Removed for the World

Avot (4:21) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

R’ Elazar HaKapar taught: jealousy, inordinate desire and the pursuit of honour remove a person from the world.

Avot (4:21)

The Yaavetz teaches that people have a natural inclination to be draw to these three things. The Mishnah therefore highlights the damage that they can cause so that the reader will endeavour to avoid them.

The Abarbanel elaborates further that these three things are the roots of all sins. For examples, jealousy can lead one to theft, fraud and other money related offences. Uncontrolled desires can drive one to forbidden foods, relationships, etc. In the pursuit of honour, one is likely to embarrass other, take pride in their downfall, etc. The Tana therefore warns that even though these things preoccupy thought alone and involve no actions, they lead to all sorts of sins.

While the Mishnah lists three things that remove a person from the world, this theme is quite familiar. Previously (2:11), R’ Yehoshua taught that “an evil eye, the evil inclination and hatred of people remove a person from the world.” Also R Dosa ben Harkinus explained (3:10), “[Late] sleep in the morning, wine at midday, children’s talk and meeting places of amei ha’aretz remove a person from the world.” Are the Tanaim arguing and if so about what?

The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that our Mishnah is aligned with R’ Yehoshua. Jealousy results from an evil eye – not being satisfied with one’s lot. The yetzer ha’rah fuels one desires and people tend to hate those that pursue honour.

The Rashbatz however explains that each of the Tanaim are referring to different things. R’ Yehoshua was focused on what removes a person from this world, i.e. makes living unbearable. A person with an evil eye ultimately causes damage to other people’s property and causes damage to his own. The yetzer hara’ah draw one to all sorts of things, particularly things that impact negatively on one’s health. Continual hatred of others puts one in a depressive state, which is unhealthy.

R’ Dosa however was focused on what removes a person from the world to come. He lists those things that lead a person to waste their time and distract them from learning and engaging in avodat Hashem.

R’ Elazar HaKapar however lists those things that are detrimental to this world and the next. Jealousy inevitably leads to arguments and fights, and sometimes more dire consequences in their wake. Life is perilous and the sins accumulated can lead to loss of the next as well. Untempered desires can have serious health consequences and can also lead to violations en masse.

Finally we have honour. We have already learnt that “lordship buries those that engage in it.” Yet it can also lead one to lose the next world as well. The Rashbatz cites the following incident. Hashem had came to Yerovam ben Navot(an evil king) and tried to convince him to repent. Hashem said, “repent and I, you and ben Yishai (David HaMelech) will walk in Gan Eden.” Yerovam asked, “Who is first?” “Ben Yishai” was the response. Yerovam responsed, “if so, I decline.”

The Sichat Mussar notes, that initially Hashem had listed Yerovam before David HaMelech. Yet, Yerovam wanted his precedence spelled out. Having asked, Hashem set Yerovam back and Yerovam ultimately declined. Indeed, Kavod can remove a person from both worlds.

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