Mishna Avot 5

Read It In Hebrew has the full Hebrew text.

Chapter 5.

1. Ten sayings were used to create the entire universe. What should we learn from this? The world could have been created with a single word! Know this: It both extracts payment from the wicked and compensates the righteous. Payment? They self-destruct. Compensation? They endure. For one the world continues on account of these ten sayings. For the other it ends.

2. Ten generations? From Adam to No’ah. This proves G!d’s Patience: All this time elapsed before the Ma’bul. Ten generations? Between No’ah and Avraham. This also proves G!d’s Patience. Civilisation continually descended until Avraham, who obtained the reward forfeited by previous generations

3. Ten experiences stand out as contributors to the general understanding of Avraham Avinu, ah’lahv ha’sha’lom. Avraham Avinu, ahlahv’ha’shalom obligated himself to these experiences.

4. Ten miracles were done for our ancestors in Mitz’ra’im and ten by the Sea. Ten trials were conducted against G!d by our ancestors in the Midbar . In Bamidbar (14:22) we are told “They tried Me ten times! They did not listen to My Voice.

5. Our ancestors experienced ten miracles in the Bét Ha’miq’dahsh: Women did not faint from the scent of the meat offerings The meat used for offerings did not rot Flies were unknown in the abbatoirs of the Temple The High Priest was never ritually impure on Yom Kipur Rain never extinguished the fire burning on the Altar The Altar’s pillar of smoke was never dispersed by the wind The omér, the Shavuo’ot breads, or the showbread were never defective Crowds stood and gathered yet there was always room to prostrate Neither snake nor scorpion caused damage in Jerusalem No one ever said “There is no room for me to sleep in Jerusalem”.

6. Ten things were created erev Shabbat between sunset and nightfall. The mouth of the earth, the mouth of the well, the mouth of the donkey, the rainbow, the mahna, the mahteh, the shamir, the Hebrew alef-bet, the mikh’tahv, and the Tablets. Some include also the demons of destruction, Moshe’s grave, the ram of Avraham Avinu, and the tongs used to make tongs.

7. A golem has seven characteristics, as does a sage. A sage? A sage does not speak in he presence of one greater in wisdom; does not intrude on what someone else is saying; return compulsively; checks perceptions and realities before answering, and then does so to the point at hand; speaks to first things first and last things last; when she or he does not know says “I haven’t heard of the matter”; and admits the truth. The golem? The golem is the opposite.

8. Seven types of punishment apply to seven categories of avéra. When some pay their tithes and others not famine ensues from drought; some are famished while others are satisfied. If a general tax-revolt occurs? War joins drought as the outcome from which famine ensues. When there is a general ignoring of taking hala? Famine from devastation. Pestilence results from death penalties imposed by Torah but beyond the power of human courts to enforce. Pestilence occurs also when the Sabbatical Year is conventionally ignored. Popular insurrection will accompany a poverty of justice, distorting natural law, and for interpreting Torah without an adequate methodology

9. Destructive forces dangerous to physical or mental health ensue from baseless oaths and hilul Hashem. Exile applies to serving idols, for revealing what should be concealed, for the free flow of blood, and for abandoning the Earth. Plague increases at four times: In the fourth year, the seventh year, the end of the seventh year,and annually after the Hag. Why in the fourth year? For evasion of the anti-poverty tithe in third year. In the seventh? For evasion of the anti-poverty tithe in the sixth year. At the end of the seventh? For working the Land during the Sabbatical Year. After every Sukkot? For stealing the gifts due the poor.

10. There are four basic character types. One who says “Mine is mine and yours is yours”? This is typical, though some say: “It charcaterises S’dom”. One who says “Mine is yours and yours is mine”? This is an idiot. A pious attitude is this: “What I have is yours. What you have is yours.” Wickedness is defined by the one who says “Mine is mine; yours is also mine.”

11. For types of temperament standout. Easy to anger and easy to pacify? A gain offset by a loss. Difficult to anger and difficult to pacify? A loss offset by a gain. Difficult to anger and easy to pacify? This is the highest form of piety. Easily angered and difficult to pacify? This is wickedness personified.

12. Students can be classified in four ways: Quick to learn and quick to forget? A gain offset by a loss. Difficult to learn but retained once learned? A loss offset by a gain. Quick to learn and retained once learned? A potential sage. Hard to teach and quick to forget? This is a conduct disorder.

13. There are four approaches to tzedaqa. One willing to give but who doesn’t want others to do so? This is an evil eye staring at others. One who wants others to give but is unwilling to be a donor? This evil eye stares back at you from the mirror. The pious gives and encourages others to also do so. The wicked do not donate and discourages others from doing so.

14. The Bét Midrash is attended by four types: One goes but does not perform and is rewarded for going. One who performs but does not attend? The reward is for performing. The pious attend and perform. The wicked neither attend nor perform.

15. The sages are attended by four types of adept: A spong; a funnel; a collander; and a sifter. Sponges absorb everything. Funnels? In one end,out the other. Collanders drain the essence and retain the waste. Sifters refine the flour.

16. Conditional love perishes when the conditions are unmet. Unconditional loves endures forever. Amnon had a conditional love for Tamar. David and Yonaton had a love that was unconditional.

17. An argument for the sake of Heaven does not need resolution: If it isn’t for the sake of Heaven it won’t endure! The controversies between Hillel and Shahm’I are examples of enduring arguments for the sake of Heaven. Qorah and his compatriots are an example of arguments not for the sake of Heaven.

18. The greatest service to others is leading them to be of service to others. It is a fundamentally immoral act to encourage immorality in society at large. No amount of t’shuva can compensate for such behaviours. Moshe’s leadership inspired the masses to morality; in Dvarim (33:21) we learn “He performed righteous acts of G!dliness as obligations in Israel”. Yahrahv’ahm was fundamentally immoral and encouraged the masses to be so, as we see from 1 Shmu’él (15:30) where it says “These sins of Yahrahv’ahm Ben-N’vat led to the sins of Israel”.

19. Disciples of Avraham Avinu conduct themselves according to three principles. Three opposing principles identify the disciples of Bilam Ha’Rasha. Generosity, humility, and simplicity are the hallmarks of Avraham Avinu’s students. Grudges, arrogance, and grandiosity are the traits cultivated by those who follow Bilam Ha’Rasha. Adherents of the Avrahamic tradition enjoy this world and can count also on Olam Haba. Mishlé 8:21 informs us thus: “I Bestow life upon those who love Me and provide for them materially as need be”. Not so those attracted to Bilam’s philosophy. They achieve Géhin’om and relentless anxiety accompanies the descent. We are thus taught in Tehilim 55:24 “You Are Élohim. You Lower them into the well of fear, those murderers and grifters, and their days are numbered by half. And I? You Are my certainty.

20. Yehuda Ben-Téma taught: As the panther is bold – be bold; as the eagle glides – glide; the gazelle runs swiftly – so should you; the lion is strong and dignified – acquire these traits; then do G!d’s Will. Yehuda Ben-Téma further taught: The brazen go to Géhin’om; the humble attain Gahn Éden. May it be Your Will, my G!d, our G!d, that Jerusalem be rebuilt now! Furthermore, grant us a portion of Your Torah.

21. He also taught: Miqra begins with five year olds. Mishna study begins at 10. At 13, the mitzvot are acquired; at 15 higher education begins. Marriage? At 18. A career pursuit? At 20. By 30 one has experience; understanding finally begins to evolve at 40. You can counsel others after you turn 50; you’ll be an elder at 60 and an honoured elder at 70. It takes fortitude to become 80. The weight of ages bends you over at 90. By 100 you are passed over and ignored as if dead.

22. Ben Bahg-Bahg taught this: Mix it up and twirl it around! Envision it, ponder and obtain gray hairs from the experience, never cease this meditation!

23. Ben Hé- Hé taught: Recovery rewards sorrow.