Chapter 2: Mishna 19: Part 2
Rebbe Eliezer's lesson "The honor of your friend should be
as beloved to you as your own honor" is of great significance in
teaching a person how to reach "Olam HaBah" (the World To Come).
In Berachoth (28b) we are taught that when Rebbe Eliezer
became very ill, his students went to him and said "Our Rabbi --
teach us the proper way to live, in order that we may merit "Olam
HaBah." He said to them "Be careful in regard to the honor
(respect and esteem) of your friends..." We see that the lesson
Rebbe Eliezer taught in our Mishna, taking care of the honor of
one's friends, brings a person to the eternal life of "Olam
What source do we have to indicate that this would bring a
person to "Olam HaBah," and WHY should such a thing be true?
If we are taught (Bava Metzia 59a) that one who embarrasses
another person has no (read: loses his) portion in "Olam HaBah,"
then it follows that one who behaves in the opposite way, taking
care of the honor and esteem of his fellow man, will be on the
path to "Olam HaBah." (This will be explained in more detail in
Ch. 3, Mishna 15 "...One who humiliates another in public...")
The reason this is true is that showing proper respect to
man, who was created as a reflection of the Almighty himself,
acknowledges the existence of this Divine element in the human
being. This element is drawn from the transcendent dimension of
reality, the spiritual world, and its existence in man is
indicated in the verse (Breishith 1:26) "Let us make man as a
reflection of us, similar to us." (G-d is conversing with the
Angels, and this verse indicates that there is a component of man
which is similar to that of the Angels, who are purely spiritual
and transcendent beings.) It is this transcendent dimension
which is the source of man's eternity, the life of "Olam HaBah."
So Rebbe Eliezer taught his students (Berachoth 28b) that
when you show the proper respect to your fellow man, you earn
"Olam HaBah," as opposed to humiliating, Heaven forbid, the
Divine element of your fellow man, which is the sole source of
We are also taught (Mechilta Shemoth 20:23, quoted by Rashi
ibid.): "And don't go up steps to my altar." Rebbe Yishmael
says: The lesson is one of "kal vachomer" (a fortiori; if
something is true in case A, it is all the more true in case B).
Stones have no awareness whatsoever, positive or negative; yet
G-d taught us not to behave towards them in a disrespectful way.
It is all the more imperative that towards your friend, who is
created as a reflection of the Creator of the world, you should
not behave in a way that is disrespectful.
(The lesson of disrespect itself is being extracted from the
quoted verse by comparing the subtle lack of modesty exhibited
when one climbs a set of stairs compared to walking up a ramp.
We probably have lost sensitivity to both modesty and respect to
properly appreciate this lesson.)
We see from the language of the lesson that the importance
of showing respect to our fellow man is rooted in the Divine
element that he embodies, which is the highest dimension of the
human being. It is through this elevated dimension of man that
he is able reach the highest dimension of existence, which is
"Olam HaBah." This relationship was the source for Rebbe
Eliezer's lesson to his students about the path to "Olam HaBah,
which brings man from "Olam HaZeh," the present material world,
to the transcendent [eternal] world. And his lesson in our
Mishna is also to teach one the path by which he can reach "Olam
(The language of our Mishnah is profound in its precision.
The source of your eternity is when "the honor of your friend is
as dear to you as your own." If you recognize the special
importance your friend has as one who embodies a reflection of
the Divine -- which is the source of eternity -- then YOU also
have it, validating your OWN eternity with a place in World to
Then Rebbe Eliezer taught "and don't anger easily." Just as
he taught about the path one should follow to move in the
direction of "Olam HaBah," he is also cautioning man against
following a path that will deprive him of "Olam HaBah."
Anger leads a person to sin, destructive acts which
eventually cause him to lose his place in "Olam HaBah." (The
connection between anger and sin is alluded to in a number of
places in the writings of the Maharal. One of the understandings
is that the source of anger is rooted in the ego, the insecure
material dimension of the human being. It is this insecurity
which seeks an illusionary feeling of stability and control,
which manifests itself in anger when its expectations are not
met; as well as through acts of sin, which is a further
indication of man's failure at self-control, demonstrated first
and foremost by his anger. The egocentric energy that serves as
the breeding ground for anger leads man to feel that his actions
can be determined by what HE wants to do, WHEN he wants to do it.
THIS is exactly the attitude which leads to sin and destructive
So, the first lesson of Rebbe Eliezer was that the honor of
one's friend should be as dear to you as your own, which is the
path to the eternal World to Come, as he taught in Tractate
Berachoth. Then he cautioned against what prevents one from
acquiring a place in the eternal World to Come, by teaching that
one should not allow oneself to anger easily, which is the
greatest cause of sin.
Finally, we are taught to repent one day before death. If
you sin -- and "there is no righteous person on earth who does
good and doesn't sin (Koheleth 7:20)" -- you must take care to
repent on a daily basis, ensuring your complete place in "Olam
Why weren't all three of these lessons taught to his
students in the incident in Tractate Berachoth? Their question
was limited to the path they should follow to enter "Olam HaBah."
As such, he responded only with the action they needed to take
which would lead them along that path. But here, Rebbe Eliezer
is teaching (as do the other Tana'im) three lessons to perfect
man in all the dimensions connected with the goal of reaching
Olam HaBah, both following the path leading to it, and not doing
things that will deprive him of it.
(The Maharal will now connect the three lessons with the
three dimensions of the human being that we discussed at the end
of the last shiur.)
The lesson of being careful about the honor of others
relates to the honor due the human being himself and what he
represents. If one fails to give the honor due to the human
being, it diminishes the uniquely human dimension of man, which
is rooted in his Divine element. If he doesn't accord it to
others, it reflects a deficiency in the total perfection of the
human being. This lesson is teaching man to perfect the uniquely
human dimension, which embodies a Divine and eternal element.
Then Rebbe Eliezer teaches not to anger easily, which
relates to the "kochoth hanefesh" (the spiritual/emotional force
of the human being), which is the source of anger. One who is
quick to anger is deficient in his "nefesh."
Finally, there is a lesson directed towards the material
dimension the human being -- repent one day before you die. It
is only because man is a physical being that there is a
possibility of change and repentance. (It is the physical
dimension which is a constant state of change and transformation.
It is this instability and insecurity which causes man to sin.
But it is also the reality which enables man to change. If man
would be a purely spiritual reality, whatever level of free will
that would exist would lead to immutable choices. Once made,
they could not be modified.)
This is the underlying meaning of the lesson that we will
learn (Ch. 4, Mishna 22) "An hour of repentance and good deeds in
this world (are superior to all of the next world)" as will
explained there. (The superiority is in the ability to always
change and improve the situation. Once we have left the physical
world, things are "frozen" in place.)
So Rebbe Eliezer has taught three lessons to bring man
closer to perfection in each of three dimensions.
Understand what we have taught here, for they are the words
of truth taught by the Rabbis, not simply an opinion based on
conjecture. However, it is not possible to elaborate to the full
depth of the lessons. Rather, a wise person will hear what is
being taught, and he will himself develop further wisdom and
(As we have written before, this is the Maharal's indication
that the things presented are much deeper than they appear on the
surface, and require extensive additional teaching and thought
before they are fully comprehended.)
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.