Pirkei Avos Chapter 1-Mishnah 2:

Well, the circus in Israel continues with yet another deadlock election.  Interestingly, the guy who caused the whole issue in the first place came out to be the only winner.  His official campaign slogan on his banners?  “A Jewish Nation, Not a Halachic Nation."


Sounds a bit like the Reform Movement's line.  Of course, how do you define what is Jewish without halacha?  Who’s Jewish?  Who’s not?  What’s a Jewish value?  What is not?  Both are tied together and one in the same.  It sounds “great” on paper, but in reality?  He would like to see the same thing that's in America (70+% intermarriage rate) brought to Israel.


Ironically, a good amount of his voters aren’t Jewish at all.


My kids are enjoying the whole thing.  My daughters get the day off, and my boys spend their free time going around collecting voting slips and all sorts of things from all the parties and use them as currency.  My son has one shirt for Blue/White, one from Shas, a hat for Likud, and several other gadgets.  They’ll spend the next two weeks trading these things.  It’s the only economy in Israel that actually does well with the elections.


“Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great Assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the Service of G‑d, and Acts of Loving Kindness.”

-Chapter 1, Mishnah 2


Shimon the Righteous - He was a Kohen Gadol after Ezra (the beginning of the Second Beis HaMikdash).  He was the last of the Great Assembly and was considered to be the first Tanna in the era of the Tannaim (those who are quoted in the mishnayos).


The world stands on three things – The world was created for the sake of these three things.  That last Mishna of this chapter quotes him saying “The world endures by the virtue of three things," which discusses the reasons for the continual existence of the world.  While here, we are talking of the reasons it was created (Rabbeinu Yona). 


On Torah – “If not for My Covenant day and night, I would not have ordained heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25).  “Covenant” refers to the Torah, which is the covenant between God and Israel and is studied day and night (Rashi).  However, Tosfos Yom Tov disagrees and said that just like the Service of G-d and Acts of Loving Kindness are actively pursued, so is this referring to the active pursuit of Torah study, rather than just the passive acceptance.


The Service of G-d- This refers to the sacrificial service (korbanos) in the Beis HaMikdash (Rashi, Rabbeinu Yona).  However, this also refers to prayer.  When King David sinned with Batsheva, he wanted to repent.  However, one cannot bring a korban for a sin that was done on purpose.  To that end, King David said, “Hashem, please open my lips and my mouth shall recite your praises (which we begin Shemone Esrei with).  For you do not desire a sacrifice, else I would give it, a burnt offering, you do not want"  So even where a korban cannot help a person, prayer most certainly can (Rabbeinu Yona). 


On Acts of Loving Kindness –This includes bringing joy to a bride and her groom, comforting a mourner, visiting the sick, burying the dead, lending money free of interest.  Acts of loving kindness are more important than charity, since charity only applies to the living while kindness is done to both the living and dead.  Charity can only be done for the poor, while kindness is done for the poor and wealthy.  When a person receives kindness he feels better than receiving charity (Rashi, Rabbeinu Yona). 


One must exercise discretion when doing kindness and charity, giving preference to a poor person who conducts himself properly and fears G-d (Rabbeinu Yona).