|Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Five and Six
1. The world was created with ten utterances. What does this come to teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single
utterance. However, this is in order to make the wicked accountable for destroying a world that was created with ten utterances, and
to reward the righteous for sustaining a world that was created with ten utterances.
2. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah. This is to teach us the extent of G-d's tolerance; for all these generations angered
Him, until He brought upon them the waters of the Flood.
There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham. This is to teach us the extent of G-d's tolerance; for all these generations
angered Him, until Abraham came and reaped the reward for them all.
3. With ten tests our father Abraham was tested and he withstood them all--in order to make known how great was our father
Abraham's love [for G-d].
4. Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in Egypt, and another ten at the sea. Ten afflictions were wrought by G-d upon
the Egyptians in Egypt, and another ten at the sea. With ten tests our forefathers tested G-d in the desert, as is stated (Numbers
14:22), "They tested Me these ten times, and did not hearken to My voice."
5. Ten miracles were performed for our forefathers in the Holy Temple: No woman ever miscarried because of the smell of the holy
meat. The holy meat never spoiled. Never was a fly seen in the slaughterhouse. Never did the High Priest have an accidental seminal
discharge on Yom Kippur. The rains did not extinguish the wood-fire burning upon the altar. The wind did not prevail over the
column of smoke [rising from the altar]. No disqualifying problem was ever discovered in the Omer offering, the Two Loaves or the
Showbread. They stood crowded but had ample space in which to prostrate themselves. Never did a snake or scorpion cause injury
in Jerusalem. And no man ever said to his fellow "My lodging in Jerusalem is too cramped for me."
6. Ten things were created at twilight of Shabbat eve. These are: the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach]; the mouth of
[Miriam's] well; the mouth of [Balaam's] ass; the rainbow; the manna; [Moses'] staff; the shamir; the writing, the inscription and the
tablets [of the Ten Commandments]. Some say also the burial place of Moses and the ram of our father Abraham. And some say
also the spirits of destruction as well as the original tongs, for tongs are made with tongs.
7. There are seven things that characterize a boor, and seven that characterize a wise man. A wise man does not speak before one
who is greater than him in wisdom or age. He does not interrupt his fellow's words. He does not hasten to answer. His questions are
on the subject and his answers to the point. He responds to first things first and to latter things later. Concerning what he did not
hear, he says "I did not hear." He concedes to the truth. With the boor, the reverse of all these is the case.
8. Seven types of retribution come to the world, for seven types of sin. When some tithe and others don't, a hunger caused by
turmoil ensues: some are hungry, others have their fill of food. When all are unanimous in their failure to tithe, a hunger by drought
ensues. For not separating chalah, an annihilating hunger results.
Plagues come to the world for those capital crimes mentioned in the Torah that have not been given over to the court, and for
desecrating the produce of the sabbatical year.
The sword comes to the world for the procrastination of justice, the corruption of justice, and because of those who misinterpret the
9. Carnage by wild beasts comes to the world for false oaths and the desecration of G-d's name.
Exile comes to the world for idol-worship, sexual promiscuity, murder and the failure to leave the land fallow on the sabbatical year.
There are four time-periods when plagues increase: on the fourth and seventh years [of the sabbatical cycle], on the year following
the seventh, and following the festivals of each year. On the fourth year, because of [the neglect of] the tithe to the poor that must
be given on the third year; on the seventh, because of the tithe to the poor that must be given on the sixth; on the year after the
seventh, because of the produce of the sabbatical year; and following each festival, because of the robbing of the poor of the gifts
due to them.
10. 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 a
Sodomite. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. Any love that is dependent on something--when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on
anything never ceases. What is [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar. And one that
is not dependent on anything? The love of David and Jonathan.
17. Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is destined to endure; one that is not for the sake of Heaven is not destined to endure.
Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The dispute(s) between Hillel and Shamai. Which is a dispute that is not for the
sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and all his company.
18. One who causes the community to be meritorious, no sin will come by his hand. One who causes the community to sin, is not
given the opportunity to repent. Moses was meritorious and caused the community to be meritorious, so the community's merit is
attributed to him; as is stated, "He did G-d's righteousness, and His laws with Israel" (Deuteronomy 33:21). Jeroboam the son of
Nebat sinned and caused the community to sin, so the community's sin is attributed to him; as is stated, "For the sins of Jeroboam,
which he sinned and caused Israel to sin" (I Kings 15:30).
19. Whoever possesses the following three traits is of the disciples of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three
traits is of the disciples of the wicked Balaam. The disciples of our father Abraham have a good eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul.
The disciples of the wicked Balaam have an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a gross soul. What is the difference between the disciples
of our father Abraham and the disciples of the wicked Balaam? The disciples of our father Abraham benefit in this world and inherit
the World To Come, and as is stated, "To bequeath to those who love Me there is, and their treasures I shall fill" (Proverbs 8:21).
The disciples of the wicked Balaam inherit purgatory and descent into the pit of destruction, as is stated, "And You, G-d, shall cast
them into the pit of destruction; bloody and deceitful men, they shall not attain half their days. And I shall trust in you" (ibid., 55:24).
20. Judah the son of Teima would say: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleeting as a deer and mighty as a lion to do the will of
your Father in Heaven. He would also say: The brazen--to purgatory; the bashful--to paradise. May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and
G-d of our fathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days; and grant us our portion in Your Torah.
21. Ben Bag Bag would say: Delve and delve into it, for all is in it; see with it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for
there is nothing better.
Ben Hei Hei would say: According to the pain is the gain.
22. He would also say: Five years is the age for the study of Scripture. Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to
observe the mitzvot. Fifteen, for the study of Talmud. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood]. Thirty, for strength,
Forty, for understanding. Fifty, for counsel. Sixty, for sagacity. Seventy, for elderliness. Eighty, for power. Ninety, to stoop. A
hundred-year-old is as one who has died and passed away and has been negated from the world.
|Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Six
1. The sages expounded in the language of the Mishnah (blessed is He who chose them and their learning):
Rabbi Meir would say: Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things; not only that, but [the creation of] the
entire world is worthwhile for him alone. He is called friend, beloved, lover of G-d, lover of humanity, rejoicer of G-d, rejoicer of
humanity. The Torah enclothes him with humility and awe; makes him fit to be righteous, pious, correct and faithful; distances him
from sin and brings him close to merit. From him, people enjoy counsel and wisdom, understanding and power, as is stated
(Proverbs 8:14): "Mine are counsel and wisdom, I am understanding, mine is power." The Torah grants him sovereignty, dominion,
and jurisprudence. The Torah's secrets are revealed to him, and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring and as an unceasing
river. He becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults. The Torah uplifts him and makes him greater than all creations.
2. Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi: Every day, an echo resounds from Mount Horeb (Sinai) proclaiming and saying: "Woe is to the
creatures who insult the Torah." For one who does not occupy himself in Torah is considered an outcast, as is stated (Proverbs
11:22), "A golden nose-ring in the snout of a swine, a beautiful woman bereft of reason." And it says (Exodus 32:16): "And the
tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty"
(chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. And whoever occupies
himself with the study of Torah is elevated, as is stated (Number 21:19), "And from the gift to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to The
3. One who learns from his fellow a single chapter, or a single law, or a single verse, or a single word, or even a single letter, he
must treat him with respect. For so we find with David, king of Israel, who did not learn anything from Achitofel except for two
things alone, yet he called him his "master," his "guide" and his "intimate," as is stated (Psalms 55:14), "And you are a man of my
worth, my guide and intimate friend." Surely we can infer a fortiori: if David, king of Israel, who learned nothing from Achitofel
except for two things alone, nevertheless referred to him as his master, guide and intimate, it certainly goes without saying that one
who learns from his fellow a single chapter, a law, a verse, a saying, or even a single letter, is obligated to revere him. And there is
no reverence but Torah, as is stated (Proverbs 3:35; 28:10), "The sages shall inherit honor" "and the integral shall inherit good"; and
there is no good but Torah, as is stated (ibid. 4:2), "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it."
4. Such is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, water in small measure you shall drink, and upon the ground you shall
sleep; live a life of deprivation and toil in Torah. If so you do, "fortunate are you, and good is to you" (Psalms 128:2): fortunate are
you in this world, and it is good to you in the World To Come.
5. Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not lust for honor. More than you study, do. Desire not the table of kings, for your
table is greater than theirs, and your crown is greater than theirs, and faithful is your Employer to pay you the rewards of your work.
6. Torah is greater than the priesthood or sovereignty, for sovereignty is acquired with thirty virtues, the priesthood with
twenty-four, and Torah is acquired with forty-eight qualities. These are: study, listening, verbalizing, comprehension of the heart,
awe, fear, humility, joy, purity, serving the sages, companionship with one's contemporaries, debating with one's students,
tranquility, study of the scriptures, study of the Mishnah, minimizing engagement in business, minimizing socialization, minimizing
pleasure, minimizing sleep, minimizing talk, minimizing gaiety, slowness to anger, good heartedness, faith in the sages, acceptance of
suffering, knowing one's place, satisfaction with one's lot, qualifying one's words, not taking credit for oneself, likableness, love of
G-d, love of humanity, love of charity, love of justice, love of rebuke, fleeing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning, reluctance to
hand down rulings, participating in the burden of one's fellow, judging him to the side of merit, correcting him, bringing him to a
peaceful resolution [of his disputes], deliberation in study, asking and answering, listening and illuminating, learning in order to teach,
learning in order to observe, wising one's teacher, exactness in conveying a teaching, and saying something in the name of its
speaker. Thus we have learned: One who says something in the name of its speaker brings redemption to the world, as is stated
(Esther 2:22), "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai."
7. Great is Torah, for it gives life to its observers in this world, and in the World To Come. As is stated (Proverbs 4:22): "For they
are life to he who finds them, and a healing to all his flesh." And it says (ibid. 3:8): "It shall be health to your navel, and marrow to
your bones." And it says (3:18): "She is a tree of life for those who hold fast to her, and happy are those who support her." And it
says (1:9): "For they shall be a garland of grace for your head, and necklaces about your neck." And it says(4:9): "She shall give to
your head a garland of grace, a crown of glory she shall grant you." And it says (9:11): "With me, your days shall be increased, and
years of life shall be added to you." And it says (3:16): "Long days in her right hand; in her left, wealth and honor." And it says (3:2):
"For long days, years of life and peace, they shall add to you."
8. Rabbi Shimon the son of Judah would say in the name of Rabbi Shimon the son of Yochai: Beauty, strength, wealth, honor,
wisdom, sageness, old age and children are becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world. As is stated (Proverbs 16:31):
"Old age is a crown of beauty, to be found in the ways of righteousness." And it says (ibid. 20:29): "The beauty of youths is their
strength, and the glory of sages is their age." And it says (ibid., 17:6): "The crown of sages are their grandchildren, and the beauty of
children their fathers." And it says (Isaiah 24:23): "And the moon shall be abashed and the sun shamed, for the L-rd of hosts has
reigned in Zion, and before his elders is glory."
Rabbi Shimon the son of Menasia would say: these seven qualities enumerated by the sages for the righteous were all realized in
Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] and his sons.
9. Said Rabbi Yossei the son of Kisma: Once, I was traveling and I encountered a man. He greeted me and I returned his greetings.
Said he to me: "Rabbi, where are you from?" Said I to him: "From a great city of sages and scholars, am I." Said he to me: "Rabbi,
would you like to dwell with us in our place? I will give you a million dinars of gold, precious stones and pearls." Said I to him: "If
you were to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a place of Torah.
Indeed, so is written in the book of psalms by David the king of Israel: `I prefer the Torah of Your mouth over thousands in gold and
silver' (Psalms 118:72). Furthermore, when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls
accompany him, only Torah and good deeds, as is stated (Proverbs 6:22): `When you go it will direct you, when you lie down it will
watch over you, and when you awaken it shall be your speech.' `When you go it will direct you'---in this world; `when you lie down
it will watch over you'---in the grave; `and when you awaken it shall be our speech'---in the World To Come. Also it says (Chaggai
2:8): `Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, so says the L-rd of Hosts.' "
10. G-d acquired five acquisitions in his world. These are: one acquisition is the Torah, one acquisition are the heavens and the earth,
one acquisition is Abraham, one acquisition is the people of Israel, and one acquisition is the Holy Temple. The Torah, as it is written
(Proverbs 8:22), "G-d acquired me as the beginning of His way, before His works of yore." The heavens and the earth, as it is
written (Isaiah 66:1), "So says G-d: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool; what house, then, can you build for
Me, and where is My place of rest?"; and it says (Psalms 104:25), "How many are your works, O G-d, You have made them all with
wisdom; the earth is filled with Your acquisitions." Abraham, as it is written (Genesis 14:19), "And he blessed him, and said: Blessed
be Abram to G-d Most High, acquirer of heavens and earth." Israel, as it is written (Exodus 15:16), "Till Your nation, O G-d, shall
pass, till this nation You have acquired shall pass"; and it says (Psalms 16:3), "To the holy who are upon earth, the noble ones, in
whom is all My delight." The Holy Temple, as it is written (Exodus 15:17), "The base for Your dwelling that you, G-d, have
achieved; the Sanctuary, O L-rd, that Your hands have established"; and it says (Psalms 78:54), "And He brought them to His holy
domain, this mount His right hand has acquired."
11. Everything that G-d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory. As is stated (Isaiah 43:7): "All that is called by My
name and for My glory, I created it, formed it, also I made it." And it says (Exodus 15:1): "G-d shall reign forever and ever."