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Pirkei Avot 2:6 – Measure for Measure


Pirkei Avot 2:6

אַף הוּא רָאָה גֻלְגֹּלֶת אַחַת שֶׁצָּפָה עַל פְּנֵי הַמַּיִם. אָמַר לָהּ, עַל דַּאֲטֵפְתְּ, אַטְפוּךְ. וְסוֹף מְטִיפַיִךְ יְטוּפוּן

Moreover he saw a skull floating on the face of the water. He said to it: because you drowned others, they drowned you. And in the end, they that drowned you will be drowned.

Maimonides and the Skull

Another man by the name of Moses, Moses Maimonides, who lived some 1,000 years after the skull story, wrote the following in his commentary on Tractate Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) where the skull story is recorded (paraphrased):

There are consequences to our actions — consequences that reflect those actions. If you commit murder and drown others in a river to hide your crime, you will receive your punishment in the form of your crime. If you invent an unjust thing to benefit yourself at the expense of others, that unjust thing will ultimately be used against you. On the positive side, if you introduce something that benefits others, that thing will ultimately come to benefit you as well. In Hebrew it is called: midah k’neged midah — measure for measure.[1]

That G-d rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked is one of the foundations of faith, as Maimonides puts it as follows:

The eleventh principle is that G-d, may He be blessed gives reward to the one who does the commandments of the Torah and punishes the one who transgresses its prohibitions and that the great reward is the world to come and that the strong punishment is being cut off. [2]

G-d rewards and G-d punishes, the same applies to Noahides. A Noahide who is wise and follows the 7 Noahide commandments out of his own logic receives his reward during this life. Rabbi Moshe Weiner writes the following in The Divine Code[3]:

Rambam teaches that if a Gentile observes these (7 Noahide laws) only from an intellectual standpoint, but not because of G-ds command to Moses, he will receive reward for his good deeds; but he has not earned a part in the ultimate spiritual reward of the future eternal World to Come, because that is obtained only by virtue of submitting one’s actions to the will of G-d that He revealed in His eternal Torah of Moses, the “Tree of Life.” … Any entile who accepts the Seven Commandments and is carefull to observe them is of the ‘pious of the nations of the world’and will have a portion in the World to Come. This is so provided that one accepts them and observes them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses our teacher that the descendants of Noah were originally commanded about them.”

It is not always easy to trust that G-d punishes the bad and rewards the good. After all, it is not always what we (think) to perceive. Some bad people seemingly have it very good. David I saw this too and then he wrote Psalm 92

A psalm. A song; for the sabbath day.

It is good to praise the L-rd,
to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High,

To proclaim Your steadfast love at daybreak,
Your faithfulness each night

With a ten-stringed harp,
with voice and lyre together.

You have gladdened me by Your deeds, O L-rd;
I shout for joy at Your handiwork.

How great are Your works, O L-rd,
how very subtle Your designs!

A brutish man cannot know,
a fool cannot understand this:

though the wicked sprout like grass,
though all evildoers blossom,
it is only that they may be destroyed forever.

But You are exalted, O L-rd, for all time.

Surely, Your enemies, O L-rd,
surely, Your enemies perish;
all evildoers are scattered.

You raise my horn high like that of a wild ox;
I am soaked in freshening oil.

I shall see the defeat of my watchful foes,
hear of the downfall of the wicked who beset me.

The righteous bloom like a date-palm;
they thrive like a cedar in Lebanon;

planted in the house of the L-rd,
they flourish in the courts of our G-d.

In old age they still produce fruit;
they are full of sap and freshness,

attesting that the L-rd is upright,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Don’t be like the grass, but grow like a Palm Tree

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Chabad Article: The Case of the Floating Skull
[2] The 13 Principles of Faith
[3] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, 4 edition p. 28-31


See also the blog: Is Truly Everything Rewarded?

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