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BH

What do the main poskim and commentators explain “And don’t let the evil inclination assure your that the grave will be a place of refuge for you” mean in Pirkei Avot 4:22

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  • Don’t assume that you can sin and that you won’t suffer any consequences after you pass away.
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    Nov 30, 2023 at 17:57

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Refer to the Maharal from Prague in his commentary "Derech Chaim":

Meaning to say, since we have already said, "and the living are to be judged"; so since he is in the netherworld and the netherworld is separated from G-d, may He be blessed - if so, a person might think that the netherworld is a place of refuge from judgement for the wicked, as if they were separated from the Holy One, blessed be He. [So they might think] that judgement is only for the living, but not for those who are distant from G-d, may He be blessed - those who are in the netherworld. And even though, "those who are dead are to be revived," [he would think that] this is only [for] those righteous ones to whom He will give reward, but not for the wicked. So about this, he said, "and against your will you were formed," that is the formation in his mother's belly; "and against your will you were born," that he came out to the atmosphere of the world, "and against your will you live" - meaning to say that the thing does not proceed from the receiver at all, but rather from God, may He be blessed. For He does everything. Hence man lives against his will, not from the angle of himself. And likewise, "against your will you die" - since everything is necessitated by God, may He be blessed. And so too, "against your will you are destined to give account and reckoning before the Holy One, blessed be He." And all of this is because there is nothing from the angle of the creation itself. Rather everything is from Go-, may He be blessed. For He, may He be blessed, is everything. And since He is everything, that is why everything is from Him, may He be blessed; and against man's will, not from the angle of man. And this thing is clear.

The Rabbeinu Yonah explains that this is the language of heretics, that they say:

"In the world to come , there is neither judgement nor judge."

To this view, the Mishnah explains that this is completely wrong, as the Rabbeinu Yonah further says:

because against your will you were created, and against your will you were born, and against your will you live, and against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give account and reckoning before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

The Mareh Yechezkel Al HaTorah (Bereishis 19) explains:

And that is the meaning of that which is written (Avot 4:22), “And do not let your [evil] impulse assure you that (thought he conjunction can also mean, since) the netherworld is a refuge for you.” The understanding is that you should not let it reassure you that you will be saved on the day of judgement, because you [will claim that you] were not able to subdue your evil impulse, as it is stated (Psalms 37:32), “The evildoer (here understood as the evil impulse, see Kiddushin 30b) watches for the righteous.” About this, it said to him, “Was not the netherworld – meaning death – a refuge for you?” As by reminding yourself of the day of death, you are able to be saved from the evil impulse. However it is certainly not effective without Torah [study first]. And I have been lengthy in this [discussion].

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