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Pirkei Avot 3:13-16 Rabbi Akiva in Pirkei Avot

    1. Rabbi Akiva would say: Jesting and frivolity accustom a person to promiscuity. Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for abstinence; a safety fence for wisdom is silence.

14 He would also say: Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of God]; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it says, "For in the image of God, He made man" (Genesis 9:6). Beloved are Israel, for they are called children of God; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they are called children of God, as it is stated: "You are children of Havayah your God" (Deuteronomy 14:1). Beloved are Israel, for they were given a precious article; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they were given a precious article, as it is stated: "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it" (Proverbs 4:2).

15 All is foreseen, and freedom of choice is granted. The world is judged with goodness, but in accordance with the amount of man's positive deeds.

16 He would also say: Everything is placed in pledge, and a net is spread over all the living. The store is open, the storekeeper extends credit, the account book lies open, the hand writes, and all who wish to borrow may come and borrow. The collection officers make their rounds every day and exact payment from man, with his knowledge and without his knowledge. Their case is well founded, the judgment is a judgment of truth, and ultimately, all is prepared for the feast. (Pirkei Avot 3:13-16)

Rabbi Akiva, the greatest of the Mishnaic sages[1], is mentioned only in our chapter of Pirkei Avot. His teachings are expounded over four mishnayot, and correspond to the four letters of God’s Name Havayah, as follows:

In the first mishna, there are various safeguards and boundaries. The purpose of these safeguards is to prevent someone who is within the realm of holiness from falling from his level. This mishna corresponds to the sefirah of malchut (kingdom), the last 'hei' of God’s Name Havayah. Malchut stands on the boundary of holiness, extending 'outward' from the person. It is precisely there that safeguards are necessary to prevent a fall.

In the second mishnah, there are three levels of affection, each doubled: "Man is beloved… an extra affection is made known to him," etc.  In all, there are six levels of affection in this mishnah, corresponding to the six emotional attributes (chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod). Affection is love, the inner aspect of chesed, which is the leader of all the attributes. This mishnah corresponds to the letter vav in God’s Name Havayah, which parallels the six emotional attributes.

The third mishnah, "All is foreseen," corresponds to chochmah (wisdom), the yud in God’s Name Havayah. Everything is foreseen through the lens of chochmah, where all is revealed and known in advance through Divine knowledge.

This mishnah itself beautifully structures God’s Name Havayah (in the secret of "God in chochmah," with the entire Name encompassed in chochmah): "All is foreseen" in chochmah; "and freedom of choice is granted" in binah (free will that does not contradict Divine knowledge); "The world is judged with goodness" in the six attributes (with chesed leading the way); " but in accordance with the amount of man's positive deeds." in malchut.

The final Mishnah relates to the world of reward and punishment, corresponding to the sefirah of binah, aligning with the upper hei in God’s Name Havayah.



[1] Sanhedrin 86a.

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