Akavya Ben Mahalel Would Say: "Reflect Upon Three Things And You Will Never Come To Sin: Know From Where You Came, To Where You Are Going, And Before Whom You Are Destined To Give An Accounting.
" 'From Where You Came' - From A Putrid Drop; 'To Where You Are Going' - To A Place Of Dust, Maggots, And Worms; 'And Before Whom You Are Destined To Give An Accounting' - Before The King Of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed Be He."
Seemingly, the mishnah
could have begun: "Know from where you came, and to where you are going...." Why does it mention the need to "reflect on three things"?
Herein lies an allusion to a concept of much greater scope. In addition to the obvious reference to the three concepts that follow, the mishnah teaches that a person must always have three things in mind, and promises that when he does so, he "will never come to sin."
Generally, a person thinks about two entities, himself and G-d, for "I was created solely to serve my Creator." This mishnah comes to teach us that each of us must also be aware of a third entity - the world at large.
A person should always remember that the ultimate goal of his divine service is not merely a two-way relationship between him and G-d. He must broaden his scope, and endeavor to have his service encompass a third entity, the world.
Our involvement with worldly entities with the intent of transforming them into vessels for G-dliness fulfills G-d's ultimate intent in creation. For our world - and every individual creation - was brought into being for the purpose of fashioning a dwelling for G-d on the material plane.
Ultimately, this outward thrust benefits the soul as well, though the soul is "an actual part of G-d," and is not in need of refinement. Its descent to a physical body is intended to refine the world at large, not itself. Nevertheless, by carrying out this task, the soul establishes a connection to G-d's essence which it could not have appreciated before its entry into this world.
(Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. II, p. 507ff)
Me'Ayin, the Hebrew for "from where," can also be rendered as "from nothingness."
Thus the phrase can be interpreted "Know that you came from nothingness," i.e., the source of the soul is transcendent G-dliness - above the limits of our mortal conception. Moreover, this source exerts a constant influence on the soul as it exists in our world, propelling it to selfless conduct. A person's awareness of this fact heightens the effectiveness of this influence, and takes the person further from sin.
(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1202)
- (Back to text) Kiddushin 28a.
- (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3; Tanya, chs. 33 and 36.
- (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 2.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Parshas Bechukosai 50d.