Then Yeshua spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples,
saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses seat.
All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works, for they say, and don’t do.
For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them.
But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their tefillin broad, enlarge the fringe of their garments,
and love the place of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,
the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called Rabbi, Rabbi by men.
But you do not be called Rabbi, for one is your Rabbi, the Messiah, and all of you are brothers.
Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven.
Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Messiah.
But he who is greatest among you will be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
The Talmud says,
“This is to teach you that anyone who humbles himself, the Holy One, Blessed be He, exalts him, and anyone who exalts himself, the Holy One, Blessed be He, humbles him. Anyone who seeks greatness, greatness flees from him, and, conversely, anyone who flees from greatness, greatness seeks him. And anyone who attempts to force the moment and expends great effort to achieve an objective precisely when he desires to do so, the moment forces him too, and he is unsuccessful. And conversely, anyone who is patient and yields to the moment, the moment stands by his side, and he will ultimately be successful.”
Eiruvin 13b, William Davidson Edition, Sefaria.org
Baba Metzia says,
“ . . . he who humbles himself for the sake of the Torah in this world is magnified in the next; and he who makes himself a servant to the [study of the] Torah in this world becomes free in the next.”
Baba Metzia 85b, Soncino Press Edition, cf. Nedarim 55a
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows houses, and as a pretense you make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you dont enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much of a son of Gehinnom as yourselves.
Woe to you, you blind guides, who say, Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.
You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obligated?
You blind fools! For which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
He therefore who swears by the altar, swears by it, and by everything on it.
He who swears by the temple, swears by it, and by him who was living in it.
He who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits on it.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the Torah: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone.
You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and unrighteousness.
First century Israel was in a state of spiritual decline. This was paralleled in European Judaism before the rise of the Chassidic movement. R’ Yaakov Yosef, the disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, fought vigorously against this in the same way Yeshua did, and does. R’ Samuel Dresner, a disciple of R’ Abraham J. Heschel, writes,
“The life and writings of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef were devoted to a rehabilitation of the spiritual condition of the time. Internal decay had slowly made its way into many areas of the religious life of the people and the situation had become so critical as to require nothing less than a radical solution. The “spark,” without which all else was insufficient, had almost been extinguished. Externals had taken the place of inwardness: instead of feeling there was formality, instead of conviction, habit, instead of devotion, hypocrisy…”
R’ Samuel Dresner, The Zaddik, Shocken Books, pg 75
Yeshua is challenging the spiritual leadership to repent, to truly internalize the Torah. R’ Dresner continues,
“Further evidence of internal decay was the disastrous decline of Torah study which had previously characterized Polish Jewry had been its glory, especially in those areas where the destruction of life and property had been worst during the seventeenth century wars and pogroms. The nature of the religious literature had now changed; it abounded in fruitless controversies. Cases of petty hairsplitting occupied the time and pens of the rabbis, to the exclusion of the legitimate needs and problems of the people…R’ Yaakov Yosef – who died in 1782 – was well aware of the physical suffering of his people…But he suffered infinitely more for the spiritual privation: felt ever so much more keenly the prevalent lack of inwardness in observance of the mitzvot, the use of Torah study for the sake of show, the bickering among the people, the lack of unity between people and leader and among the leaders themselves, the corruption on part of the appointed officials who “purchased” their appointments, the aloofness of the rabbis and the contempt in which they held the people. He understood the problem as his time as essentially an inner one, a spiritual one…What distressed him most was a crisis of the spirit – the spiritual condition of the people…According to the Talmud, “neglect of Torah study” was responsible for the destruction of the first Temple while “needless hatred” caused the desction of the second temple. In the eyes of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, it was as if that destruction had taken place again in his own time.”
R’ Samuel Dresner, The Zaddik, Shocken Books, pg 28-29
You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the platter, that its outside may become clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of the righteous,
and say, If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Therefore you testify to yourselves that you are children of those who killed the prophets.
Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehinnom?
Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city;
that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berechiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar.
Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not!
“The “chicks and eggs” represent souls that are weak and require the nurturing protection of “the mother bird” – i.e. the Tzaddik.”
Rebbe Nachman’s Torah, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 310
Behold, your house is left to you desolate.