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By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky | Series: | Level:

Rebbe Yehoshua says: “Ayin harah” (evil eye), “yetzer harah” (evil inclination), and “sinath habrioth” (hatred of people) remove a person from the world.

(I have quoted the phrases in a Hebrew transliteration, because the translation given is only an approximate one. With the Maharal’s commentary, you should receive a more accurate understanding of the phrases’ meaning.)

One needs to examine why these specific things would take one out of the world. It is impossible to say that these things were said simply as a general notion and approximation [of what the Rabbis thought would be detrimental to man’s functioning]. (We have seen this as a foundation of the Maharal’s approach to understanding the teachings of the Rabbis. They are not giving us tips on how to live our lives more effectively. They are communicating fundamental truths about man and about the world.)

We have already explained (Ch. 1, Mishna 2) that it is the good (“tov”) that exists within each creation that is the source of its existence in this world. Without this “tov,” a creation has no enduring existence. This is indicated by the repetition in the verses of creation (Breishith, Ch. 1) “And G-d saw it was good,” meaning that the good they embodied made them worthy of being. (“Tov” refers to something aligned with its ultimate purpose, completely fulfilling that purpose. Please refer back to our extensive discussion on this topic in the cited Mishna.) One of the reasons the first set of tablets (of the Ten Commandments) was broken and didn’t endure was that the word “tov” wasn’t written in it.

(This refers to the verse of “Honor your father and mother” in Shemoth 20:12. Compare with Devarim 5:16, which adds “in order that it should be good for you.” In Tifereth Yisrael, Ch. 43 the Maharal explains why the word “tov” is absent from the first set of tablets, while it is written in the second ones. The first tablets were given directly by G-d to the Jewish people, and were on a more transcendent level than the second tablets, which were delivered more directly by Moshe Rabbeinu. [“Psal l’chah,” “Carve out yourself…” is the phrase G-d used in commanding Moshe for the second set of tablets. See Shemoth 34:1 and the commentaries on this phrase.] As such, the ability of the world, with its physical component, to assimilate the word of G-d embodied in the first tablets was limited. The word “tov” implies a complete fulfillment of potential, and since man’s physical dimension limited his ability to fully assimilate the commandments, the word “tov” is absent. However, when they were communicated more directly by Moshe Rabbeinu, they were given on a lower level, making them more accessible to man. At this level, it was possible for them to be fully assimilated, and the full potential inherent in these commandments was available to man. Therefore, the word “tov” could be used.)

A creation which is “tov” has a sustained existence and reality, since it is aligned with its potential, with no lack or deficiency. Something which is “rah,” evil, is deficient, and as such it lacks endurance, leading to its ultimate demise. (The Maharal explains in numerous places that deterioration and destruction is the result of something’s deficiency and lack.)

In the Tanach, three things (parts of man) are called “rah.” One is the “yetzer harah,” as it is written “For the yetzer (inclination) of man’s heart is ‘rah’ from his youth” (Breishith 8:21). The second is an “ayin harah,” which we find in the verse “Don’t eat the bread of one whose eye is evil” (Mishlei 23:6). Finally, the heart is called “rah” in the verse “…and they will not go anymore after the stubbornness of their evil hearts” (Yirmiyahu 3:17).

(The root meaning of the word “yetzer” is “to create.” So the term “yetzer harah” really means creating something which is “rah,” which has no ultimate purpose or endurance. If we think about the material goals and lusts we pursue in response to our “yetzer harah,” we can see short-lived they are, with little enduring purpose. “Ayin harah” refers to the perspective a person has on the things he sees around him. Is he jealous, resentful and begrudging of what others have? THAT is “ayin harah.” “Sinath habrioth” needs little elaboration, unfortunately. It refers to the person who can’t get along with others, always being in opposition to those around him. “Lev rah,” an evil heart is the root of this behaviour.)

It is the “rah,” the evil and deficiency in each of these parts of man that undermine his existence, removing him from the world: The “ayin harah” (which relates to the way man views things), the “yetzer harah” (the creative tendencies of man), and the “lev rah” (manifested by his negative feelings towards and hatred of other people).

As we will explain later, Rebbe Eliezer has taught man how to enter the next world. Rebbe Yehoshua is teaching how man should maintain a proper existence in this world [with three lessons that are all interrelated].

(At this stage, the Maharal gives only an overview of each of the Mishnayoth which teach the lessons of each of the five students of Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakai. After all the lessons are completed will come a more detailed explanation, and you should receive a much deeper understanding of what is being taught.)

(Mishna 28 in Chapter 4 has a similar lesson to our Mishna: “Jealousy, lust and pursuit of honor remove a person from the world.” As the Maharal explains at the end of his commentary on that Mishna, jealousy is a lack of control of the human life- force and emotional dimension of man, lust is a lack of control of man’s physical dimension, while pursuit of honor is a deficiency in man’s recognition of the Divine nature of his creation. This parallels the lessons of our Mishna. “Ayin harah” is the source of jealousy. “Yetzer harah” is the source of lust. And “sinat habrioth” results from man’s failure to recognize the Divine element in every human being, as he feeds his ego in pursuit of honor. We will have more to say at the end of this series of Mishnayoth, as well as in our explanation of the Mishna in Chapter 4.)

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