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Pirkei Avot 2:1 Eye and Ear of G-d?


Pirkei Avot 2:1

רַבִּי אוֹמֵר, אֵיזוֹהִי דֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה שֶׁיָּבֹר לוֹ הָאָדָם, כֹּל שֶׁהִיא תִפְאֶרֶת לְעוֹשֶׂיהָ וְתִפְאֶרֶת לוֹ מִן הָאָדָם. וֶהֱוֵי זָהִיר בְּמִצְוָה קַלָּה כְבַחֲמוּרָה, שֶׁאֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ מַתַּן שְׂכָרָן שֶׁל מִצְוֹת. וֶהֱוֵי מְחַשֵּׁב הֶפְסֵד מִצְוָה כְּנֶגֶד שְׂכָרָהּ, וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה כְנֶגֶד הֶפְסֵדָהּ. וְהִסְתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים וְאִי אַתָּה בָא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה, דַּע מַה לְּמַעְלָה מִמְּךָ, עַיִן רוֹאָה וְאֹזֶן שׁוֹמַעַת, וְכָל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ בַסֵּפֶר נִכְתָּבִין:

Rabbi Said: which is the straight path that a man should choose for himself? One which is an honor to the person adopting it, and [on account of which] honor [accrues] to him from others. And be careful with a light commandment as with a grave one, for you did know not the reward for the fulfillment of the commandments. Also, reckon the loss [that may be sustained through the fulfillment] of a commandment against the reward [accruing] thereby, and the gain [that may be obtained through the committing] of a transgression against the loss [entailed] thereby. Apply your mind to three things and you will not come into the clutches of sin:

Know what there is above you: an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a book.

I want to focus on the last sentence.

G-d knows everything because He fills all the heavens and the earth. (Jeremiah 23:24)

For us, that is incredibly difficult to imagine. But consider that you know about your little toe, as well as your earlobe and a weird gas bubble in your body you are bound to feel and what many women will recognize; 1 hair that is too tight in your ponytail.

G-d knows everything and has everything under control. He sees everything and He hears everything, and He knows everything. If we look carefully around us, we see His miracles every day. Waking up in the morning is a miracle, the functioning of your body is a miracle, being able to sleep safely at the end of the day is a miracle and so on.

When we contemplate His greatness and omnipotence, we realize what we have “above” us. This should lead to a healthy amount of fear for G-d. G-d’s Eye sees al our actions, and His Ear hears everything we say. Do not think that G-d is a person (G-d forbid) Who has eyes or ears, these are metaphors so that we can imagine something of the way He perceives us. It is for this reason that it says eye and not eyes, ear and not ears.[1] The explanation of the metaphors of the Eye and Ear is that in the same way that when were are standing in front of kings and in front of ministers and sages and men or repute, we would be embarrassed to do things that are not done and we would be embarrassed to say things that are not good, so to we have to think at all times as if we are in front of G-d and how embarrassed we would be.[2]

G-d forgets nothing. He remembers all the wrong actions, all wrong speech. And over all the wrong actions and speech which no sincere repentance is expressed we will have to account for.

G-d is just, if we sincerely repent, He erases the sins, Only He.

Micah 7:18

Who is a G-d like Thee, who pardons iniquity, and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he does not maintain his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy.

Isaiah 55:7

Let the wicked give up their ways, The sinful, their plans; Let each one turn back to G OD So as to be pardoned; To our G-d, Who freely forgives.

Psalm 32: 1-2

Of David. A maskil.Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered over.

Happy the man whom the L-rd does not hold guilty, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

In everything we do and say, let us remember that He sees it and hears it, let us develop a healthy fear for G-d that may develop more and more into awe for G-d, so that we align our actions and speech with His will, not out of fear, but out of awe, not out of fright but out of love.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Ikar Tosafot Yom Tov on Pirkei Avot 2:1:8
[2] Rabbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avot 2:1:6

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