Pirkei Avot

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Pirkei Avot (literally "Chapters of the Fathers" but usually translated as "Ethics of the Fathers") is a section of the Mishnah. Unlike most of the Mishnah, which deals with Jewish law, this is mainly a compilation of ethical sayings by rabbis mentioned in the Talmud.

Sourced[edit]

  • They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
    • Pirkei Avot 1:1
  • 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 deeds of kindness.
    • Pirkei Avot 1:2
  • Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say: Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.
    • Pirkei Avot 1:4
  • Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit.
    • Pirkei Avot 1:6
  • He (Hillel) would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?
    • Pirkei Avot 1:14
  • Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.
    • Pirkei Avot 1:15
  • Rabbi (Judah HaNassi) would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind.
    Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot. Consider the cost of a mitzvah against its rewards, and the rewards of a transgression against its cost.
    Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:1
  • In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:5
  • He (Hillel) would also say: One who increases flesh, increases worms; one who increases possessions, increases worry; one who increases wives, increases witchcraft; one who increases maidservants, increases promiscuity; one who increases man-servants, increases thievery; one who increases Torah, increases life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases counsel, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires a good name, acquired it for himself; one who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:7
  • Rabban Yochanan the son of Zakkai received the tradition from Hillel and Shammai. He would say: If you have learned much Torah, do not take credit for yourself---it is for this that you have been formed.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:8
  • [Rabbi Yochanan] said to them: Go and see which is the best trait for a person to acquire. Said Rabbi Eliezer: A good eye. Said Rabbi Joshua: A good friend. Said Rabbi Yossei: A good neighbor. Said Rabbi Shimon: To see what is born [out of one's actions]. Said Rabbi Elazar: A good heart. Said He to them: I prefer the words of Elazar the son of Arach to yours, for his words include all of yours.
    He said to them: Go and see which is the worst trait, the one that a person should most distance himself from. Said Rabbi Eliezer: An evil eye. Said Rabbi Joshua: An evil friend. Said Rabbi Yossei: An evil neighbor. Said Rabbi Shimon: To borrow and not to repay; for one who borrows from man is as one who borrows from the Almighty, as is stated, "The wicked man borrows and does not repay; but the righteous one is benevolent and gives" (Psalms 37:21). Said Rabbi Elazar: An evil heart. Said He to them: I prefer the word of Elazar the son of Arach to yours, for his words include all of yours.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:10
  • Rabbi Eliezer would say: The honor of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own, and do not be easy to anger. Repent one day before your death.
    • Asked his disciples: Does a man know on which day he will die? Said he to them: So being the case, he should repent today, for perhaps tomorrow he will die; hence, all his days are passed in a state of repentance. Indeed, so said Solomon in his wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:8): 'At all times, your clothes should be white, and oil should not lack from your head'" (Talmud, Shabbat 153a).
    • Pirkei Avot 2:10
  • Rabbi Joshua would say: An evil eye, the evil inclination, and the hatred of one's fellows, drive a person from the world
    • Pirkei Avot 2:11
  • Rabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.
    He would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labors. And know, that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.
    • Pirkei Avot 2:15-16
  • Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): "From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation."
    Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), "Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."
    Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): "If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.
    Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): "For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned."
    • Pirkei Avot 4:1
  • Be a tail to lions rather than a head to jackals.
    • Pirkei Avot 4:20
    • Variant: Join the company of lions rather than assume the lead among foxes.
  • There are four types of people: One who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine" is a boor. One who says "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours" -- this is a median characteristic; others say that this is the character of Sodom. One who says, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours" is a chassid [pious person]. And one who says "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine" is wicked.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:10
  • There are four types of temperaments. One who is easily angered and easily appeased--his virtue cancels his flaw. One whom it is difficult to anger and difficult to appease--his flaw cancels his virtue. One whom it is difficult to anger and is easily appeased, is a chassid. One who is easily angered and is difficult to appease, is wicked.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:11
  • There are four types of student. One who is quick to understand and quick to forget--his flaw cancels his virtue. One who is slow to understand and slow to forget--his virtue cancels his flaw. One who is quick to understand and slow to forget--his is a good portion. One who is slow to understand and quick to forget--his is a bad portion.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:12
  • There are four types of contributors to charity. One who wants to give but does not want others to give--is begrudging of others. One who wants that others should give but does not want to give--begrudges himself. One who wants that he as well as others should give, is a chassid. One who want neither himself nor others to give, is wicked.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:13
  • There are four types among those who attend the study hall. One who goes but does nothing--has gained the rewards of going. One who does [study] but does not go to the study hall--has gained the rewards of doing. One who goes and does, is a chassid. One who neither goes nor does, is wicked.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:14
  • There are four types among those who sit before the sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer and the sieve. The sponge absorbs all. The funnel takes in at one end and lets it out the other. The strainer rejects the wine and retains the sediment. The sieve rejects the coarse flour and retains the fine flour.
    • Pirkei Avot 5:15

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