Ethics Now & Then 75 – Avot 5:1

All Israel has a share in the World to Come, as it is said: “And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the Land forever; they are the branch of My planting, My handiwork,
in which to take pride.
 ~ Isaiah 60:21

Welcome back dear, persevering haverim and talmidim (friends and students)!

We now begin Chapter 5. The last two chapters of Pirkei Avot take a different approach and vary in tone from the previous four chapters. Chapter 5 is a compilation of anonymous sayings that present a fascinating numerical theme. The short, final Chapter 6 is devoted to the blessing of and reward accrued in the study of Torah – all God’s teachings – for its own sake, as this pleases our Father in Heaven, the Giver.

May you indeed be deeply blessed as we embark upon the last stretch to the finish-line of ‘Ethics Now & Then’.

In Him Who loves us,

~ Keren Hannah

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Pirkei Avot 5: 1  

With ten utterances the world was created. What does this teach us? Indeed, could it not have been created with one utterance? This was to exact punishment from the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, and to bestow goodly reward upon the righteous who sustain the world that was created by ten utterances.

Star of David ENT

With ten utterances the world was created. What does this teach us? Indeed, could it not have been created with one utterance?

Why are there ten utterances of, “And God said…” at Creation (Gen. 1 and 2)?  The fact that the world was created by God’s voice is confirmed by the Psalmist in Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of Adonai were the heavens made.” Renowned commentator, Rashi, suggests that the ten statements reflect God’s labor in the creative process. In fact, nine are active and creative and the tenth one is “resting” – a statement of satisfaction at the completion of His work of Creation.

We see this pattern echoed in the Ten Words spoken by God at Mount Sinai, which were given to guide our “labors” with and for Him here on the earth He created. At Sinai, He includes one directive to “rest”, as He did, on the seventh day and to survey and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We read in the Creation account that on the seventh day, “God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good,” (Gen. 1:31). This brought Him joy.

His desire was, and continues to be, to share the beauty and wonder of His creation with the human beings to whom He gives life. When the righteous fulfill His purposes and work with Him in accord with His will, they uphold the world and aid in its proper functioning. How great, then, is His plesaure and how great their reward.

This was to exact punishment from the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, and to bestow goodly reward upon the righteous who sustain the world that was created by ten utterances.

In doing good, in harmony with our Father’s will, we bring light and life to the world. Conversely, in rebellion or disobedience against His will, we bring a measure of evil and death to the world and obstruct the purpose of Creation. What we do affects not only ourselves but the effects ripple outward into the whole world. The Sages therefore say, “Man is a microcosm, a miniature replica of the macrocosm, the world. Save a person’s life and it is as if you have saved the world. Destroy a person’s life, and you destroy the world: you eradicate the Creator’s aim and goal.” *

Man is the link between God’s invisible, heavenly realm and life on earth. Only men and women are  both spirit and matter and can therefore bridge the gap between heaven and earth. It is our work here, then, to prepare a place for His Presence in and through our lives and to allow His light of holiness to shine in the physical world. We do this as we walk in obedience to the Word of the Creator, our Father and King. This is the main message His Son Yeshua came to bring, as He perfectly and beautifully illustrated in His earthly life.

Those who disregard and fail in this mission and, in so doing, destroy the world, will be punished. We can recall how Pharoah, the leader of the then known world, misused his power and mistreated and cruelly enslaved the Israelites. The result of his disobedience to God’s command brought the ten plagues, and the resulting destruction, suffering and death, upon his land and his people. Just as God could have spoken all existence into being through one utterance, He could have destroyed Pharoah with one blow. In His mercy, however, He delivered nine before the final plague of death, each with an opportunity for repentance and for Pharoah to change his ways.

Similarly, the righteous may not receive all their reward at once, but, while they often enjoy the fruit of their labor in this world, Olam HaZeh, we know that great reward is stored up for them in Olam Ha’Ba, the world to come.

“The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:10)

Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,” declares the Lord… (Jeremiah 31:15).

Yeshua said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”…and allow generous opportunity for repentance. (Luke 6:35-36)

Footnotes: 

* Irving M. Bunim, Ethics from Sinai, Vol 3, 7

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