Teshuva. Pirkei Avos. (Shiur Hashkafa, 5781)

These shiurim are being given on Thursdays in Y.U. in Rav Twersky’s daily shiur. We hope to add each week’s shiur as the year progresses.

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See the table below the player for details about the shiurim in this series.

TrackTitleLength (mm:ss)Description
1Changing the Past Through Teshuva (Ish Hahalacha, pp.94-96)37:32As described by Rav Soloveitchik zt”l in his sefer Ish Hahalacha, pp.94-96, the cause and effect relationship between the past and the present is reversible through teshuva. Who I am tomorrow is not dictated by who I am yesterday. The significance and meaning of the past is determined by the present and the future.
2Al HaTeshuva: Bechira Chofshis & Teshuva, part 1 (Al Hateshuva, p. 191)54:54A discussion of Rav Solovetichik’s derasha that begins in Al HaTeshuva page 191. Discusses the structure of Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuva, different types of teshuva (teshuva mei’ahava vs. teshuva mei’yirah) and their relationship with different parts of Hilchos Teshuva. Reactionary teshuva vs. transformative teshuva.
3Anochi Hashem as the Lens Through Which We Experience the World (Al haTeshuva: Bechira & Teshuva, Part 2)40:01The Rav zt”l explains that the Rambam understands the mitzva of Anochi Hashem Elokecha to require an intellectually-based awareness through which we view and experience everything in the world.
4Divine Foreknowledge & Free Choice (Al haTeshuva: Bechira & Teshuva, Part 3)46:18Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 5:5) explains that our question regarding the seeming contradiction between Divine foreknowledge and free choice is based on a false assumption, i.e. that Hashem knows things in the same manner that we do. Since He and His knowledge are one, and we can understand neither Him nor His knowledge i.e. how He knows things, the question doesn’t begin. The Mesilas Yesharim (Mafsidei haZehirus) and Ibn Ezra (on lo sachmod), say that one’s decisions can constrain/drive/determine one’s range of choice in the future. Similarly, the Ra’avad (ibid), as explained by Rav Soloveitchik in Al HeTeshuva, answers the seeming contradiction for some situations.
5Prikei Avos, 4:1 – The Paths to Chochmo, Gevura, Osher. Kavod Haberiyos.40:36In the first 3 items in the mishna, Ben Zoma is describing the path to chochmo, gevura, and osher, not a description of each of those things themselves. When we show kavod habriyos, who, unlike animals, are b’tzelem Elokim, we are showing respect to Hashem.
6Avos 4:2-3: Reward, and Enablement, for Mitzvos. Not Being Disdainful.47:094:2 – Although there is no reward per se for miztvos in this world, whether we merit circumstances that are conducive to fulfilling more mitzvos or not is affected by our past performance. 4:3 – not being disdainful is not just good advice, but is a middah of how HKB”H runs the world, and therefore understanding it is Torah.
7Avos 4:4: Being Extremely Careful Regarding Ga’ava (delusion / arrogance) and Ka’as (Anger)47:01Ga’ava (delusion / arrogance) and Ka’as (Anger) are both extremely volatile traits, and as such we must go to an extreme to avoid them. However, it must be done in a way that does not lead to outcomes that the general requirement to not go to extremes was meant to avoid.
8Avos 4:4: Ikar hadin & Middas Chassidus in Shiflus53:07Deepest simcha generated by shleimus that comes from hisbatlus. Why? Because that shelimus is more internal/intrinsic. Shiflus keeps us away from Ga’ava. Rambam holds that not replying at all to bizyonos is a middas chasidus. It’s mei’ikar hadin according to the Rambam to not feel anything from bizyonos, but maybe not mei’ikar hadin to not reply at all.
9Avos 4:5 – 1) Chilul Hashem. 2) Torah Belongs to Klal Yisroel as a Whole.42:40“Echad shogeig, echad meizid b’chilul Hashem.” This does not mean that they are equally serious, but that nifraim mimeinu b’galoi applies either way. When shogeig doesn’t mitigate the consequence of the aveira, the difference between punishments for an act of shogeig vs. meizid is less. An act of chilul Hashem b’shogieg can sometimes cause a greater chilul Hashem than an act b’meizid. Financial dishonesty by a frum person is a chilul Hashem. But a greater chilul Hashem is when a frum person misbehaves and insists that his bad behavior is what the Torah says we should.
“Lomeid al menas l’lameid”: Every Jew has to learn Torah and share it, even if only with his children, chavrusa, etc. – whoever he can share with. Why is “Lomeid al menas l’lameid” so critical? Because Torah is not an individual morasha for any one of us, rather it is a communal morasha for all of Klal Yisroel.
10Avos 4:5: Lomeid Al Menas La’asos40:42Authentic learning must be al menas la’asos. Hence we do stop learning to do a mitzvah that can’t be taken care of by someone else. Doing is part of the mitzvah of learning itself, not a distinct one. Hashem’s yedi’ah is hashgacha – the proper hashgacha is a direct/immediate result of Hashem’s yediah. Knowledge IS action. The need to learn al menas la’asos stems from being, on some level, v’halachata b’derachav, that my knowledge is deed.
11Avos 4:10-12: Hishtadlus vs Learning vs sechar Olam Hazeh, Anava, Teshuva vs Kapara, L’shem Shomayim, kavod & Moreh60:22Topics include: 1) balancing hishtadlus for paranassa and learning 2) the need for anava in learning 3) if we are amel b’Torah, HKB”H provides the support system needed in olam hazeh 4) Teshuva & Ma’asim tovim as a shield when kapparah is pending 5) forming a collective means some will have leadership/power, which is a problem. The way to avoid the problems are to do it l’shem shomayim 6) Kavod and moreh being on one spectrum
121) Avos 4:12 2) The mitzvos of Chanukah & Purim41:07Avos: 4:12 – Rambam Sefer Mitzvos 209, 210, 211 – Rambam counts kavod & moreh for his rebbe as one mitzvah, but then has them as two separate miztvos for parents. Why? By one’s rebbe it’s one continuum, by parents they are two different mitzvos.
Inyanei Chanukah:
Beginning of Hilchos Megillah & Chanukah, Rambam says there are 2 mitzvos. But isn’t there mikrah Megillah, mishloach manos, mattanos l’evyonim, Al Hanissim, hadlokas neiros Chanukah, and Hallel? More than two!
Rambam says every d’rabanan must foster some inyan d’oraysa to avoid bal tosif. Hence Rambam says (4:12) “u’l’hosif b’shavach ha’Kel al hanissim” – Chanukah gets us to recognize & praise HKB”H for nissim in general.
Why does Rambam count one mitzvah for Chanukah and one for Purim? Rambam, shoroshim in Sefer Hamitzvos – when do you count something with multiple components as one miztvah, e.g. lavan and techeiles? If the Torah identifies a single overarching kiyum, it’s one mitzvah. All the mitzvos on Purim (hashgacha) and Chanukah (praise for nissim) are each fostering one d’oraysa, hence Rambam says there are just two mitzvos – one for Purim, one for Chanukah.
13Avos 4:13: Laxity in Learning. The Crown of Torah.40:26Shigegas talmud olah zadon: opinions in the Rishonim about what the nature of the mistake is and how culpable the person is. Relationship between iyun and bekius. Not overstepping one’s limits / role. Three crowns – Torah, Kehuna, Malchus. Rambam: shem tov – achieved through learning and fulfilling Torah.
14Avos 4:14-16: Inseparability of Learning & Teaching64:26Learning & teaching are inseparable, in 3 dimensions: 1) ikar mitzvah of talmud Torah is teaching / transmitting the mesorah 2) Torah was given morasha kehilas Yaakov, not to individuals. Therefore one must share. 3) one can’t rely on his own binah – we’re dependent on talmidim and chaveirim to flesh out.
The sole purpose of the olam hazeh is to access olam haba.
15Avos 4:13-15: Shem tov, talmidim, makdim b’shalom.45:394:13, Rambam: Keser Shem Tov not an independent crown, rather results from keser Torah. The real shem tov only comes from being associated with Hashem.
4:14, Rambam: need a place with both chaveirim and talmidim. Where does Rambam see talmidim here? Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah, 5:12: rebbe has to have kavod for his talmidim… 5:13: because the rebbe learns from the talmidim.
4:15 – R’ Yona on R’ Yanai. Rambam Hilchos Deos 5:7 – quotes makdim b’shlom kol adam, adds so that people find their encounter with him pleasant. We are part of humanity, and that is mechayev a certain type of behavior.
16Avos Perek 4:16-1955:544:16, Rambam: “…this world is only a pathway to olam habo” , i.e. the antechamber has no purpose other than serving as a pathway to olam habo.
4:17, Rambam; No addition to shleimus in olam habo, but what one experiences with a given level of shleimus is greater in olam habo. Hence the need to take advantage if every second in olam hazeh. Real chochmo must lead to teshuva u’ma’asim tovim, and the ma’asim tovim are the ultimate expression of da’as; two sides of the same coin.
4:18, Rambam: it’s explaining derech eretz, not stating an absolute din. Have to know not just WHAT to say and do, but also WHEN to say and do.
4:19, Rambam: even though it is a passuk, from the fact that Shmuel hakatan would often quote it and try to impress it upon people we see that it is a strong yetzer hara and something we have to have high on our tikkun hamiddos todo list.
17Avos 4:20-2143:24– If someone has a little knowledge but it is confused & incomplete is worse than no knowledge. It generates lots of distortions.
– Kin’ah means I begrudge you what you have because I want to be BETTER than you.
– Each of these 3 causes a person to leave the world morally and spiritually impoverished because each of these is an open-ended yetzer hara.
– We should have the amount of tayva and kavod needed to function normally and properly, but there us zero need for kinah. We are physical, and when one denies himself the measure of gashmius that our physical nature requires, he becomes more obsessed with it instead of distanced from it; to keep gashmiyus in its place, have to give it its due so that we doesn’t obsess about it. Example – when a person is “so spiritual” that he does nothing for parnassa, he ends up being poor and having to run around to ask for money.
18Avos 4:22. 3:1-236:05“No shochad” means we’re rewarded for single every mitzvah, punished for every single aveira; they don’t cancel each other out.
“Al korchacho ato notzar…” – why not just skip straight to din v’cheshbon? Because starting already from the time one is created (notzar) a person’s essence is that he is accountable.
3:1 – Why isn’t “lifnei mi ato asid liten din” enough? Why do we need “mei’ayin bo’so”? People can be so self-centered that they can’t think beyond themselves in the present; as such, first we have to break through the ga’ava and break through the preoccupation with olam hazeh, and only then he may focus on “lifnei mi…”
3:2 – sitting and learning quietly by himself, doing all he can do, it’s as if he has fulfilled all of Torah.