, and because God Himself is true, and His mitzvos are true. And therefore, we love to do the mitzvos because that’s who we are. We’re doing the mitzvos because the mitzvos are true, and we’re created to do them. And that’s on the side of loving God, and we should cling to God.”
But the Mishna also ends by saying we should have fear of heaven. Why does it never say “love of heaven,” and it says, “fear of heaven?” Because fear means that we need to be distant, and that’s why we say, yirat shemayim, the fear of heaven. On the other hand, love means deveikus, clinging to God. And we don’t say the love of heaven, we say the love of God. And the Ruach HaChayim explains that man is really a very lowly thing. We’re made out of the physical world. We’re physical, and we’ve been brought to the level in order that we should serve God for the mitzvos. What a tremendous level. So, how can we possibly have the chutzpah to ask for reward on top of that? Like we said before, the reward is that we get to serve God, that we get to come close to God. What else could we possibly want? And that we were chosen to do mitzvos, that should be the greatest reward.
And the Sefas Emes explains “do not act like servants who want to receive a reward” means we are servants. Our sole purpose in life is to serve God. And he says another beautiful thing. He says, “Why would a person want to receive things for himself when he has the possibility to cling to the source of life? He can instead cling to God by doing everything totally for Hashem. And instead he chooses to cling to himself. What does he have to offer himself? God is the source of life. Do it leshem shemayim, 100 percent.” And he says, “We can learn this from the angels. The angels don’t receive any reward. And God wants us to be like angels. Where else can we learn this? From all natural phenomenon. All of the natural world does God’s will, without reward. A flower doesn’t grow to be a flower in order to receive a reward. A flower is a flower. From there we can learn, we can learn from the world itself, that we should be serving God just like all of nature serves God. Of course we have free will. Yes, but we should use our free will to be like the angels, to serve God because that’s what we were created to do, and not for some other side factor that we want something else out of life.
So, the Chovas Levavos explains that there’s three reasons why man acts the way he does, and he doesn’t do things 100 percent for the sake of heaven. He says, “The first trait is the great love you have for yourself, and your desire for self-gratification.” And he explains, “If you can distance yourself from this quality, it’s going to help a lot. The second trait is,” he explains, “Is you imagine that blessing is obtained by you asking for it, by you doing the mitzvah and you’re thinking, “Wow, I’m going to do this mitzvah in order to receive a reward,” that’s actually causing the reward to come. He says, “That’s ridiculous. God is giving you exactly what you need right now. He’s rewarding you and He’s giving you everything you need. So, how can you possibly think it’s in your hands whether you’re going to receive a reward or not. Do it leshem shemayim, do it for the right reasons. You don’t have any control over what’s going to come in anyway. And the third trait is,” he says, “You consider yourself worthy of the greatest of all blessings. And when you serve God, you look at it like you’re doing God a favor.” He says, “Listen, God doesn’t need you. God doesn’t need you, you need God.” We think we’re doing God a favor, and therefore we do it in order to receive a reward. “God, look what I’m doing. I’m really doing a big favor. I’m really mesirus nefesh.” God doesn’t need us at all. He’ll get somebody else. God has no needs. He doesn’t need us. Everything that happens, we’re doing for ourselves. We’re doing the mitzvos for our good, not to receive a reward in this world. We’re doing it for our good, because Hashem told us to do it, the mitzvah itself is the reward. The closeness to God is the reward, and God doesn’t need us. Everything is pure kindness.
So, with these three qualities we could overcome this problem. The first one again, is self-gratification. The second is thinking that we can control whether we’re going to be blessed or not. And the third one is thinking that God actually needs us. If we get rid of those things, we could actually uplift ourselves to a level where we really serve God le shem shemayim, 100 percent for the sake of God. He continues and says, “Your creator thinks of you and knows better than you what is good for you, or what’s not good for you. So, if you would be happy with what God gives you, you would be able to serve Him with a pure heart.” He says, “Everything that’s happening is exactly what you need. What are you going after reward for? What are you running? Hashem’s giving you exactly what you need, and therefore you are able to serve Him with a pure heart, once you understand that.”
And the Orchos Tzaddikim explains, “What does it mean to love God? Let a man abandon all he loves and cleave to the love of the creator. It is the sole gift of the saintly, the prophets and the consecrated ones. In the end, there is nothing higher than the love of God. And what is this love? The pining of the soul to cleave to his divine light.” So, how does this happen? When the soul becomes sensitive to its own good, apart from the body, and desires to be spiritual, just like a sick man desires to be healed, then the soul will find in itself its own light, and its own power. And what happens? The soul becomes filled with love. And this love is bound up with joy. And the joy overtakes him, and it overcomes his pleasures and the worldly desires. And because of the love of God, his whole direction changes. He’s not running after this world any more. “And all of life,” he says, “Is like children’s play compared to the love of God. And all he can think about is how can I serve God, and how could I bring merit to my fellow man, and sanctify God’s name, and sacrifice himself for the love of God.”
He says, “What will we do at that point? He who serves out of love occupies himself with Torah and mitzvos, and walks in the paths of wisdom for no worldly reward whatsoever, and no fear of evil, or expectation for good. But he pursues the truth because it’s true. And the good automatically comes. But one can only come to love God by knowing Him. The love will correspond to the knowledge. The less knowledge, the less love, and the more knowledge, the more love. And when a man reflects upon the great things and recognizes all the creations, from angels to planets, to man, and he sees the wisdom of the Holy One and everything that’s been formed, He created, he grows in love for his creator. And his soul thirsts, and his flesh longs to love Him. And he is feared and awed by his own humbleness, and the fact that he’s so small and insignificant in comparison to all the creation. He sees he is nothing. A person who understands his place, he knows that he’s a nothing. He knows that everything is chessed of Hashem, everything is kindness. And God doesn’t need us at all. Of course, he’ll come to serve God with a pure heart, not to receive reward, just because he was created to do such a thing. He was created to serve God.
A Powerful Parable
There’s a verse in Bamidbar that says, “And the stranger who approaches shall die.” You cannot go into the Holy of Holies, a regular person cannot get close to this holy place. If he does, he’ll die.
So, the Maggid Mi Dubno asks, “How can it be that Titus and all of his soldiers weren’t afraid to go into the Beis HaMigdash and take the keilim?” So, he wants to explain with a moshul. One time there was a blind thief. He used to figure out how to steal, he was blind. So, they asked him, “Aren’t you afraid? How do you go into people’s houses? Aren’t you afraid?” He says, “Listen, people know me. They know that I’m the blind thief. As soon as I walk into a house, they start screaming, ‘Here’s the blind thief.’ But if I walk into a house and nobody says a word, I know there’s nobody there. And that’s a sign that I could take whatever I want.’” So too, it says in Megillas Eichah, “The adversary stretched forth his hand upon all the precious things.” How can it be they weren’t afraid? Because the second half of the possuk says, “For she saw the nations enter her sanctuary.” In other words, once the nations saw that there was nobody home at the Beis HaMigdash, they were able to destroy it.
Great Stories – Rav Yitzhak Zilberstein
Reb Yitzhak Zilberstein brings down a story about a Jewish businessman. This Jewish businessman said, “You know, I made Hashem my partner. Before I make a business deal, I pray that Hashem should help me, that I should be able to make money in order to support yeshivas, in order to give tzedakah.”
So, one time had to go to this small town in Africa somewhere. And he’s walking down this road, this dirt road, and he sees this huge black man looking at him. And he gets very afraid, and starts to say vidui. This guy’s going to kill me. What happened? The guy looked at him, and the guy left. After that, a policeman came by. He said, “We’re looking for this guy, did you see this guy?” He said, “Yeah, I saw that guy. He went this way.” So, the police explained to him, this was a very dangerous man. He’s killed many people before. He was in jail, he just escaped from jail, and already since he’s got out of jail he’s already killed a couple of people. “I’m very surprised he didn’t touch you.” So, what happened? Later on they caught this guy. So, during the questioning they asked, “Why didn’t you kill that Jewish guy on the road, you saw that Jewish guy?” He said, “Yeah, of course I saw him. But he had two bodyguards with him, so I left.” This is a true story, and the Tehillim says, “He would charge His angels for you to protect you in all of your ways. If you bring Hashem into your life, you’ll have all the blessings.”
Peace in Your Home
Rav Moshe Aaron Stern talks about honoring one’s husband and honoring one’s wife. Chazal says, “Who is a kosher wife? The one who does the will of her husband.” But Chazal tells us also, that a man shouldn’t demand more from his wife than he demands from himself. Rav Chaim Volozhin explains on the Chazal that says, “Your kavod, honor of your friend should be like your own kavod. He learnt it with a chiddush. He says that just like if you would give honor to yourself it has no value, so too the honor that your friend gives you should have no value. He explains that when people first get married he gives them the advice, “Just forget about your own kavod. It’s not worth it, because if you expect kavod, your life is not going to be a life. You’re not going to get kavod, just forget about it. Your life and your happiness is more important than your own kavod. But he explains that many times, religious people especially have a problem with kavod, because kavod is a spiritual disease, actually. Kavod is a spiritual thing, and therefore people who are spiritual have to be more careful about it. But on the other hand, you have to give kavod to the other person. The wife should give kavod to her husband if that’s what her husband needs, and her husband should give kavod to his wife.
And especially since Chazal explains that blessing comes into a man’s house only because of the way that he treats his wife. Moshe didn’t want to divorce Tzipporah, even though he could no longer be with women, because he said, “When I married her, I was poor, and now I’m a king. It’s because of her.” One time, Rav Aryeh Levin was traveling in a cab and the cab asked, “Where’s your house?” He didn’t answer. Then the cabbie said, “Which street do you live on?” so he gave an answer. And he explained to the cabbie. He said, “Listen, since my wife died, I no longer have a house. I only have a street number, but I can’t really call it a house.”
The Abarbanel says, “A man should treat his wife as an equal.” And where do we learn that from? There’s a Midrash that says, “Hashem when he created the woman, He didn’t take from the man’s eyes, because then it would be like the woman was the highest part of man. And He didn’t take from his feet, because then she would be lowly. He took from his rib, to make them equal. And a man should give kavod to his wife just because she has children. She’s mesirus nefesh. It’s life-threatening to have children.” Adam HaRishon was thrown out of Gan Eden, why? Because he didn’t have gratitude. If you want to have peace in your house, you have to have gratitude towards the other person, and automatically because of the gratitude, you will give them kavod.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s podcast, I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends.