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By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky | Series: | Level:

Shmaya and Avtalyon received (the tradition) from them (Yehuda ben Tabai and Shimon ben Shatach). Shmaya says: Love work; despise public office; and don’t become known to (become intimate with) politicians.

(We are continuing with the very striking hierarchy Chazal present between one who “enjoys what he achieves with his own hands” and one who “fears Heaven.”)

[About one who “enjoys what he achieves (reaches) with his own hands” it is written “ashrecha” — in this world.] “Ashrecha” comes from the word meaning “strength” or “steadfast,” indicating that the person will not fall or decline, since he is “joyous in his allotment.” (See Chapter 4, Mishna 1, and the Maharal’s elaboration there. It will be a while until we get to it :-).) This happiness, flowing from his not feeling any lack, demonstrates his enduring strength and substantive existence in this world. And it gives him an even more enduring existence in the world to come, the world which is purely “tov.” (“Tov” is loosely translated as “good,” but as we have discussed before, this does not accurately reflect the meaning of the word. The implication of “tov” is something which is fulfilling the purpose for which it was created.) In creation, the Torah writes about each thing G-d created that He saw it was “tov,” that it had a justified and stable existence, since it was fulfilling a necessary purpose in G-d’s creation. Chazal interpret our verse in Tehilim (128:2) “and it is tov for you” to refer to the world to come, implying an even greater substantive existence than “ashrei.” But one who fears Heaven is praised with just one phrase, “ashrei” for he does not have “this world” in all its completeness, nor does he have the world to come in all its completeness.

(This seeming deficiency of one who fears Heaven is very difficult to understand, and I have simply translated the words of the Maharal. Bear with us for another couple of paragraphs of translation, after which it will be a little clearer, and I will attempt to further explain what is being taught.)

The principle is that when a person is complete, not lacking anything, he has a substantive existence, having no deficiency. This confers upon him complete existence in this world in the way it should be; and complete existence in the next world as it should be. Each world has a different level of existence, and the verse implies that this persons existence is fitting for each world as he inhabits it.

But a person who [only] fears Heaven, does not have a substantive existence in this world. (It is a tentative existence, due to his fear.) His fear indicates a feeling of lack, and as such he is not able to fully exist in this world. His existence in both worlds is combined in one word, “ashrei,” indicating that his (relatively) tentative existence in this world will bring him to a portion in the world to come, although it will not be as complete as the one who has no deficiency. The combining together of what are two fundamentally independent existences, shows that neither one is being fully actualized.

(Despite the importance of fearing Heaven, one who is motivated by fear is functioning, to a certain degree, on an egocentric level. He is afraid of what will happen to him if he violates G-d’s will. He is afraid that he will not be healthy, or that he will not have money, or that something bad will happen to his family. And that he won’t make it in to Olam Habah, the world to come. He isn’t motivated by the inherent desire to serve G-d, but by the fear of what will happen to him, personally.

(A person who does not feel his completeness is always pursuing what he does not have, existing in an unstable state and constantly doubting his own existence. He is always focused on what he needs to do to ensure that he exists. He is worried that his existence can be taken away from him. Even one who does Mitzvoth is not immune from this insecurity. He knows that his existence, his health, his happiness, are all dependent on his not getting G-d angry with him. So he does what is necessary to succeed, recognizing that his Mitzvoth are the surest path to his success. But the motivation is HIS success, whether in this world, or in attaining a nice “seat” in the world to come. This is the difference between one who serves G-d out of fear, worrying about himself, and one who serves G-d out of love, motivated by the inner drive to return whatever resources G-d has bestowed upon him, using them to serve G-d. A feeling of completeness does not mean complacency. It means recognizing that every resource that G-d gives us is given so that we can use it to serve Him in some way. And trying to attain what we don’t have is done only because we feel that with it we can better serve G-d. And what we don’t have isn’t a deficiency in our existence. It means that our service of G-d is done in different ways, since we can’t be expected to serve G-d with talents or resources that we don’t possess. A person is not expected to serve G-d in the identical way as another person does, since he is given different abilities and therefore different responsibilities. Possessions, resources, talents are all viewed as tools with which to serve G-d, and having them imposes responsibility on us — to use them wisely and properly.

(With these insights, we can begin to understand what Chazal mean when they praise the person who ENJOYS what he has achieved through the reach of his own hands. Whatever he has, is what he uses to serve G-d. Looking for more than he has would only be motivated by his desire to increase his service. That motivation, if it is honest, will define the way he goes about acquiring those resources, and will affect the way he reacts in the event his efforts fail. This is service of G-d out of love.

(A person motivated solely by fear, is worried that something will happen to him if… While he will enter the world to come, since he has been careful to fulfill the will of G-d, his existence in this world lacks a certain stability and confidence, and his entrance in to the next world is not on the level of one serving G-d from love.

(The Maharal elaborates on these concepts in Chapter 4, Mishna 1, and we will develop this further when we reach that Mishna.)

One who ENJOYS what he achieves will naturally love the one who provided him with it (the Almighty), just as a person feels a love for someone who provides him with a cherished present. And we have been taught (Sotah 31a) that love is greater than fear, as it is written (Shmoth 20:6 and Rashi; Dvarim 5:10) in relation to love “[G-d] does kindness for 2,000 [generations] to those who are loved by Him;” while in relation to fear it is written (Dvarim 7:9) “…and for those who are careful (implying service out of fear) of his commands, for 1,000 generations.”

In summary, the Gemara in Brachoth is referring to the two ways to serve G-d, one out of love and one out of fear. The person who ENJOYS what he achieves embodies the love of G-d, the satisfaction that whatever G-d has given him is what he needs to fulfill his role in serving G-d. And he is greater than the person who fears G-d.

It is on this basis that our Tana taught us to love work, which means, according to our explanations, that he is a person who enjoys what he achieves with his own striving, feeling no lack, and through this he attains both a stable existence in this world and an eternal existence in the world to come.

The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel for Women.