Chapter 2: Mishna 16
Rebbe Yehoshua says: "Ayin harah" (evil eye),
"yetzer harah" (evil inclination), and "sinath
habrioth" (hatred of people) remove a person from
(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"
(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.