Pirkei Avot, 1:18

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מסכת אבות פרק א

א,יז  [יח] רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר, על שלושה דברים העולם קיים–על הדין, ועל האמת, ועל השלום.

Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel said: The world endures on three things – on justice, on the truth and on peace.

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Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel was the grandson of the Shimon who wrote the previous mishna. He was also the father of  Judah HaNasi who compiled the whole mishna. This mishna sounds very similar to the second mishna in this perek, written by Shimon HaTzaddik (1:2). Shimon HaTzaddik said that the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chassidim. 1:2 is referring to Hashem’s purposes in creating the world, whereas 1:18 relates to the underlying principles which sustain that world. Each of these values can be seen to relate to the three spheres that wo/man occupies: the realm of Man and Hashem, Man and Others and Man and himself.

Note that one of the major differences between 1:18 and 1:2 is in the language – 1:2 uses the word ‘omed’ which means stand/s and 1:18 uses ‘kayam’ which implies exists or endures. While the difference in implication is subtle, it is nonetheless worth noting.

  • Justice: Justice can be both institutionalised (legal system or government) or it can relate to personal interpretations of justice. Both would be of value in this context.
  • The Truth: The fact that the definite article (the) is used in relation to truth implies that the mishna refers to more than accuracy, bringing to the fore a more universal interpretation of this idea of ‘truth’.
  • The Peace: A state without large scale conflict.

Each of these three elements is clearly connected and each one builds upon those preceding it.

You can read more commentary about this mishna here.

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