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

The “Asher Yatzar” Blessing vs. Birkat Hamazon

Question: In the previous Halacha, we have discussed if one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing on food and before he does so, he uses the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, one should recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing first and......

Read Halacha

Question: If one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing after eating any food (for instance, by eating a Kezayit, approximately twenty-seven grams, of fruit) and before reciting the after-blessing, one used the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, which blessing must one recite first: Should one first recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing or the after-blessing on the food one ate?

Answer: This question has already been discussed by the Maharshal (Rabbeinu Shlomo Luria, one of the foremost Acharonim who lived approximately five-hundred years ago in Eastern Poland and authored the Sefer Yam Shel Shlomo and others) in his responsa (Chapter 97) and writes that if one becomes obli......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon in the Place One Has Eaten

Question: Is one obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon specifically where one has eaten bread or may one recite this blessing elsewhere? Answer: One who eats a bread meal must recite Birkat Hamazon in the place where one has eaten and one may not go to a different place and recite the blessing there......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av

Following halachic nightfall on Tisha Be’av which is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (somewhat later in the United States), one is permitted to eat and drink. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha’Levana (blessing on the new moon) following Arvit prayers on Motza’ei Tisha B......

Read Halacha


Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5781, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

Yesterday, Shabbat, we marked Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Sunday (beginning from Motza’ei Shabbat), will mark Tisha Be’av. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebration. The Jewish Nation’s Fortune During the Month of Av Although we customarily implement some mourn......

Read Halacha

Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat- Clothing for Tisha Be’av

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Travelling by Car

Question: If one is eating while travelling by car, may one recite Birkat Hamazon while continuing to travel? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that our Sages have instituted that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while seated in order for one to have optimum concentration while bles......

Read Halacha