|Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter One
1. Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets,
and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these
three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
2. 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.
3. Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master
for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be
4. Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah, and Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem, received the tradition from them. 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.
5. Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem would say: Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your
household. And do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said even regarding one's own wife--how much
more so regarding the wife of another. Hence, the sages said: One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself,
neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory.
6. Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. 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.
7. Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief
8. Judah the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shotach received from them. Judah the son of Tabbai would say: When sitting in
judgement, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave
your courtroom, having accepted the judgement, regard them as equally righteous.
9. Shimon the son of Shotach would say: Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn
from them how to lie.
10. Shmaayah and Avtalyon received from them. Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy
with the government.
11. Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who
will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and
be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.
12. Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one
who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.
13. He would also say: One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not
learn is deserving of death. And one who make personal use of the crown of Torah shall perish.
14. He would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
15. 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.
16. Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by
17. His son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than
silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.
18. Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah
8:16), "Truth, and a judgement of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.''
|Ethics of the Fathers
Chapters one and two (of six)
Ethics of the Fathers is a collection of writings noting the transmission of
teachings and teachings of various sages. Moses received the Torah from
Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the
Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the
Great Assembly. Pirkei Avos (Hebrew) for Ethics of the Fathers is a
collection of ethics and wisdom.
|Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Two
1. 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.
2.Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Judah HaNassi would say: Beautiful is the study of Torah with the way of the world, for the toil
of them both causes sin to be forgotten. Ultimately, all Torah study that is not accompanied with work is destined to cease and to
Those who work for the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for then merit of their ancestors shall aid them, and their
righteousness shall endure forever. And you, [says G-d,] I shall credit you with great reward as if you have achieved it.
3.Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is
beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.
4.He would also say: Make that His will should be your will, so that He should make your will to be as His will. Nullify your will
before His will, so that He should nullify the will of others before your will.
Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your
fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be
understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard].
And do not say "When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,'' for perhaps you will never free yourself.
5.He would also say: A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered
person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
6.He also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who
drowned you, will themselves be drowned.
7. He 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.
8. 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.
9. Rabban Yochanan the son of Zakkai had five disciples: Rabbi Eliezer the son of Hurkenus, Rabbi Joshua the son of Chananya,
Rabbi Yossei the Kohen, Rabbi Shimon the son of Nethanel, and Rabbi Elazar the son of Arach. He would recount their praises:
Rabbi Eliezer the son of Hurkenus is a cemented cistern that loses not a drop; Rabbi Joshua the son of Chananya---fortunate is she
who gave birth to him; Rabbi Yossei the Kohen---a chassid (pious one); Rabbi Shimon the son of Nethanel fears sin; Rabbi Elazar
ben Arach is as an ever-increasing wellspring.
[Rabbi Yochanan] used to say: If all the sages of Israel were to be in one cup of a balance-scale, and Eliezer the son of Hurkenus
were in the other, he would outweigh them all. Abba Shaul said in his name: If all the sages of Israel were to be in one cup of a
balance-scale, Eliezer the son of Hurkenus included, and Elazar the son of Arach were in the other, he would outweigh them all.
10. [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 ones 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
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.
They would each say three things:
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.** Warm yourself by the fire of the sages, but be beware lest you be burned by its embers; for their bite
is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals.
11. Rabbi Joshua would say: An evil eye, the evil inclination, and the hatred of one's fellows, drive a person from the world.
12. Rabbi Yossei would say: The property of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own. Perfect yourself for the study
of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you. And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven.
13. Rabbi Shimon would say: Be meticulous with the reading of the Shema and with prayer. When you pray, do not make your
prayers routine, but [an entreaty of] mercy and a supplication before the Almighty, as is stated ``For He is benevolent and merciful,
slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and relenting of the evil decree'' (Joel 2:13). And do not be wicked in your own eyes.
14. Rabbi Elazar would say: Be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic. And know before whom you toil,
and who is your employer who will repay you the reward of your labors.
15. Rabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is
16. 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.
>to chapters 3 and 4