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Pirkei Avot 2:7 – Live Your Essence and More!


Pirkei Avot 2:7

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, מַרְבֶּה בָשָׂר, מַרְבֶּה רִמָּה. מַרְבֶּה נְכָסִים, מַרְבֶּה דְאָגָה. … מַרְבֶּה תוֹרָה, מַרְבֶּה חַיִּים. מַרְבֶּה יְשִׁיבָה, מַרְבֶּה חָכְמָה. מַרְבֶּה עֵצָה, מַרְבֶּה תְבוּנָה. מַרְבֶּה צְדָקָה, מַרְבֶּה שָׁלוֹם. קָנָה שֵׁם טוֹב, קָנָה לְעַצְמוֹ. קָנָה לוֹ דִבְרֵי תוֹרָה, קָנָה לוֹ חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא

He used to say: The more flesh, the more worms; The more property, the more anxiety; … [But] the more Torah, the more life; The more sitting [in the company of scholars], the more wisdom; The more counsel, the more understanding; The more charity, the more peace.

If one acquires a good name, he has acquired something for himself; If one acquires for himself knowledge of Torah, he has acquired life in the world to come.

This mishnah contains the last of Hillel’s statements in this set. In it, he advises living a simple existence devoted to learningTorah rather than fame and material possessions.[1]

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a Masai tribe. There wasn’t much materially, but the kids were content playing together with what they had. The towns, buildings, and streets were all simpler in that country, yet the people appeared less tense and anxious. How different it is in wealthy cities where people are stressed at work because of their full schedules, where children are still dissatisfied with the most expensive gifts and do not play with what they have. The above is presented in black and white, but it struck me and caused me to reflect.That, despite the West’s affluence, individuals are frequently unsatisfied, and more is never enough. The house can always be bigger, and the automobile can always be more expensive, but as the house is bigger and the car is more expensive, the worry of being able to maintain it correctly, insure it, and defend it increases.

This is what Hillel teaches in the mishnah quoted above. The item always ends up causing tension because the more you have, the more worry you have. Nothing can be taken from it after you die; others will benefit from your efforts.

A good name is something you preserve even after you die. It is not something that can be passed down. Having a good name signifies that you have achieved your life’s essence and that you have made effective use of your attributes.[2]

This could be because you believed it was reasonable to be a nice person, to be kind, generous, and merciful. G-d blesses this person in this world by rewarding Him. However, it does not (yet) ensure a future life. To do so, a man must develop his attributes by understanding the 7 Noahide Commandments and their specifics, and then following them to acquire a good name.

May we all learn how best to perform the mitzvot and live up to our essence because G-d want us to live that way.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[2] Tosafot Yom Tov on Pirkei Avot 2:7:2
[1] English Explanation of Pirkei Avot 2:7:2


See also the blog: Pirkei Avot 2:6 – Measure for Measure

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