Pirke Avot – Chapters of the Fathers

Preface

This edition of Pirke Avot is a based upon the translation by Charles Taylor, originally published in 1897. It is has been released for free viewing from Torah Driven Life for the edification of the body of believers.

All content copyright © 2012 by Simplicity Best Publications.

To obtain licensing permission for the use of this text in non-commercial works, or to contact the publisher for general communication, feel free to e-mail jjury@torahdrivenlife.com.

Prologue

All Israel have a portion in the world to come; for it is said, “Your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.” (Isaiah 60:21)

 

Chapter One

1 Moses received the Torah from Sinai. He delivered it to Joshua; Joshua delivered it to the elders; the elders delivered it to the prophets; and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: “Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.”

2 Simon the Righteous was one of the last men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, “On three things the world stands: on the Torah, and on the Worship, and on the bestowal of Kindnesses.”

3 Antigonus of Soko received teaching from Simon the Righteous. He used to say, “Be not as slaves that minister to the master with intent to receive reward, but be as slaves that minister to the master without intent to receive reward; and let the fear of Heaven be upon you.”

4 Jose ben Jo’ezer of Zeredah and Jose ben Jochanan of Jerusalem received teaching from them.

Jose ben Jo’ezer of Zeredah said, “Let your house be a meeting place for the wise. Powder yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink their words with thirstiness.”

5 Jose ben Jochanan of Jerusalem said, “Let your house be opened wide. Let the needy be your household, and do not discuss at length with women.”

By this he meant His own wife; this rule applies yet much more to the wife of his neighbor. Hence the wise have said, “Each time a man prolongs conversation with women he causes evil to himself; he desists from words of Torah, and in the end he inherits Gehinnom.

6 Joshua ben Perachia and Matthai the Arbelite received teaching from them.

Joshua ben Perachia said, “Find a teacher for yourself, acquire for yourself a companion, and judge every man in the scale of merit.

7 Matthai the Arbelite said, “Withdraw from an evil neighbour, do not associate with the wicked, and do not grow thoughtless of retribution.”

8 Judah ben Tabai and Simeon ben Shatach received teaching from them.

Judah ben Tabai said, “Do not make yourself like those who predispose the judges. While litigants stand before you, see them both as guilty. When dismissed from before you, see them as righteous, because they have already received their judgment.”

9 Simeon ben Shatach said, “Make full examination of the witnesses; but guard your words, lest the witness learn from them to lie.”

10 Shemaiah and Abtalion received teaching from them.

Shemaiah said, “Love work, hate lordship, and do not make yourself known to the government.”

11 Abtalion said, “To the wise: be guarded in your words; lest you may incur the debt of exile, and be exiled to the place of evil waters; and lest the disciples that come after you may drink and die, and the Name of Heaven be profaned.”

12 Hillel and Shammai received teaching from them.

Hillel said, “Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace, and pursuing peace; loving mankind, and bringing them nigh to the Torah.” 13 He used to say, “A name made great is a name destroyed. He who does not increase decreases. He who will not learn deserves death. He who serves himself with the crown perishes.” 14 He also used to say, “If I am not for myself, then who is for me? Being for my own self, what am I? If not now, when?

15 Shammai said, “Make your Torah an ordinance. Say little, and do much. Receive every man with a pleasant expression of countenance.

16 Rabban Gamliel said, “Find for yourself a teacher. Be rid of doubt. Do not become accustomed to tithe by guesswork.

17 His son, Simeon, said, “All my days I have grown up amongst the wise, and have not found anything as good for a man as silence. Not learning, but doing, is the groundwork. He who multiplies his words invites sin.

18 Rabban Simeon ben Gamliel said, “On three things the world stands: on Judgment, on Truth, and on Peace.”

 

Chapter Two

1 Rabbi (Judah the Prince) said, “Which is the right course that a man should choose for himself? Whatever brings honor to him that pursues it, and makes him honorable in the sight of men. Be as attentive to a light precept as you are to a heavy one, for you do not know the reward assigned to them. Reckon the cost of observing a precept against the reward for breaking it, and reckon the reward of transgressing a precept against the cost of keeping it. Consider three things, and you will not fall into the hands of transgression; know what is above you: a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your works written in a book.”

2 Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Judah the Prince, said, “Excellent is Torah, study together with worldly business, for the practice of them both causes sin to be forgotten. All Torah, without work, will fail in the end, and will lead to sin. Let all who are employed with the congregation labor with them for the sake of the name of Heaven, for the merit of their fathers sustains them, and their righteousness endures forever. As for you, you will have reward reckoned to you as if you had done it yourself.

3 “Be cautious of those in authority, for they will only befriend a man when it meets their own needs. They appear like friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand not by a man in his hour of need.”

4 He used to say, “Do His will as if it were your will, that He may do your will as if it were His will. Annul your will before His will, that He may annul the will of others before your will.”

5 Hillel said, “Do not separate yourself from the congregation, and do not trust in yourself until the day of your death. Do not judge your friend until you come into his place. Do not speak a word which should not be heard, for in the end, it will be heard. Do not say, ‘When I have leisure, I will study,’ for you may not have leisure.”

He used to say, “The uncultured is not a sin-fearer, nor is the vulgar apt to piety, nor is the shameful apt to learn, nor is the short-tempered apt to teach, nor does he who engages in much business apt to become wise. In a place where there are no men, endeavor to be a man.”

6 He saw a skull which floated on the face of the water. He said to it, “Because you drowned others, they drowned you. In the end, those who drowned you will be drowned themselves.”

7 He used to say, “The more flesh, the more worms; the more treasures, the more care; the more maidservants, the more lewdness; the more menservants, the more theft; the more women, the more witchcraft; the more Torah, the more life; the more wisdom, the more scholars; the more righteousness, the more peace. He who has acquired a good name has acquired it for himself. He who has acquired to himself words of Torah has acquired to himself the life of the world to come.”

8 Rabban Jochanan ben Zakai received teaching from Hillel and from Shammai. He used to say, “If you have practiced the Torah much, do not claim credit for yourself, for it was for this purpose that you were created.

Rabban Jochanan ben Zakai had five disciples, and these were their names: Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi Joshua ben Chananiah, Rabbi Jose the Priest, Rabbi Simeon ben Nathanael, and Rabbi Eleazar ben Arach. He used to recount their praise:

“Eliezer ben Hyrcanus is a plastered cistern, which does not lose a drop.
Joshua ben Chananiah- happy is she who bore him.
Jose the Priest is a pious man.
Simeon ben Nathanael is a man who fears sin.
Eleazar ben Arach is an ever-increasing wellspring.”

He used to say, “If all the wise of Israel were balanced on one side of a scale, and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was on the other side, he would outweigh them all.”

Abba Shaul said in his name, “If all the wise of Israel were balanced on one side of a scale, with Eliezer ben Hyrqanos with them, and Eleazar ben Arach was on the other side, he would outweigh them all.”

9 He said to them, “Go and see which is the good way that a man should cleave to.”

Rabbi Eliezer said, “A good eye.”
Rabbi Joshua said, “A good friend.”
Rabbi Jose said, “A good neighbor.”
Rabbi Simeon said, “He that foresees what is to be.”
Rabbi Eleazar said, “A good heart.”

He said to them, “I approve of the answer of Eleazar ben Arach rather than the rest of yours, for his answer includes yours.”

He said to them, “Go and see which is the evil way that a man should shun.”

Rabbi Eliezer said, “An evil eye.”
Rabbi Joshua said, “An evil companion.”
Rabbi Jose said, “An evil neighbor.”
Rabbi Simeon said, “He that borrows and does not pay back. For when he borrows from man, it is the same as if he borrowed from God; (blessed is He) for it is said, ‘The wicked borrows, and pays not again, but the righteous is merciful and gives.’ ” (Psalm 37:21)
Rabbi Eleazar said, “An evil heart.”

He said to them, “I approve of the answer of Eleazar ben Arach rather than the rest of yours, for his answer includes yours.”

10 They said three things.

Rabbi Eliezer said, “Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own. Do not be easily provoked. Repent one day before your death.” He also said, “Warm yourself before the fire of the wise, but beware of their embers, lest you may be singed; for their bite is as the bite of a fox, their sting is as the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is as the hiss of a fiery serpent, and their words are as coals of fire.”

11 Rabbi Joshua said, “An evil eye, the evil nature, and hatred for one’s fellow creatures will put a man out of the world.”

12 Rabbi Jose said, “Let the property of your friend be as precious to you as your own. Set yourself to learn Torah, for it is not an heirloom to you. Let all your actions be to the name of Heaven.”

13 Rabbi Simeon said, “Be cautious when reading the Sh’ma and when praying. When you pray, do not make your prayer routine, but a plea before God- blessed is He- for it is said, ‘For God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in grace.’ (Psalm 37:21) Do not be not wicked in your own eyes.”

14 Rabbi Eleazar said, “Be diligent to learn Torah, by which you will know how to answer heretics. Know before whom you toil. Know who is the Master of your work.”

15 Rabbi Tarphon said, “The day is short, the task is great, the workmen are sluggish, the reward is much, and the Master of the house is urgent.”

16 He said, “It is not for you to finish the work, nor are you free to desist from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be receive much reward, for the Master of your work is faithful to pay you the reward of your work. Know that the payment of the reward of the righteous is for the time to come.”

 

Chapter Three

1 Akabiah ben Mahalalel said, “Consider three things, and you will not come into the hands of transgression: know from where you came, know where you are going, and know before whom you will give an account and a reckoning.

“Know from where you came: a fetid drop.
“Know where you are going: to worm and maggot.
“Know before whom you will give an account and a reckoning:
the King of the kings of kings, blessed is He.”

2 Rabbi Chananiah, prefect of the priests, said, “Pray for the peace of the government; for were it not for the fear thereof, a man would have swallowed up his neighbor alive.”

R. Chananiah ben Thradyon said, “Two that sit together without words of Torah are a session of scorners; for it is said, ‘Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.’ (Psalm 1:1)

“Two that sit together and are occupied in words of Torah have the Shekinah among them; for it is said, ‘Those who feared YHWH spoke one with another; and YHWH listened, and heard, and a book of memory was written before Him, for those who feared YHWH, and who honored His name.’ (Malachi 3:16)

“One that sits and studies, the Scripture imputes to him as if he fulfilled the whole Torah; for it is said, ‘He sits alone and keeps silence, because He has laid it upon him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:28)

3 Rabbi Simeon said, “Three that have eaten at one table, and have not said over it words of Torah, are as if they had eaten of sacrifices of the dead; for it is said, ‘all tables are completely full of filthy vomit and filthiness,’ (Isaiah 28:8) without mention of the name of God. But three that have eaten at one table, and have said over it words of Torah, are as if they had eaten of the table of God, blessed is He; for it is said, ‘This is the table that is before YHWH.’ ” (Ezekiel 41:22)

4 Rabbi Chananiah ben Chakinai said, “He who awakes by night, and he who walks alone by the way, and turns aside his heart to idleness, is guilty of death.”

5 Rabbi Nechoniah ben Hakanah said, “Whoever receives upon him the yoke of Torah removes from himself the yoke of royalty and the yoke of worldly care. Whoever breaks from him the yoke of Torah lays upon himself the yoke of royalty and the yoke of worldly care.”

6 Rabbi Chalafta of the village of Chananiah said, “When ten sit and are occupied in words of Torah, the Shekinah is among them, for it is said, ‘God stands in the congregation of the mighty.’ (Psalm 82:1)

“Where is it proved that this applies even to five? Because it is said, ‘He judges among gods.’ (Psalm 82:1)

“Where is it proved that this applies even to three? Because it is said, ‘and has founded His vault on the earth.’ (Amos 9:6)

“Where is it proved that this applies even to two? Because it is said, ‘Those who feared YHWH spoke one with another.’ (Malachi 3:16)

“Where is it proved that this applies even to one? Because it is said, ‘In every place where I record My name I will come to you and I will bless you.’ ” (Exodus 20:24)

7 Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Bertotha said, “Give Him of what is His, for you and yours are His; for thus was said in the case of David, ‘For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given to You.’ ” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

Rabbi Jacob said, He who is walking by the way and studying, and breaks off his study to say, ‘How fine is this tree,’ ‘How fine is that tree,’ and ‘How fine is this land,’ it is accounted to him as if he were guilty of death.”

8 Rabbi Dosithai ben Rabbi Jannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir, “When a scholar of the wise sits and studies, and has forgotten a word of his learning, it is accounted it to him as if he were guilty of death; for it is said, ‘Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9) But what if his learning has simply grown too hard to him? The passage goes on, ‘lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9) He is not guilty until he has sat down and chosen for them to depart from his mind.

9 Rabbi Chananiah ben Dosa said, “He who’s fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom stands; but he who’s wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom does not stand.”

10 He used to say, “He who’s works are in excess of his wisdom, his wisdom stands; and he who’s wisdom is in excess of his works, his wisdom does not stand.”

He also used to say, “With he who the spirit of men is pleased, the Spirit of God is pleased; and with he who the spirit of men is not pleased, the Spirit of God is not pleased.”

Rabbi Dosa ben Horkinas said, “Morning sleep, midday wine, the babbling of youths, and frequenting the meeting houses of the vulgar, put a man out of the world.”

11 Rabbi Eleazar of Modin said, “He who profanes sacred things, degrades the festivals, annuls the covenant of Abraham our father, and acts barefacedly against the Torah, even if he is a doer of good works, has no portion in the world to come.”

12 Rabbi Ishmael said, “Be pliable in disposition to a leader, easily approached by suppliant, and receive all men with cheerfulness.”

13 Rabbi Akiba said, “Merriment and lightness of disposition accustom a man to lewdness.”

He used to say, “Tradition is a fence to Torah, tithes are a fence to wealth, and vows are a fence to sanctity; but a fence to wisdom is silence.”

14 He also used to say, “Beloved is man, that he was created in the image of God. It was a sign of greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image of God, as it is said that ‘In the image of God He made man.’ (Genesis 9:6)

“Beloved is Israel, that they are called children of God. It was a sign of greater love that it was made known to them that they are called children of God, as it is said, ‘You are the children of YHWH your God.’ (Deuteronomy 14:1)

“Beloved are Israel, that the instrument with which the world was created was given to them. It was a sign of greater love that it was made known to them that the instrument with which the world was created was given to them, as it is said, ‘For I give you good doctrine; do not forsake My Torah.’ (Proverbs 4:2)

15 “Everything is foreseen, and freewill is given. The world is judged by grace, but in accordance with good works.”

16 He used to say, “Everything is given on pledge, and a net is cast over all the living. The office is open, the broker gives credit, the ledger is open, the hand writes, and whoever will borrow comes and borrows. The collectors go around continually every day, and exact from a man, with or without his consent. They can trust in their case, for the judgment is true; and everything is prepared for the banquet.”

17 Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah said, “No Torah, no culture; no culture, no Torah. No wisdom, no fear of God; no fear of God, no wisdom. No knowledge, no discernment; no discernment, no knowledge. No meal, no Torah; no Torah, no meal.”

He used to say, “He who has wisdom in excess of his works, to what is he like? He is like a tree whose branches are abundant, but whose roots are scanty. The wind comes, and uproots him, and overturns him. As it is said, ‘He shall be like the tamarisk in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited.’ (Jeremiah 17:6)

“He who has works in excess of his wisdom, to what is he like? He is like a tree whose branches are scanty, and whose roots are abundant. Though all the winds come upon him, they do not stir him from his place. As it is said, ‘He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.’ ” (Jeremiah 17:8)

18 Rabbi Eliezer Chismah said, “The study of bird sacrifices and the study of menstruation are essentials of Torah; the study of astronomy and arithmetic are secondary courses of wisdom.”

 

Chapter Four

1 Ben Zoma said, “Who is wise? He that learns from every man; for it is said, ‘From all my teachers I acquired understanding.’ (Loosely based upon Psalm 119:99)

“Who is mighty? He that subdues his nature; for it is said, ‘One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; one who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city.’ (Proverbs 16:32)

“Who is rich? He that is content with his lot; for it is said, ‘For you will eat the labor of your hands. You will be happy, and it will be well with you.’ (Psalm 128:2)‘You will be happy’ in this world, ‘and it will be well with you’ in the world to come.

“Who is honored? He that honors mankind; for it is said, ‘For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.’ ” (1 Samuel 2:30)

2 Ben Azzai said, “Hasten to a slight precept, and flee from transgression; for precept induces precept, and transgression induces transgression; for the reward of precept is precept, and the reward of transgression is transgression.

3 He used to say, “Do not despise any man, and do not discount anything; for you will not find a man that does not have his hour, nor a thing that does not have its place.”

4 Rabbi Levitas of Jabneh said, “Be exceedingly low in spirit, for the expectation of man is the worm.” Rabbi Jochanan ben Baroqah said, “Whoso profanes the Name of Heaven in secret, he is punished in the open. Regarding the profanation of the Name, those who er maliciously are just the same as those who er out of ignorance.”

5 Rabbi Ishmael his son said, “He that learns in order to teach is granted the faculty to learn and to teach. He that learns in order to practice is granted the faculty to learn, to teach, and to practice.”

Rabbi Tzadok said, “Do not make them a crown, to bring glory to yourself; nor a tool, to profit from.”

Thus was Hillel apt to say, “He who serves himself with the crown perishes. Whoever makes profit from words of Torah removes his life from the world.”

6 Rabbi Jose said, “Whoever honors the Torah is himself held in honor among men; and whoever dishonors the Torah is himself dishonored among men.”

7 Rabbi Ishmael said, “He that refrains from judging others frees himself from enmity, thievery, and false swearing. He that is frivolous in decision making is foolish, wicked, and arrogant.”

8 He used to say, “Do not judge alone, for no one may judge alone except for One. Do not say, ‘Accept my opinion,’ for they are free to choose for themselves, and you are not free to force them.”

9 Rabbi Jochanan said, “Whoever fulfills the Torah in poverty, will at length fulfill it in wealth; and whosoever neglects the Torah in wealth, will, in the end, neglect it in poverty.”

10 Rabbi Meir said, “Engage little in business, and be busy in Torah. Be humble to every man. If you neglect the Torah, then you will have many occasions for neglect against you; but if you labor in the Torah, then He has much reward to give you.”

11 Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob said, “He who performs one precept has acquired for himself one advocate, and he who commits one transgression has acquired for himself one accuser. Repentance and good works are as a shield against punishment.”

Rabbi Jochanan the sandal maker said, “Every assembly for the name of Heaven will, in the end, endure. Every assembly not for the name of Heaven will, in the end, not endure.”

12 Rabbi Eliezer said, “Let the honor of your disciple be as dear to you as the honor of yourself; let the honor of your friend be as the fear of your teacher; and let the fear of your teacher be as the fear of Heaven.”

13 Rabbi Judah said, “Be careful in study, for error in study amounts to sin.”

Rabbi Simeon said, “There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of Priesthood, and the crown of Royalty; but the crown of a good name surmounts them all.

14 Rabbi Nehorai said, “Take yourself to a place of Torah, and do not say that it will come after you, for your friends will help you confirm it, so that you ‘do not lean not unto your own understanding.’ ” (Proverbs 3:5)

15 Rabbi Jannai said, “It is not in our hand do decide the security of the wicked, nor the afflictions of the righteous.”

Rabbi Mattyah ben Charash said, “Be the first to salute other men. Be a tail to lions, and not a head to foxes.”

16 Rabbi Jacob said, “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come. Prepare yourself at the vestibule, that you may be admitted into the hall.”

17 He used to say, “Better is one hour of repentance and good works in this world than an entire life in the world to come. Better is one hour of refreshment of spirit in the world to come than an entire life in this world.”

18 Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar said, “Do not pacify your friend in the hour of his anger. Do not console him in the hour when his dead lies before him. Do not question him in the hour of his vow. Do not strive to see him in the hour of his disgrace.”

19 Samuel HaKatan said, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest YHWH see it, and it displease Him, and He turns His wrath away from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18)

20 Elisha ben Abuyah said, “He who learns as a child, to what is he like? He is like ink written on fresh paper. He who learns when old, to what is he like? He is like ink written on used paper.”

Rabbi Jose ben Judah of Kaphar HaBavli said, “He who learns from the young, to what is he like? He is like one that eats unripe grapes, and drinks unfermented wine from the vat. He who learns from the old, to what is he like? He is like one that eats ripened grapes, and drinks old wine.”

Rabbi Meir said, “Do not esteem the flask, but what is inside of it. There is a new flask that is full of old wine, and old flasks in which there is not even new wine.”

21 Rabbi Eleazar HaKappar said, “Jealousy, lust, and the desire for honor put a man out of the world.”

22 He used to say, “Those who are born are destined to die, and those who are dead are destined to be revived. The living are to be judged, to know and to make known, that He is the former, that He is the Creator, that He is the discerner, that He is the judge, that He is the witness, that He is the plaintiff, and that He is about to judge. There is no iniquity with Him, nor is there forgetfulness; there is no respect of persons, nor is there taking of bribes; for all is His, so know that everything happens according to His plan.

“Do not let your imagination convince you that the grave is an asylum, for without your will you were formed, and without your will you were born, and without your will you live, and without your will you die, and without your will you will give an account and a reckoning before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.”

 

Chapter Five

1 By ten Sayings the world was created. What is learned from this? Could it not have been created from one Saying? This was done so that vengeance might be taken on the wicked for destroying the world that was created by ten Sayings, and to give a goodly reward to the righteous for maintaining the world that was created by ten Sayings.

2 There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to show the extent of His great patience; for all the generations were provoking Him, until He brought the flood upon them.

There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham, to show the extent of His great patience; for all the generations were provoking Him, until Abraham our father came, and received the reward of them all.

3 With ten temptations Abraham our father was tempted, and he withstood them all, to show the extent of the great love of Abraham our father.

4 Ten miracles were wrought for our fathers in Egypt; and ten by the sea.

Ten plagues were brought by the Holy One, blessed is He, upon the Egyptians in Egypt; and ten by the Sea.

With ten temptations did our fathers tempt God in the wilderness, for it is said, “And they have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice.” (Numbers 14:22)

5 Ten miracles were wrought in the Sanctuary.

  1. No woman miscarried from the scent of the holy meat.
  2. The holy meat never spoiled.
  3. Uncleanness did not befall the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
  4. No flies were not seen in the slaughterhouse.
  5. No defects were found in the sheaf, the two loaves, or the shewbread.
  6. The rain did not quench not the wood-burning fire upon the altar.
  7. The wind did not prevail against the pillar of smoke.
  8. They stood close together, yet with enough room to bow down.
  9. Serpents and scorpions did not harm anyone in Jerusalem.
  10. No man said to his fellow, “The place is too small for me,” (Isaiah 49:20) to lodge in Jerusalem.

6 Ten things were created between on the eve of the Sabbath.

  1. The mouth of the earth; (Numbers 16:30)
  2. The mouth of the well; (Numbers 21:16-18)
  3. The mouth of the donkey; (Numbers 22:28)
  4. The rainbow; (Genesis 9:13)
  5. The manna; (Exodus 16:14)
  6. The rod of Moses; (Exodus 4:17)
  7. The flint; (a writing tool to engrave the two tablets of stone)
  8. The letters [that were engraved upon the two tablets of stone]; (Exodus 24:12)
  9. The writing [that was engraved upon the two tablets of stone]; (Exodus 32:16)
  10. The tablets [themselves].

Some say also destroying spirits, the tomb of Moses, (Deuteronomy 34:6) the ram of our father Abraham, (Genesis 22:13) and the original tongs [from which all other tongs were made], for all tongs are made with tongs.

7 Seven things are characteristic of a foolish man, and seven things are characteristic of a wise man.

  1. The wise man speaks not before one who is greater than he in wisdom.
  2. He does not interrupt the words of his companion.
  3. He is not hasty to reply.
  4. He asks according to canon, and answers to the point.
  5. He speaks on the first thing first, and on the last last.
  6. He does not speak of things he has not heard; instead, he says, “I have not heard.”
  7. He acknowledges the truth.

The opposites are seen in the foolish man.

8 Seven kinds of punishments come on account of seven kinds of transgressions.

  1. When some men tithe, and some do not tithe, a famine from drought comes. Some are hungry, and some are full.
  2. When they have not tithed at all, a famine from turmoil comes.
  3. When they have not made the offering of the dough, (Numbers 15:19) a famine of death comes.
  4. Pestilence comes into the world for capital crimes mentioned in the Torah but not brought before the court, and for transgressing the commandments of the produce of the Sabbath year.
  5. The sword comes upon the world for suppression of judgment, for perversion of judgment, and for misinterpreting the Torah.
  6. Wild beasts come into the world for vain swearing and for profanation of the Name.
  7. Captivity comes upon the world for strange worship, for incest, for the shedding of blood, and for not giving the year of release to the land. (Deuteronomy 15:1)

9 At four times pestilence increases: in the fourth year, in the seventh year, at the conclusion of the seventh year, and at the conclusion of the Feast of Sukkot every year.

  1. In the fourth year, because of defaulting on the poor’s tithe taken in the third year; (Deuteronomy 26:12)
  2. In the seventh year, because of defaulting on the poor’s tithe taken in the sixth year;
  3. At the conclusion of the seventh year, because of transgressing the commandments of the produce of the seventh year; (Leviticus 25:4)
  4. And at the conclusion of the Feast of Sukkot every year, because of robbing the gifts due to the poor. (Exodus 23:11)

10 There are four types of men.

  1. He that says, “Mine is mine, and yours is yours,” is a neutral man; but some say, “This is the character trait of Sodom.”
  2. He that says, “Mine is yours, and yours is mine,” is a foolish man.
  3. He that says, “Mine and yours are both yours,” is a pious man.
  4. He that says, “Yours and mine are both mine,” is a wicked man.

11 There are four types of dispositions.

  1. A man who is easily provoked, and easily pacified; his gain is canceled by his loss.
  2. A man who is hard to provoke, and hard to pacify; his loss is canceled by his gain.
  3. A man who is hard to provoke, and easily pacified; he is a pious man.
  4. A man who is easily provoked, and hard to pacify; he is a wicked man.

12 There are four types of scholars.

  1. A man who is quick to hear, and quick to forget; his gain is canceled by his loss.
  2. A man who is slow to hear, and slow to forget; his loss is canceled by his gain.
  3. A man who is quick to hear, and slow to forget; he is a wise man.
  4. A man who is slow to hear, and quick to forget; this is an evil portion.

13 There are four types of charitable givers.

  1. He who is willing that he should give, but not that others should give; his eye is evil towards the things of others.
  2. He who is willing that others should give, but not that he should give; his eye is evil towards his own.
  3. He who is willing to give, and to let others give; he is pious.
  4. He who will not give, and is not willing to let others give; he is wicked.

14 There are four types of men who attend a house of study.

  1. He that goes, but does not practice; the reward of going is in his hand.
  2. He that practices, but does not go; the reward of practice is in his hand.
  3. He that goes, and practices; he is a pious man.
  4. He that goes not, and does not practice; he is a wicked man.

15 There are four type of those who sit under the wise: a sponge, a funnel, a strainer, and a sieve.

  1. A sponge absorbs everything.
  2. A funnel lets lets in here, and lets out there.
  3. A strainer lets out the wine, and keeps back the sediment.
  4. A sieve lets out the coarse flour, and keeps back the fine flour.

16 Love which depends on something, when the thing ceases, the love ceases with it; but love that does not depend on anything does not ever cease.

What is an example of love which depends on some thing? The love of Amnon and Tamar. (2 Samuel 13) What is an example of love which does not depend on anything? The love of David and Jonathan. (1 Samuel 18:1, 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26)

17 Any dispute which is for the name of Heaven will, in the end, be established; and that which is not for the name of Heaven will not, in the end, be established. What dispute is that which is for the name of Heaven? The dispute of Shammai and Hillel. And what dispute is that which is not for the name of Heaven? The dispute of Korah and his congregation. (Numbers 16)

18 Whoever causes many to be righteous, sin does not prevail over him. Whosoever causes many to sin, he is not granted the opportunity to repent.

Moses was righteous, and caused many to be righteous, and the righteousness of the many was laid upon him; for it is said, “He executed the justice of YHWH and His judgments, with Israel.” (Deuteronomy 33:21) Jeroboam sinned, and caused many to sin, and the sin of many was laid upon him; for it is said, “Because of the sins of Jeroboam who sinned, and made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 14:16)

19 He who is a disciple of Abraham will have three qualities; and he who is a disciple of Balaam will have three other qualities.

A disciple of Abraham will have a good eye, a humble soul, and a meek spirit; but a disciple of Balaam will have an evil eye, a proud soul, and a haughty spirit What are the differences between the disciples of Abraham and the disciples of Balaam? The disciples of Abraham will inherit the Garden of Eden; for it is said, “That I may cause those that love Me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.” (Proverbs 8:21) The disciples of Balaam, however, will go down to Gehinnom; for it is said, “But you, O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction.” (Psalm 55:23)

20 Rabbi Judah ben Thema said, “Be as bold as a leopard, swift as an eagle, fleeting as a deer, and as strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father which is in Heaven.”

He used to say, “The boldfaced is destined for Gehinnom, and the shamefaced is destined for the garden of Eden. May it be well-pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our God, and God of our fathers, that Your city may be built in our days. Give us our portion in Your Torah.”

21 Ben Bagbag said, “Turn it, and turn it again, for everything is in it. Look inside it, and do not swerve aside from it, for you can have no greater excellency than this.”

22 Ben Hehe said, “According to the toil is the reward.”

 

Chapter Six
On the Acquisition of the Torah

Wise men have taught in the tongue of teaching; blessed is He that chose them and their teaching.

1 Rabbi Meir said, “Whoever is busy in Torah for its own sake merits many things; and not only so, but he is worth the whole world. He is called ‘friend,’ (Isaiah 41:8, 2 Chronicles 20:7) ‘beloved,’ (1 Kings 10:9) ‘one who loves God,’ (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10) ‘one who loves mankind,’ (Leviticus 19:18) ‘one who pleases God,’ (Ecclesiastes 7:26) and ‘one who pleases mankind.’ (Judges 9:13) It clothes him with meekness and fear, and suits him to become righteous, pious, upright, and faithful. It removes sin from him, and brings him to the side of merit. From him others enjoy counsel, sound wisdom, understanding, and strength; for it is said, “Counsel is Mine, and sound wisdom. I am understanding; I have strength.” (Proverbs 8:14) It gives him kingdom, and dominion, and faculty of judgment. To him are revealed the secrets of Torah; and he is made, as it were, a spring that does not ceases, as a river that flows on increasing. He becomes modest, and patient, and forgiving of insult. It magnifies him, and exalts him over all things.”

2 Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said, “Every day Bat Kol goes forth from Mount Horeb, and makes proclamation, saying, ‘Woe to men for their contempt of Torah.’ For whoever does not occupy himself in Torah is called ‘outcast;’ for it is said, ‘As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.’ (Proverbs 11:22)

“It is also said, ‘And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.’ (Exodus 32:16) Do not read here ‘graven,’ (Hebrew: charut) but ‘freedom;’ (Hebrew: cherut) for you will not find anyone who is free but he who is occupied in the learning of Torah.

“Whoever is occupied in the learning of Torah, behold, he is exalted; for it is said, ‘From the gift to the valley, and from the valley to the heights.’ (Numbers 21:19) But if he becomes prideful, God will bring him low; as it is said, ‘From the heights to the valley.’ (Numbers 21:20)

3 “He who learns from his companion one chapter, or one rule, or one verse, or one word, or even one single letter, is obligated to honor him; for thus we find in the case of David, King of Israel, who only learned two things from Achithophel, yet he called him his master, his guide, and his acquaintance; for it is said, ‘But it was you, a man my equal, my guide, and my acquaintance.’ (Psalm 55:13)

“Is there not an argument here ‘from the lesser to the greater?’ As David, King of Israel, who learned only two words from Achithophel, called him his master, his guide, and his acquaintance, he who learns from his companion one chapter, or one rule, or one verse, or one word, or even one letter, is obligated many more times to honor him. And ‘honor’ is nothing but Torah; for it is said, ‘The wise shall inherit honor.’ (Proverbs 3:35) Again, ‘The perfect shall inherit good.’ (Proverbs 28:10) And ‘good’ is nothing but Torah; for it is said, ‘For I give you good doctrine; do not forsake My Torah.’ ” (Proverbs 4:2)

4 “This is the path of Torah. You shall eat a morsel with salt; (Gemara Berachoth 2b) ‘you shall drink also water by measure;’ (Ezekiel 4:11) you shall sleep on the ground; you shall live a life of painfulness; and you shall labor in Torah. If you do these things, ‘happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you.’ (Psalm 128:2) ‘Happy shall you be’ in this world, ‘and it shall be well with you’ in the world to come.

5 “Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not desire honor. Practice more than you learn. Do not lust for the table of kings, for your table is greater than their table, and your crown is greater than their crown, and your master is faithful to pay you the wage of your work.

6 “Torah is greater than both the priesthood and the kingdom; for just as the kingdom is acquired by thirty degrees, and the priesthood is acquired by twenty-four degrees, the Torah is acquired by forty-eight degrees, which are listed as follows.

“Torah is possessed by learning, by attentive listening, by ordered speech, by discernment of heart, by dread, by fear, by meekness, by cheerfulness, by purity, by attendance upon the wise, by discussion with friends, by debating with disciples, by tranquility, by study of the Scripture, by study of the oral learning, by minimizing business, by minimizing gossip, by minimizing luxury, by minimizing sleep, by minimizing conversation, by minimizing frivolity, by patience, by a good heart, by faith in the wise, and by acceptance of chastisements.

“Torah is possessed by knowing one’s place, by rejoicing in one’s portion, by making a fence to his words, by not claiming merit to one’s works, by being loved by others, by loving God, by loving mankind, by loving righteousness, by loving uprightness, by loving reproof, by fleeing from honor, by remaining humble in learning, and by not delighting in legal rulings, by bearing the yoke with one’s friend, by inclining him to the scale of merit, by grounding him upon the truth, by grounding him upon peace, by settling his heart to study, by asks questions and giving answers, by hearing and adding to what is heard, by learning in order to teach, by learning in order to practice, by making his master wiser, by noting precisely what he has heard, and by telling something thing in the name of him that said it.

“Thus you have learned that whosoever tells a thing in the name of him that said it brings redemption to the world; for it is said, ‘And Esther told it to the king in the name of Mordechai.’ ” (Esther 2:22)

7 “Great is Torah, which gives life to those who practice it in this world, and in the world to come; for it is said, ‘For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.’ (Proverbs 4:22) Again it is said, ‘It shall be health to your navel, and marrow to your bones.’ (Proverbs 3:8) Again it is said, ‘She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; happy is everyone that retains her.’ (Proverbs 3:18) Again it is said, ‘For they shall be an ornament of grace to your head, and chains about your neck.’ (Proverbs 1:9) Again it is said, ‘She shall give to your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to you.’ (Proverbs 4:9) Again it is said, ‘For by Me your days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased.’ (Proverbs 9:11) Again it is said, ‘Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor.’ (Proverbs 3:16) Again it is said, ‘For length of days, and years of life, and peace, shall they add to you.’ ” (Proverbs 3:2)

8 Rabbi Simeon ben Judah said in the name of Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, “Beauty, strength, wealth, honor, wisdom, age, sageliness, and sons, are becoming to the righteous, and becoming to the world; for it is said, ‘The sagely head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.’ (Proverbs 16:31) Again it is said, ‘The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is the grey head.’ (Proverbs 20:29) Again it is said, ‘Sons’ sons are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons are their fathers.’ (Proverbs 17:6) Again it is said, ‘Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when YHWH of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, gloriously before His ancients.’ ” (Isaiah 24:23)

Rabbi Simeon ben Menasia said, “These seven qualities which the wise have reckoned to the righteous were all of them confirmed in Rabbi [Judah the Prince] and his sons.

9 Rabbi Jose ben Qisma said, “Once I was walking by the way, and a man met me there, and he greeted me with ‘Peace.’ I returned his greeting with ‘Peace.’

“He said to me, ‘Rabbi, where do you come from?’

“I said to him, ‘I am from a great city of wise men and doctors.’

“He said to me, ‘Rabbi, if should you desire to dwell with us in our place, I will give you a a million dinars of gold, precious stones, and pearls.’

“I said to him, ‘If you should give me all the silver, gold, precious stones, and pearls that are in the world, I would only dwell in a place of Torah. Thus it is written in the Book of Psalms, by the hands of David, king of Israel, “The Torah of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.” ’ (Psalm 119:72) Moreover, in the hour of a man’s death, neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls are able to accompany him, but Torah and good works alone; for it is said, “When you go, it shall lead you; when you sleep, it shall keep you; and when you awaken, it shall talk with you.” ’ (Proverbs 6:22) ‘When you go, it shall lead you,’ in this world; ‘when you sleep, it shall keep you,’ in the grave; ‘and when you awaken, it shall talk with you,’ in the world to come. And it is said, ‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says YHWH of hosts.’ (Haggai 2:8)

10 “The Holy One, blessed is He, has five possessions in His world, and they are: Torah, Heaven and Earth, Abraham, Israel, and the Sanctuary.

“Why Torah? Because it is written, YHWH possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.’ (Proverbs 8:22)

“Why Heaven and Earth? Because it is written, ‘Thus says YHWH, “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool; where is the house that you build unto Me? Where is the place of My rest?”’ (Isaiah 66:1) And it is said, ‘O YHWH, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions.’ (Psalm 104:24)

“Why Abraham? Because it is written, ‘He blessed him, and said, “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth.”’ (Genesis 14:19)

“Why Israel? Because it is written, ‘Until Your people pass over, O YHWH, until the people pass over, which you have possessed;’ (Exodus 15:16) And it is said, ‘To the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent ones, in whom is all My delight.’ (Psalm 16:3)

“Why the Sanctuary? Because it is written, ‘The place, O YHWH, which You have made for Yourself to dwell in, the sanctuary, O YHWH, which Your hands have established.’ (Exodus 15:17) And it is said, ‘He brought them to the border of His sanctuary, to this very mountain, which His right hand had possessed.’ (Psalm 78:54)

11 “Whatever the Holy One, blessed is He, created in His world, He created only for His glory; for it is said, ‘Everyone that is called by My name: I have created him for My glory, I have formed him; yes, I have made him.’ (Isaiah 43:7) Again it is said, YHWH shall reign for ever and ever.’ ” (Exodus 15:18)

 

Epilogue

Rabbi Chanania ben Akashia said, “The Holy One, blessed is He, was pleased to make Israel worthy. Therefore He gave them a magnified Torah and many precepts; for it is said, YHWH is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify Torah, and make it honorable.’ ” (Isaiah 42:21)

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