Friday, May 11, 2018

Ponderings of the Perkei Avot 4:2

RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
Chapter 4:2
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr

2:1 “Rabbi [Judah HaNassi]* would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind.

Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot. Consider the cost of a mitzvah against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost.

Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.”

Let us first compare this Perkei Avot text with another to help bring out a fuller understanding.

4:2, 11 “Ben Azzai would say: Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.

“Rabbi Eliezer the son of Yaakov would say: He who fulfills one mitzvah, acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one transgression, acquires against himself one angel-accuser. Repentance and good deeds are as a shield against retribution.

Rabbi Yochanan the Sandal-Maker would say: Every gathering that is for the sake of Heaven, will endure; that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure.”

Keeping a commandment has its rewards as well as punishments (Deut. 26-28) And just as one sin usually leads to another, one good deed usually leads to another. The path of life and death lay before us. Choose life.

Deut. 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

Not Death.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Don’t keep the Torah as in a way to earn brownie points with God instead:

I Cor. 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Also consider the price of a Mitzvah:

Luke 14:28-33 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Yes, a life of Torah Observance, walking in the footsteps of Moshiach is definitely worth it. The commentary of our focus text says:

“Disregard the cost in time or money in fulfilling a mitzvah. Likewise, do not be misled by the pleasure or profit of a sin. Instead, calculate the eternal reward for a mitzvah against the temporary loss it may cause; and the eternal cost of a sin against the temporary benefit it may bring.”

Yeshua Ha Moshiach said:

Matt. 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Let us not become desensitized to the very real fact that we have Someone above us, a “watchful Eye” an “attentive Ear” always on us and that our every action is put in the Heavenly Record Books. Let us fear God in reverence yes, but let us also fear in hurting Him by our sinful actions.  This will indeed, if done in all earnestness, will keep us from sin.

-- Yehudah ben Shomeyr