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Avot 3:1 Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnnoye Print E-mail

Pirkei AvotAkavia ben Mehalalel said: Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: know from where you came, where you go, and before Whom you will give him justification and reckoning. “From where you came,” from a putrid drop; “where you go,” to a place of dust, worms and maggots; “and before Whom you will give justification and reckoning,” before the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He. (Avot 3:1)


The purpose of man's creation as a composite of matter and form, which are two opposites, is that he make the matter submit to the form. And as it is with an individual person, so it is with regard to the whole world, or a country or a city.

The Tzaddikim are the form, and the masses of the people are the matter, the body. The purpose of this division is that the Tzaddik should bring the masses to repentance, as Abraham did, as it is written, “And the souls they had gotten in Haran (Genesis 12:5).” Thus is matter made subservient to form.

Now in one individual person, the soul or form must not boast of its superiority to the body by saying that it is a holy soul and hewn from a holy quarry, from under the Throne of Glory, whereas the body derives from dust and the putrid drop, as it teaches: “consider three things…”

Despite this spiritual superiority of the soul, it descends into this world in order to perfect, through the organs of the body, all the Commandments necessary for the restoration of its wholeness; whereas before this, it had to eat of the “Bread of shame.”

Certainly the body must not boast of its superiority to the soul, that is, because it supports the soul, for when the soul departs from the body the latter becomes malodorous as it decomposes. Thus they need each other, like man and woman, each of which alone is only half a body. (Toledot Yaakov Yosef; Ki Tisa, Section 3)

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