בלעם בן בעור כב:ה The Mishna in Avos (5:19) says that one has an “ayin tovah, ruach nemuchah, and nefesh shfeilah” is amongst the talmidim ofAvraham avinu, and one who has an “ayin raah, ruach gevohah, and nefesh rechavah” is amongst the talmidim of Bilam ha’rasha. The question is, we don’t find any mention anywhere of Bilam having had any educational institutions? Rather, what this means is that the entire world is split up into two “batei medrash”, two ideological camps. The force of these two camps exert their pull on every single person that comes through this world. To whatever extent one is not fully within one camp, he has some degree of connection with the other camp. According to the Rambam, the three pillars of “ayin tovah, ruach nemuchah, and nefesh shfeilah” are referring to histapkus, prishus, and anivus and the pillars of Bilam’s camp are the opposites of those three. Rabbeinu Yona (in the second perek of Avos), though, defines “ayin tovah” as generosity.
The Mishna says that the talmidim of Avraham avinu are “nochlin” in Olam Ha’Ba, whereas the talmidim of Bilam are “yorshin” Gehinnom. TheBaal Shem Tov explains that the reason the Mishna uses the term “nochlin” for the Avraham avinu camp is that those that are part of that camp are like a nachal, a river, that flows. Meaning that even in Olam Ha’Zeh they are already flowing and have a connection with Olam Ha’Ba. Based on this, we gain a novel understanding of the Mishna that says, “jealousy, lust, and honor remove a person from the world”. Meaning, these negative middos remove a person from Olam Ha’Ba even while he is in Olam Ha’Zeh. (From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast).
ויפתח ה׳ את פי האתון כב:כח The Mishna in Avos (5:6) enumerates, amongst the things that were created on Erev Shabbos during bein ha’shmashos, three piyos (mouths) – pi ha’be’er, pi ha’aretz, and pi ha’ason. The well symbolizes the power of Torah sheh’b’al peh, that when one learns Torah sheh’b’al peh, he is learning straight from the mouth, as it were, of Hashem and is hearing the dvar Hashem. Pi ha’aretz is referring to the entry point of Gehinnom, and can be understand by that which Chazal say that, every day, there is a Bas Kol that emanates from Har Sinai exhorting people to return to Hashem, and even at the very doorway of Gehinnom it is possible for one to do teshuva as in fact happened with the sons ofKorach. And pi ha’ason denotes the fact that Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu will sometimes communicate through the words of the “asonos” of the world, including a Gentile who is mesiach l’fi tumo (talking “off the cuff”). An example of this is the well-known incident with the Rebbe Reb Zusha, who was once asked by a Gentile peasant to help pick up his hay-laden wagon. Reb Zusha responded, “I can’t”. The peasant said to him, “You can, you just don’t want to!” Reb Zushah commented about this incident, that Heaven was alluding to him that the “lower hei” had fallen, and it was in his capability to lift it up, just that he did not want to. (From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast)
Quotables “If a non-Jew would taste what it is like to learn Torah on Shabbos, he would immediately want to be misgayer!”
Vignettes “A friend and I were fortunate enough to have a weekly learning slot with Rebbi during the midday break. One day, we were ready and waiting for Rebbi to come and begin learning with us. A few moments later, he entered and asked if we would mind if he went to daven Minchah instead of learning with us. There was a funeral he needed to attend, he explained, and if he didn’t daven Minchah beforehand, the rest of his day’s schedule would be completely thrown off. Of course, we immediately agreed, and Rebbi left to daven. We remained to learn, and, less than a minute later, the door opened again. Rebbi came in and sat down. “This is a k’vius (a fixed study session),” he told us, “we have to learn!” (Reb Eliyahu Sherman)