Teshuva. Pirkei Avos. Kedoshim Tihiyu. (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.

  • Listen using the player below
  • Click the “track lyrics” button  or see the table below the audio player to read a detailed description of a shiur
  • Click the download button  next to a shiur to download that shiur

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.
19Avos 3:3-539:433:3-4: In 3, Torah vs emptiness, cynicism, kefirah. Rambam Hil. Tumas Tzora’as 16:10, Hil. Teshuva (3:4), Hil. Teshuva (9:1). A lifestyle of leitzanus becomes a powerful negative force.
3:5: All 3 things are appropriate dafka in contexts of avodas Hashem. Doing them for other reasons is wrong.
20Avos 3:6-951:02R’ Nechunyah ben Hakana: when one accepts Torah, HKB”H sees to it that he will not have extra tirdos. Rambam (Hil. Shemita V’Yovel, 13:13) highlights the combination of commitment (l’he’badel…) and implementation (holach yashar…) The difference the context of the commitment provides: on a practical level – more likely to stick to it. On a religious level – accepting ol Torah deepens the dimension of avdus in his avodas Hashem. Ol derech eretz etc. is reduced when one accentuates the ol Malchus Shomayim. From Hil. Talmud Torah (3:11, 1:9) it’s clear that it doesn’t mean he will not work at all, rather will not have extra bothers.
3:8 – We take a lot for granted, e.g. that my money, time, etc. are mine. With that attitude we will do less than we should. R’ Elazar ish Bartosa is telling us we must realize that it is all HKB”H’s, then we will do all that we should.
3:9 – R’ Dostai – forgetting = yesireim milibo. Why? By default, we forget. Hence if we don’t counteract the natural process of forgetting, we are being yesireim milibo.
21Avos 3:8-947:223:8 – R’ Dostai. Rambam (Hil. Talmud Torah 1:8, 1:10-12): learning and knowing the entire corpus of Torah and reviewing to prevent forgetting all apply until one’s death.
3:9 – R’ Chaninah ben dosa. Rambam and Rav Chaim Vital: middos tovos are absolutely basic and foundational to, and in, Torah and mitzvos. When parents are picking a school for their children, this priority has huge implications.
22Avos 3:10-1341:2810: part of avodas Hashem is being me’urav im habriyos. 12: Rambam (here and Hil. De’os 2:7) – Shamai is talking about what a person shows externally, and R’ Yishmael is about what one feels internally. A person is supposed to have a positive attitude towards life and people.
11: Actions can drown out professed beliefs, and the brazenness of sinning in public is an act of kefira.
13: Nedarim are strongly discouraged if someone is trying to create a different ideal, but if on an individual basis one needs a neder to compensate for a weakness he has, it’s good.
23Avos 3:13 – 1541:11Mishna 13
Nedarim are bad if the person is trying to define an ideal different than the Torah, but to use nedarim to discipline oneself to the Torah’s own ideals is praiseworthy.
Shtika is both a preventative measure against saying things that one shouldn’t, as well as something which positively contributes to what one does say. Shtika allows one to collect his thoughts and than speak sharply and clearly, thus being maximally effective.
Mishna 14
Rambam Peirush Mishnayos – it’s an additional good to make one aware of the value of the gift he was given. Why? to make the most of the gift one has received, he has to appreciate both that he was given the gift and the value of that gift. If we always lived with an awareness of tzelem Elokim and banim laMakom, we couldn’t and wouldn’t do certain things or squander life on the petty.
Mishna 15
It’s clear from Rambam that R’ Akiva is not just restating yesodos, but making a statement based on an understanding of how free will and foreknowledge don’t contradict one another. Rambam says that to understand it one must understand what he said in Shemona Perakim, i.e. that we think they’re contradictory because we are mistakenly transposing how we know onto how HKB”H knows.
24Kol Dodi Dofek50:05“Iyov”:
Teshuva must address bein adam lachaveiro as well.
1) Can’t be on a higher level in bein adam laMakom than one is in bein adam laChaveiro – if selfish lachaveiro, will be so laMakom as well.
2) What’s entrusted to a yachid will not have the staying power of that which is entrusted to a nation
“Hachmatzas Sha’ah”:
Procrastination can be very costly, viz difference between how Dovid and Shaul reacted when confronted by the navi and what the consequences were. Everything about Olam Hazeh is temporary, Olam Habba is eternal; everything is fleeting, and therefore procrastination is such an issue.
25Avos 3:15 – 1735:183:15 – In order to acquire a middah, one must exercise it repeatedly. Similarly, in order to retain a good middah one has already acquired, one must repeatedly practice it as well. The ability to change enables us to do teshuva at all times, but it also means we can retrogress.
3:16 – should live with a sense of accountability, and with awareness that olam hazeh is just a bridge.
3:17 – each one compliments the other. E.g., mitzvos haTorah are designed to guide a person in cultivating his middos (derech Eretz), but the more corrupt his middos are the less receptive he is. Da’as & binah – need the capacity to be there, but until he attains it what he has is not really da’as.
26Avos 2:1246:46Ahavas Hashem b’chol levavecha, b’chol nafshecha, u’b’chol meodecha, would be impossible without kol ma’asecha yihiyu l’shem shomayim, b’chol d’rachecha da’eihu. With it, however, we can serve Hashem 24×7.
Kol ma’asecha yihiyu l’shem shomayim is a necessary compliment to v’holachta b’derachav; without it, how do we even know what the middle path even is?
27Ramban, Kedoshim: Values & Details of Torah47:19Ramban on Kedoshim tihiyu: naval b’reshus haTorah is what would’ve been had there not been a mitzvah of kedoshim tihiyu.
Torah is comprised of both klalim – values / principles – and pratim – specific halachos. We must maintain balance and observe both, and not think that observing one can allow us to ignore the other. Ramban gives examples of this in the areas of materialism, interactions with other people, and Shabbos.
28Ramban, Kedoshim: Eternity of Torah via Klalim. The Klal of Shabbos.44:23Ramban said the Torah has klalim (principles / values) and pratim. This makes possible, and ensures the fact, that the eternity of Torah means it’s applicable in every age. “Show me where it says it’s assur” ignores the presence of the klalim. Ramban cites 3 places the Torah has klal & prat – Kedoshim, v’asisa hatov, and Shabbos.
On Shabbos, if one would do one act which is a shvus d’rabbanan one would violate the d’rabanan only; but if one would spend all day on such activities, one would violate the d’oraysa of Shabbason. (This is an example of klal and prat, as mentioned above.) The klal of Shabbos and yom tov is that it should be free of torach and amal. Elsewhere Ramban says that on Shabbos we have to consciously contextualize our shevisa as a yom kaddosh, focused on ruchniyus and free from the ephemeral. The tircha we are avoiding is a mental focus on the ephemeral. Hence shevisa is required for our animals, so we aren’t worried about our ox that we lent out, etc.
29Ramban on Kedoshim: Hayashar V’Hatov56:15Ramban on v’asisa hayashar v’hatov (another example the Ramban gave about lifrot & lichlol): eidos & chukim are the pratim, yashar v’tov is the klal, examples of which are pshara and lifnim mishuras hadin. Yashar & tov is no less of a chiyuv than shabbasson and kedoshim tihiyu. If so, what’s lifnim mishuras hadin about lifnim mishuras hadin? Din is acontextual emmes, pshara is contextual/situational emmes. The Ramban is saying that lifnim mishuras hadin is not something optional, rather it is something unspecified but still obligatory (have to see if it always means that…) Domain of kedoshim tihiyu is the lichlol of one’s middos vis-a-vis gashmiyus, and v’asisa hayashar v’hatov is the lichlol of bein adam lachaveiro.
Rambam doesn’t count kedoshim tihiyu or v’asisa hayashar v’hatov as a separate mitzvah, but he would require not being a menuval b’reshus haTorah etc. due to v’halachta b’derachav & the middah beinonis. Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 2:4: meshane ma’asav kulam l’tova u’l’derech yeshara – with “tov” and “yashar” he’s refering to the middah beinonis, and that is how to transform everything. Why does Rambam use 2 adjectives – “tov” and “yashar” – to describe middah beinonis. Why? Balance in one’s own behavior and in how one deals with others is the same yesod; these derachim allow you to be tov to others and yashar to yourself.
Ramban – Diburo b’nachas im habriyos – how did he derive this? First, we see the Torah takes speech very seriously. Second, the issurim of nekima & netira you see that people are supposed to be mevater to facilitate good relationships and get along with people, and inlcuded in that is diburu b’nachas.
30Ramban on Parshas Kedoshim: Miscellaneous Points45:11Follow up from yesterday: the fact that specifically meleches machasheves is assur works well with what was said yesterday about shabbasson being about freeing one’s thoughts from torach.
1) Al Tifnu…L’r’tzonchem…
Avoda Zara is a double distortion: 1) the focus/address of the avodah is wrong (something besides HKB”H) and 2) the notion that the point of avodah is a pragmatic investment to get some payoff. We are supposed to serve HKB”H, and do so as a faithful eved with no expectation at all of gain. Hence “al tifnu el ha’elilim” followed by “l’tzonchem”, don’t think there is anything to avodah zara and don’t serve HKB”H with the wrong mindset of personal gain.
2) V’a’havta l’reiacha kamocha
Means love your friend in all areas that you love yourself, not literally at the same level that you love yourself. Why did HKB”H design us that our self-love surpasses our love for others? Just as parental love is necessary to ensure that the child gets what he needs, similarly self-love is necessary to ensure that we do all that we need to throughout our lives.
3) Nekima & Netira
At times it would be a middas chasidus to be mochel a chiyuv mamon.