Chapter 1: Mishna 10: Part 4
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.
(The person who loves work, the person who enjoys what he produces
through his own efforts, is living a life of service rather than
looking for a life of leisure. Contrast this with the modern western
perspective on the relationship between work and leisure time.)
(While a person who enjoys what he achieves with his own hands has
a stable existence both in this world as well as in the world to
come...) Power exerted over other people undermines a person's own
existence, as we are taught (see Pesachim 87b) "Woe to (him who is in)
a position of power, for it buries he who wields it. There was no
prophet didn't outlive four kings..." (The prophets, who were the
epitome of service, outlived the kings, who wielded power over others.)
Going even further than this we are taught (Berachoth 55a; Sotah 13b)
"Why did Yosef die before his brothers? Because he exerted power over
them." Power over others shortens one's life, because one who exerts
power over others detaches himself from the community (the "klal")
making himself into a separate and individual element. An individual
element has a less stable existence than a group, just as a few drops
of water has less of an existence than a river of water. The power of
the "klal" where the individual elements are united together is much
greater the that of the individual, and a "klal" doesn't disintegrate.
Therefore we are taught to "love work, and hate the exercise of power
over others," which detaches the individual from the "klal."
(At the conclusion of this Mishna, I am including a Dvar Torah
about the relationship between the 17th of Tammuz and its primary sin
(the Golden Calf), and the 9th of Av and its primary sin (the spies and
the nation's rejection of entering the land of Israel). It is both
appropriate as "inyana d'yoma," relevant to the coming fast, as well as
helping in understanding what the Maharal writes in explaining our
We are taught "DON'T (definitively) become intimate with those in
power." Loving work (and the commitment to serve that it implies) is
the ideal. Exerting power over the community can potentially be done
properly (if the motivation is purely one of service, as opposed to ego
gratification or personal gain), although the benefit is usually
overshadowed by its disadvantage. But becoming intimate with people
who themselves wield power is never motivated by the desire to serve.
(Emphasis here is on the word "intimate" as opposed to interacting with
them to truly accomplish valuable, altruistic goals.) In fact, no true
benefit comes from this intimacy, since these people themselves are
only interested in their own personal agendas, and any intimacy that
they have with others is only to further those goals.
The main message of this Mishna is teaching one how to ensure
personal perfection, coupled with being the cause of the name of G-d to
become beloved by others. When Torah scholars are motivated by the
desire to serve others, when they are giving to the community, this is
It is striking that " Cheit Hameraglim", the sin of the spies
convincing the Jews not to enter Eretz Yisrael is viewed on many levels
as being more serious than "Cheit Haegel" the sin of the idol worship
embodied in the Golden Calf.
Cheit Haegel was on the 17th of Tammuz, Cheit Hameraglim on Tisha
B'Av, the 9th of Av. We know that Tisha B'Av is viewed as a greater
day of mourning. The Mishna in Taanit (Chapter 4, Mishna 1) mentions
five things that happened on the 17th of Tammuz and five things on
Tisha B'Av. The relationship between each of the tragedies of the 17th
of Tammuz are that they are less serious beginnings of processes that
reached their conclusion on the 9th of Av. This is obvious in the
breaking of the city walls on the 17th of Tammuz followed by the
destruction of the Temples on Tisha B'Av. (See chapter 8 of the
Maharal's Netzach Yisrael for a further elaboration of this idea.)
Another indication of the greater seriousness of Cheit Hameraglim
is the fact that G-d basically forgave those who sinned with the Egel.
The punishment for the Cheit Haegel is delivered "byom pokdi, uphakadti
aleihem chatatam..." (Shemoth 32:34), punishment for this sin gradually
extracted over the generations in combination with other punishments.
After Cheit Hameraglim, the entire generation was condemned to death in
the desert, and only a new generation could go into Eretz Yisrael.
There is a striking Sifri (Bamidbar, Parshat Naso, #144) for which
the Maharal offers a fundamental principle in explaining it. Rebbi
Elazar the son of Reb Elazar Hakafar says: Great is Shalom (unity), for
even if the Jewish people are serving Avoda Zarah (false idols) but
they are united, they are immune from retribution.
The beginning of destruction is when every person is worrying
about himself and his own personal agenda. Everyone is pulling in his
own personal direction, and whatever exists is in danger of collapse.
The walls begin to crack. When everyone is united in a common purpose
transcending the individual (even if, chas v'chalilah, the purpose is
not the best one) there is an integrity of the unit that makes it
impregnable. This was the situation of Klal Yisrael at cheit haegel,
where they were UNITED in the search for an alternative to Moshe as
their leader to lead them in their continued service of G-d. This had
overtones of Avoda Zara (see Ramban, Ki Tisah), and for that they were
threatened with destruction. But when G-d forgave them, their unity
enabled them to continue united in their mission which had gotten
sidetracked, with their punishment being measured out over time, while
they received the second set of tablets and proceeded towards Eretz
Yisrael. They were united in the desire to SERVE G-d, being misguided
in how to implement what was a fundamentally altruistic motivation.
The sin of the spies and the rejection by Klal Yisrael of entry
into the Land of Israel was a case of individuals pursing THEIR OWN
agenda. They desired to stay in the womb of the desert, where all
their needs were taken care of in a miraculous way, rather than enter
Eretz Yisrael and be involved in serving G-d in a more "earthly" way.
G-d's agenda for them was entry into Israel, and to serve Him under new
conditions. But the people were more interested in their own perceived
spiritual welfare, rather than fulfilling G-d's mission for them in the
way He wanted it. Pursuit of the individual agenda is a fragmentation
of the Jewish people; the beginnings of the "crack in the wall," as
each person is worrying "what's good for me."
Galut, exile, which is the result of the destruction of the Beit
HaMikdash on Tisha B'Av, is the state of the Jewish people being
dispersed (pizur). It came about because of Sinat Chinam, unjustified
hatred of others (Yoma 9b), where each person views other people as
intrusions, being in his way to pursue his own agenda. Any perceived
unity is purely functional. A group of individuals may come together
because each individual feels that his or her personal agenda will be
better accomplished with the help of the others. But the unity itself
is egocentric. The forerunner of this was the sin of the spies, where
the Jewish people together decided to pursue individual agendas rather
than a united one.
When one is motivated by the desire to serve, other people are
viewed not as competition and an intrusion, but rather as additional
resources in helping to assure the accomplishment of the mission. What
I can't accomplish, someone else can. Strengths are emphasized and not
The Maharal in Netiv HaShalom, Chapter 1 teaches us that the
characteristic of humility is: "...when man doesn't single himself out
as being special in an independent way, separating him from others;
rather he views himself as equal to others, which is Shalom (peace;
harmony). Machloket (divisiveness) occurs only when each one views
himself as being independently superior" (arrogance as opposed to
The true Jewish leader is one who is focused completely on serving
the community, giving all he can in a selfless way to fill the needs of
the community. This is the underlying meaning of the lesson "Love
work" -- the inherent desire to utilize our resources, our energy, our
creative ability to produce what we can for the benefit of others.
This behavior is the foundation of service. When the Jewish
People knows how to behave in this way, it becomes deserving of Beit
Hamikdash, a Temple to serve G-d and to bring His glory in to the
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.