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 gates.
“Avodah,” service, is man’s perfection in relation to G-d. The parallel to this in our Mishna is “din.” It is through correct “din” that the judge becomes a partner with G-d in the process of creation, becoming “good” (fulfilling his purpose; refer back to the Maharal’s introduction, as well as Mishna 2) in his relationship with G-d.
Torah is man’s perfection in relation to his essence as a human being. The parallel in our Mishna is “emeth,” truth, which is the perfection of the individual, accomplished through the embodiment and pursuit of truth. This makes him “good” in relation to himself (“To thine own self be true” …). Emeth, truth, is a reality, while “sheker,” falsehood, lacks any reality or existence. The quality of a person’s existence is a function of his integrity.
“Gemiluth chasadim,” acts of loving kindness, is man’s perfection in relation to his fellow man. The parallel in our Mishna is “shalom,” peace and harmony, for this is how man is “good,” fulfilling his purpose, in relation to his fellow man.
But there is a distinction between the elements taught by Shimon HaTzadik and those taught in our Mishna. Torah, avodah and gemiluth chasadim are the foundations of the creation of the world. It is with these elements that G-d began his creation, bestowing initial existence through them. AFTER the world was created, G-d’s continued support and the continued functioning of the world is dependent on the three elements of our Mishna.
First is “din.” The world endures through the decrees of G-d, as it is written (Tehillim 33:9) “He has said, and it becomes; he commands, and it stands.” G-d’s decrees are the embodiment of “din,” the strict imperative, and it is for this reason that the name of G-d which is used during creation is that of “Elokim,” the G-d of strict judgment and imperative. (The laws of nature reveal to us the will of G-d through a dimension of imperative and compulsion, in contrast with the laws of the Torah, which reveal the will of G-d through a dimension of man’s free choice.) It is through the process of ensuring the integrity of the worlds decreed imperatives that the judge becomes a partner with G-d in His creation. If “din” would not exist in the world of man, then G-d would withhold His ongoing decrees by which the world is sustained.
“Emeth” is another element that ensures the ongoing functioning of the world, as it is written (Tehillim 11:8) “They are supported forever and eternally; they are made in truth and are straightforward.” It is through its truth that the world is maintained, in line with the adage “Truth stands; falsehood does not stand.” Without truth, the world crumbles. (Refer to last week’s shiur about what is meant by “truth.”)
And “shalom,” the final element of completion and fulfillment of creation, is necessary for the world’s continuing functioning. Without peaceful interaction of all the elements of the world, this element of completion would be lacking, and the world would not be sustained.
Understand these ideas, for they are very lofty and very deep in wisdom of the transcendent; there are more great and deep ideas (contained therein) and it is impossible to elaborate more. And the Blessed One will merit provide us (with more understanding) in Netiv HaEmeth and Yosher (Netivoth Olam).
(The last paragraph is a verbatim translation of the words of the Maharal at this point in his commentary. I have included it due to the responses I received wanting to know why (as I wrote in the beginning of last week’s shiur) I had skipped the “Kabbalistic parts.” “Those are the best parts!” someone wrote. In actuality, Kabbalah is called the “HIDDEN dimension” of Torah, and as such it is not taught and transmitted in the same way that the revealed parts of Torah are. Chazal place limitations on the ways it is supposed to be taught, and who is suited to learn it. (See Chagiga Ch. 2, and the Rambam’s Introduction to his commentary on Mishna.) While the internet had not yet been invented in Talmudic times, it is clear from the Rabbinical literature that this is not a suitable medium for dissemination of these dimensions of Torah wisdom. Additionally, there is a requirement that one be most well versed in the revealed dimensions of Torah (Tanach, Talmud, Halacha, basic philosophy) before being ready for its hidden dimensions. This is why the Maharal concludes sections that deal with Kabbalistic matters with phrases like we have quoted above — transcendent and deep ideas which cannot be elaborated on more he has already done in his cryptic way. Which is why the works of the Maharal are known to contain hidden Torah in the guise of revealed Torah.)
(The Maharal now presents an overview summary of the development of the chapter.)
The earlier teachings of the five pairs of Tanaim (ending with Hillel and Shammai) were to instruct man on perfecting his behavior from perspectives of both fear and love. After completing those lessons, we return to lessons on how man can perfect the essence of his “self,” defining the kind of person he is. “Make yourself a Rav, remove yourself from doubtful situations; and don’t use estimates too often in determining tithes,” are behaviors befitting a man who possesses a spiritual/intellectual component, and teach man that all his actions should be clear and precise, reflecting this level of being (Mishna 16).
As we said above, this Mishna (in contrast to Mishna 6) is referring to a Rav who is necessary to ensure that man’s intellectual component is understanding the Torah in a correct way, avoiding any distortion in the intellectual assimilation of Torah wisdom. This is the way man will have the true Torah, as befits one whose dominant dimension is “sechel.” But there seems to be a difference between the first two lessons of the Mishna, and the third one which teaches us not to “use estimates too often in determining tithes.” For this last behavior doesn’t seem to be such an imperative one. It therefore appears that this Mishna is referring to the three levels of man’s intellect, and advising one that each of these levels should function with clarity. First is the transcendent, objective sechel. A Rav is necessary to ensure that it is assimilating the Torah, which is transcendent, objective truth, in an accurate fashion. Next comes pragmatic sechel, which is what enables man to figure out the best way to accomplish something in the real world. Removing yourself from doubtful situations is the proper way to behave in ensuring that this level of sechel functions precisely. Finally, there is the sechel of imagination and ideas. Even within this dimension of sechel, when it must bring man to action those actions must be precise and accurate. We are therefore taught not to minimize the use of estimates in tithing.
This is followed by the lesson of Rabban Shimon, teaching man, who has a component of physicality, the most appropriate behavior for his perfection. Silence, even among wise people, is a virtue in man (Mishna 17).
What is common to these last two lessons is that they are not as imperative as the earlier lessons of the chapter. The earlier lessons instruct man how to perfect himself through behaviors of love and awe, which is compulsory. After the five pairs concluded the fundamental lessons, Rabban Gamliel came to teach how man can properly reflect his essence as an intellectual/spiritual being, followed by Rabban Shimon teaching how man’s physical component can also function in the most appropriate way. These lessons do not contain elements of love and awe, but are supplementary lessons in how man can best reflect his true essence.