Pirke Avot 4:7

Rabbi Tzadok says:

Do not separate yourself from the community;

when serving as a judge do not act as a lawyer;

do not make the Torah a crown for self-glorification, nor a spade to dig with.

Hillel used to say: 

He who exploits the crown of Torah for personal profit shall fade away.

From this you derive that whoever seeks personal benefit from the words of Torah removes his life from the world.

This is a long and complicated mishnah!  Rabbi Tzadok is thought to have lived most of his life before 70 CE (destruction of the Temple).  This would make him, roughly, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth.  Rabbi Tzadok was well known for his holiness and knowledge.

Do not separate yourself from the community.   One of the “ordinary people’s” criticisms of university scholars is that they are “the elite”, they are out of touch with the common citizen and look down on them.  I don’t think this is true – but it is often said.  Scholars certainly CAN lose the ability to communicate with non-scholars and if this should happen to Torah / bible / religious teachers, what a shame!  In addition – religious scholars in particular must be in communion with others to know their pain and sorrows as well as their joys!  To be separated from the community is to slowly spiritually starve to death!

When serving as a judge, do not act as a lawyer.  Most judges, on both religious and secular courts, are former lawyers.  They can be tempted to “improve” the cases as the lawyers present them, asking leading questions, being critical, and more.  This shows a lack of trust in the lawyers who, perhaps, have a larger strategy in mind.


The Torah is not a crown for self-glorification, nor a spade to dig with.  Our study of the LORD’s wisdom and law are not ever to be a “means to an end” or simple tools.  They are an end in them selves.  We might approach our study with the long range intent of being wiser, being more patient, and even of becoming a teacher.  In these cases the goal is consistent with the study.  What is NOT consistent with study is the motivation of eventual self glory (“you are SO smart!”, “you are the greatest scholar on the East Coast!”…).  It is blasphemous to use God’s Word as a tool for something so human and profane.

Christians may recall Jesus’ words about some scholars in his day – Luke 23:6 “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’.”

Seeking personal benefit from the words of Torah removes ones life from the world.  Those who, like televangelists who get rich from the offerings of their viewers, gain excessively from their preaching and teaching are selling their soul to the devil.  They almost can’t help but be perverting the Bible (prosperity gospel in Christian terms) in order to be so popular.  Their motivations lead them to do and to say things not consistent with the Word of God.  This is not at all to say that people in ministry or teaching do not deserve to be reasonably well compensated.  They do.  It is a matter of degree and of perversion of the message in order to profit.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.