May 06, 2016
As we start the limud of Pirkei Avos this first Shabbos following Pesach, I want to share a great insight into a Mishna in the first Perek, from Rav Mordechai Shifman of Los Angeles. The idea really captures the essence of our preparation for Shavuos. Have a great Shabbos and a Chodesh Tov!!
In his commentary to Pirkei Avos, the Rambam records that Antiganus ish Socho had two students, Tzaddok and Beisus. Upon hearing their master's teaching that reward should not be the impetus for serving Hashem, Antiganus' students left him and founded the two heretical groups known as the Tzeddukim and the Beisusim. What is the basis for the argument between Antiganus and his students?
Antiganus is teaching us that the closeness which can be attained through a relationship with Hashem should be the impetus for serving Him. The knowledge that Hashem has only our best interests in mind allows that reward not be the focus of the relationship. Only when two parties have adverse agendas or interests, is reward necessary to facilitate the relationship.
The Tzeddukim view their relationship with Hashem as one of an employee-employer. Therefore, reward must be the driving force of the relationship. The Perushim do not consider their relationship with Hashem to be at arms-length, rather they see it as a closeness which is achieved through the knowledge that we share mutual interests and agendas.