Chapter 2: Mishna 13: Part 2
He (RYB"Z) said to them (his five students): Go out
and see which is a good path for a person to attach
himself to. Rebbi Eliezer said "Ayin Tovah" (a
good eye). Rebbi Yehoshua said "Chaver Tov" (a
good friend). Rebbi Yossi said "Shachen Tov" (a
good neighbor). Rebbi Shimon said "One who
foresees the outcome (of his actions)." Rebbi
Elazar said "Lev tov" (a good heart). He (RYB"Z)
said: I "see" (prefer) the words (the opinion) of
Rebbi Elazar be Arach, for included in his words
are your words.
"Rebbi Yossi said 'Shachen Tov' (a good neighbor is the path
one should choose)." Rebbe Yehoshua's choice was "a good
friend," since his virtue was built on the purity of his material
dimension, which can unite with the "koach hanefesh," the human
life force. Rebbe Yossi chose "a good neighbor" which was a
reflection of his own virtue -- an even higher purity of the
material dimension, which was able to house the "koach hasechel,"
the spiritual-intellectual force of the human being.
What is the difference?
An individual's friend ("chafer") is intimately connected to
him, forming a bond that is complete and lasting. The
relationship to his neighbor ("shachein") is more casual and
temporary, since it is due only to proximity. This distinction
reflects the difference between the connection that the person's
material dimension has to his life force ("koach hanefesh") and
to his spiritual intellect ("koach hasechel"). There can be an
intimate connection between an individual's material dimension
and his more human "koach hanefesh." But in regards to an
individual's transcendent "koach hasechel," the relationship is
due only to the fact that the "sechel" resides in proximity to
the "guf," the material dimension, but has no real binding and
lasting attachment. ( This will become a little clearer in a
couple of paragraphs. But the assumption is that the there is a
fundamental incompatibility between the finite material and the
infinite spiritual. The more materialistic something is, the
less attachment there can be between it and something spiritual.)
Therefore, the material dimension which connects with the
"koach hanefesh" (human life force) is called a "chafer" (a
friend, with the root "chibbur") since it can unite with it. The
material dimension which connects with the "koach hasechel"
(spiritual-intellectual force) is called a "shachein" (a
neighbor) since they have simply "taken up residence" near each
other. (The greater spiritual nature of the sechel prevents it
from making a bond with the material.)
(At this point, the Maharal here refers us back to his
commentary on Ch. 1, Mishna 5. In our shiurim, we did not
elaborate on the section he is referring to. But for those of
you who want to see it in the original, he discusses the link
between the "sechel" and the "nasi" (the political leader who was
above the people) on the one hand, and the "nefesh" and the "av
beith din" (the one who was responsible for implementing the
system "in the real world") on the other hand. It is towards the
end of his commentary on Mishna 5 in the first chapter.)
(In the coming summary, the Maharal will be utilizing
concepts that we introduced in the explanations of Mishna 10 and
11. I know it has been a long time -- they need to be reviewed
to grasp what is going to be presented.)
We can now understand how these lessons are organized.
The "sechel" completely transcends the material dimension,
the physical medium that serves as the carrier of the sechel.
The "koach nefesh," on the other hand, has some connection to the
material which serves as its carrier. [The two material
dimensions along with the two metaphysical dimensions account for
four elements. In addition, there is a fifth element, which
serves as the foundation from which all the forces emanate.]
Rebbe Yossi HaCohen's virtue, "chasid," was the result of
the extreme refinement in his material dimension. This leads to
his choice of the good path being "shachein tov". He is teaching
us that one should elevate himself above the crass and purely
physical nature of the material dimension, purifying it so that
it can be a good neighbor to the "sechel," which is completely
transcendent. This will lead to his actions being those of a
"chasid," a pious person.
There is another perspective that should be noted. Both a
"shachein tov" and a "chafer tov" are called "tov" -- good. Who
is superior in the "tov"?
On the one hand, when someone does good for a friend, it is because
of the close bond that exists between the two of them. It is as
if the friend is being good to himself, due to the closeness that
he feels to the recipient of his goodness. However, when a
neighbor behaves in a way that is good to those around him, it
demonstrates his fundamental nature as being good that he must
possess, motivating him to be good even to those with whom he
doesn't have a close bond.
On the other hand, the good that friends will do for each
other is much greater than the good that one will do for a
neighbors. So the quantity of good done by a "chaver" is greater
than that done by a "shachein." But the goodness of the
individual who does good for his "shachein" can be greater, and
that good a more integral part of the person's personality, than
the goodness of the individual who does good for a "chaver."
(We have used "good" as the translation of the word "tov."
But, as we have written a number of times, that this is less than
a precise translation. "Tov" means being directed towards
preparing and fulfilling a purpose.)
Both "chaver tov" and "shachein tov" were paths which
derived from the purity of the material dimensions of Rebbe
Yehoshua and Rebbe Yossi. Each one had a superior aspect. Being
a "chaver tov" to the nefesh creates a closer bond than that of
"shachein tov". But that close bond is one with a lower level
spiritual dimension -- the human life force. The more distant
relationship of "shachein tov" that can exist between the
physical and the sechel may be less intense, being only a
connection of proximity. But the fact that the material
dimension has purified itself in a way that enables it to dwell
in the proximity of the divine "sechel" is its superiority.
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.