Ethics of The Fathers Chapter 1: Moses Received the Torah at Sinai

May 10, 2024

Why is it so important to specify the location of the giving of the Torah? And what kind of flawed education caused someone to go off the path of Judaism and found Christianity?

Likkutei Sichos (Hebrew) vol. 1 pg. 263

Jewish Pride

The first mishnah in Ethics of the Fathers begins by stating “Moses received the Torah at Sinai.” Why is it necessary to specify that it was at Sinai? The Midrash says that Mt. Sinai was chosen over other, larger mountains because it was humble, not haughty (Source 1). If so, should the Torah not have better been given in a valley, rather than on a low mountain? The answer lies in the attitude demanded of a Jew. A Jew must be humble and modest on the one hand, but also proud to be a Jew and must not be ashamed by those who mock him (Source 2). Story – Jewish pride. Available on video as well. 

Desirable Traits

The Mishnah enumerates five links in the chain of the transmission of the Torah from generation to generation. Why were only these five mentioned? They teach us five critical qualities that we must adopt in order to study Torah.

Moses: He was “the most humble man on earth.” Moses teaches us the quality of humility. Joshua: He embodies total devotion to Torah study, reflected in the Torah’s words that he “did not leave the tent.” Torah study was his sole occupation. He teaches us that when we study Torah we must become completely engrossed in it, not allowing anything to disturb us. 

The Elders: They represent the value of putting effort and toil into the study of Torah.

The Prophets: They represent the spark of heavenly insight and assistance, which teaches us that even if we do everything right, we need heavenly assistance to ensure our Torah learning is attuned to G-d’s will.

Men of the Great Assembly: These are the people who adjudicated Jewish law and enacted rabbinic laws. The Talmud says that the most complete form of Torah study is one which leads to practical application and understanding of the law (Source 3). This teaches us that we must study the Torah in a manner consistent with it being a guide for life.

The Repudiation of Jesus of Nazereth

Behind the famous words of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachya, “Judge everyone favorably,” lies a tragic tale. Yeshu, or Jesus in English, was a student of Rabbi Yehoshua and when he acted in a way unbecoming for a Torah scholar, Rabbi Yehoshua “pushed him away with both hands.” After watching as his former student fell so low that he worshiped idolatry, he invited him back, but it was too late (Source 4). The Rebbe explains that when Rabbi Yehoshua saw the outcome of his repudiation, he learned that he must always judge favorably and attempt to draw people closer and not push them away. Thus, he constantly called on everyone to judge favorably.



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