Pirkei Avos – the Soul Food from Pesach to Shavous

As many of you know, there is a widespread Jewish custom of learning Pirkei Avos in the six week period between Pesach and Shavous. Some have the custom to keep on learning a perek a week until Rosh Hoshana.

Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld of Beit Shemesh, Israel has an excellent commentary to Pirkei Avos over at Torah.org.

A few years ago, to facilitate review of Pirkei Avos, I cut and pasted Rabbi Rosenthal’s translation into a document so that I could print off the perek of the week and keep it in my wallet for review. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the man administering Torah.org, Cross-Currents.com and other spreading Torah projects was gracious enough to allow the document to be downloaded here.

Here is the link for the English Translation of Pirkei Avos.

Here is the translation for Chapter One:

Chapter 1
1. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”
2. “Shimon the Righteous was of the last survivors of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, the world is based upon three things: on Torah, on service [of G-d], and on acts of kindness.”
3. “Antignos of Socho received the transmission from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say, do not be as servants who serve the Master to receive reward. Rather, be as servants who serve the Master not to receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.”
4. “Yossi ben (son of) Yo’ezer of Ts’raidah and Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem received the transmission from them. Yossi ben Yo’ezer used to say, let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”
5. “Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household, and do not talk excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who talks excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehinnom (Hell).”
6. “Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission from them (the Rabbis mentioned in Mishna 4). Yehoshua the son of Perachia said, make for yourself a Rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”
7. “Nittai of Arbel said, distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of punishment.”
8. “Yehuda the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shatach received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 6). Yehuda the son of Tabbai said, do not act as an adviser to judges. When the litigants are standing before you they should be in your eyes as guilty. When they are dismissed from before you they should be in your eyes as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”
9. “Shimon the son of Shatach said, examine witnesses thoroughly, and be careful with your words, lest through them they learn to lie.”
10. “Shemaya and Avtalyon received the tradition from them (the scholars mentioned in mishna 8). Shemaya said, love work, despise high position, and do not become too close to the authorities.”
11. “Avtalyon said: ‘Sages, be careful with your words lest you deserve to be exiled and are exiled to a place of bad waters. The students who come after you will drink of these waters and die and God’s Name will be desecrated.’ “
12. “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 10). Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”
13. “He (Hillel) used to say, one who seeks a name loses his name, one who does not increase decreases, one who does not learn deserves death, and one who makes use of the crown [of Torah] will pass away.”
14. “He (Hillel) used to say, if I am not for me who is for me, if I am for myself what am I, and if not now when.”
15. “Shammai said, make your Torah study fixed, say little and do much, and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
16. “Rabban Gamliel said, make for yourself a Rabbi, remove yourself from doubt, and do not give extra tithes due to estimation.”
17. “Shimon his [Rabban Gamliel’s] son said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the main thing but action. All who talk excessively bring about sin.”
18. “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel said, on three things does the world endure – justice, truth and peace, as the verse says (Zechariah 8:16), ‘Truth and judgments of peace judge in your gates.’ ”

Life is Too Short – So Why Waste Precious Time

It’s week 2 for Pirkei Avos and in Mishnah 20, Rabbi Tarfon said, “the day is short, the work is great, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master of the house presses.”

The Maharal explains that this Mishna refers to learning Torah and since life is too short we cannot afford to waste time given the magnitude of Torah, our limited ability and Hashem’s expectations. The Mishnah does not demand the impossible since a human cannot be expected to be an angel, devoid of physical limitation. However, we are expected to emulate spiritual beings in terms of energy and dedication. The Maharal points out that to waste the limited resources that we do have is a sin. Rather we must be diligent and focused in our studies as if we intend to finish the Torah.

Most of us are far from this level and we have to grow step by step, so a reasonable commitment to learn 5-10 minutes more a day or perhaps spend some time on Pirkei Avos this week. As the Mishnah points out, the reward is great, so it’s well worth the effort.

Here is the rest of the Pirkei Avos for Chapter 2:

1. “Rabbi said, What is the proper path that one should choose for himself? Whatever is glorious / praiseworthy for himself, and honors him before others. Be careful with a minor mitzvah (commandment) like a severe one, for you do not know the reward for the mitzvos. Consider the loss incurred for performing a mitzvah compared to its reward, and the pleasure received for sinning compared to the punishment. Consider three things and you will not come to sin. Know what is above you – an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a book.”

2. “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said, Torah study is good with a worldly occupation, because the exertion put into both of them makes one forget sin. All Torah without work will in the end result in waste and will cause sinfulness. All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community’s forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will reward you greatly as if you accomplished it on your own.”

3. “Be careful with authorities, for they do not befriend a person except for their own sake. They appear as friends when they benefit from it, but they do not stand by a person in his time of need.”

4. “He used to say, make His will your will, so that He will make your will His will. Annul your will before His will, so that He will annul the will of others before your will.”
Read more Life is Too Short – So Why Waste Precious Time

Pirkei Avos – First Perek

As you probably know there is a custom to learn Pirkei Avos between Pesach and Shavuos.

You can download an English translation here (Translation by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld from his commentary at http://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos). For those who don’t like to download PDFs, here is the First Perek/Chapter One:

Chapter 1

1. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”

2. “Shimon the Righteous was of the last survivors of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, the world is based upon three things: on Torah, on service [of G-d], and on acts of kindness.”

3. “Antignos of Socho received the transmission from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say, do not be as servants who serve the Master to receive reward. Rather, be as servants who serve the Master not to receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.”

4. “Yossi ben (son of) Yo’ezer of Ts’raidah and Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem received the transmission from them. Yossi ben Yo’ezer used to say, let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”

5. “Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household, and do not talk excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who talks excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehinnom (Hell).”

6. “Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission from them (the Rabbis mentioned in Mishna 4). Yehoshua the son of Perachia said, make for yourself a Rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”

7. “Nittai of Arbel said, distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of punishment.”

8. “Yehuda the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shatach received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 6). Yehuda the son of Tabbai said, do not act as an adviser to judges. When the litigants are standing before you they should be in your eyes as guilty. When they are dismissed from before you they should be in your eyes as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”

9. “Shimon the son of Shatach said, examine witnesses thoroughly, and be careful with your words, lest through them they learn to lie.”

10. “Shemaya and Avtalyon received the tradition from them (the scholars mentioned in mishna 8). Shemaya said, love work, despise high position, and do not become too close to the authorities.”

11. “Avtalyon said: ‘Sages, be careful with your words lest you deserve to be exiled and are exiled to a place of bad waters. The students who come after you will drink of these waters and die and God’s Name will be desecrated.’ “

12. “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 10). Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”

13. “He (Hillel) used to say, one who seeks a name loses his name, one who does not increase decreases, one who does not learn deserves death, and one who makes use of the crown [of Torah] will pass away.”

14. “He (Hillel) used to say, if I am not for me who is for me, if I am for myself what am I, and if not now when.”

15. “Shammai said, make your Torah study fixed, say little and do much, and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”

16. “Rabban Gamliel said, make for yourself a Rabbi, remove yourself from doubt, and do not give extra tithes due to estimation.”

17. “Shimon his [Rabban Gamliel’s] son said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the main thing but action. All who talk excessively bring about sin.”

18. “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel said, on three things does the world endure – justice, truth and peace, as the verse says (Zechariah 8:16), ‘Truth and judgments of peace judge in your gates.’ ”

Sixth Perek for Pirkei Avos

This week is the Sixth Perek for Pirkei Avos. Here is the link for an English Translation of all six Perakim culled from Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld’s translation and commentary at Torah.org. The full text of Pirkei Avos in Hebrew can be found here.

Torah.org also has some of the Maharal’s commentary for Pirkei Avos and you can purchase the Art Scroll adaptation of the Maharal’s commentary here.

Here is Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avos

1. “Rabbi Meir (Mai-eer) said, anyone who engages in Torah study for its own sake (‘lishma’) merits many things. Not only that, but the entire world is worthwhile for him alone. He is called ‘friend’ and ‘beloved,’ he loves G-d, he loves man, he brings joy to G-d, he brings joy to man. It (the Torah) clothes him in humility and fear. It enables him to be righteous, pious, upright, and faithful. It distances him from sin and brings him to merit. People gain from him advice and wisdom, understanding and strength, as it says, ‘To me is advice and wisdom, I am understanding, and strength is mine’ (Proverbs 8:14). It gives him kingship, dominion and analytical judgment. It reveals to him the secrets of the Torah. He becomes like a waxing stream and an unceasing river. He becomes modest, slow to anger, and forgiving of the wrongs done to him. It makes him great and exalted above all of creation.”
2. “Rabbi Yehoshua ben (son of) Levi said, on every day a heavenly voice emanates from Mount Horeb, announcing: ‘Woe to them, the people, because of the affront to the Torah.’ For anyone who does not study is called ‘rebuked,’ as the verse says ‘As a golden ring in a swine’s snout, so too is a beautiful woman who has turned from sound reason’ (Proverbs 11:22). It also says, ‘And the tablets were the handiwork of G-d, and the writing was G-d’s writing engraved on the tablets’ (Exodus 32:16). Do not read ‘charoos’ (‘engraved’), rather ‘chairoos’ (‘free’). For you will not find a freer person than one who is involved in Torah study. For all those who study Torah are uplifted, as it states, ‘From Matanah [the Israelites traveled to] Nachaliel, and from Nachaliel to Bamos’ (Numbers 21:19).”
3. “One who learns from his fellow a single chapter [of Torah], a single law, a single verse, a single statement, or even a single letter, must treat him with honor. For so we find with David, King of Israel, who learned from Achitofel two things alone, and he called him his teacher, his guide, and his intimate, as it is said: ‘And you are a man of my worth, my guide and intimate’ (Psalms 55:14). And does not this matter allow for logical deduction: If David, King of Israel, who learned from Achitofel two things alone, called him his teacher, guide and intimate, one who learns from his fellow one chapter, one law, one verse, one statement, or even one letter, all the more so must he treat him with honor. And honor is [only due for] Torah, as it says: ‘Honor – the wise shall inherit’ (Proverbs 3:35); ‘And perfect ones will inherit good’ (ibid., 28:10). And there is no good other than Torah, as it says, ‘For a good possession have I given you; do not forsake My Torah’ (ibid., 4:2).”
4. “This is the way of the Torah: Bread and salt will you eat, measured water will you drink, on the ground will you sleep, a life of suffering will you live, and in the Torah will you labor. If you do this, ‘You are fortunate and it is good for you’ (Psalms 128:2). ‘You are fortunate’ – in this world; ‘and it is good for you’ – in the World to Come.”
5. “Do not seek greatness for yourself and do not crave honor. Do more than you have studied and do not desire the ‘table’ of kings. For your table is greater than their table, and your crown is greater than their crown. And your Employer can be trusted to pay you the reward for your efforts.”
6. “Torah is greater than priesthood and kingship, for kingship is acquired with 30 qualities, priesthood is acquired with 24, whereas the Torah is acquired with 48 ways. These are: (1) study, (2) attentive listening, (3) articulate expression, (4) understanding of the heart and perception of the heart, (5) awe, (6) fear, (7) modesty, (8) joy, (9) service of the sages, (10) careful discussion with colleagues, (11) sharp discussion with students, (12) composure, (13) Scriptures and Mishna, (14) limited business activity, (15) limited involvement with the world (some translate: sexual activity), (16) limited enjoyment, (17) limited sleep, (18) limited light conversation, (19) limited laughter, (20) slowness to anger, (21) a good heart, (22) trust in the Sages, (23) acceptance of suffering, (24) knowing one’s place, (25) being happy with one’s lot, (26) making a fence for one’s words, (27) not taking credit for oneself, (28) being loved, (29) loving G-d, (30) loving mankind, (31) loving righteousness, (32) loving justice, (33) loving reproof, (34) keeping far from honor, (35) not being arrogant with decision-making, (36) sharing his fellow’s yoke, (37) judging him favorably, (38) setting him on a peaceful course, (39) thinking deliberately in his study, (40) asking and answering, listening and contributing, (41) learning in order to teach, (42) learning in order to practice, (43) making his teacher wiser, (44) pondering over what he has learned, (45) repeating a saying in the name of the one who said it”
7. “Great is Torah, for it gives life to its doers in this world and in the next world, as it is written: ‘For they (the teachings of the Torah) give life to those who find them and healing to all flesh’ (Proverbs 4:22). It also says: ‘Healing will it be for your flesh and marrow for your bones’ (ibid., 3:8). It also says: ‘It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and those who support it are fortunate’ (3:18). And it says: ‘They are a graceful garland for your head and necklaces for your throat’ (1:9). And it says: ‘It will give your head a graceful garland; it will provide you a crown of glory’ (4:9). And it says: ‘For in me (the Torah) will you lengthen days, and years of life will be added to you’ (9:11). And it says: ‘Length of days in its right hand; in its left are wealth and honor’ (3:16). And it is written: ‘For length of days, years of life, and peace will they (the Torah’s teachings) increase for you’ (3:2).”
8. “Rabbi Shimon ben (son of) Yehuda said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: Beauty, strength, wealth, honor, wisdom, old age, fullness of years, and children are fitting for the righteous and fitting for the world, as it is written: ‘A crown of majesty is old age; it will be found along the path of righteousness’ (Proverbs 16:31). And it says: ‘The crown of the aged is grandchildren, and the glory of children is their fathers’ (17:6). And it says: ‘The glory of young men is their strength, and the majesty of old men is age’ (20:29). And it is written: ‘And the moon will be darkened and the sun will grow ashamed for the L-rd of Hosts rules in Mount Zion and Jerusalem, and before his elders will be honor’ (Isaiah 24:23). Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya said: These seven qualities which the Sages listed regarding the righteous were all fulfilled in Rabbi [Yehuda the Prince] and his sons.”
9. “Rabbi Yossi ben (son of) Kisma said: One time I was walking along the way and a certain man met me. He greeted me and I returned the greeting. He said to me: ‘Rabbi, where are you from?’ I responded: ‘I am from a large city of scholars and scribes.’ He said to me: ‘Rabbi, would you be willing to dwell among us in our place, and I will give you hundreds of thousands of gold coins, precious stones and pearls?’ I said to him: ‘Even if you would give me all the silver, gold, precious stones, and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere other than a place of Torah.’ So too it was written in the Book of Psalms by David, King of Israel: ‘The Torah of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver [coins]’ (119:72). And further, when a person departs this world neither his silver, gold, precious stones, or pearls accompany him, but only his Torah study and good deeds, as it is written: ‘When you walk it will guide you, when you lie down it will protect you, and when you arise it will speak for you’ (Proverbs 6:22). ‘When you walk it will guide you’ – in this world; ‘when you lie down it will protect you’ – in the grave; ‘and when you arise it will speak for you’ – in the World to Come. And it says: ‘To Me is silver and gold says the L-rd of hosts’ (Chaggai 2:8).”

Torah Study and Worldly Occupation

This week 2 is the third cycle of Pirkei Avos. In the second mishna of the third perek it says:

Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said, Torah study is good with a worldly occupation, because the exertion put into both of them makes one forget sin. All Torah without work will ultimately result in desolation and will cause sinfulness.

All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community’s forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will reward you greatly as if you accomplished it on your own.

Commentary from Rabbi Goldson from this post on Aish:

Rabban Gamliel first taught that, even though there is no higher calling than Torah study, Torah will come to nothing unless it is channeled into positive action. We might think, therefore, that we must sacrifice some Torah in order to preserve the rest.

At the end of the Mishna, Rabban Gamliel assures us that directing Torah into positive action is the highest expression of Torah itself, whether that action takes the form of professional occupation or of extending oneself to benefit the community. There is no loss. Just the opposite: by taking time away from Torah to ensure the preservation of Torah values and ideals, we receive credit as if we had immersed ourselves in Torah without interruption. By taking time away from Torah study is in order to put Torah ideals into practice, then our reward will continue to multiply over and over again.

Pirkei Avos Week 2

This week is the second Perek for Pirkei Avos. Here is the link for an English Translation of all six Perakim culled from Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld’s translation and commentary at Torah.org. The full text of Pirkei Avos in Hebrew can be found here.

Torah.org also has some of the Maharal’s commentary for Pirkei Avos and you can purchase the Art Scroll adaptation of the Maharal’s commentary here.

Here is Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos

1. “Rabbi said, What is the proper path that one should choose for himself? Whatever is glorious / praiseworthy for himself, and honors him before others. Be careful with a minor mitzvah (commandment) like a severe one, for you do not know the reward for the mitzvos. Consider the loss incurred for performing a mitzvah compared to its reward, and the pleasure received for sinning compared to the punishment. Consider three things and you will not come to sin. Know what is above you – an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a book.”
2. “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince said, Torah study is good with a worldly occupation, because the exertion put into both of them makes one forget sin. All Torah without work will in the end result in waste and will cause sinfulness. All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for the merit of the community’s forefathers will help them, and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will reward you greatly as if you accomplished it on your own.”
3. “Be careful with authorities, for they do not befriend a person except for their own sake. They appear as friends when they benefit from it, but they do not stand by a person in his time of need.”
4. “He used to say, make His will your will, so that He will make your will His will. Annul your will before His will, so that He will annul the will of others before your will.”
5. “Hillel said, do not separate from the community, do not trust yourself until the day you die, do not judge your friend until you reach his place, do not make a statement which cannot be understood which will (only) later be understood, and do not say when I have free time I will learn, lest you do not have free time.”
6. “He (Hillel) used to say, a boor cannot fear sin, nor can an unlearned person be pious. A bashful person cannot learn, nor can an impatient one teach. Those who are involved excessively in business will not become a scholar. In a place where there are no men, endeavor to be a man.”
7. “He (Hillel) also saw a skull floating on the water. He said to it: ‘Because you drowned you were drowned, and in the end those who drowned you will be drowned.'”
8. “He (Hillel) used to say, the more flesh the more worms, the more property the more worry, the more wives the more witchcraft, the more maidservants the more lewdness, the more slaves the more thievery. The more Torah the more life, the more study the more wisdom, the more advice the more understanding, the more charity the more peace. One who acquires a good name acquires it for himself; one who acquires words of Torah acquires a share in the World to Come.”
9. “Rabban Yochanan ben (the son of) Zakkai received [the transmission] from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say, if you have studied much Torah do not take credit for yourself because you were created for this.”
10. “Rabban Yochanan ben (the son of) Zakkai had five [primary] students. They were: Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, Rabbi Yossi the Priest, Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel, and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach.”
11. “He (Rabban Yochanan ben (son of) Zakkai) used to list their praises (the praises of his five primary students). Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos is a cemented pit which never loses a drop; Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya fortunate is she who bore him; Rabbi Yossi the Priest is pious; Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel fears sin; and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach is as an increasing river.”
12. “He used to say, if all the sages of Israel would be on one side of a scale and Eliezer ben Hurkenos on the second side, he would outweigh them all. Abba Shaul said in his name, if all the Sages of Israel would be on one side of a scale with even Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos among them, and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach on the second side, he would outweigh them all.”
13. “He (Rabban Yochanan) said to them (his students) go out and see which is a good way to which someone should cleave. Rabbi Eliezer said a good eye; Rabbi Yehoshua said a good friend; Rabbi Yossi said a good neighbor; Rabbi Shimon said one who considers consequences. Rabbi Elazar said a good heart. He said to them, I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are your words.”
14. “He (Rabban Yochanan) said to them (his students) go out and see which is a bad way which a person should avoid. Rabbi Eliezer said a bad eye. Rabbi Yehoshua said a bad friend. Rabbi Yossi said a bad neighbor. Rabbi Shimon said one who borrows and does not pay back. One who borrows from a person is as one who borrows from G-d, as it says, “A wicked person borrows and does not repay, but the Righteous One is gracious and gives” (Psalms 37:21). Rabbi Elazar said a bad heart. He said to them, I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are your words.”
15. “They (the five students of Rabban Yochanan – see above Mishna 10) each said three things. Rabbi Eliezer said: The honor of your fellow should be as dear to you as your own. Do not get angry easily. Repent one day before you die. Warm yourself before the fire of the Sages. But be wary with their coals that you do not get burnt, for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss of a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals.”
16. “Rabbi Yehoshua said, an evil eye, the evil inclination, and hatred of another person remove a person from this world.”
17. “Rabbi Yossi said, let your fellow’s property be as dear to you as your own, prepare yourself to study Torah because it is not an inheritance to you, and all of your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.”
18. “Rabbi Shimon said, be careful in reading the Shema and the prayers. When you pray, do not regard your prayers as a fixed obligation, rather they should be [the asking for] mercy and supplication before G-d, as the verse says, “For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, great in kindness, and relenting of the evil decree” (Joel 2:13). Do not consider yourself a wicked person.”
19. “Rabbi Elazar said, be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic. Know before Whom you toil. And faithful is your Employer that He will pay you the reward for your labor.”
20. “Rabbi Tarfon said, the day is short, the work is great, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master of the house presses.”
21. “He (Rabbi Tarfon) used to say, it is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be given much reward, and faithful is your Employer that He will reward you for your labor. And know that the reward of the righteous will be given in the World to Come.”

Selected Pirkei Avos From Chapter 5

4. “Our forefather Abraham was tested with ten trials and withstood all of them. This shows the love our forefather Abraham had [for G-d].”

9. “Seven things apply to an uncultured person (Heb. ‘golem’), and seven to a wise person.
A wise person does not speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom or years;
he does not interrupt his fellow;
he is not rushed to respond;
he asks relevant questions;
he answers accurately;
he discusses first things first and last things last;
on what he did not hear, he says ‘I did not hear;’ and he admits to the truth.
The opposite of these is true of the golem.”

13. “There are four character types among people.
One who says ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours’ is of average character, and some say – this is the character of Sodom.
[One who says] ‘what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine’ – is unlearned (lit., [of] the people of the land).
[One who says] ‘what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours’ – is pious.
[One who says] ‘what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine’ – is wicked.”

14. “There are four types of temperaments.
One who is quick to become angry and quick to calm down – his gain is outweighed by his loss.
One who is slow to become angry and slow to calm down – his loss is outweighed by his gain.
One who is slow to become angry and quick to calm down is pious.
One who is quick to become angry and slow to calm down is wicked.”

15. “There are four types of students.
One who is quick to understand and quick to forget – his gain is outweighed by his loss.
One who is slow to understand and slow to forget – his loss is outweighed by his gain.
One who is quick to understand and slow to forget – this is a good portion.
One who is slow to understand and quick to forget – this is a bad portion.”

19. “Any love which is dependent on something, when the ‘something’ ceases, the love ceases. Any love which is not dependent on anything will never cease. What is a love which is dependent? The love of Amnon for Tamar. What is a love which is not dependent? The love of David and Yehonasan.”

20. “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure. What is a dispute for the sake of Heaven? This is a debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a dispute not for the sake of Heaven? This is the dispute of Korach and his assembly.”

23. “Yehuda ben (son of) Taima said, be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven.”

25. “He (Yehuda ben Taima) used to say,
at five [one should begin the study of] Scriptures;
at ten, Mishna;
at thirteen [one becomes obligated in] the commandments;
at fifteen [the study of] the Talmud;
at eighteen the wedding canopy;
at twenty to pursue;
at thirty strength;
at forty understanding;
at fifty counsel;
at sixty old age;
at seventy fullness of years;
at eighty spiritual strength;
at ninety bending over;
at one hundred it is as if he has died and passed on from this world.”

26. “Ben (son of) Bag Bag said, turn the Torah over and over for everything is in it. Look into it, grow old and gray over it, and never move away from it, for you will find no better portion than it.”

27. “Ben (son of) Hai Hai said, according to the effort is the reward.”

Pirkei Avos from the Top

It’s week one again for Pirkei Avos and you can download an English translation here (Translation by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld from his commentary at http://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos). For those who don’t like to download PDFs, here is Chapter One:

Chapter 1
1. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”
2. “Shimon the Righteous was of the last survivors of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, the world is based upon three things: on Torah, on service [of G-d], and on acts of kindness.”
3. “Antignos of Socho received the transmission from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say, do not be as servants who serve the Master to receive reward. Rather, be as servants who serve the Master not to receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.”
4. “Yossi ben (son of) Yo’ezer of Ts’raidah and Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem received the transmission from them. Yossi ben Yo’ezer used to say, let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”
5. “Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household, and do not talk excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who talks excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehinnom (Hell).”
6. “Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission from them (the Rabbis mentioned in Mishna 4). Yehoshua the son of Perachia said, make for yourself a Rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”
7. “Nittai of Arbel said, distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of punishment.”
8. “Yehuda the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shatach received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 6). Yehuda the son of Tabbai said, do not act as an adviser to judges. When the litigants are standing before you they should be in your eyes as guilty. When they are dismissed from before you they should be in your eyes as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”
9. “Shimon the son of Shatach said, examine witnesses thoroughly, and be careful with your words, lest through them they learn to lie.”
10. “Shemaya and Avtalyon received the tradition from them (the scholars mentioned in mishna 8). Shemaya said, love work, despise high position, and do not become too close to the authorities.”
11. “Avtalyon said: ‘Sages, be careful with your words lest you deserve to be exiled and are exiled to a place of bad waters. The students who come after you will drink of these waters and die and God’s Name will be desecrated.’ “
12. “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 10). Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”
13. “He (Hillel) used to say, one who seeks a name loses his name, one who does not increase decreases, one who does not learn deserves death, and one who makes use of the crown [of Torah] will pass away.”
14. “He (Hillel) used to say, if I am not for me who is for me, if I am for myself what am I, and if not now when.”
15. “Shammai said, make your Torah study fixed, say little and do much, and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
16. “Rabban Gamliel said, make for yourself a Rabbi, remove yourself from doubt, and do not give extra tithes due to estimation.”
17. “Shimon his [Rabban Gamliel’s] son said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the main thing but action. All who talk excessively bring about sin.”
18. “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel said, on three things does the world endure – justice, truth and peace, as the verse says (Zechariah 8:16), ‘Truth and judgments of peace judge in your gates.’ ”

JIB Awards and Pirkei Avos

The JIB (Jewish and Israeli Blogger) Award nominations are open. The awards bring an awareness of some of the great Jewish blogs out there. If there are any particular posts you like, you can nominate them for the Best Jewish Religious Post and the Best Torah Post Nominations.

We’re not such big fans of the word Best. Best implies comparison and in general comparisons are not proper from a Torah perspective with some limited exceptions like Kinas Soferim. The job of each Jew is to take their unique heredity, environment and circumstances and get as close to Hashem as possible. Comparisons have no role there except for each of us becoming a better Jew today than we were tomorrow.

The structure of awards are such that comparisons are inherent. In this particular case striving for “Best” will hopefully bring about some good and Beyond BT contributor Akiva is one of the organizers of the Awards and the Awards provide a means for Jews to unite around a common project. So, we’re throwing our hat in the ring and when the time comes we’ll softly encourage you to NOMINATE AND VOTE FOR BEYOND BT, for the good of the Klal of course.

It’s week one for Pirkei Avos and you can download an English translation here (Translation by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld from his commentary at http://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos). For those who don’t like to download PDFs, here is Chapter One:

Chapter 1
1. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”
2. “Shimon the Righteous was of the last survivors of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, the world is based upon three things: on Torah, on service [of G-d], and on acts of kindness.”
3. “Antignos of Socho received the transmission from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say, do not be as servants who serve the Master to receive reward. Rather, be as servants who serve the Master not to receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.”
4. “Yossi ben (son of) Yo’ezer of Ts’raidah and Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem received the transmission from them. Yossi ben Yo’ezer used to say, let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”
5. “Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household, and do not talk excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who talks excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehinnom (Hell).”
6. “Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission from them (the Rabbis mentioned in Mishna 4). Yehoshua the son of Perachia said, make for yourself a Rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”
7. “Nittai of Arbel said, distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of punishment.”
8. “Yehuda the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shatach received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 6). Yehuda the son of Tabbai said, do not act as an adviser to judges. When the litigants are standing before you they should be in your eyes as guilty. When they are dismissed from before you they should be in your eyes as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”
9. “Shimon the son of Shatach said, examine witnesses thoroughly, and be careful with your words, lest through them they learn to lie.”
10. “Shemaya and Avtalyon received the tradition from them (the scholars mentioned in mishna 8). Shemaya said, love work, despise high position, and do not become too close to the authorities.”
11. “Avtalyon said: ‘Sages, be careful with your words lest you deserve to be exiled and are exiled to a place of bad waters. The students who come after you will drink of these waters and die and God’s Name will be desecrated.’ “
12. “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 10). Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”
13. “He (Hillel) used to say, one who seeks a name loses his name, one who does not increase decreases, one who does not learn deserves death, and one who makes use of the crown [of Torah] will pass away.”
14. “He (Hillel) used to say, if I am not for me who is for me, if I am for myself what am I, and if not now when.”
15. “Shammai said, make your Torah study fixed, say little and do much, and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
16. “Rabban Gamliel said, make for yourself a Rabbi, remove yourself from doubt, and do not give extra tithes due to estimation.”
17. “Shimon his [Rabban Gamliel’s] son said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the main thing but action. All who talk excessively bring about sin.”
18. “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel said, on three things does the world endure – justice, truth and peace, as the verse says (Zechariah 8:16), ‘Truth and judgments of peace judge in your gates.’ ”