Chapter 2: Mishna 11: Part 2
He used to enumerate their praises. Eliezer ben
Horkonus [is like a] cemented well which does not
lose [even] a drop [of water]. Yehoshua ben
Chanania -- praiseworthy is she who gave birth to
him. Yossi HaCohen is a "chasid" (a pious one).
Shimon ben Nethanel is one who fears sin. Elazar
ben Arach is a flowing spring that surges forth.
After having praised the purity of the material dimension of Rebbe
Yehoshua, which serves as a carrier for an exalted state of the nefesh,
RYB"Z praises Rebbi Yossi HaKohen as a chasid, which is the result of an
even higher and more delicate level of the material dimension, the chomer.
This more elevated form of chomer serves as a carrier for the sechel (the
higher form of "kochot hanefesh"). We have explained in an earlier Mishna
how the characteristic of "chasid" is rooted in an elevated dimension of
the chomer, which leads one to serve and contribute more than is required.
(See our explanation on Mishna 6, particularly part 2. The power of giving
requires an altruistic nature, something which is not normally found in
pure chomer, which is focused on its own self-preservation.) It is the
pure and refined chomer that has the ability to give for something outside
of itself, which is the foundation of the true "chasid." While the praise
of Rebbe Yehoshua ben Chanania describes the excellence of his chomer, the
level of Rebbi Yossi HaKohen is a more elevated praise, since his
characteristic is built on a virtual transcendence of the nature of the
chomer itself. We have explained how each of the "kochot hanefesh" is
carried by an appropriate "koach haguf," and how the two levels of "kochot
hanefesh" imply two levels of "kochot haguf." The chomer, the physical
medium, of Rebbi Yossi HaKohen, which serves as the carrier of the sechel,
the higher form of "kochot hanefesh," is more elevated than the chomer of
Rebbe Yehoshua ben Chanania, which serves as a carrier for the lower form
of "kochot hanefesh." It is particularly appropriate that this virtue (of
"chasid") be found in a Kohen, in line with the verse "Your Tumim and your
Urim are given to your pious one" (Devarim 33:8). This connection is known
to people of knowledge and understanding. (I have included this concluding
line of the Maharal, to indicate that he views the connection as esoteric.
A small elaboration follows.) (The verse is speaking about the Urim
v'Tumim, part of the uniform of the Kohen Gadol, used by him to receive
communication from G-d. "Tumim," from the root "tam," perfect, implies
moral perfection; "Urim," from the root "or," light, implies intellectual
perfection. "Your pious one" implies one who is selflessly devoted to G-d.
The Kohen is viewed as one completely devoted to the service of G-d and the
nation. See the Maharal's explanation of Ch. 4, Mishna 17 on the Crown of
Kehuna. Our explanation of Ch. 1, Mishna 12, which discusses Aharon
HaKochen as a lover and pursuer of peace, will also help in understanding
the Maharal's ideas here.)
Then comes the praise of Shimon ben Netanel as one who fears sin. This
praise is a function of his pure and refined sechel (intellectual/spiritual
dimension) which leads one to fear sin. This was explained earlier, in the
Mishna (6) that teaches that an "am ha'aretz" can't be a chasid, and a boor
can't be one who fears sin. A chasid is one who has a refined and purified
physical dimension, while an am ha'aretz has a heavy and coarse material
dimension, very much rooted in the earth (the "earthiness" of a material
existence in contrast to the lightness, delicacy and abstractness of the
intellect). When one is a boor, lacking in wisdom, he can't be one who has
a fear of heaven. One who fears heaven is motivated and propelled by his
connection with the Divine. This connection and fear can exist only with
one who is close to G-d. One who is distant from a king is not awed by
him, and he has little fear of him. Therefore, a boor, who is ignorant of
the Divine, can't be in awe of G-d, and can't be one who fears sin (having
no understanding of the greatness of G-d and the detriment of sin). (See
Mishna 6, parts 1 and 2 of this chapter for an elaboration of what has been
presented here in brief.) This will also be discussed in Chapter 3, Mishna
21, which teaches that if there is no wisdom there can be no fear (of
heaven) and if there is no fear (of heaven) there can be no wisdom, where
wisdom and fear are inseparably linked. One cannot exist without the
other. So saying that Rebbe Shimon ben Netanel was one who fears sin, is
really teaching that his sechel was refined and pure, able to grasp
intellectual truths, leading him to be one who fears sin. One with
intellectual clarity and refinement resides close to G-d, due to the
quality of his understanding (of the Divine reality which permeates the
world). This does not imply that Rebbe Shimon ben Netanel was necessarily
smarter than Rebbe Eliezer ben Horkonus and Rebbe Elazar ben Arach. Rebbe
Shimon ben Netanel's acclaim is the special characteristic of the sechel,
being pure and refined. Rebbe Elazar ben Arach was a flowing spring that
surges forth, generating new wisdom and understanding from within himself.
Rebbe Eliezer ben Horkonus's wisdom was a result of the complete retention
of the wisdom that he acquired. Each of these is a unique characteristic
that relates to wisdom, distinct from Rebbe Shimon ben Netanel's special
characteristic, which describes excellence in the carrier of the sechel.
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.
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