This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By Elisheva Maline
Rabbi Elazar the Mo'adi used to say, "The one who profanes the holy things (specifically, the holy vessels consecrated for the service at the Temple), is brazen about the Jewish holidays, insults his friend publicly, abrogates the covenant of Avraham avinu [our forefather Abraham] i.e. circumcision, or interprets Torah contrary to its true intent... although he may possess torah knowledge and good deeds he has no share in the World to Come."
Rabbi Elazar was born after the Heit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed. In his time, the holy vessels which had been used in the Temple service were long gone. Therefore, Rabbi Elazar must have been referring to the idea of desecration and not to some public display of obnoxiousness. Commentaries conclude that his comment, "The one who profanes the holy things" must be a reference to insulting that which is sacred. In seeing pirkei avot this way, we come to an understanding that everything which follows Rabbi Elazar's first phrase constitutes some form of sanctity. Therefore, just as with the first, desecrating any of the other things on the list is tantamount to losing one's portion in the World of Truth.
In a religion that feels strongly about repentance, so strongly that nearly the entire year is dedicated to doing it, how is it that the list above closes all doors? The Rebbe from Lubavitch was heard to say, "One who undermines any of these hallowed institutions forfeits his portion in the World to Come, for he rejects a fundamental principle of G-d's world: every Jew can sanctify the mundane."
What does this mean? G-d created Heaven and earth separate. The angels are kept upstairs while this world remained on a wholly physical plain. Then, G-d formed humans, the speakers and holders of freewill, with the intention of having them bridge the gap between the material and the divine. Open to the first chapter of Genesis if you want to see ink on paper; it states that G-d made the world incomplete so that we could take part in the Creation process. He wanted us to seize as many pieces of this world as a lifetime allows and to lift them up to Heaven. This is why we sow, grow, pick, winnow and grind wheat into flour etc. etc. instead of plucking the sliced bread straight off the bush. Now, if some moron came along and tried to scorn you out of seeing things this way, you'd probably want to tout him out of the World of Truth also.
A lot of people have the wrong idea about G-d. Anthropomorphically, more than a few compare Him to a sadistic sibling (pushing us and pushing us until we fall and He gets a good laugh) or to a dysfunctional father (whose magnanimity and cruelty are dependent upon whether He's having a good day or not). Another misconception: "G-d created a broken world and our job is to fix it" Maggie Sif. This depressing drivel is all wrong. By making room for us to complete the process of creation, G-d gave us a means for emulating Him. How empowering is that?