Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The last element of the list of forty-eight habits of Torah-acquisitive people in Avot 6:6 is, unlike the previous forty-seven, presented with a statement about its particular positive consequences:

והאומר דבר בשם אומרו, הא למדת כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאלה לעולם, שנאמר (אסתר ב), ותאמר אסתר למלך בשם מרדכי.‏

... citing the source, for it is taught that one who cites a source brings redemption to the world, as it says (Esther 2:22): "Esther told the king in Mordekhai’s name."

I am a big fan of this prescription; it makes sense to me as a fundamental of intellectual honesty in all realms, including that of Torah. As such, I certainly like the idea that practicing and promoting it brings redemption. However, I don't really know what that means.

What did the Sages mean when they taught that proper citation brings redemption to the world?

  • Did they mean that, in an esoteric sense, proper citation hastens the Messianic Redemption (like the notion of "adding bricks to the Temple")? If so, why this linkage, in particular?

  • Did they mean that, like in the cited story in Esther, proper citation leads to lives being saved? If so, how does that work?

  • Did they mean "redemption" in some other way? If so, what, and how does proper citation lead to it?

  • Were they just making a hyperbolic, Biblical flourish to end the list of habits? If so, why this flourish on this element?

Answers based on sources or on your own reasoning are welcome, but I'm particularly interested in answers that make a convincing case that the explanation they present is what the Sages actually meant.

share|improve this question
This doesn't answer your questions, but is interesting: The commentary on Avos in R Yaakov Emden's sidur Bes Yaakov says: "It's known that at the time of the [messianic] redemption is a revelation of Torah acquisition, for 'the land will be filled with knowledge'. Because [redemption] causes a revelation of Torah knowledge, it is indeed among the forty-eight things through which Torah is acquired." – msh210 Mar 2 at 6:01
@msh210, it sounds like RYE is taking this causation rather strongly and identifying redemption with citation, so that the former becomes one of the 48 things as the latter is one. – Isaac Moses Mar 2 at 7:16
If he relates it to citation, he doesn't do so explicitly, which is why I don't see that it answers your questions. The knowledge he speaks of isn't afaict citation-related. – msh210 Mar 2 at 7:29
regarding the second bullet point - how does it work? Exactly in the manner displayed in Megillas Esther! – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 at 14:52
@IsaacKotlicky really? For each instance of citation? – Isaac Moses Mar 2 at 15:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In general, geulah seems to mean restoring something to its proper place (e.g. an enslaved person removed from his family/home or ancestral property removed from its owner). Chazal are perhaps noting that this is even the case with something as seemingly trivial as ascribing proper authorship where due. As such, one could suggest that once an idea/words are separated from their speaker, it is akin to their being exiled from him/her. Thus by ascribing them appropriately, you've redeemed and returned them to their rightful place, restoring an order of sorts.

Chazal are referencing Esther to show that there is a midda knegged midda, and, like begetting like, a small geulah can snowball.

Conversely, it is perhaps also relevant that the first sin is midrashically rooted in the false ascription to G-d not to even touch the Tree of Knowledge, as well as that Bar Kamtza also falsely ascribed intentions to the Jewish people. Both acts resulted in exile.

Accordingly, see also Yalkut Shimoni Mishlei Ch. 6:

והאומר דבר בשם מי שלא אמרו שהוא מביא קללה לעולם

And one who says something in the name of one who did not say it, that he brings a curse to the world*

*(In this sense, curse can be connected to imbalance and a world out of sorts = galuth; whereas blessing indicates peace, harmony, and balance, with everything in its proper place = geulah.)

share|improve this answer

The Maharal in Or Chadash on Megilas Esther explains that Hashem performs miracles in order to create a Kiddush Hashem. However, if the person involved in the rescue will take the credit then there is no Kiddush Hashem generated from this salvation, and it is therefore aborted. But, one who gives credit to whom it is due will surely make it known that it was a miracle and not his own might. Thus, this person brings redemption.

Another explanation given by the Maharal is that when you have someone else's idea in your hands, it is held captive by you. If you decide to claim the credit it will remain forever bound in misattribution. When you reunite the idea with its origin you are redeeming the idea. This person is a right candidate for bringing about redemption.

share|improve this answer

Tora T'mima to Ester 2:22 (note 44) explains that

the intent is obvious: From anything said in the name of its sayer, it's possible that over time some honorable matter will come about that one cannot foresee or assess ahead of time. And the one who said this used a language of "redemption" in light of the incident here.

share|improve this answer

Ben Y'hoyada (M'gila 15) explains (in my loose translation):

How is it implied from this verse [that citation leads to redemption]? With God's help, it appears to me that one can answer as follows. Why didn't Mordechai himself go to the king? He saw with ruach hakodesh that this matter occurred now in order to reap its benefit later, when needed. If he would tell the king himself, he'd surely repay him immediately. But he knew with ruach hakodesh that it needed to be kept for a later time. So he wisely decided that Esther should tell the king; that way, it would surely be noted in a book in his name.… So we see that someone who says something in its sayer's name brings about redemption for the world.…

We learn here that someone who says some Torah matter in its sayer's name brings redemption to the world…, for if he says a Torah matter and doesn't say it in its sayer's name, this is because of pride, because he wants to pride himself with other people's garment. Thus, someone who's careful to say something in its sayer's name rejects pride and learns Torah for its own sake. Therefore, mida k'neged mida, in the merit of this that he learns Torah for its own sake, God will insert the letter lamed, with which is alluded limud (learning of) Torah, amid the letters of the word gaava (pride) that this fellow rejected, and there'll be a combination of g'ula (redemption). So it says he brings redemption to the world.

Or the reason for this can be understood with God's help as follows: It's known that the benefit that accrues to the matter's owner of the Torah words are said in his name is that he lipsyncs in the grave. So someone who says something in its sayer's name for this reason has faith in the hidden things that are done to the righteous in the grave…. And it is known that faith yields redemption, as the sages say that Habakkuk came and reduced the commands to one, faith…. And someone who has faith in one matter of tradition has faith in them all; this it says that someone who says something in its sayer's name, so has faith in the one matter of tradition aforementioned, brings redemption to the world.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.