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Pirkei Avot 6:1: The Zhidachover: Torah For Its Own Sake Print E-mail

Chassidic TeachingsRabbi Meir said: “Whoever occupies himself with Torah for its own sake merits many things... It prepares him to become just, pious, upright, and faithful (Avot 6:1).” Torah for its own sake is defined by Rabbi Chaim Vital in his preface to the teachings of the Ari haKadosh: Torah, for the sake of Torah; this in reality means, for the sake of God, since this is what Torah is all about, as indicated by its name; a guide, as in Moreh Derech for ascending the mountain of the Lord, the Holy One, God of Jacob.


Now, dear reader, is there much benefit in pointing the way to the layman or the blind to climb a mountain or to a stupid man who has no more intelligence than an animal? So does the Zohar describes those who lack wisdom, those who have never even tasted the wisdom of the Torah, which is compared to honey and the droppings of the honeycomb (Psalms 19:11); the Zohar calls them “those with clogged hearts and sightless eyes.”

This is the meaning of the Talmud’s saying, “whoever is engaged in studying Torah for its own sake,” namely, who studies in order to perceive and understand the vitality inherent in Torah; it is this that prepares him to become just and pious. That is, the Torah transforms him into a vessel ready to receive these qualities of being just and pious. It points the way to the path on which to walk unhindered by lameness and blindness, to be perfect, of full height without a defect in any limb. That is, each of his limbs will correspond to its equivalent in Torah, and hence the Talmudic rule: “The addition of a limb is considered as if the limb is completely absent,” will not be applicable to him.

However, if a man does not reflect on the full measure of his stature, his two eyes, two years, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and every joint of his 248 limbs, as to why and for what purpose each of these limbs was created, and which aspect of wisdom it teaches, he may find himself with an additional limb which is considered a deficit and he thus becomes disqualified. Then, of course, he is no longer prepared to be just, pious, and upright. (Sur meiRah vaAssei Tov)

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