The Gemara in Yebamot 117 tries to explain the reciprocity of sentiment between a mother-in-law (X) and her daughter-in-law (Y). As an illustration of this phenomenon, the Gemara quotes a verse in Proverbs (27, 19): "As face answers to face in water, So does one man’s heart to another.". If the Mishna lists X as unfit to testify for Y, there is no need to list Y as unfit to testify for X.

In a Berayta, Rabbi Yehuda attempts to explain each case.

He concludes that this sentence speaks about the Torah's words. Rashi gives two different explanations. The second is: If his teacher "masbir lo panim" he will acquire the wisdom. If not, he will not acquire wisdom from his teacher. It reminds me of Kohut's, "the gleam in the mother's eye".

Intuitively, I get the explanation. But I am not able to translate "masbir panim" in order to get a precise p'shat in Rashi's explanation.

I have read Rishonim on Pirkey Avot 1, 16, (נוהג משא ומתן באמונה‏), "sever" (סבר) panim yafot and also Gemarot. "Sever" is apparently a "opened and directed face".

See Sefer He'aruch witch quotes a lot of chazal.

Is that openness?


2 Answers 2


Jastrow, Volume 2, pg 951 gives the translation as bright or clear based on Kohelet Rabbah 10:10 which is commenting on when HaShem will and will not help a generation.

ואין הקדוש ברוך הוא מסביר פנים לדור קלקל

He says it means to be pleasant and encouraging.So in terms of the title of your question, As water reflects the face, so too the heart of man to man. If a person is pleasant and encouraging to another, they will reciprocate with the same sentiment.


It was not a riddle. But naturally the question is firstly examined by the asker himself. I have performed searches and found a partial answer.

Rabenu Yona and Rashbats here on Pirke Avot (1, 15 "וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת: ‏") address some of my concerns.

The Gemara Brachot 63b (quoted on Rashbats.)

‏(‏שמות ל"ג‏)‏ ודבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים.‏ אמר רבי יצחק: אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: משה, אני ואתה נסביר פנים בהלכה. איכא דאמרי, כך אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: כשם שאני הסברתי לך פנים - כך אתה הסבר פנים לישראל, והחזר האהל למקומו.‏

The Name (G-d) spoke with Moses talking face to face. Rabbi Isaac said, The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, Moses, I and thou will gazing in each other's faces on the halachah. {later in Gemara we see that the contrary of this is showing an hostile attitude towards each other}

Some say that the Holy One, blessed be He, said thus to Moses: Just as I have turned upon thee a cheerful face, so do thou turn upon Israel a cheerful face and restore the tent to its place.

Teacher have to give a warm welcome to a troubled student. To be interested in them, despite the tension that arises.

Rabenu Yona

שיראה להם פנים של שמחה כדי שתהא רוח הבריאות נוחה הימנו. ר"ל שיתרחק ממדת הכעס שהיא מדה רעה עד מאוד. וינהג עצמו במידת הרצון על דרך שיהיו מרוצים ממנו בני אדם. וזו היא מידה נאה ומקובלת. ועל זה אמרו חכמי המוסר: רצונך שתחפוץ? חפוץ מה שלא תחפוץ! ... ‏

To receive happyli, to behave without anger, with patience ... ... to show concern about student concerns.

Lack of anger is pointed, but in way to relate and identify to the student.

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