Maharal on Pirkei Avos


The Shareholders

Rabbi Pinchos Gruman, Rav of Kesher Torah

The following is read as a prologue to each of the six chapters of Pirkei Avos.

All of Yisroel has a share in the World to Come as it says: And your people are all righteous (tzadikkim); they shall inherit the land forever; they are the branch of My planting, my handiwork in which to take pride. (Artscroll translation)

Exhorts Maharal: Take this maxim literally! Everyone of Israel is to get a share in Olam Haba – the World to Come. This share is not a reward for doing mitzvos, but simply acquired by being a Jew. Olam Haba is his birthright.

Consider, argues Maharal, the Talmud states in Sanhedrin 110b: “It was taught: When does a Jewish minor come to Olam Haba (i.e. how old must the minor be at death in order to enter the World to Come)?  R’ Chiya and R’ Shimon bar Rebbe dispute this matter: one says, from the moment of birth, and one says from the moment of speech…”

You see, concludes Maharal, that solely by the virtue of being born a Jew who is “the branch of My planting,” the child receives a stake in Olam Haba.

However, Maharal quotes Rambam, who disagrees with his (Maharal’s) view.

As we conclude learning each of the six chapters of Pirkei Avos, we recite the following epilogue: “R’ Hakashiya says: The Holy One Blessed be He wished to confirm merit upon Yisroel; therefore, He gave Torah and mitzvos in abundance.”

There are some – states Maharal – that question this mishnah. In the language of Maharal: “And I saw some asked (Rambam in his explanation of the mishnah, Ba’al Haikrim 3:29): would it not be more logical if Hashem wanted to merit klal yisroel to give them less mitzvos rather than more? A multitude of mitzvos invites the likely possibilities of violations. Might the merit run the risk of becoming a demerit?”

Maharal quotes Rambam saying that it is a basic Torah belief that once a man performs a mitzvah purely for its own sake, without diluting it with any thoughts of possible personal benefit, he will achieve Olam Haba. This is what the mishnah meant when it said: “He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundance.” For once there is an abundance of Torah and mitzvos, it is virtually impossible for at least one of the mitzvos not to be performed purely for its own sake. Then this is the one mitzvah that will obtain him a share in the World to Come. This is the merit of having an abundance of mitzvos.

Even according to Rambam, the maxim, “All of Yisroel has a share in Olam Haba,” is a categorical statement. For all of Yisroel has an abundance of mitzvos from which at least one will grant him a pass into Olam Haba.