Chapter 1: Mishna 18: Part 2
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Upon three things the world
is sustained: On judgment ("din") on truth ("emeth") and on
peace ("shalom"). As it is written (Zechariah 8:16)
"Truth, and judgment of peace [you should] judge in your
(There are now a number of paragraphs in the Maharal that deal
with clearly Kabbalistic matters, and we will skip them. Even the
coming paragraphs are not that accessible, but I will simplify them as
I understand them, and hope that we succeed in grasping part of what is
begin taught to us. For those of you who are using these shiurim to
learn the text inside, we are continuing with the paragraph that begins
When G-d created the world, it involved three steps. First, the
activator (G-d) brought the world into existence as a result of His
action. The created world was the imperative result of that action,
which is why we are taught the world was created with the attribute
("midah") of strict judgment ("din"). (We have written at the
beginning of the chapter that "din" implies a compelling imperative;
true judgment is the conclusion that something MUST be EXACTLY a
specific way, with no deviation). In the verses of creation at the
beginning of Breishith, G-d is called "Elokim," which is the name
implying the attribute of "din," strict judgment. (The Kabbalists
point out that the name "Elokim" has the same numerical value, 86
[remember to replace the kuf with a hei] as the word "hateva," which
means "nature." The laws of nature are immutable and the results of
those laws are compelling. Just as one who puts his hand in fire will
be burned, no matter what the reason or excuse, so too the attribute of
"din," strict judgment, requires immutable consequences for every
violation of G-d's will. It was only because the world would not have
been able to exist under those circumstances (at least not as a world
of free will) that G-d blended mercy and patience ("rachamim") with the
original "din." In human jurisprudence, however, it is the job of the
judges to issue "din," ensuring that a person who has something that
doesn't belong to him makes full restituion. There can be no
flexibility for the benefit of one party at the expense of the other
party. The Torah gives the judges two specific commands to this
effect: Not to favor a poor person because of his poverty, and not to
favor a rich person because of his wealth and power. AFTER precise
judgement, it will be the responsibility of the communal leaders in
poverty cases to deal with the personal problem or need that may have
led the guilty party to commit his crime.)
In addition to the decree of the Creator being imperative, it must
also be one of "emeth," truth, to ensure that it can endure. "Sheker,"
a falsehood, has no ability to endure. None of the things that G-d
created deviate from "emeth." (See Psalms 111:8)
(The concept of "emeth" in this context needs to be expanded. It
goes far beyond the standard idea of truth, which is usually understood
simply as being an accurate reflection of reality, correct information.
>From the Torah's perspective, the concept of "emeth" is one of
integrity, completeness, and continuity. This is alluded to in the
three letters of the word. "Aleph" is the first letter of the aleph-
beth. "Mem" is the middle letter. "Taf" is the last letter. The word
implies something which is all-encompassing, beginning at the
beginning, continuing through on its way to the proper conclusion.
Falsehood has no such integrity. The three letters of the word
"sheker" are all located at the end of the aleph-bet. And they are out
of order. This contrast should remind us of the famous maxim "When you
tell someone the truth, you never have to remember what you said."
Every step of the truth flows naturally from the previous step.
Falsehoods are convoluted.
(Additionally, there is a message in the physical structure of the
letters. The three letters of "emeth" are all written on the line in a
form that exudes stability. The aleph and taf each have two legs,
while the mem has a long base. The three letters of "sheker" all sit
on the line perched on only one point. (The Biblical look of the shin
is not the way it is printed in books today. All three vertical lines
come together at a single point. Look at the engraved shin on
Tefillin, or the writing in a Torah scroll.)
Finally, there is the conclusion of creation, a coming to rest
(Shabbat), which itself creates a state of completion, perfection and
harmony. Shabbat itself was not part of the six days of creation,
coming after creation had been completed. So, asks the Midrash
(Breishith Rabba 10:12) what was created after G-d ceased creation?
Tranquility, calm, serenity and quiet. This final step in the creation
process was the "peaceful" completion which ensured the endurance of
that creation. It is this step that the Torah describes in the verse
"And G-d concluded, on the seventh day, the handiwork which He had
created..." (Breishith 2:2). During the six days of creation, there was
a constant dynamic to actualize the creation process. Only at the end
of this process was there a state of rest and stability. The
harmonious conclusion itself ensured the stable existence of the
creation. It is for this peace and harmony that the Mitzvah of
lighting candles on Shabbath was instituted, to ensure peace and
harmony in the home (Shabbath 25b).
In summary, the world was created by the decree of G-d ("din"),
its elements organized in a straight path of truth ("emeth"), with an
ultimate purpose of peace and harmony. It is the combination of these
elements of creation that ensure the continued existence of the
created world. On three things the world is sustained: On "din," on
"emeth," and on "shalom."
There is a relationship between these three things and the three
taught to us by Shimon HaTzadik.
"Avodah," service, parallels "din." Chazal teach us that the
juxtaposition of the laws of the altar in the Tabernacle with the laws
of jurisprudence (Shemoth Chapters 20 and 21) teaches that the courts
were to be located near the place of the sacrifices. (See Yerushalmi
Makoth 7:1 and Bavli Sanhedrin 7b for similar teachings; my CD-Rom
search did not turn up an exact statement like the one quoted by the
Maharal.) What is the connection? Because both uniquely emanate from
G-d Himself. (It is G-d who determines how He is supposed to be
served, what is considered service and what is not. And absolute truth
and justice can only come from the Divine.) "For justice is to G-d"
(Devarim 1:17); "You are not judging for men, but for G-d" (Divrei
HaYamim II 19:6). And in Parshath Shoftim (Devarim 16:19-20) first it
warns about justice -- "Righteousness you must pursue" and "Do not
distort justice, do not favor (a litigant), and do not accept bribes" -
- and afterwards (verses 21-22) it teaches about forbidden forms of
worship "Do not establish a pillar..." "Do not plant a tree of idol
worship..." And then (17:1) "Do not sacrifice to G-d an ox or a sheep
which has a blemish." (For a more detailed explanation of the
relationship between "avodah" and "din," both of which are the
attributes of our forefather Yitzchak, refer back to the last two
shiurim on Mishna 2.)
"Torah" parallels "emeth," for Torah is completely truth, and
there is no truth like the Torah. These are the attributes of Yakov.
"Gemiluth chasadim," acts of loving kindness, parallels "shalom,"
for it is these acts of kindness which implant peace and harmony among
people. It is written (Isaiah 32:17) "And the acts of charity are
(themselves acts of) peace." And we are taught (Ch. 2, Mishna 7) that
one who gives a surplus of charity creates a surplus of peace, which
will be explained in more detail at that time.
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.