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Pirkei Avot 6:6: Faith in the Sages

 

Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities and these are….with faith in the sages…

(Pirkei Avot 6:6)

“King David said to his son, Solomon, ‘Know the God of your father and serve Him…if you seek Him, He will be there for you.’”[1] The way to seek God and know Him is by employing the tool of having faith in the sages, particularly by means of “the God of your fathers”—the souls of the tzaddikim. Chassidut revitalized the concept of faith in the sages, faith in tzaddikim, which begins with the recognition that God plants souls of tzaddikim in every generation, described as the “Moses of the generation.” Faith manifests as a connection. Thus, faith in God refers to having a connection with God. Faith in tzaddikim means having a connection to tzaddikim.

The first word of the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Torah Law written by Rabbi Yosef Caro in the 16th century) is, “One should overcome” (יִתְגַּבֵּר) whose numerical value is 615, which is also the numerical value of “faith in the sages” (אֱמוּנַת חֲכָמִים), suggesting that even one’s ability to successfully follow halachah—Torah law—depends on one’s connection and faith in the sages of past and present generations. In addition, the letters of “One should overcome” (יִתְגַּבֵּר) can be permuted to spell, “with 613” (בְּתַּרְיַג), alluding to the 613 commandments of the Torah. To be able to fulfill all 613 commandments, we must overcome our evil inclination, and empower our spiritual image more than our physical bodies. Again, suggesting that, first and foremost, we must strengthen ourselves in the faith we have in the sages, without which there is nothing.[2]

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says:[3]

Through faith in the sages, we can bring our sentence to a positive and just conclusion. For justice is the central axis,[4] i.e., the middle road, that leans neither to the right nor to the left. This we merit by having faith in the sages, which manifests the principle of, “You shall not stray from the word that they tell you, right or left.”[5] Thus, by having done so, true justice is revealed, and just laws are enacted.

Rebbe Nachman further explains that disputes are the result of a blemish in our faith in the sages. But there are actually three types of blemish in this regard. The first is when a person blemishes his faith in the sages because he does not consider all the holy books important (including those that are not in line with his path or the path of his rabbis). The second occurs when the tzaddikim of the generation, despite their faith in the sages, blemish their faith and therefore quarrel with other tzaddikim. This happens to them because common people lose their faith in tzaddikim and as the verse says, “He [the tzaddik] bears the sin of the many.”[6] The third blemish is truly wondrous. Rebbe Nachman explains that even though a tzaddik may have perfect faith in other sages, because he lacks faith in the Torah that he himself teaches, he is seen as one who has blemished his faith in the sages!

 

[1] 1 Chronicles 28:9.

[2] The filling of the letters of יִתְגַּבֵּר is יוד תו גימל בית ריש, whose value is 1431, which is the triangle of 53 (the sum of integers from 1 to 53), where 53 is the value of "rock" (אֶבֶן). This is the secret of the Foundation Stone (from which the world of Torah was founded), explained in the continuation of the Torah in Likutei Moharan below. The filling letters, meaning the letters that are added to the root letters of the word are, וד ו ימל ית יש and their value is "lowliness" (שִׁפְלוּת), which equals 8 times "faith" (אֱמוּנָה).

[3]. Likutei Moharan 1:61.

[4]. Introduction to Tikunei Zohar, Patach Eliyahu.

[5]. Deuteronomy 17:???.

[6] Isaiah 53:12.

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