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Pirkei Avos – Perek 3 – Mishnayos 1-14

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Great Talmudic sages

Akavia ben Mahalalel said: Keep in mind three things, And you will not come into the hands of sin: Know: From where you came, And to where you are going, And before Whom you will have to give an account and a reckoning. From where did you come? From a putrid drop. And to where are you going? To a place of dust, worms, and maggots. And before Whom will you have to give an account and a reckoning? Before the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

2

Rabbi Chanina, the Deputy High Priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, For were it not for the fear of it, One person would eat the other alive. Rabbi Chanania ben Tradyon said: [When] two sit together and there are no words of Torah [spoken] between them, This is a session of scorners, As it is said (in Psalm 1:1): “[Happy is the man who has] not . . . sat in the seat of the scornful.”

But [when] two sit together and there are words of Torah [spoken] between them, The Divine Presence rests with them, As it is said (in Malachi 3:16): “Then they who feared the Lord spoke one with another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them who feared the Lord and who thought upon His Name.”

[The Mishnah asks:] I have no [Scriptural support for the proposition that the Divine Presence rests with them] except [with] two. From where [is there proof that] even [when there is only] one [person studying Torah], The Holy One, Blessed be He, determines a reward for him? As it is said (in Lamentations 3:28): “Though he sits alone and [meditates] in silence, yet he takes [a reward] to himself.”

3

Rabbi Shimon says: Three who ate at one table and did not say upon it words of Torah – it is as if they ate from the offerings of corpses, as it is said (quoting Isaiah 28:8): “For all of the tables are full of vomit and feces without the Omnipresent.” However, three who ate at one table and said upon it words of Torah – it is as if they ate from the table of the Omnipresent, blessed be He, as it is said (quoting Ezekiel 41:22): “And he said to me, this is the table that is before Hashem.”

4

Rabbi Hanina the son of Hachinai says: He who stays awake at night, and wanders on a solitary road, and empties his heart for folly, is deemed by Scripture to be as if he was guilty [of an offense punishable by the forfeiture] of his life.

5

R. Nechunya b. Hakanah said: Anyone who accepts the yoke of Torah upon himself will have the yoke of kingship and the yoke of “the way of the land” lifted from him. And anyone who rejects from himself the yoke of Torah will have the yoke of kingship and the yoke of “the way of the land” placed upon him.

6

Rabbi Chalafta [ben Dosa] of Kfar Chananiah said: [When] ten sit together and occupy themselves with Torah, The Divine Presence rests among them, As it is said (in Psalm 82:1): “God stands in the congregation of God.” And from where [can one learn that the Divine Presence rests] even [among] five? As it is said (in Amos 9:6): “And He has founded His band upon the earth.” And from where [can one learn that the Divine Presence rests] even [among] three?

As it is said (in Psalm 82:1): “In the midst of the judges He judges.” And from where [can one learn that the Divine Presence rests] even [with] two? As it is said (in Malachi 3:16): “Then they who feared the Lord spoke one with another, And the Lord hearkened, and heard.” And from where [can one learn that the Divine Presence rests] even [with] one?

As it is said (in Exodus 20:20(20:21 in NJPS)): “In every place where I cause My Name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.”

7

Rabbi Elazar of Bartuta says: Give Him what is His, for you and yours are His. And so says David, “For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee” (I Chronicles 29:14). Rabbi Shimon says: He who is walking on his way while repeating his studies, and interrupts his studies and says, ‘How lovely is this tree! And how lovely is this newly plowed field!’ is deemed by Scripture to be as if he was guilty [of an offense punishable by the forfeiture] of his life.

8

Rabbi Dostai son of Rabbi Yannai in the name of Rabbi Meir says: Anyone who forgets one matter from his studies – Scripture considers him as if he is liable for [forfeiture of] his life, as it is said (Deuteronomy 4:9) “Only guard thyself, and guard thy life diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw.”

One could [suppose this statement applies to] even one whose studies have overpowered him, therefore, the verse says, “and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life” – he is not liable for [forfeiture of] his life until he sits down and [intentionally] removes them from his mind.

9

Rabbi Chanina son of Dosa says: Anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom endures. And anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom does not endure. He would [also] say: Anyone whose actions are more plentiful than his wisdom, his wisdom endures. And anyone whose wisdom is more plentiful than his actions, his wisdom does not endure.

10

He would say: Anyone from whom the spirit of creations receive pleasure, from him the spirit of God finds pleasure. And anyone from whom the spirit of creations do not receive pleasure, from him the spirit of God does not find pleasure. Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinus says: Late morning sleep, midday wine, chatter of children, and sitting in the assembly houses of the Am Ha’aretz [those who are lax in observing tithes and purity laws] remove a person from the world.

11

Rabbi Elazar of Modi’in says: One who profanes the Kodeshim [sacred material], and desecrates the holidays, and whitens [embarrasses] the face of another in public, and nullifies the covenant of Abraham our father, peace be upon him, and reveals meanings in the Torah that run contrary to the law, even though he has Torah knowledge and good deeds, he has no share in the world to come.

12

Rabbi Yishmael says: Be yielding to an elder, pleasant to a youth and greet all of mankind with joy.

13

Rabbi Akiva says: Joking and lightheartedness acclimate toward promiscuity. Tradition is a safeguarding fence around Torah. Tithes are a safeguarding fence around wealth. Vows are a safeguarding fence around abstinence. The safeguarding fence around wisdom: silence.

14

He would say: Beloved is humankind, since it is created in the image [of God]. A deeper love – it is revealed to him that he is created in the image, as it says (Genesis 9:6) “for in God’s image He made humankind.” Beloved are Israel, since they are called children of God.

A deeper love – it is revealed to them that they are called children to God, as it says (Deuteronomy 14:1) “You are children of the Lord your God.” Beloved are Israel, since a precious instrument has been given to them. A deeper love – it is revealed to them that the precious instrument of the world’s creation has been given to them, as it says (Proverbs 4:2) “For a good lesson I have given to you; do not forsake my teaching.”

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