Why does the Mishnah in Avot 3:2 end by quoting a pasuk (biblical verse) without a straight up answer? What is the pasuk in Eichah (verse from Lamentations) trying to teach us?

Pirkei Avot 3:2

רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר, הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות , שאלמלא מוראה, איש את רעהו חיים בלעו.רבי חנניא בן תרדיון אומר, שנים שיושבין ואין ביניהן דברי תורה, הרי זה מושב לצים , שנאמר (תהלים א), ובמושב לצים לא ישב.אבל שנים שיושבין ויש ביניהם דברי תורה, שכינה שרויה ביניהם , שנאמר (מלאכי ג), אז נדברו יראי יי איש אל רעהו ויקשב יי וישמע ויכתב ספר זכרון לפניו ליראי יי ולחשבי שמו.אין לי אלא שנים.מנין שאפלו אחד שיושב ועוסק בתורה , שהקדוש ברוך הוא קובע לו שכר, שנאמר (איכה ג), ישב בדד וידם כי נטל עליו

Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, For were it not for the fear of it, One person would eat the other alive.

Rabbi Chanania ben Tradyon said: [When] two sit together and there are no words of Torah [spoken] between them, This is a session of scorners, As it is said (in Psalm 1:1): “[Happy is the man who has] not . . . sat in the seat of the scornful.” But [when] two sit together and there are words of Torah [spoken] between them, The Divine Presence rests with them, As it is said (in Malachi 3:16): “Then they who feared the Lord spoke one with another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them who feared the Lord and who thought upon His Name."

[The Mishnah asks:] I have no [Scriptural support for the proposition that the Divine Presence rests with them] except [with] two. From where [is there proof that] even [when there is only] one [person studying Torah], The Holy One, Blessed be He, determines a reward for him? As it is said (in Lamentations 3:28): “Though he sits alone and [meditates] in silence, yet he takes [a reward] to himself.”

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    Perhaps provide a link and a quote of the text in your question? sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.3.2 Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 21:51
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    @Olivia, Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest, perhaps starting with our 95 other mishna questions or our 91 other mussar-ethics questions.
    – Mike
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Tosafot Yom Tov on Pirkei Avot 3:2:4:

ועוסק כו'. שיחיד אינו רגיל להוציא ד''ת מפיו, ולפיכך לא שייך לומר אצלו ועוסק בד''ת כמו שהוא אצל שנים שהם מדברים זה עם זה:

My translation / paraphrase:

An individual studying alone will not verbalize words of Torah. Therefore, (I'm questioning if there is a misprint, here?) it says "He is involved (your translation says "meditate"), as it is not the same concept as what occurs with two people who are speaking to each other.

The verse from Eicha provides proof that he receives a reward for just studying alone even if he is not verbalizing the Torah words. I.e. - the Mishnah is extending the concept of receiving a reward for Torah study that it is not limited to just a discussion among two people.

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