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Publisher's Foreword

Kol Yisrael - The Opening Mishna before every Chapter

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

   Chapter Four - Mishna 1

Chapter Four - Mishna 2

Chapter Four - Mishna 3

Chapter Four - Mishna 4

Chapter Four - Mishna 5

Chapter Four - Mishna 6

Chapter Four - Mishna 7

Chapter Four - Mishna 8

Chapter Four - Mishna 9

Chapter Four - Mishna 10

Chapter Four - Mishna 11

Chapter Four - Mishna 12

Chapter Four - Mishna 13

Chapter Four - Mishna 14

Chapter Four - Mishna 15

Chapter Four - Mishna 16

Chapter Four - Mishna 17

Chapter Four - Mishna 18

Chapter Four - Mishna 19

Chapter Four - Mishna 20

Chapter Four - Mishna 21

Chapter Four - Mishna 22

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Rabbi Chanaya ben Akashya - The Closing after each Chapter

Founders Of Chassidism & Leaders Of Chabad Lubavitch


In The Paths of Our Fathers
Insights Into Pirkei Avos,
Adapted From The Works of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Shlita

Chapter Four - Mishna 1

by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

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Ben Zoma Says: "Who Is Wise? He Who Learns From Every Person, As It Is Stated:[1] 'From All Those Who Have Taught Me, I Have Gained Wisdom, For Your Testimonies Are My Conversation.'
"Who Is Mighty? He Who Subdues His Inclination, As It Is Stated:[2] 'A Patient Person Is Better Than A Strong Man, And He Who Masters His Spirit Is Better Than One Who Conquers A City.'
"Who Is Rich? He Who Is Happy With His Portion, As It Is Stated:[3] 'When You Eat Of The Labor Of Your Hands, You Will Be Happy, And It Will Be Good For You.' 'You Will Be Happy' In This World; 'It Will Be Good For You' In The World To Come.
"Who Is Honored? He Who Honors Others, As It Is Stated:[4] 'I Will Honor Those Who Honor Me, And Those Who Despise Me Will Be Degraded.' "

Who Is Wise? He Who Learns From Every Person

A wise man sees other peoples' weaknesses. Thus it would be natural for him to regard those who are less developed than he with a condescending attitude. One who is truly wise, however, focuses his attention on the positive characteristics which every person possesses. He will surely be able to discover such positive traits, for every man was created in the image of G-d,[5] and thus possesses innate virtue. By opening himself to learn from the virtues of others, a wise man expands his horizons and enhances his own wisdom.

Who Is Mighty?

Might is different from physical strength. It refers to the ability to call upon inner resources of energy.

He Who Subdues His Inclination

The mishnah is referring not merely to one's evil inclination, the yetzer hora, but rather all of one's natural inclinations. When a person masters his natural tendencies, he expresses true power, for exercising such mastery requires deep resources of inner strength.

Who Is Rich? He Who Is Happy With His Portion

The tendency of the wealthy is to seek to increase their assets, as our Sages have commented:[6] "A person who possesses 100 desires 200; one who possesses 200 desires 400." One who is truly wealthy is one who does not become caught up by such desires, but rather maintains inner peace and calm. Nor will this approach force him to sacrifice wealth. On the contrary a person at peace with himself is far more able to take advantage of opportunities which present themselves, and thus achieve success in the world at large.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Korach and Parshas Balak, 5740)

When You Eat Of The Labor Of Your Hands

The prooftext complements the teachings of our Sages, highlighting the idea that one's work must be merely "the labor of your hands." A person's heart and mind, by contrast, should be directed towards seeking spiritual fulfillment.

And it promises that the outcome of such an approach will be: "You will be happy" in this world. By contrast, over-involvement in one's business may bring material success, but not happiness. Happiness comes only from the inner fulfillment a person feels when motivated by spiritual goals.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 62)

Who Is Honored? He Who Honors Others

It might be said that the natural tendency of a person worthy of honor is to remain aloof from those at a lower level. Moreover, the Hebrew word , translated as "others," literally means "creations," and refers to[7] individuals who seem to have no redeeming virtue other than the fact that they are G-d's creations.

How and why would an honorable man give honor to such people?

The prooftext provides the answer: "I will honor those who honor Me." G-d represents the epitome of honor, and yet He gives honor to His creations, for they all exist to increase His glory, as it is stated:[8] "Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created in this world, He created solely for His glory."

Just as G-d appreciates the virtues possessed by every created being - and for that reason grants it honor - so too, a human should honor others, aware that, at the very least, they possess the potential for virtues and achievements which are worthy of honor.

And Those Who Despise Me Will Be Degraded

It is difficult to understand why this portion of the prooftext was included in the mishnah. What does it add?

It can be explained that when a person fails to honor a colleague, he is in effect showing disrespect to G-d. To cite a narrative:[9] R. Eliezar ben R. Shimon once insulted a person whose appearance belied the possession of any virtues. The person replied: "Go to the Craftsman who created me." By failing to appreciate the person's positive qualities, R. Eliezar was detracting from G-d's creative potential.

Developing this concept further, it can be explained that the verse, "and those who despise Me will be degraded," does not refer to a punishment; it is rather a tendency which G-d has built into the very fabric of nature. When a person cannot appreciate the positive potentials possessed by others, his colleagues will fail to appreciate the virtues which he possesses.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Korach and Parshas Balak, 5740)



  1. (Back to text) Tehillim 119:99.

  2. (Back to text) Mishlei 16:32.

  3. (Back to text) Tehillim 128:2.

  4. (Back to text) I Shmuel 2:30.

  5. (Back to text) Bereishis 1:27.

  6. (Back to text) See Koheles Rabbah 1:34; Ramban and Bechaye end of Parshas Chaye Sarah.

  7. (Back to text) See ch. 1, mishnah 12, as explained in Tanya, ch. 32.

  8. (Back to text) Pirkei Avos, the conclusion of ch. 6.

  9. (Back to text) Taanis 20a ff.

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     Sichos In English -> Books -> Other -> In The Paths of Our Fathers

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