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Alshich on Avos

Alshich on Avos

For almost two millennium Jews from all social and intellectual backgrounds have enjoyed the study of the Mishna Pirkei Avos, a collection of timeless ethical values and wisdom. It has become the custom to give special study of this Mishna during the period between Passover and Shavuot, while many others continue to learn the ethical tractate until Rosh Hashanah.
Over the centuries since the invention of the printing press by Guttenberg the number of commentaries on the inspiring teachings of Pirkei Avos has exceeded 1,000 volumes. Originally most were published in lashon hakodesh, Hebrew.

A Baal Teshuva Movement
Since the advent almost 40 years ago of today's impressive Baal Teshuvah movement that has seen hundreds of thousands of Jews become more spiritually inclined and loyal to Torah precepts, many of earlier classic volumes have been translated into English and other languages that are better understood by Jewish communities today.



Two new English translations of highly respected commentaries on the classic work of Pirkei Avos have just come out in time for people to benefit during the summer season….





Let's begin with the new commentary by Rabbi Alshich, a 16th Century Torah luminary who was born in the Ottoman Empire (Adrianople, Turkey) in 1508 some 16 years after the Expulsion of the Jewish community of Spain where his father — Rabbi Chaim Alshich, a noted Torah scholar had been born. The son learned under Rabbi Yosef Caro who would later author the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law) and when his mentor moved to Safed in the Holy Land around 1535, the talmid accompanied him

Leader in Safat
When his teacher, Rav Caro passed away, the Alshich who had served on the Beis HaVa'ad of Safat rose to become head of the central rabbinic body whose influence spread to many Jewish communities even outside the Land of Israel.
A noted authority on halacha (interpreting Jewish law), the Alshich is best known today for his commentaries on the Torah. The Chida in his sefer "Shem HaGedolim," declares of Rabbi Alshich that his commentary on Tanach (the Bible) is "sweet and true" and said of the Alshich that he is the great commentator among later authorities.
He was also referred to as the Alshich HaKadosh (the "holy" Alshich,) one of the few individuals in Jewish history going back to Rebbi Yehudah HaNasi, compiler of the Mishna to be so honored. His reputation was highly esteemed by later generations such as the Ohr HaChaim who called him one in a generation." His halachic opinions were cited by such great poskim as Rabbi Akiva Eiger and was praised by such great Chassidic masters as Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and the Chozeh of Lublin.
The new English translation with explanatory notes on the Alshich's insights of Pirkei Avos is the work of Rabbi Avie Gold and Rabbi Nahum Spirn who were commissioned to do so by Mr. David Rose, a prominent member of the Jewish community in London, England in memory of his parents Avrohom and Razel Shaindel Rose.

The Fourth Perek
This week, Jews around the world will learn the fourth perek or chapter of Pirkei Avos that begins with the Mishna: "Ben Zoma says: Who is wise? He who learns from everyone as it says: "From all my teachers I gained wisdom" (Tehillim 119:9)...
In the new volume on the commentary of the Alshich, the sefer quotes as follows:
"Who is wise? He who learns from everyone. He does not say one who discerns future developments," as the Sages do in Tamid 32a, because the Gemara there is discussing a different type of wisdom, namely knowledge of the right way to act. In contrast, our Mishnah is discussing what will enable a person to permanently acquire the appellation "wise."...

An Important Principle
"The Mishnah's answer conveys a most important principle: A person will not give his heart and soul to acquire the Torah's wisdom until he appreciates the Torah's tremendous value. It is then that he will "kill himself' for its sake, and the Torah will make itself available and impart its knowledge to him (for Torah, unlike secular areas of knowledge, is a living entity that has this power).
"Now, how can one tell if a person truly appreciates the value of Torah? By seeing if he is willing to learn from everyone. If he is unwilling to hear a new Torah idea from someone who is younger than himself or who lacks his status, it shows that he lacks this appreciation, for he is throwing away a pearl of inestimable value just for the sake of his honor...