Chapter 2: Mishna 2 Part 4
The Mishna then continues that "all those who are involved with
the community (doing communal work) should be involved for the sake of
Heaven." The Tanna put the lesson a lesson on Torah study together
with this lesson on doing communal work because there is a relationship
and a similarity between them.
Torah is not like other Mitzvoth. Every Mitzvah is an individual
act, and the doer is involved in only one element of a greater "whole."
When one learns Torah, however, one is involved in something which is
comprehensive and all-encompassing ("klali"). Something which is purely
intellectual/spiritual (sechel) is all-encompassing (klali). This is
what we are being taught when the Rabbis teach us (see Yerushalmi Peah
1:1) "(Even) one element of the Torah is equated with the entire world,
as it is written (Mishlei 8:11) '...all desirable objects cannot be
compared to [the Torah].'" We see that every element of the Torah is
This is also the understanding of the verse (Mishlei 6:23) "For a
Mitzvah is a lamp, and Torah is light." A Mitzvah that a person does
is like a lamp, which is a solitary illuminator. But the Torah is like
light itself, which is indivisible, and cannot be viewed as an
individual thing. This is the underlying meaning of the way we
explained this verse in the introduction. (See the shiurim on the
Maharal's introduction to Derech Chaim.) This (all-encompassing)
dimension of the Torah also explains the Mishna (Chapter 5, Mishna 22)
"Turn it (Torah) over and over (search it thoroughly) for ALL is
contained in it."
A person who is involved with the community (the "tzibbur," which
is considered an all-encompassing entity) is not comparable to a person
who is involved in something which is particular and individual.
Therefore a person who is involved with the community must do it for
the sake of Heaven, for only then can it be considered a matter of the
"klal," being done for the many. If his motivation is for ego
gratification or self aggrandizement, it is not being done for the
community but for himself. ("For the sake of Heaven" should be
understood as being altruistically motivated, in contrast to activities
which are egocentrically motivated.) Even if he is doing something for
a group of people, if his intention is not "for the sake of Heaven"
then he is doing it only for that limited group of individuals and not
for the "klal," for the community. One whose service is directed
towards a specific group is really serving only a number of individuals
and not serving the community (the true klal). G-d attaches Himself
specifically to the community, and one should be motivated to serve the
community due to this comprehensive dimension that the community
Therefore we are taught (Shabbath 150a) "We attend to communal
matters on Shabbath," since communal matters are considered Divine
matters. (The Rabbis extract from the verse in Yeshaya (58:13) "...and
honor [Shabbath] by not accomplishing your own ways nor pursuing your
own business..." that one's own matters are forbidden, but matters and
business of Heaven are permitted.)
This is the reason why our Tanna teaches us that our involvement
with the community must be for the sake of Heaven, motivated by the
welfare of the community, which is considered a Divine matter.
(This approach is built on the understanding that we exist in the
world for a purpose that transcends our individual existence. True
altruism means to serve something that transcends us, which leads us to
serving G-d. A person can do something for the community that has the
appearance of altruism, yet is built on any one of many different
motivations. There is the obviously selfish drive for personal gain or
power. There is the drive for ego-gratification which motivates many
insecure/arrogant people towards communal service. And there is
involvement with the community motivated by the pursuit of mutual
benefit, which underlies much communal service in a secular society.
>From this perspective, people are fundamentally motivated by what is
good for them. But they understand that in the long run their OWN
agenda is better served by uniting with other people whose individual
agendas happen to coincide with theirs, and they are willing to
"contribute" because they realize that they are better off this way.
So what is happening is not really giving and serving, but "investing."
Unfortunately, we find many of the above motivations even in Jewish
(What is being highligted in our Mishna is that true communal
service has to be motivated exclusively by the desire to fulfill the
Torah, implementing G-d's agenda. Recognizing the fact that the
totality of the community (not a specific shul, group of people,
ideology or locale) is what makes up the Jewish people, one's service
is directed towards enhancing the welfare of the entire Jewish people.
There is recognition of the need for the diversity, and a person works
on a specific project, looking to fulfill his unique mission, and
contribute his unique talents and perspective to the totality of the
Jewish people. But it is always done "for the sake of Heaven,"
altruisitically, looking to give and to serve, with an eye to the
bigger picture. If it is done egocentrically, it stands in
contradiction to our Mishna.)
Our Mishna continues "...for the merit of their forefathers
assists them, and their righteousness stands eternally." This is
because our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov, are considered
fathers of the entire community, and not fathers of individuals. Every
individual has his or her own father. The forefathers are considered
fathers to the "klal," the unifying element of the entire Jewish
people, and they assist all who view them as their fathers (which is
true of those who view themselves as members of the "klal"). This
leads to their assurance of eternity.
Individuals are ephemeral and transitory. They are subject to
change and variation. A true community (the tzibbur, which embodies
the uniting and all-encompassing element of all the individuals) is
evelasting. Even if the members of the community pass on, the
accomplishments of that community remain. The "klal" stands forever,
due to its transcendent nature. (When people bind together to fulfill
a role in the service of G-d and purpose of creation, that service
transcends the presence of the specific individuals and outlasts them.)
Therefore, the Tanna teaches us that the righteousness of those who
serve the community -- the results of their service -- stands
eternally, since the unifying and encompassing element of the community
The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky,
Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat
Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.