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Threefold String

Kidushin (1:10) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 days ago

The Mishnah (1:10) teaches that if someone has Mikra, Mishnah and derech eretz, he will not readily sin. If however one does not have any of these, then they are not "min ha'yishuv". We shall try to understand this Mishnah.

While the terms mikra and Mishnah are readily understood as referring to Torah and Mishnah, derech eretz is debated. The Bartenura understands that it refers to a person's interpersonal dealings -- that he is pleasant to deal with. If a person has none for these, then the Bartenura explains that he has no positive contribution to the world, so much so that he cannot be a valid witness. The Tifferet Yisrael goes one step further that that would be better if he dwelt away from the yishuv (settlements), in desolate places since such an individual poses a threat to others. What are these three things and why are they so important.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that these three things relate to the three basic obligations of a person. Emunot (faith), Peulot (actions) and Middot (positive character traits). The fundamentals of our faith, while not all expressly commanded, are easily gleaned from the Torah. For example, berachot and klalot, accounts of hashgacha, etc. They are not elaborated upon in the Mishnah, for the Mishnah is focused on explaining the mitzvot. It is necessary to elaborate on those expressed concisely in the Torah and those that require halacha le'moshe misinai to fully appreciate them.

Middot however are not expressly commanded in the Torah or Mishnah. The Tifferet Yisrael explains that this because it not possible to codify them. Firstly, what is considered appropriate depend on place, time in history and context. Its "study" instead requires shimush, being in close quarters for extending periods of time with a talmid chacham. It is particularly so, considering that middot themselves are not absolutely positive or negative and there are some contexts where those middot that are normally avoided, are employed (e.g. anger).

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that this is what Chazal meant, "if one kerah, veshana (learnt) and did not shimesh talmidei chachamim -- he is an am Haaretz." Without the shimush ones misses the critical study of middot. Without the understanding of proper middot one is susceptible to readily being swept up by emotion into sin alongside the Am Ha'aretz.

The Tifferet Yisrael continues at length detailing incidents in the Torah, where the mistakes that were made stem from errors in middot, be it in anger or following material desires, etc. He explains that this further confirms that competency in all three areas is important to protect one from sinning as stressed by the Mishnah.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that this Mishnah is placed at the end of the perek, after the Mishnah explained the scope of the mitzvot, and how some mitzvot apply only to some people or only in Eretz Yisrael. It might leave a person feeling despondent with the missed opportunity. That is why this Mishnah, first begins by expressing the power of a single mitzvah. For Hashem wants us to appreciate the mitzvah and strive after their fulfilment. He cites the Gemara that even if one tries and for reasons beyond his control is unable, he is nonetheless credited. "Rachmana liba ba'ye" -- Hashem desires our sincere yearning. In particular, our full effort in three fundamental domain -- emunot, pe'lot and middot.

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