Halacha for Sunday 6 Iyar 5781 April 18 2021

“When One’s Wisdom is Greater than One’s Deeds, One’s Wisdom Shall Not Last”

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 3, Mishnah 12) states: “When one’s deeds are greater than one’s wisdom, one’s wisdom shall last; when one’s wisdom is greater than one’s deeds, one’s wisdom shall not last.”

The Tashbetz explains in his Sefer Magen Avot regarding this teaching that this cannot be understood according to its simple meaning, for if one does not possess great wisdom, how is it possible that one can possess many good deeds? One’s good deeds are only the fruits of one’s wisdom as another Mishnah in Pirkei Avot states, “An ignoramus cannot fear sin.” Similarly, the Torah states, “And you shall learn them (the words of the Torah) and you shall keep them to perform them,” which means that through one’s learning, one’s Mitzvah performance comes about.

Rather, the explanation of this Mishnah is that when one accepts upon himself to fulfill everything that one learns, immediately upon accepting this upon himself, one is considered to have already performed these Mitzvot. He proceeds to support his explanation from various words of our Sages.

Regarding the second teaching of this Mishnah, “When one’s wisdom is greater than one’s deeds, one’s wisdom shall not last,” this can be understood simply that if one learns a great deal but does not fulfill the Mitzvot which one has learned about, one would have been better off not learning at all. The Avot of Rabbi Natan (a compilation of teachings similar to that of Pirkei Avot compiled by the great Tanna, Rabbi Natan) compares this to one who goes to a grocer and tells him, “Please give me some wine and oil.” The grocer replies, “So give me a vessel to fill it with.” The customer then hands the grocer a perforated vessel. The grocer glances at him questioningly and asks, “If you do not have vessels capable of containing wine and oil, why do you ask for them?” Similarly, Hashem tells the wicked, “If you do not possess good deeds, how do you propose to learn Torah?” The verse in Tehillim states likewise, “And to the wicked one Hashem proclaims, ‘Why do you recount my statutes?’”

Regarding what we’ve learned that “one’s wisdom shall not last,” this can be explained based on the Gemara in Masechet Sanhedrin (106b) that Do’eg the Adomite did not die before he had forgotten all of his Torah as the verse states, “He shall die without rebuke and with his great foolishness he shall err.” This was because he studies much Torah but he did not fulfill what he learned.

Halacha Yomit:  It is customary not to take haircuts during the Omer period until the 33rd day of the Omer according to the Ashkenazi custom (although there are varying customs in this regard among Ashkenazi Jews) and until the 34th day of the Omer according to the Sephardic custom. Women do not observe this custom at all and they may take haircuts.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha