Pirke Avot 3:1

A rabbi says:

Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin:

Know from whence you came,

Where you will go,

and before Whom you will give justification and reckoning.

This verse continues, but with wisdom we will cover in commentary, more or less.

We begin with the idea of avoiding the pitfalls of sin.  To sin is “to miss the mark”, to fall short in some way.   We miss the mark all the time.  We miss the mark of an ideal husband or wife, of an ideal parent, of an ideal student or worker.  We miss the mark of an ideal Jew or Christian.

Why do we miss the mark?  Sometimes it is simply a failure to read the moment very well and therefore we act inappropriately (by our values).  Sometimes we simply choose to act in ways that are contrary to our values because of selfishness, tiredness, spite, or any number of other things.

When we “miss the mark” we hurt others and our community.  When we “miss the mark” we hurt ourselves.  In not living up to our best selves and choosing against our core values we fail to be our authentic and true selves.  Continually “watering down” our core selves leaves us, at the end of our days, a mere shadow of what we could have become.  We do not need the LORD to keep track of our sins in a little book!   We arrive at the end of our days with a self that reflects our life choices – every one of them.

So what might help us avoid the sad state of affairs of arriving at the end of our days with a very inauthentic self?

Know where you come from. This is good advice in general – when you find yourselves all stirred up, or confused, or angry – where is this coming from in me?  But the rabbi has more than that in mind.

If we were to get up each  morning, and then periodically during the day, remembering that we as creation come from the LORD who is our creator – we might then stop ourselves before acting in ways that demean ourselves or others or our world.   We might remember that we originated in an act of love (first by the LORD, then by our parents) and therefore we ought to reflect that love in all that we do.  We might even trace our origins back through our unique combination of DNA, brought together from egg and sperm, as far back as we can trace our ancestors – with their lives, hopes, dreams and more.  We are more than our physical bodies – we are embodied spirits.   We are called to do so much more with our lives than indulge in physical pleasures.

Knowing where we come from, and constantly having that in our consciousness, might help keep us on the right path.

Where are we again?



Know where we are destined to be. Our final destiny is to be united in love with the LORD who created us.  If you don’t know where you came from and you don’t know where you are headed – how could you ever get anywhere?

Know before whom you will give justification and reckoning. Remembering not only that we are destined to live in love with the LORD – if we remember each moment and with each choice that we will encounter the LORD at the end of our days to give an accounting of ourselves.  If we reach our deathbeds with regrets and disappointment – we have wasted our lives.  If we reach our deathbeds in peace – we have done our best.