Pirkei Avos Chapter 1-Mishnah 3:

My four year old is an interesting fellow.


On Shabbos, I walked out of davening with him and two other children.  As I was walking away from the shul, somebody came up and asked if I was his father.  He thought that he was the greatest kid, really cute, really funny, great personality, etc. 


After he left, I asked the kids how he knew them.  They explained that right after davening, he came up to my son and asked his name.  My son was a bit shy and didn’t answer.  Somebody answered for him. The man then asked my son, “Do you know my name?”  To which my son smiled and said, “Potata Meruseket!” (mashed sweet-potatos).  The guy thought this was such a great answer.  It wasn’t chutzpah, it was said with such confidence and such a big smile on his face, it was just plain funny!


When my wife picked him up from his preschool he was yelling “Shalom So-And-So!” to several of his friends and waving as he went by. Then he saw one kid and yelled, “Shalooooooom Shmendrick!!!” (fatso), and the kid turned, smiled, and waved back!!


And of course, this is the same kid that, at the age of two, punched an Arab in the stomach and yelled, “I pautch (hit) you!”, and of the course the Arab calls him a “cutie." I need to learn what his secret is….


Well, here’s today's Mishnah.  I hope everybody has a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful Rosh Hashanah, and it should be an amazing year for you and yours!


“Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous.  He used to say: ‘Be not like servants who serve the master on the condition of receiving reward.  Rather, be as servants who serve the master without the condition of receiving reward; and let the fear of Heaven be upon you.”

-Chapter 1, Mishnah 3


Be not like servants who serve – One should not say, "I will fulfill the commands of my Creator that He will provide me with my needs," but he should serve his Creator out of love (Rashi).  I noticed the other day in Orchos Tzaddikim (Paths of the Righteous), in the chapter dealing with tshuvah, the author explains that a person should not worry over the "big" mitzvos and be lenient regarding the "small" mitzvos.  He compared this idea to a king who had two servants.  To one, he commanded him to bring him a cup of water, since he was extremely thirsty.  To the second one, he commanded him to bring him something not of great importance.  It’s a given that both servants would accomplish their tasks in the most efficient way possible, since both know that the king’s order is the king’s order, no matter how important the servant thinks it may be.


The Maharal explains that we should not take this Mishnah to mean that it is forbidden to serve Hashem with the expectation of being rewarded, rather that this is the highest form of service.  We see examples of this idea such as “One who says, ‘I am giving charity so that my son will live, or that I receive a portion in the World to Come’” (Bava Basra 10b) is considered to be a completely righteous person.


Let the fear of Heaven be upon you – Despite his emphasis on serving G-d out of love, Antignos has not exempted us from the mitzvah of fearing G-d.  Although you serve G-d out of love, do not neglect to fear Him, because the Torah clearly commands "You shall fear G-d" (Devarim 6:13)(Rambam). 


This is similar to how a parent and child should conduct themselves.  On one hand, there should be a love between them.  The parent loving the child, giving them everything they need to help them in life, and the child loving the parent by giving them honor and respect.  However, there also needs to a certain amount of fear in the relationship, so the child does not feel "too close" to his parents, and begin to think that he is their equal.


The Sages said that a person should be inspired by both love and fear to serve G-d.  The explain that one who loves will never forget or neglect to perform a command, and one who fears will not violate a prohibition.  Love of G-d will inspire him to fulfillment of the positive mitzvos and fear of G-d will inspire him to observe the negative commandments (the "do nots" of the Torah).