Chapter 1: Mishna 1: Part 3
Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to
Yehoshua; Yehoshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and
the Prophets transmitted it to the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah
(Members of the Great Assembly). They made three statements
(taught three things): Be deliberate (patient and restrained) in
judgment; establish a large cadre of disciples; and construct a
boundary around the Torah.
We condcluded last week with: "They said THREE
things..." For in essence these three declarations encompass
every facet of wisdom, being exhuastive in their scope, and
are THE recipe to limit its deterioration.
The Maharal continues to explore the exhuastive nature
of the three declarations made by the Anshei Knesset
Hagedolah, in their quest to rectify the deterioration of
wisdom and Torah within the Jewish people.
The Torah is composed of three types of laws: mishpatim
(laws that are logical and which man can figure our for
himself) chukim (laws that do not have any rational reason
that is accessible to us), and mitzvoth (laws that need to
be revealed by G-d, but that we can then find reason for).
The Anshei Knesset HaGedolah gave instructions that cover
the range of Torah laws. "Be deliberate in judgement"
refers to the rational laws, of which monetary judgements
are the quintessential ones. Having many students improves
the quality of the Torah study, facilitating our ability to
better understand the reasons for the Mitzvoth that we
study. Creating fences around the Torah is especially
important for the laws about which we lack any
understanding. (Yes, the Midrash does tell us that it was
the fact that reasons were given for certain laws that led
Shlomo Hamelech to violate them with confidence that the
reasons didn't apply to him. But the intention of the
Maharal here is that the better we understand a law the less
likely an added stringency may be to ensure that we
faithfully adhere to the letter of the law.)
Many of the teachings of "mussar" come to us in threes,
because the number three includes the point, the
counterpoint, and the midpoint. (Thesis, antithesis,
synthesis, if you will.) The Rabbis want to lead us to
perfection by focusing on improving an element at one
extreme, then on the opposite extreme, and finally focusing
on perfect balance in the middle. (This is reminiscent of
the Rambam's "golden mean" in "Shmoneh Prakim", his
introduction to Pirkei Avoth. The Maharal discusses the
importance of the center, balancing extremes, in many
places. We saw it in the Introduction, and it will be
expanded on a number of times.)
(I will add some perspective here, which is in
anticipation of the coming Mishna. There were three Avot,
fathers of the Jewish people: Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov.
Each one had a unique characteristic with which he endowed
the Jewish people. Avraham is known to have been unique in
the characteristic of "chesed," altruistic and unbounded
giving; always giving and doing MORE than is required.
Yitzchak had the opposite characteristic, "din" which is
strict percision and structure, doing exactly what is
required, with no deviation in any direction. Yakov was the
balance of these two characteristics, "tiferet," glory, or
"emet," the point of truth, which synthesised both chesed
Teaching us "Be dilligent in judgement" relates to
"din," the strict way that something is supposed to be.
"Din" implies precise implementation, with no deviation or
flexibility. (In monetary disputes, there is no room to be
strict or lenient, since what is a stringency against one
litigant is a leniency for the other. Precision is the only
way it can work. If I owe $100, it can't be right to have
me pay $95 or $110., but only and exactly $100.00. Yes, I
am aware of the desire to prefer compromise. But that can
only be done with the consensus of both parties, where in
essence they are both forgoing "din.")
"Make a fence around the Torah" emanates from an
opposite perspective, since you have done something that was
not required by the Torah at all, BEYOND the call of duty.
(It should be noted that the Maharal is implying here
that when we go beyond the letter of the law, this is
supposed to emanate from the "chesed" perspective, the
desire to give more than is required, rather than from the
"din" perspective, which would imply the need to be
sturcture and strict discipline. This last point needs
elaboration, and I will look for an opportunity to do so.
Or I can post a short article I wrote a number of months ago
on the topic of "chumrot," stringencies in halacha, if there
are enough requests that I do so. I can send it privately
if there are only a couple of people who are interested.)
"Establishing many disciples" is not a logical
imperative, as is "din." But it is also not completely
voluntary and beyond the call of duty, as is "chesed."
Rather, from within a Torah perspective it is required, to
ensure proper clarification of the Torah, making it more
than just a voluntary protection of the Torah. But it is
not an imperative from the perspective of human logic, as is
"din." So it lies between a logically compelling act and a
purely voluntary one.
This pattern of three is also consistent with the
division of the Torah into chukim, mishpatim, and mitzvoth.
Chukim and mishpatim stand at opposite ends of the spectrum,
one with no apparent reason, and one with logically
compelling reasons. Mitzvoth are in the middle, not
logically compelling from a human perspective, but
understandable with insightful analysis once they have been
(An added word about "chesed." Nowadays, a "tzadik" is
considered a higher level than a "chasid." From an
authentic torah perspective this is not correct. The root
of the word "tzadik" is "tzedek" which implies doing what is
right and required. The root of the word "chasid" is
"chesed" which implies doing MORE than is required. A
person who does all that is required of him is a tzadik.
One who does even MORE than that can reach the level of a
chasid. There are a few textual verifications of this in
biblical sources, and numerous Rabbinic ones.)
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.