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By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky | Series: | Level:

Rebbe Yossi says: The money of your friend should be as beloved to you as your own; prepare yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance; and all your actions should be for sake of Heaven.

We have explained earlier that the Rabbis teach an all- encompassing lesson of mussar to guide a person to perfect himself completely. And we further explained that a person’s complete perfection requires that it be in three areas. A person must perfect himself in relation to other people, he must perfect himself in relation to his own human potential, and he must perfect himself in relation to his Creator. (See our explanation of the Maharal’s introduction to Derech Chaim, and our explanation of the Maharal’s commentary on Ch. 1, Mishna 2.) In line with this, Rebbe Yossi also comes to teach us to perfect ourselves in these three areas.

“The money of your friend should be as beloved to you as your own” instructs us about perfection in relation to our fellow man. He chose to teach this lesson, rather than teaching about making our friend’s honor beloved to us (as did Rebbe Eliezer), for if the money of our friend is beloved to us, certainly his honor and human dignity will be beloved to us. So Rebbe Yossi has demanded a higher level of perfection than Rebbe Eliezer.

(This point can be confusing. It seems that people are more sensitive to the impropriety of stealing money from someone than they are about insulting or embarrassing them. It seems to require a higher level of sensitivity to refrain from embarrassing someone than it does to refrain from stealing money from their wallet. Yet we would all agree that human dignity is more valuable and more important than money. The root of this seeming inconsistency lies in our social conditioning. Society is much more tolerant of those who insult others than it is of those who steal from others. So we are more careful about stealing than we are about insulting someone. But the reality is that sensitivity to my friend’s human dignity and respect is more fundamental than sensitivity to his money, since one’s human dignity is more important and valuable than one’s money. Because respect for your friend’s dignity and honor is more fundamental, it can be expected even of people on a lower spiritual level. Something which is in reality more subtle, is demanded only of people on a higher spiritual level. Therefore, explains the Maharal, Rebbe Eliezer’s lesson was more basic, while Rebbe Yossi’s came to teach a higher level of perfection.)

In order for man to perfect himself in relation to his own human potential and essence, we have taught (in Ch. 1, Mishna 2) that there is no greater way for man to perfect himself, rising above the limitations and deficiency of his material dimension, than through Torah study. The “sechel” (spiritual/intellectual dimension) of the Torah elevates man above his animal existence, making him one who is governed by “sechel” rather than his physicality. This is the perfection of man in relation to his own human potential. (It is only the human being who has this unique combination of both animal physicality and intellectual spirituality. And it is the unique challenge of the human being to elevate his physical dimension to a more spiritual level. Torah is the only way this can be fully accomplished.) It is towards this end that Rebbe Yossi taught “prepare (perfect) yourself to study Torah, for it does not come to you as an inheritance.” Because it isn’t acquired through the process of inheritance, (but rather one must work to acquire it), a person must prepare himself for Torah [to be assimilated and prefect the person].

(No special preparations or talents are necessary for a person to inherit a large sum of money. But for someone to transform a small amount of money into a large amount of money, much preparation and work is necessary. Because Torah is NOT something which can be transmitted through the process of inheritance, each person who wants to acquire it must take the necessary steps for him to be suitable recipient of the Torah.

(What are the necessary preparations? What must a person do to fulfil this lesson of the Mishna? The answer to that question would — and does — fill books. But in a couple of short sentences, we will outline what are some steps necessary to ENABLE a person to study and acquire (authentic) Torah (as revealed to us by G-d and transmitted throughout the generations.) The primary preparation is character development, with main trait being humility. An egocentric person has no room in their life for G-d, and therefore no opening for Torah to inform and influence him. Going beyond that is what the Maharal terms (in other places) being a “mekabel,” someone who is capable of being a recipient. In our society, independence and autonomy are among the most valued traits. “No one can tell me what to do.” “Every person is entitled to their opinion.” “Each person has their own truth.” “Whatever works for you is fine.” This extends to moral relativism, with all truth originating within the individual. A fundamental change necessary to enable Torah to be properly acquired is the recognition that there is a Being greater, more elevated and more knowledgeable than we are, who is revealing to us truths we would have no access to without that revelation. We have to recognize that we don’t know it all, and we have to have the desire to receive missing knowledge from outside of ourselves. A person must feel they are lacking something before they can be a recipient of that thing. An average person doesn’t feel they have a lack which could be filled by receiving a billion dollars, and that average person would be hard-pressed to properly receive — in the sense of being able to assimilate and properly utilize — a billion dollars if it was given to them. On the other hand, Bill Gates doesn’t feel that he personally is missing ten thousand dollars, and he wouldn’t be a proper recipient of that amount of money. There is no lack that he has which could be filled by it. The exact opposite is true for most of us. Because we do feel – on some level – a lack that could be filled with an additional ten thousand dollars, we would be able to be recipients of ten thousand dollars. To be a proper recipient of Torah, we must recognize the need to fill a lack that we have — the missing transcendent aspect of our humanity would be one clear lack — and seek the fulfillment of that lack in Torah.)

Finally, Rebbi Yossi concludes with the lesson that “all your actions should be for sake of Heaven.” (The implication “for the sake of HEAVEN” is that actions one’s actions are motivated by something beyond the person himself, something more elevated and transcendent.) This perfects man in relation to his Creator, completing the perfection of man in each of the three areas necessary for complete perfection.

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