Eilu Devarim: Part II – The Discrepancy in Talmud Shabbos

Part I: The Mishna in Peah

Part II: The Discrepancy in Talmud Shabbos

We shall now examine the second paragraph of Eilu Devarim as it appears in our siddurim:

These are the things from which a person eats the fruits in this world but whose principal remains waiting for him in the Next World, and they are: honoring one’s father and mother, acts of kindness, arriving early at the study hall in the morning and evening, hospitality, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, burying the dead, paying careful attention in prayer, making peace between a person and his fellow, and the study of Torah is equal to all of them.

Let us explain the meaning of eating the fruits in this world but the principal remaining for the Next World. This is the spiritual equivalent of having a very large bank account. One lives off of the interest while his initial deposit sits in the bank and continues to grow. Similarly, these mitzvos are so great that one can enjoy the spiritual proceeds in this world and still have the reward for the initial mitzvah waiting for him in the Next World.

This dictum is popularly attributed to the Talmud in Shabbos (127a) but let us take a look at that page:

Rav Yehuda bar Shila said in the name of Rabbi Asi in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: There are six things from which a person eats the fruits in this world but whose principal remains waiting for him in the Next World, and they are: hospitality, visiting the sick, paying careful attention in prayer, arriving early at the study hall, one who raises his children to study Torah, and one who judges another person favorably.

The Gemara immediately raises an objection, citing the second half of the mishna in Peah 1:1, (albeit adding the words “that a person performs” to the text as we have it):

Is that so? We learned in a mishna: “These are the things that a person performs from which he eats the fruits in this world but whose principal remains waiting for him in the Next World, and they are: honoring one’s father and mother, acts of kindness, making peace between a person and his fellow, and the study of Torah is equal to all of them.” These things are included; other things are not.

It’s not just that we see differences between the gemara in Shabbos and the mishna in Peah. Rather, the two seem to have completely different lists! Just look:

Shabbos
Hospitality
Visiting the sick
Paying careful attention in prayer
Arriving early at the study hall
Raising children to study Torah
Judging others favorably
Peah
Honoring parents
Acts of kindness
Making peace between people
Torah study

The gemara concludes that the things in the list given by Rav Yehuda bar Shila in the name of Rabbi Asi in the name of Rabbi Yochanan are actually a subset of the things listed in the mishna. Tosfos explain that hospitality and visiting the sick are examples of acts of kindness; careful attention in prayer is also an aspect of kindness as per Proverbs 11:17, “A person of kindness does good to his own soul.” Arriving early at the study hall and raising children are part of Torah study. Finally, judging others favorably is part of pursuing peace among others. So Rabbi Yehuda was expanding those three things from the mishna’s list into six items. (This is not to suggest that he disagrees about honoring parents.)

However, we are still left with a mystery! The liturgical version of Eilu Devarim that we recite includes a number of things that appear on neither list! Let’s review our version again, this time with sources in [bold brackets]:

These are the things from which a person eats the fruits in this world but whose principal remains waiting for him in the Next World, and they are: honoring one’s father and mother [Peah], acts of kindness [Peah], arriving early at the study hall in the morning and evening [Shabbos], hospitality [Shabbos], visiting the sick [Shabbos], providing for a bride [???], burying the dead [???], paying careful attention in prayer [Shabbos], making peace between a person and his fellow [Peah], and the study of Torah is equal to all of them [Peah].

So where do providing for a bride and burying the dead come from?

Before we answer that, let’s mix things up a just a bit more with a few additional variations on this dictum:

  • The gemara on Kiddushin 39b cites the mishna from Peah but adds hospitality to the four standard items (honoring parents, acts of kindness, pursuing peace and Torah study). On the very next page, the mishna in Peah is cited again but this time hospitality has been removed. While the mishna is back to its standard four items, this version does add the phrase “that a person performs,” which does not appear in our original but is added to the version cited in tractate Shabbos.
  • The biggest variation between the original mishna and our liturgical version occurs in Midrash Mishlei 27:3. “These are the things from which a person eats the fruits in this world but whose principal remains waiting for him in the Next World: honoring one’s father and mother, acts of kindness, making peace between a person and his fellow, visiting the sick, paying careful attention in prayer, arriving early at the study hall, and the study of Torah is equal to all of them.” This version includes the basic four (honoring parents, acts of kindness, pursuing peace and Torah study) and three from the gemara in Shabbos (visiting the sick, paying careful attention in prayer and arriving early at the study hall). Additionally, this Midrash connects the idea of enjoying the proceeds while maintaining the principal to a Biblical verse, “Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 27:18).                           

Part III: The Answer of the Maharam Schick