Chapter 2: Mishna 19: Part 3
Rebbe Yehoshua also taught lessons of discipline to enable
one to perfect himself, addressing each of three dimensions of
the individual: "guf" -- the physical part of man and its
associated elements; "nefesh" -- the emotional/spiritual part of
man and its associated elements; and the uniquely human
combination of these two forces. (Please refer back to what has
been written on Mishna 16, where the Maharal explained the basic
lesson of Rebbe Yehoshua. What follows is a further elaboration.)
"Ayin harah" (lit: evil eye; jealousy) deprives a person of
his existence in this world, due to the defect in his "nefesh,"
undermining man's existence.
"Yetzer harah" (lit: evil inclination; pursuit of pleasure)
also deprives a person of his existence, due to a defect in his
"guf," the dimension of his physical existence.
Even an animal, whose existence is rooted in the physical
dimension, has a "yetzer harah," drives which are motivated by
the desire for self-gratification and lack of self-control. (See
Bava Kama 2b.) The archetype for "yetzer harah" is the sexual
drive, which emanates from the physical dimension, and -- when
not controlled -- is viewed as the quintessential animalistic
act. (See Rashi on Bamidbar 5:15 about the connection between
adultery and animal acts. There is an additional perspective on
the sex drive, which explains how it can emanate from man's
creative forces. But at the core, it is built on a drive for
eternity, to live on through one's children. This motivation is
rooted in man's recognition of his finite existence due to his
"Ayin harah," jealousy, on the other hand, emanates from a
deficiency in man's emotional/spiritual dimension, a dimension
which does not exist in an animal. Whatever "nefesh" (life-
force) an animal has is simply a more elevated part of its
physical dimension, so an animal doesn't really manifest the
trait of "ayin harah."
(Acts found in the animal kingdom that resemble "jealousy"
can be traced to the motive of self-preservation, which is rooted
in the physical. It is only among humans that we find acts done
out of "jealousy," motivated purely by the insecurity of the ego
caused by someone else having something that I don't have. This
manifests a deficiency in the person's "nefesh.")
Finally, baseless hatred of others -- "sinath habrioth" --
reflects a deficiency in the uniquely human component of the
individual. A person who recognizes and manifests the human
perfection contained within him, cannot have hatred for other
human beings who have that same uniquely human potential.
There is a deeper principle that needs to be understood to
fully grasp the lesson being taught in the fact that these three
deficiencies take a person out of the world. Death results from
a person deviating from the balance at the center, moving towards
an extreme. The word "katzeh" is used to denote the edge, which
is the extreme departure from the center. The root of the word
"katzeh" is "keitz" which means end or termination, indicating
death, which results from a lack of balance. Being centered is
the source of life, which requires equilibrium and balance, as we
explained in the introductory Mishna.
(Because of the importance of this idea -- and because we
studied this Mishna over three years ago, when many of you
weren't with us on this forum -- I have quoted below the section
that we wrote at the time.)
(The Maharal writes the following in his explanation on the
Introductory Mishna "Every member of the nation of Israel has a
share in the World to Come": The power of the center is that it
is the point where everything is in balance, not skewed towards
an extreme or an edge. The Hebrew word for edge is "keitz" which
also means a termination point, implying an end. The center, the
point of balance, is where we find life and eternity, for this
point is the most distant from any extreme, and it as the
extremes that we find termination and death.
(We added: This idea appears in a number of places in the
works of the Maharal. See Gvuros HaShem Ch. 46. The practical
implications of this idea are enormous...It is a treatise for a
life of balance and harmony, eschewing extremes and extremism in
(The Maharal now goes on to elaborate in our Mishna.)
The [material] world which G-d created was created with a
system of balance and equilibrium, and its continued existence
doesn't allow for a digression from that balance. Stability and
longevity are the result of equilibrium. This is indicated by
the fact that the world was created in six days, for the letter
"vav" (with the numerical value of six) indicates balance and
equality. First, the structure of the letter has it standing as
a straight, perfectly balanced upright line [with just a hint of
a curve at its top]. It is pronounced as a repetition of itself
(with no other elements intervening). And uniquely among [single
digit] numbers, it has the greatest numerical equilibrium and
inner integrity, as the Ibn Ezra has taught us (Shemoth 3:15).
The sum of the numbers into which the number six can be evenly
divided, equals six. (6/2=3; 6/3=2; 6/6=1; 3+2+1=6) (The
Maharal then goes on to demonstrate how this doesn't work with
other numbers -- I leave the calculations to you.)
It is for this reason that the world was created in SIX
days, for this number represents balance and equilibrium.
There is no creation in the world that is a more finely
tuned and balanced creature than man. This is why man was
created on the sixth day, indicating the equilibrium and balance
in his humanity. Man embodies both a "guf" (physical body) as
well as a "nefesh" (a metaphysical
emotional/spiritual/intellectual component) and these two
components must be in equilibrium to ensure man's existence. Man
is not supposed to act as a purely physical being, nor is he
supposed to act as a purely metaphysical being, either of which
would undermine his existence in this world. He must maintain a
balance between these two aspects of his creation.
In addition, he is not supposed to act in a way that opposes
mankind [in general], which would surely undermine that
existence. Each of the three defects taught which remove a
person from the world are deviations from the needed balance in
one of these three spheres.
"Ayin harah" undermines man's existence due to an excess of
the "nefesh," turning his emotional and intellectual dimension
into a destructive force, through a negative and jealous attitude
towards others. (Jealousy requires an emotional reaction to what
others have and/or an intellectualization of your perceived
lacking of that thing.) When the "nefesh" is not properly
controlled and utilized, this creates one kind of imbalance which
destroys man's equilibrium.
"Yetzer harah" undermines man's existence due to an excess
of the "guf," causing his existence to become a purely physical
one, which is another extreme which destroys man's equilibrium.
Each of these excesses "takes a person out of the world,"
since the world which G-d created requires balance, and man
himself must be a balance between the physical and the
metaphysical. One who deviates from this balance cannot have a
stable existence in this world.
There is a third deviation which undermines man's existence
in the world, when man opposes his own humanity as it was
designed by G-d. A reaction of hatred towards other people
indicates an opposition to other human beings and a preference
that they not exist. Since every individual is really part of
humanity, this opposition to others is a fundamental opposition
to humanity, which undermines his own existence.
(G-d created humanity as a group of many diverse
individuals. A frequent source of "baseless hatred" is the
failure to appreciate those who think, act or are different than
we are. This is one of the ways to understand the Maharal's
intention in this section. Opposing others simply because they
think or act differently than we do is a fundamental opposition
to the nature of humanity as created by G-d. It really denies
the legitimacy of our own individuality, which is a fundamental
element of the uniqueness of man.)
Just as hating others undermines his existence, causing
others to hate him also undermines that existence. This can be
understood in text, since the phrase "sinath habrioth" can mean
both one who hates others, as well as one who is hated by others.
Any opposition to the nature of man undermines the stability of
In summary, deviating from balance towards an extreme in
either direction subjects man to a lack of stability and
perfection, undermining his existence, "taking him out of the
world." The same result comes from man opposing the essence of
This can be understood in an even deeper way. "Ayin harah"
is a deviation towards the left. "Yetzer harah" is a deviation
towards the right. And "sinath habrioth" is a deviation from man
himself, who is the balance of these two extremes.
("Right" is representative of "chesed," kindness and giving.
A "deviation towards the right" means too much "chesed", lack of
self control. This is the root of sexual promiscuity and other
lusts. "Left" represents "din," strict and precise judgment. A
"deviation towards the left" indicates too much "din," which is
usually the underlying emotion for jealousy and other
manifestations of "ayin harah.' "That person doesn't deserve
it". "How come he has it and I don't?")
Rebbe Yehoshua has taught lessons of discipline for every
aspect of man: For his "nefesh," (emotions and intellect) which
is the source of "ayin harah"; for his "guf" (physical drives)
which is the source of his "yetzer harah"; and for his humanity,
which is compromised when he opposes the humanity of others. If
he would be the human being HE is supposed to be, nothing could
threaten his own humanity, and he would have no rationale for
hating others or for causing others to hate him. (Anyone who
knew or has heard stories of people who were famous for their
love of others -- Reb Aryeh Levin and Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
zt"l are two that come to mind from recent times -- know that
this love was built on their own perfection, self-confidence and
serenity. They were the best human beings they could be, so they
didn't feel challenged or undermined by others. This enabled
them to be generous with their love and appreciation of others --
and it was reciprocated by all who came in contact with them.)
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.