Thursday, November 16, 2006

The centrality of Torah (Avot 1:13)

הוא היה אומר, נגד שמא אבד שמא, דילא מוסיף יסוף, ודילא יליף קטלא חייב, ודישתמש בתגא חלף.

He [Hillel] says, the one who aggrandizes his name, loses his name. The one who does not add [to his Torah] brings its end. The one who does not learn earns death. And the one who does not make use of the Crown [of Torah] shall whither away.

These words may very well strike you as quite harsh next to those (also of Hillel) in yesterday's Mishnah. But what they most certainly share is a sense of the centrality of Torah. This is the legacy passed on to us by this great Sage, one first true greats of the rabbinic era.
Notably, this is the second in a row of three sets of sayings by Hillel; all the previous Sages in Avot have been assigned only one set. Also of note is that this Mishnah is in Aramaic, not Hebrew; Hillel is understood to have originally been from Babylonia.

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