I am struggling to understand the meaning of Perkei Avot Chapter 4 Paragraph 5

“He who exploits the crown [of Torah for his own ends] shall perish.” (4:5)

What does this mean exactly? can someone that knows this well please post a few examples of A person that is G-d Forbid exploting the Torah? Isn't Torah meant to be a guide to a better and long life and so essentially we are all exploiting it to a certain extent?


1 Answer 1


As was mentioned in the comments, Hillel's teaching is brought in Pirkei Avos 1:13.

It is referring to someone who is exploiting Torah for his own personal gain and therefore not learning / teaching with the correct mindset or intentions. The Maharal in Derech Chaim explains it to mean that he is merely using the Torah for his needs and his material benefit.

Rashi writes on the word "חלף" - lit. "fades away":

עבר שכרו ממנו

His reward passes from him.

This tallies with the Gemara in Nedarim 62a

וְאָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: כׇּל הַמִּשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּכִתְרָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה נֶעְקָר מִן הָעוֹלָם.

And Rabba bar bar Chana said in the name of Rabbi Yocḥanan: Whoever makes use of the crown of Torah is uprooted from the world.

Uprooted from both this world and the next (see Rambam). Also refer to Rabbeinu Yonah on 1:13.

The Tiferes Yisroel puts it slightly differently, understanding the word "חלף" as "changes it". In other words, If the Torah is exploited for that person's personal benefit, the crown of Torah loses its sanctity and is instead transformed into something mundane.

  • What about teachers that get paid to teach torah? Sellers of torah books? Sofer stam, rabbis that make their living running a shull? Aug 27, 2023 at 20:15
  • Nowadays this is an accepted norm. In days of old Rabbis did not take a salary. So we have to understand it in this modern world as meaning that a Rabbi or any teacher of Torah, must not have his own personal advance or profit in mind when he teaches as this is a corruption of Torah. If he gets a promotion due to his good work then good luck to him, but it is the mindset of what he is teaching. He shouldn't be thinking that his Torah should be used a stepping stone to get greater honour or wealth, rather his focus should be on helping first and foremost his students etc.
    – Dov
    Aug 27, 2023 at 20:23

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