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.

  • 1
    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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 at 7:29
  • regarding the second bullet point - how does it work? Exactly in the manner displayed in Megillas Esther! Mar 2, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    @IsaacKotlicky really? For each instance of citation?
    – Isaac Moses
    Mar 2, 2016 at 15:06

6 Answers 6


In general, גאולה (redemption) seems to mean restoring something to its proper place, as in: returning an enslaved person to his family/home, or likewise, returning an ancestral property to its original 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.

See, e.g., the Maharal's Ohr Chadash (cited below by Haleivi, as noted by Isaac Moses in a comment):

כאשר אמר דבר בשם אמרו הרי אדם זה מוציא הדבר שהיא תחת ידו ומחזירו אל אשר ראוי לו ובא ממנו וזה נחשב כמו גאולה לדבר כאשר מוציא הענין שהוא בידו ומחזיר אותו אל מי שבא ממנו

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, קללה (curse) may be associated to the concept of imbalance and a world out of sorts, i.e. גלות (exile), whereas ברכה (blessing) indicates peace, harmony, and balance, with everything in its proper place, i.e. גאולה (redemption).

  • Your opening idea sounds a little like the idea in the second paragraph of HaLeiVi's answer, based on the Maharal. Is it possible that you, being a "Loweian" after all, got this idea from that piece by the Marahal?
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 18, 2018 at 4:31
  • 1
    I've certainly suspected (hoped?) that my subconscious retains information better than my conscious memory;) If that's the case, the irony is perfect. And tizku l'mitzvos;)
    – Loewian
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:08

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.


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.


Based on R' Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on Shemot 6:2-5 and his citation there of Isaiah 52:6, I'd like to suggest that the ultimate Redemption can be identified with attribution of God as the Author of everything, and that perhaps, this concept motivates the Mishna's connection of citation to redemption.

וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃
I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name יהוה.

(Shemot 6:3)

Aren't there plenty of examples of the Patriarchs hearing or invoking God's special four-letter name? R' Hirsch explains that "knowing" ("דעת") a name of God is something deeper than just being acquainted with it. It means fully understanding God's mode of interaction with the world that that name represents.

The four-letter name, in particular, refers to God in that he "מהוה חדשות" - "exerts His Will quite independently of existing conditions, even completely in spite of, or against them." Other names mentioned in this section, Elohim and El Shaddai, refer to God as we know Him most of the time, behind the scenes, working through rather than against the natural order.

At this point in Jewish history, the Israelites' lives were very much the product of God hiding, as it were, and allowing events to play out naturally. The more powerful nation had subjugated the less powerful one, evil men were freely acting as cruelly as their hearts desired, and there was no apparent hope of change. But now, God was promising, He was going to show them something brand new - His own emergence into the spotlight, shoving the natural order aside, and creating a new nation out of a hopeless crowd of slaves. The Israelites were about to get to know, intimately, a new name of God.

Ever since then, our improbable continuing existence has served as living testimony to God Who Innovates, and to His demand that humans do more with our lives than simply drift in nature's course.

The Exodus was an Earth-shattering moment of revelation of God's great Name, but still, R' Hirsch says, the world has yet to fully understand that Name. He surmises that we might not truly get there until "the end of all happenings of history," finding support in Isaiah 52:6, where, speaking of the ultimate Redemption, the God tells us through the prophet:

לָכֵ֛ן יֵדַ֥ע עַמִּ֖י שְׁמִ֑י לָכֵן֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא כִּֽי־אֲנִי־ה֥וּא הַֽמְדַבֵּ֖ר הִנֵּֽנִי׃
Assuredly, My people shall learn My name, Assuredly [they shall learn] on that day That I, the One who promised, Am now at hand.

It sounds like this verse explicitly identifies the ultimate Redemption with people finally and truly knowing God's Name: We're here to attribute Authorship of world history to God, and to a particular Name of God. When we all really understand that attribution, we'll be experiencing Geula!

Let's go back to Avot. I suggest that any time we give credit where credit is due, as Esther credited Mordechai for uncovering Bigtan and Teresh's assassination plot, we are exercising the attribution muscles we need for our overriding mission - acknowledging God as the Creator and Master of the world. Perhaps, then, the Tana is telling us that each time we do a proper citation, we are indeed bringing the final Redemption closer, for which a more immediate redemption of some other kind is a fitting "measure for measure" reward.


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.


In Olamo Shel Abba, the following is quoted (p. 501) from R. Shmelke of Nickolsburg:

אלמלי משמרין ישראל שתי שבתות כהלכתן מיד נגאלין (שבת קי"ח) היה אומר הגאון רבי שמעלקא מניקלושבורג זצ"ל לפרש כי הכוונה על שבת הגדול ושבת שובה כפי שמקובל בעולם היהודי שהרבנים דורשים דרשות בפני הצבור ובדרך כלל הם אומרים בשם עצמם חידושי תורה שחידשו אחרים וחז"ל אמרו כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם (אבות פ"ו מ"ו) וז"ש אלמלי משמרין ישראל שתי שבתות כהלכתן כלומר אם הרבנים היו אומרים בשבת הגדול ובשבת שובה דברים בשם אומרם מיד היו נגאלין

In other words, the statement in Avos that citing sources brings the redemption is linked to the statement in Maseches Shabbos that if Israel observes two Shabbosos they will be immediately redeemed. The connection is that the two Shabbosos are Shabbos Shuva and Shabbos Hagadol, when rabbis frequently give speeches without citing their sources. Thus, if those two Shabbosos are observed properly (by citing sources in the speeches) it will bring the redemption.

Assuming that this is not entirely a joke, it indicates that the meaning of Avos is more like your first suggestion in the question.

  • Good metsia!...
    – kouty
    Mar 12, 2019 at 19:49

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