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Thought for the Day: Real and Complete Piety

The talmud (Bava Kama 30a) relates what seems to be a machlokes: Rav Yehuda says that a person who wishes to be particularly pious should fulfill the dictates regarding matters of damages (n'zikin), Rava (or Ravina) says the matters of [mesechta] Avos, and others say brachos.

The first thing to note is that to be pious one must actually carry out the actions demanded by those tractates and not simply learn them.  Second, as we all know, in lashon haKodesh, piety is "chasidut" (not the fashion statement, of course), which is related to the word "chesed".  Chesed (kindness) always means putting someone/something else first. Given that, it makes sense that one route to piety is via nezikin, where I am forced to spend my money to rectify mistakes I have made regarding another's property.  Brachos makes sense, as I am forced to think about G-d before I do many things and before I eat.  These would seem to be two roads to piety.  How does Avos fit in there?

The Maharsha explains that this is not really a machlokes at all.  This is a three pronged approach to complete and balanced piety.  On the one hand, I need to put other people and their property ahead of my desires; that's n'zikin.  One the other hand, I need to HaShem before my desires; that's brachos.  And Avos?  That's putting myself before my desires.  To achieve real and complete piety, I need to do chasadim with myself, too.


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