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Avot-Chap 5


There were ten generations from Adam to Noah etc. until He brought upon them the waters of the Flood . . Ten generations from Abraham until Noach etc etc Abraham came and reaped the reward for them all" (Avot 5:3)

The difference between the two 'ten generations"  

(5736 Vol XV Pg. 70)



1. It states in the Mishnah (Avot 5:2):

“There were ten generations from Noach to Avraham. This is to teach us the extent of G-d's tolerance; for all these generations kept on angering Him, until Avraham came and reaped the reward for them all.”

One must understand:

Since the ten generations “kept on angering Him” as it states in the Mishnah itself, what type of reward did they attain that Avraham reaped?

Moreover, it states previously in the Mishnah:

“There were ten generations from Adam to Noach. This is to teach us the extent of G-d's tolerance; for all these generations angered Him, until He brought upon them the waters of the Flood”.

It does not offer that Noach, “received the reward for them all”. For this is understood simply. Since “they angered Him”, it is automatically understood that they did not earn any reward.

According to this, it is even more, not understood:

Why, regarding the “ten generations from Noach to Avraham” who also angered Him, does the Mishnah state that Avraham “reaped the reward for them all”?

There are commentators who explain that each person has a designated place in Gan Eden. However, if he not deserving (נתחייב) (for which he takes his portion in Gehinom) then another who is worthy (זכה) comes and “takes his portion as well as his fellow’s portion in Gan Eden”.

According to this, however, it is difficult in the first case: “There were ten generations from Adam to Noach etc.”

Since they also “angered Him”, and Noach was “a Tzaddik etc. in his generation”, Noach should have taken “his portion as well as his fellow’s portion” (from the ten generations) in Gan Eden?

2. The commentators explain:

Since Noach did not pray for the people of his generation, he did not endeavor to bring close (מקרב) the people of his generation to G-d and effect that they act properly, Therefore his “merit” (זכה) was not great enough for him to take the “reward of all of them”.

Whereas, regarding Avraham, who proclaimed G-d in the world,

(As it states “he proclaimed the Name the L-rd, Al-mighty of the universe.”)

and brought close people to G-d, as the Sages state, on the verse “and the souls they had acquired in Charan” (“whom he had brought under the wings of the Shechinah”- Rashi). He therefore, merited reaping “the reward for them all”.

However, it still remains not understood:

Allowing (אננעמענדיק) that the ten generations from Adam to Noach attained some reward (for every person has a portion in Gan Eden, as aforementioned). And since Noach did not receive their reward since he lacked the merit for it – therefore who did take their portion in Gan Eden?

One cannot say that no one received it. For regarding Gan Eden it states, “He placed them in Gan Eden to work it and to preserve it.” After the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, Gan Eden was the place to receive reward for “working it”, which refers to serving G-d with the 248 Positive Mitzvot and “preserving it” by serving G-d with the 365 Negative Mitzvot in this world.

Gan Eden is designated (באשטימט) with a purpose and objective (ציל) for the person.

Therefore, it cannot be possible (געמאלט) that a place in Gan Eden should remain unoccupied (ליידיג), and especially a place that includes portions from all people of the ten generations and many later generations (לאנגע). Someone must come there and fulfill the purpose of Gan Eden.

One must therefore say that the ten generations for from Adam to Noach, from the very onset, did not have any designated portion – reward.

One must, however, understand:

How were they, with their “angering”, different and worse the second ten generations?

3. It is also not understood:

In general, what is the innovation of the Mishnah that G-d is “slow to anger” (אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם)?

It states clearly in the verse: “G-d (Al-mighty) is . . slow to anger”, which means, as Rashi explains “to Tzaddikim and to evildoers”.

One could say simply that the innovation of the Mishnah is “how great is His patience”. For in the verse it does not mention how long G-d’s “patience” lasts. Therefore, the Mishnah states, “To indicate how great is His patience”, namely that G-d is patient even until “ten generations”.

One must however, understand:

What really is the reason why G-d is patient “even until ten generations”? Moreover, what is implied by emphasis of specifically “ten generations”?

4. One can understand all this by explaining another aspect:

The order of the Mishnayot is precisely set. This is especially so regarding the order that is in the same chapter. Since this is so, what is the connection of the Mishnah, “ten generations from Adam” to the previous Mishnah, “The world was created by means of ten (Divine) utterances”?

If it is just to define the order of the aspects in time. Namely that the ten generations from Adam to Noach began immediately after the “world was created”. If so, the author of the Mishnah (Tanna) should have prefaced the following Mishnah that states, “Ten entities were created on Shabbos eve at twilight etc.” which speaks regarding the conclusion (סיום) of the “creation of the world” – before the time of the “ten generations etc.”

The explanation of this is:

 In the previous Mishnah, it states,

“The world was created by means of ten (Divine) utterances”

and this teaches us a second aspect,

“But it was so to bring retribution upon the wicked who destroy the world which was created by ten utterances, and to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world etc.”

In conjunction and with regard to the two teachings regarding the two types of people,


1.   To bring retribution upon the wicked who destroy etc.

2.   To bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world etc.



the second Mishnah teaches the same two aspects:

  1. “Ten generations from Adam to Noach” – refers to the ten generations who were evildoers who destroyed the world. Therefore G-d punished them (“took retribution”) – he brought on them the waters of the flood”.


2.   “Ten generations from Noach to Avraham . . until Avraham Avinu came and received the reward of them all”. For although these very ten generations “kept on angering Him”, nevertheless Avraham Avinu “sustained” (מקיים) the world. He accomplished a sustaining even in all these ten generations. Therefore, it was the “reward for them all” (שכר כולם) and he took the “reward for them all” (שכר כולם).

5. However, it is still not entirely explained:

What, indeed, is the difference between the two sets of ten generations, that specifically in the second one, there could effect a “sustaining” (and through this reap the “reward for them all”)?

The explanation of this is:

We find, with regard to – literal – wars that were waged by Yidden, that there are things that were destroyed and things that were taken as plunder.

So too, with regard to the war with evil in the world, there are two categories of evil (and therefore two manners how to “deal” with them”):

1.   Things that are entirely evil, that possess no good and therefore must be destroyed. Similar to the dictum that “their breaking is their purification”.

This is as is explained in Likkutei Torah regarding the aspect of burning the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer). Namely, that “Parah” alludes to the evil deeds that are “truly complete evil, in their own right”. Therefore, the Parah is burnt for “it does not have any rectification except for its nullification and removal from the world”. The only thing that remains are the ashes, which depicts the essence of the “power of desire” (כח המתאווה), which is not “evil from its very core”.

  1. Things, that although and even when visible, do not display any good, nevertheless contain a spark of good (ניצוץ). Therefore, they must not be destroyed, but rather dealt with until, on the contrary, they sustain, through their being transformed from evil to good.

(So much so that it is similar to wording of the Sages, “Those beds that she had arranged for him in a prohibited fashion, she now arranged for him in a permitted fashion” 

(Note: Menachot 44a, A certain man who was diligent about the Mitzvah of Tzitzit. heard of a harlot who charged four hundred gold coins as her payment. He sent her four hundred gold coins and entered her house. She arranged seven beds for him, six of silver and one of gold. Between each and every one of them there was a ladder made of silver, and the top bed was the one that was made of gold. She went up and lay down naked on the top bed, and he too went up in order to sit naked facing her. In the meantime, his Tzitzit slapped him on his face. He dropped down and sat himself on the ground, and she also dropped down and sat on the ground. She said to him: I take an oath by the Roman Capitol that I will not allow you to go until you tell me what defect you saw in me. He said to her: I take an oath by the Temple that I never saw a woman as beautiful as you. But there is one Mitzvah that G-d, commanded us, and its name is Tzitzit. Now, said the man, the four sets of ritual fringes appeared to me as if they were four witnesses who will testify against me. She said to him: Write your name and teacher on a note etc. She divided all of her property, giving one-third as a bribe to the government, one-third to the poor, and she took one-third with her in her possession, in addition to those beds of gold and silver. She came to Rabbi Chiya and said to him make me a proselyte. Rabbi Chiya said to her: My daughter, perhaps you set your sights on one of the students and that is why you want to convert? She took the note the student had given her from her hand and gave it to Rabbi Chiya. He said to her: Go take possession of your purchase. Those beds that she had arranged for him in a prohibited fashion, she now arranged for him in a permitted fashion. “)

This is the difference between the two sets of “ten generations”:

  • The evil of the ten generations from Adam to Noach was complete evil. Such evil destroys the world. Therefore,  G-d completely washed them from the world “He brought on them the waters of the flood”


  • Whereas the ten generations from Noach to Avraham, even though “they angered Him”, nevertheless their evil was of a type that could be transformed to good. Therefore, when Avraham Avinu came, and through his Avodah “sustained” the world, he rectified and completed all the ten generations – and reaped “the reward for them all”.

6. The reason that G-d is patient even until ten generations is:

It has been mentioned many times that “ten” is a whole and complete (פולקאמער) number which includes all completeness’s (שלימות'ן). Just as this is in the side of holiness, so too is it in the opposite of holiness. The whole and complete scope (פארנעם) of evil is manifested (אויסגעשטעלט) in the number ten – of ten levels.

Therefore, G-d is slow to anger (waiting for the person to do Teshuva) until ten generations. This means until the full measure of “angering Him”, in all ten levels (generations) of evil.

7. Each person is called a microcosm (עולם קטן). Just as there are two periods of ten generations in the macrocosm - the world, so to there are the same “periods” in the microcosm – an individual in his Avodah to G-d.

When a person in the course of the entire “ten days” is immersed in undesirable things, yet nevertheless imagines that it is “good for him”, he could mean that even further on, his condition will be as it has been until now. As the Sages state, “he will imagine self-blessings, saying, "Peace will be my lot when I shall follow what my thoughts envision". Therefore, the Mishnah states regarding this, that the reason that he has had the bestowal of good until now (even though he has not acted properly) is because G-d is patient. However, this will pause (נפסק) after a given time.

Therefore, he must perform his Avodah in a manner of “He brought on them the waters of the flood” – completely nullifying his undesirable aspects.

However, this Avodah is not sufficient. For since an entire “ten days” have passed in doing undesirable things, he is lacking in the good things that he could (and should) have accomplished in that elapsed (פארגאנגענעם) time. It is, as the Sages state, “days have been formed etc.” Every person has a certain amount of days that are allotted to him to do Avodat HaShem.

Therefore, he must occupy himself with the second Avodah (of the second set of “ten generations”). He must effecting a “sustaining”, also in the previous days – through the Avodah of Ishapcha – transforming darkness to light. He rectifies and completes even that which he missed in the previous days. So much so that it is in a manner that he “reaps the reward for them all”.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Re’eh 5735



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