Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Mishnah in Avos (2:1) states: Rebbi said, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? That which is a credit to the one who performs it and that he will be esteemed by man. The author of this statement is Rebbi. The Rokeach writes that every author is supposed to write a hint to his name in the beginning of his work. The Mishnah was authored by Rebbi, and he commenced his work with the words meaimasai korin es shema biarvis, from when does one begin to recite the Shema in the evening. The Gemara (Bava Basra 58a) states that Yaakov’s beauty was a mere semblance of Adam HaRishon’s beauty. It is said (Bereishis 47:28) vayechi Yaakov bieretz Mitzrayim sheva Esrei shanah, Yaakov dwelled in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 96:5) states that Rebbi called on himself, “and Yehudah (Rebbi) dwelled in the city of Tzipori for seventeen years.” One of the commentators writes that the reason for this declaration of Rebbi was because his soul was a reincarnation of Yaakov. Based on this Gemara and Medrash, we can suggest that the word meaimasai, ‘from when,’ forms an acrostic for the words meiein Adam Yaakov meiein tam Yehudah, a semblance of Adam is Yaakov, and a semblance of the perfect one (Yaakov) is Yehudah (Rebbi). In line with this idea, the Mishnah in Avos states that Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? His answer is, that which is a credit to the one who performs it. The word for credit is tiferes, which is literally translated as glory. Avrohom reflects the attribute of chesed, kindness, and Yitzchak reflects the attribute of gevurah, strength, which means to resist temptation. Yaakov, however, reflects the attribute of Tiferes, glory, which is described as a synthesis of chesed and gevurah. It is thus appropriate that Rebbi was the one who said that the path to choose is the attribute of tiferes, as the soul of Rebbi was a reincarnation of Yaakov. Furthermore, Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? The Kuzari writes that the Patriarchs represented a filtering process. Avrohom had two sons. One son was Yitzchak, who was righteous, and the second son was Yishmael, who was wicked. Similarly, Yitzchak had Yaakov, who was righteous, and Esav, who was wicked. It was not until Yaakov, however, that the chaff was totally removed from the wheat, as Yaakov’s twelve sons represented perfection amongst humans. Thus, we can understand why Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself, as one should always strive to reach the level of the Patriarchs. Ultimately, it is through the attribute of tiferes that one will achieve glory for HaShem and for mankind.