Chapter 2: Mishna 14: Part 1
He (RYB"Z) said to them (his five students): Go out
and see which is an evil path from which a person
should distance himself. Rebbi Eliezer said "Ayin
Ra'ah" (an evil eye). Rebbi Yehoshua said "Chaver
Rah" (an evil friend). Rebbi Yossi said "Shachen
Rah" (an evil neighbor). Rebbi Shimon said "One
who borrows and does not pay back. One who borrows
from another person is like one who borrows from
the Almighty; as it is written 'An evil person
borrows and does not pay back; and a righteous one
(G-d) grants and gives'(Psalms 37:21, see Rashi)."
Rebbi Elazar said "Lev Rah" (an evil 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.
In response to RYB"Z's request to go out and see which is
an evil path for a person to pursue, each of his students said
the polar opposite characteristic of what he had said for the
good path. Except Rebbi Shimon, who taught "one who borrows and
doesn't pay back" instead of "one who doesn't foresee the outcome
(of his actions)."
Why didn't Rebbi Shimon also make the evil path the opposite
of the good one, teaching it as one who DOESN'T see the outcome
of his actions?
The Rambam (and other commentators, too) explains that the
defect of one who "borrows and does not pay back" resides in his
failure to see the outcome of his actions (effectively making it
an opposite path). Not paying back his debts will prevent him
from receiving loans in the future.
But this explanation, rather than responding to our
difficulty, actually strengthens it. It would have been far
better had the Tanna taught us to avoid the path of "not
foreseeing the outcome of our actions," which would have included
EVERYONE guilty of this shortcoming, INCLUDING one who borrows
and doesn't pay back!. Making it even more difficult is that one
could conceive of situations where a person does not pay back his
debts, at the same time that he DOES foresee the outcome of this
actions. For example, if a person who had borrowed suddenly
became very wealthy, he might feel there would be no consequences
of not paying back his debts, convinced that he would never need
to borrow again. He would be fully aware that the outcome of not
paying his debts would deprive him of the possibility of future
loans. He just wouldn't care! It doesn't appear that "borrowing
and not paying back" is the polar opposite of "foreseeing the
outcome of ones actions."
Finally, the conclusion is difficult to understand. How
does one who borrows from a person become like one who borrows
from the Almighty?
Each of the other students of RYB"Z taught a good path and
its precise evil inverse -- a "lev tov" and "lev rah", etc.
While failing to see the outcome of one's actions lacks the
positive quality, it would not be accurate to call it EVIL, just
as Rebbi Eliezer didn't say "NOT having a good lev" is evil. The
polar OPPOSITE of a "good lev" is "bad lev", and Rebbi Shimon had
to teach more than simply the LACK of the good characteristic.
He had to identify the underlying character trait of the person
who sees the outcome of his actions, and present its precise
(We have written in the earlier Mishnayoth, especially 2:11
- 2:12, that the superior character traits of the nefesh and
sechel translate themselves into virtuous behaviour. A review of
our shiur on Mishna 11, Pt. 2 will be helpful in understanding
the following explanation.)
(One other introduction is necessary: explaining the meaning
of the word "pashut" as used in the Maharal. The word is usually
understood to mean "simple." As a verb, it means to simplify or
to undress. Conceptually it means something which is stands on
its own, with nothing else attached to it or mixed with it. The
opposite of "pashut" is "murkav," which would refer to a compound
or an alloy -- various elements combined together. The Maharal
writes many times that true "sechel" -- the
spiritual/intellectual component -- is considered "pashut." This
implies the purity and independence of something which is
compellingly logical as well as something which is transcendent
and spiritual. The "chomer," matter and things which are more
physical in nature, are dependent on many external elements, and
can't stand alone the way logic or spiritual reality can.)
It is the lucid and "pashut" (pure) sechel component of the
individual that enables him to foresee the outcome of his
actions. This trait of being "pashut" creates an association
with the spiritual world, and this is the source of Rebbi
Shimon's unique virtue of "fear of heaven."
The opposite of this character trait is one who has a
dependence on others for his existence. A person who borrows and
doesn't pay back is a [net] receiver from others, and as such
cannot be considered "pashut." The need to borrow doesn't, in
and of itself, compromise a person's ability to be "pashut," for
it is the nature of the physical world that people are mutually
dependent upon each other, both giving and receiving at various
times. But if the person's character was one of being "pashut"
(standing pure and independent on his own) he would ultimately
give back whatever he had received from another, never retaining
something that was not essentially his.
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.