(The previous shiur began with a brief summary of a section which was highly dependent on Hebrew grammar and language. The opening section of this shiur is also dependent of Hebrew language, and has the same limitation imposed by the medium we are using. However, the content here is too fundamental to simply summarize, so we will do our best to explain, (in Hebrish 🙂 ) the points being made, and how they are seen in the text.)
We are taught in the Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah 12): Akavia ben Mehalalel says: Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin. Know from where you came; and to where you are going; and before whom you will ultimately give judgment and accounting, Before the King of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed be He. Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi of Sakhnin said: All three were extracted by Akavia from one word. “And remember your Creator” (Koheleth 12:1) (the word used in Hebrew is “bora’acha”, spelled bet, reish, aleph, chaf, with the root being bet, reish, aleph). “…your creator” (bora’acha) “…your wellspring”(the word used in Hebrew is be’ercha: bet, aleph, reish, chaf) “…your cistern” (the word used in Hebrew is borcha: bet, reish, chaf). (The three words are all built around the same letters and sound.) “Be’ercha” (your wellspring) alludes to putrefied liquid. “Borcha” (your cistern, or pit) refers to maggots and worms. “Bora’acha” (your Creator) refers to King of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed be He.
Based on our earlier explanations (about the concept of “eelah” and “alul”) you can understand that in the one word “bora’achah” (your Creator), there are also allusions to your wellspring and to your cistern.
Since man has an “eelah” (Primary Cause upon Whom he is constantly dependent), that “eelah” being G-d Who created him, therefore man is an “alul.” And every “alul” has an origin which was preceded by nothingness (with no independent existence) or else he wouldn’t really be an “alul” (since he wouldn’t be dependent on the “eelah” for his origin). This aspect of man is alluded to in the word “be’ercha” (for every wellspring represents a source of water which has no apparent beginning or source). G-d as “Be’ercha” means that He provides the source of our origins.
Additionally, every “alul” has a conclusion which ends in nothingness. If this wouldn’t be true, and his existence would continue in some form, then he would be comparable to the “eelah” in the aspect of continuity, and he couldn’t be considered a fully dependent “alul.”
So the verse “Remember your Creator” instructs you to remember that G-d has created you, and that he is your “eelah.” Using the word “Creator” (bora’acha) instead of “Your G-d” (Elokecha) teaches you that you are a created being, an “alul,” and as such, you have an origin from nothingness, represented by the wellspring, and an end of oblivion, which is represented by the pit. In the verse “Remember your Creator,” all three lessons of Akavia ben Mehalalel are implied, and one who remembers his Creator will be aware of all three things instructed by Akavia.
When a person places himself completely under the authority and control of the “eelah,” he is insulated from the yetzer harah, as we have written above, and as our Rabbis have implied when they instructed us to read Kriyath Shma if we feel the yetzer harah overpowering us.
The language of Akavia leads to the same questions we asked on the language of Rebbe in Chapter 2, Mishna 1. Why does it say “contemplate” (histakeil) rather than simply “know” these three things. And what confidence do we have that a person will follow the lesson teaching us to contemplate these three things any more than he would follow the more direct instruction “Don’t sin” (since that is the purpose of contemplating these things). If he won’t listen the latter instructions, why should he listen to our instructions ton contemplate the things that will save him from sin?
In answer to the first question, we explained above (see our explanation of Ch. 2, Mishna 1, Pt. 5) that there is variation in the creation of man in comparison to all other creatures. Man walks completely upright, and this is not by coincidence. Man has a connection to and an inclination to sin, which would be mitigated by a proper fear of Heaven. However, he lacks this fear of Heaven in a sufficiently tangible way, as we are taught (Berachoth 28b) “Would that you have fear of Heaven that was equal to your fear of man.” So we are being instructed to “look” at the way that G-d created man, with the intention of distancing him from sin, by enabling him to see from where he came. For the source of man’s existence, the organ from which the putrefied drop comes, is placed in front of him, constantly visible, something which is not found in a comparable way in any other creatures. This is to enable a man to see from where he came. Additionally, a man’s glance is both downward, where he sees the ultimate destination to where he is headed; and it is upward, in order that he should be aware before Whom he is destined to give judgment and an accounting.
Therefore we are instructed to “look” at three things (rather than being told to “know” them), in the way that G-d created us (with the ability to see all of these things) which will keep us from the hands of sin. (This is further explained in the earlier cited source in Chapter 2.)