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Where Hebrew letters appeared within the English text, these have been transliterated and included in brackets. In many cases the hebrew has also been spelled out, thus: [tov (tet-vov-bet)].

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Library of Jewish Classics ==========================

I. Leopold Zunz: The Sufferings of the Jews During the Middle Ages II. Hyman Hurwitz: Talmudic Tales III. "Pirek Abot": The Sayings of the Jewish Fathers


The Sayings of the Jewish Fathers

[pirkei avot] "PIRKE ABOT" _______

Translated, with an Introduction and Notes


Author of "The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics"



CONTENTS PREFACE INTRODUCTION Name Purpose Description Contents Language Development of Abot Abot in Liturgy Bibliography CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI HEBREW TEXT (Appendix)


Notwithstanding the fact that there are many editions of the Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, and that it has been translated innumerable times in all modern tongues, no apology need be given for the appearance of this little volume in the series of Jewish Classics. The Pirke Abot is indeed a classical bit of that ancient Jewish classic, the Mishnah.

The translation in this edition is based largely upon that of Taylor, in his Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, and upon the excellent version of Singer, in his Authorized Daily Prayer Book.

This edition is intended mainly for popular reading, but it has been thought wise to amplify the notes, especially with bibliographical references, so that it may serve the purpose of a teacher's handbook, and also be useful as a text-book for the higher grades of religious schools and for study circles. The references are to books that are generally accessible, and, wherever possible, to books in English. The notes are by no means intended to be exhaustive, but rather to be suggestive.

It is the humble hope of the editor that this little book may be the means of further popularizing the practical and, at the same time, high-minded wisdom of the "Fathers"; that it may serve as an incentive to a more detailed study of their philosophy of life, and that its appearance may help us to lead in a revival of that most ancient and praiseworthy custom of reading the Pirke Abot in the house of worship on the Sabbath, during the summer months. Let him into whose hands these sayings fall "meditate upon them day and night," for "he who would be saintly must fulfil the dicta of the Fathers."


Mt. Vernon, N. Y. February, 1913.



_The Tractate Abot_ (_Massechet Abot_) is the ninth treatise of _The Order_ or _Series on Damages_ (_Seder Nezikin_), which is the fourth section of the _Mishnah_ (1). It is commonly known in Hebrew as _Pirke Abot_, _The Chapters of the Fathers_, and has also been termed _Mishnat ha-Chasidim_, _Instruction for the Pious_, because of the Rabbinic saying, "He who wishes to be pious, let him practise the teachings of _Abot_" (2). On account of the nature of its contents, it is generally designated in English as the _Ethics of the Fathers_. Taylor entitles his edition _Dibre Aboth ha-Olam_, Sayings of the Fathers of the World_, and has as the English title, _Sayings of the Jewish Fathers_. Gustav Gottheil refers to the _Abot_ as the _Sayings of the Pharisaic Fathers_ (3). Its German title is generally _Die Spruche der Vater_, and in French it is usually rendered _Chapitres_ or _Maximes des Peres_.

(1) See infra, [Chapter V], n. 61.

(2) Baba Kamma, 30a. See Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, p. 3. Maimonides refers to this saying in the Foreword of his Eight Chapters; see Gorfinkle, The Eight Chapters, etc., p. 34.

(3) See Sun and Shield, p. 321 et passim. See infra, n. 8, which accounts for the use of "Pharisaic."

The use of the word Abot (fathers), in the title, is of very ancient date. We can only guess at the reason for its being used, and, consequently, there are various explanations for it. Samuel de Uceda, in his collective commentary, says that as this tractate of the Mishnah contains the advice and good counsel, which, for the most part, come from a father, the Rabbis mentioned in it adopt the role of "fathers," and are therefore so designated. This explanation does not, however, deter him from advancing another to the effect that this treatise is the basis of all subsequent ethical and moral teachings and doctrines, and the Rabbis are, in consequence, the "fathers" or prototypes of all ethical teachers and moralists (4). Loeb attributes its use to the fact that the Rabbis of Abot are the "fathers" or "ancestors of Rabbinic Judaism" (5). Hoffman states that the word abot means "teachers of tradition" (Traditionslehrer), and points to the expression abot ha-olam (Eduyot, I. 4), which, translated literally, is "fathers of the world," but is used to designate the most distinguished teachers, which is a true characterization of the Rabbis of Abot (6). Taylor says in regard to the title, "It takes its name from the fact that it consists to a great extent of the maxims of the Jewish Fathers whose names are mentioned in the pages" (7). Hoffmann's seems the most acceptable explanation.

(4) Midrash Shemuel (ed. Warsaw, 1876), p. 6. The Midrash Shemuel is a collective commentary, first published in Venice in 1579, and which has since passed through six editions. See p. 22, n. 21.

(5) La Chaine, etc., p. 307, n. 1.

(6) See Hoffman, Seder Nesikin, Introd., p. xx, and p. 258, n. 36. In this passage of Eduyot, Hillel and Shammai are referred to as abot ha-olam; in Yerushalmi Shekalim, III, 47b, Rabbi and Ishmael and Rabbi Akiba, and in Yerushalmi Chagigah, II, 77d, all the pairs of Abot I are similarly designated.

(7) Taylor, loc. cit.


The original aim of Abot was to show the divine source and authority of the traditional law revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and to demonstrate its continuity from Moses through Joshua, the elders, and the men of the Great Synagogue, down to those Rabbis who lived during the period between 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. Loeb maintains that Abot was originally a composition of the Pharisaic Rabbis who wished to indicate that the traditions held and expounded by them, and which the Sadducees repudiated, were divine and, in time and sequence, uninterruptedly authoritative (8). This line of continuous tradition is plainly seen in the first two chapters. A second and probably later purpose was to present a body of practical maxims and aphorisms for the daily guidance of the people.

(8) La Chaine, etc. The Sadducees belonged to the priestly and aristocratic families. They made light of the oral traditions, did not believe in the future life, and were indifferent to the independence of the Jewish nation. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were constituted largely from the common people; they were believers in, and strict observers of, the traditional laws, and were ardent nationalists. The bitter attack of Jesus on them, which has resulted in making the word "Pharisee" synonymous with "hypocrite" and "self-righteous person," was, to say the least, unjust, as Herford has so lucidly pointed out in his sympathetic study of the Pharisees. Herford, though not a Jew, has taken up the cudgels most ably in defence of this sect, with remarkable insight into the life and literature of the ancient Jews. He demonstrates conclusively that though there were hypocrites among the Pharisees, as among all classes and creeds, yet the average Pharisee was a man of the most elevated religious ideals, who misunderstood Jesus, but who, in turn was misunderstood by him. Huxley, in his Evolution of Theology, says, "of all the strange ironies in history, perhaps the strangest is that 'Pharisee' is current as a term of reproach among the theological descendants of that sect of Nazarenes who, without the martyr spirit of those primitive Puritans, would never have come into existence." Such great teachers and men of sterling quality and golden utterance as Antigonus of Soko (I, 3), Hillel (I, 12-14; II, 5-8), Jochanan ben Zakkai (II, 9-19), Gamaliel, whose pupil was Paul, the apostle (I, 16), and Judah, the Prince (II, 1), whose sayings grace the pages of Abot, were, as Loeb points out, of the Pharisaic school or party. There is naturally a large literature on the Pharisees. Herford's Pharisaism deserves careful perusal. See, also, Josephus (ed. Whiston-Margoliouth), Antiq., XIII, 10.6, XVIII, 1, 2-4; Schurer, History of the Jews, etc., II, ii, p. 14 et seq.; Jewish Encyclopedia and literature mentioned there; Geiger, Judaism and Its History, p. 102 et seq., and Friedlander, G., The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 34 et seq.


The Sayings of the Jewish Fathers is the oldest collection of ethical dicta of the Rabbis of the Mishnah (9). It is a Rabbinic anthology. It has been happily styled "a compendium of practical ethics" (10), and, as Mielziner has said, "these Rabbinical sentences, if properly arranged, present an almost complete code of human duties" (11). The Abot is, then, a sort of moral code.

(9) There was another, and apparently older, recension of _Pirke Abot_ on which is based the _Abot de-Rabbi Natan_, an _hagadic_ or homiletical exposition of _Abot_. Two recensions of _Abot de-Rabbi Natan_ exist, and have been edited by Schechter. On this work, see Hoffman, _Die erste Mischna_, p. 26 _et seq._, Mielziner, article _Abot de-Rabbi Natan_, in _Jewish Encyclopedia_, Strack, _Einleitung_, p. 69 _et seq., and Pollak, _Rabbi Nathans System_, etc., _Introduction_, pp. 7-9. An English translation is found in Rodkinson's edition of the _Talmud_, vol. V, p. 1 _et seq._

(10) Taylor, loc. cit. Lazarus, Ethics of Judaism, II. 113, calls it "a compendium of ethics."

(11) In Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Abot.


Even a superficial reading of Abot will bring home to one the fact that it is made up of various strata. In fact, it falls naturally into the following strands or divisions:

A. Chapter I, 1-15: Chronologically arranged sayings of the oldest authorities, from the men of the Great Synagogue to Hillel and Shammai.

B. (1) Chapters I, 16-II, 4: Sayings of the men of the school of Hillel to Rabban Gamaliel (about 230 C.E.), the son of Judah ha-Nasi

(2) Chapter II, 5-8: Additional sayings of Hillel.

C. (1) Chapter II, 9-19: The sayings of Jochanan ben Zakkai, the pupil of Hillel, and of his disciples.

(2) Chapter II, 20-21: The sayings of Rabbi Tarfon, a younger contemporary of Jochanan ben Zakkai.

D. Chapter III: the maxims of seventeen Tannaim (authorities mentioned in the Mishnah) to the time of and including Rabbi Akiba. These are not arranged in strictly chronological order.

E. Chapter IV: The sayings of twenty-five Tannaim after the time of Rabbi Akiba, who were contemporaries of Rabbi Meir and of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi. These are not chronologically arranged.

F. (1) Chapter V, 1-18: Anonymous sayings forming a series of groups of ten, seven, and four things, dealing with the creation of the world, with miracles, and with the varieties of men and minds.

(2) Chapter V, 19-22: Anonymous sayings touching upon the varieties of motives and contrasting the good and evil dispositions.

(3) Chapter V, 23: Sayings of Judah ben Tema.

(4) Chapter V, 24: The ages of man.

(5) Chapter V, 25, 26: The sayings of Ben Bag Bag and of Ben He He.

G. Chapter VI: The acquisition of the Torah; praise of the Torah.


The language of Abot is easy Mishnaic Hebrew, with portions of four verses (I, 13; II, 7; V, 25, and V, 26) in Aramaic, which is closely related to Hebrew. It is worthy of note that these Aramaic portions originated with the school of Hillel (12).

(12) On the language of the Mishnah, see Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud, pp. 15-16, and Lauterbach in Jewish Encyclopedia, vol II, p. 614. On the use of Aramaic in the Mishnah, see Schurer, History, I, ii, p. 8 et seq., and Bacher, in Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Aramaic Language Among the Jews. Several centuries before the common era, Aramaic was the vernacular of the Jews. Hebrew, however, remained in use as the sacred language ([lashon ha-kodesh]), it being the language of the learned, and was employed for literary, liturgical, and legal purposes. This accounts for the Mishnah being written almost entirely in Hebrew, though Aramaic was spoken on the streets. It is related of Judah ha-Nasi that he disliked the Aramaic jargon to such an extent that he forbade its use in his home, where even the servants spoke Hebrew with elegance (Rosh ha-Shanah, 26b). When scholars used Aramaic in his presence, he chided them for not speaking in Hebrew or in Greek (Baba Kamma, 82b).


(13) On the subject-matter of this section, consult Hoffmann, Die erste Mischna, pp. 26-37; idem, Mischnaiot Seder Nesikin, Introd., pp. XX-XXI; Brull, Enstehung und ursprunglicher Inhalt des Traktates Abot; Loeb, La Chaine, etc.; Ginzburg, Spruche der Vater, erstes Capitel historisch beleuchtet (Liepzig, 1889); Strack, Die Spruche der Vater, Introd., pp. 7-8; idem, Einleitung, p. 52, and Rawicz, Commentar des Maimonides, p. 105, n. 3.

It is apparent from the literary construction of Abot that it has been edited several times, and that, in its earliest form, the Abot collection was much smaller than we have it to-day. Originally, probably shortly after the time of Hillel, it may have been merely a sort of appendix to the Tractate Sanhedrin, with typical sayings of each of the heads of the Sanhedrin. These dicta are contained in what is designated as section A. Later, presumably by Rabbi Akiba, there were added to this original kernel of Abot the sayings of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai and his most illustrious pupils, which comprise section C. This resulted in the grouping together of the sayings of ten generations of traditional authorities, as follows: (1) the men of the Great Synagogue, (2) Simon, the Just, (3) Antigonus of Soko, (4) Jose ben Joezer and Jose ben Jochanan, (5) Joshua ben Perachiah and Nittai, the Arbelite, (6) Judah ben Tabbai and Simeon ben Shatach, (7) Shemaiah and Abtalion, (8) Hillel and Shammai, (9) Jochanan ben Zakkai, and (10) the latter's disciples. By association of idea with this number ten, there were added to this collection numerical sayings of ten, and, then, others of seven and four, found in chapter V, 1-9 and 10-13.

Into this enlarged kernel of pithy sayings of the oldest authorities, which may be characterized as the Abot of Rabbi Akiba, later Tannaim—Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, and others—interpolated additional sayings of the afore-mentioned Rabbis, and also typical utterances of their disciples, and of other well-known teachers. This accounts for the presence in Abot of the body of maxims of the six generations of the school of Hillel, designated above as section B 1, and which was very properly introduce after the aphorisms of Hillel and of his contemporary, Shammai. The thread of tradition being interrupted by this interpolation, it was again taken up by the introduction of another body of Hillel's sayings (B 2), thus providing for a natural transition from Hillel to Jochanan ben Zakkai. Proof of the fact that section B is an addition is that in the Abot de-Rabbi Natan—which, as has been said above, is based on an older version of Abot (14)—the sayings of Jochanan ben Zakkai follow immediately upon those of Shammai. The sayings of Judah ha-Nasi, the redactor of the Mishnah, and of Rabbi Gamaliel, his son, were undoubtedly added after the time of Judah.

(14) See supra, p. 13, n. 9.

Chapter III contains the sayings of authorities who were the predecessors of Judah, the first two having lived before the destruction of the second Temple. Chapter IV is made up of the dicta of a number of Rabbis who were contemporaries of Judah. These two chapters were, no doubt, inserted by Judah, the redactor of the Mishnah as we virtually have it to-day. Evidence that Chapter IV is an addition to the original Abot is that it has a number of aphorisms which are repetitions of some found in Chapters I and II. The greater part of Chapter V, as stated above, was a portion of the Abot of Rabbi Akiba.

Chapter VI, which is known as The Chapter on the Acquisition of Torah (Perek Kinyan Torah), as The External Teaching of the Abot (Baraita de-Abot) (15), as The Chapter of Rabbi Meir (Perek Rabbi Meir) (16), and as the External Teaching of Rabbi Meir (Baraita de-Rabbi Meir), is a supplement of the treatise Abot, as is claimed for it by its superscription, "the sages taught in the language of the Mishnah," a formula generally used in the Talmud to introduce a Baraita. One of the authorities mentioned in it is Joshua ben Levi, a Palestinian amora (an authority of the Gemara) who lived during the third century. This demonstrates the comparatively late date of the final redaction of this chapter. By the middle of the ninth century it formed a part of the treatise Abot. It was added to the prayer-book to be read on the sixth Sabbath of the period between Passover and the Festival of Weeks (Shebuot) (17).

(15) A Baraita contains traditions and opinions of authorities of the Mishnah which are not embodied in the Mishnah or Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. See Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud, pp. 20-21, Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, p. 3, and the Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. A gemara (Talmudical commentary) to the Baraita de-Abot was published from a MS. by Coronel in Chamishah Kuntresin (Vienna, 1864). This baraita is found also in the seventeenth chapter of Tanna de-Be Eliyahu Sutta, but with different textual readings. See Ginzberg, in the Jewish Encyclopedia, II, pp. 516-517.

(16) Known thus because Rabbi Meir's name is found in the first verse.

(17) See next section. The sixth chapter is found in some editions of the Mishnah.


(18) On the subject-matter of this section, see the citation from the Sar Shalom Gaon, in the Siddur of R. Amram, 30a; Midrash Shemual, pp. 3-4; Zunz, Die Ritus, pp. 85-86; Strack, Die Spruche der Vater, p. 5, and Siddur, ed. Baer, p. 271, note. Other portions of the Mishnah and also of the Talmud that are included in the liturgy are, in the morning service, Zebachim V (Siddur, ed. Singer, p. 11); in the evening service for the Sabbath, Sabbat, II (pp. 120-122), and, from the Talmud, end of Berachot (p. 122); in the additional service for Sabbath and festivals, from the Talmud Keritot, 6a, from the Mishnah, end of Tamid, and from the Talmud, end of Berachot (pp. 167-168).

As Taylor has said, "Its simplicity and intrinsic excellence have secured for Abot a widespread and lasting popularity, and have led to its being excerpted from the Talmud and used liturgically in the Synagogue, at certain seasons, from an early period" (19). Thus, the Abot is found not only in all editions of the Mishnah and the Talmud, but also in the prayer-books of the Ashkenazic rite (20). The practice of reading a chapter from Abot, on Saturday, after the afternoon prayer (Minchah), originated as early as Gaonic times (seventh to eleventh centuries). During the middle of the ninth century, Abot and its Baraita were thus liturgically used. In Spanish communities it was recited in the morning of the Sabbath, and not in the afternoon. By the eleventh century, this custom was universally a part of the synagogal service.

(19) Taylor, loc. cit.

(20) German and Polish.

Originally, Abot was probably read only from Passover to Shebuot; and, since this period has generally six Sabbaths, and there are only five chapters of Abot, the chapter Kinyan Torah was appointed to be read on the sixth Sabbath. Later, the period of the year in which Abot was read varied in different communities. In Germany, there were kehillot in which it was recited during the winter as well as during the summer. In some communities it was read from Passover to the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), in others from the Sabbath of Parashah Yitro (Ex. XVIII, 1-XX, 26) to the Sabbath of Parashah Masse'e (Num. XXXIII, 1-XXXVI, 13), that is, from the Sabbath on which is read an account of the giving of the Law until the Sabbath preceding the beginning of the reading of the "repetition of the Law," i.e., Deuteronomy. In many orthodox congregations to-day this practice is still adhered to, and Abot is read on Sabbath afternoons during the summer, or from the Sabbath after Passover to the Sabbath before the New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah).

A number of reasons have been suggested for the custom of reading the Abot in the synagogue, the most likely being that it was introduced to occupy the minds of worshippers during the long wait, on a summer's day, between the afternoon and evening services. Whatever the reason for this custom may have been is immaterial and unimportant; but what is of importance is that, by this excellent practice, a whole body of moral dicta—each one summing up with remarkable conciseness a life's experience and philosophy, each one breathing the spirit of piety, saintliness, justice, and love for humanity—has sunk deeply into the innermost heart and consciousness of the Jewish people, exerting such an influence that the principles set forth in the Abot have been eternally wrought into the moral fibre of the descendants of the Rabbis. To the lips of the Jew, these maxims spring spontaneously; to those who know them they are a safe and secure guide through life; they are not only heard in the synagogue, but are quoted and applied at home and abroad. Such are the fruits of a benign custom, which Israel will do well to prize and preserve.


Because of its great popularity, the Pirke Abot has appeared in many editions. There is no Gemara (Talmudic commentary) on the Abot, which undoubtedly accounts for the numerous commentaries on it (21). Because of the attractiveness of its contents, and since it forms a part of the ritual, it has been translated many times into many tongues (22), and a great deal has been written on it. The following bibliography will be helpful to the general reader and to the student who wish to get a more detailed and intimate knowledge of the Abot than can be imparted in this work.

(21) There are more than thirty-five. The best known is that of Maimonides (1135-1204), which was written originally in Arabic, as part of his commentary on the Mishnah. A commentary has been attributed to Rashi. Other commentaries are by (1) Rabbi Jacob ben Shimshon, found in the Machzor Vitry (see Taylor, Introd., p. 5; Appendix, p. 23; (2) Rabbi Israel of Toledo, in Arabic (twelfth to thirteenth century; see Taylor, Introd., p. 5, Appendix, p. 46 et seq.; (3) Simon Duran (1361-1444), Magen Abot; first edition, Livorno, 1763; ed. Jellinek, Leipzig, 1855; (4) Bertinora (died 1510), in his popular commentary on the Mishnah; (5) Isaac ben Judah Abrabanel, Nachalot Abot; ed. Constantinople, 1505; (6) Samuel de Uceda, Midrash Shemual; venice, 1579, 1585, 1597, 1600, Cracow, 1594, Frankfurt a. M., 1713, Warsaw, 1876; (7) Yom Tob Lippman Heller (1579-1654), in Tosefot Yom Tob, on the Mishnah; (8) elijah, Gaon of Wilna (1720-1797), in Siddur Tefillat Yacob, Berlin, 1864; and (9) S. Baer, in Siddur Abodat Yisroel, Rodelheim, 1868. There is also acommentary, by Naphtali Herts Wessely, known as Yayin Lebanon, Berlin, 1774-1775, which has been translated into English, in the Hebrew Review (edited by Morris J. Raphall, London, 1835-1837), Vol. I, p. 177, p. 193, and further.

(22) Mischoff, in his Kritische Geschichte der Talmud-Uebersetzungen aller Zeigen und Zungen (Frankfurt a. M., 1899), [s] 56, has a list of 62 translations and of 15 partial translations. Others have appeared since this list was made. For English translation, consult this list.

Editions (23), Commentaries, and Translations

(23) A list of editions, mostly earlier than those mentioned here, and of the Abot in Mishnah editions may be found in Steinschneider, Catalogue Librorum Hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana (Berlin, 1852-1860), No. 1433-1519, 1982-2034; M. Roest, Catalog der Hebraica und Judaica (Amsterdam, 1875), pp. 818-821, 824-828; and Strack, Spruche, pp. 8-9.

1. Joshua ben Mordecai Falk ha-Kohen, Abne Yehoshua al Pirke Abot (New York, 1860). Text and commentary (24).

(24) Falk has been called the "father of American Hebrew literature."

2. Abraham Geiger, Pirke Aboth, in Nachgelassene Schriften (Berlin, 1877), vol. IV, pp. 281-344. A commentary on Chaps. I-III. Scholarly and valuable.

3. Solomon Schechter, Abot de-Rabbi Natan (Vienna, 1877). Contains two versions, A and B, with an introduction and notes in Hebrew. A scholarly and valuable work.

4. Joseph Jabetz, Pirke Abot, with a commentary (Warsaw, 1880).

5. Charles Taylor, (1) Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, Comprising Pirqe Aboth and Perek R. Meir in Hebrew and English, with Notes and Excurses. Second edition (Cambridge, 1897). (2) An Appendix of the Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, Containing a Catalogue of Manuscripts and Notes on the Text of Aboth (Cambridge, 1900). These works are very comprehensive and full of valuable material.

6. A. Berliner, Commentar zu den Spruchen der Vater, aus Machzor Vitry, mit Beitragen (Frankfurt a. M., 1897).

7. David Hoffmann, Masseket Abot, in Mischnaiot Seder Nesikin (Berlin, 1899), pp. 327-367. Fully annotated, with a translation in German, and constant reference to Rabbinical sources. Excellent.

8. Hermann L. Strack, _Die Spruche der Vater_, ein ethischer Mischna-Traktat_, third edition (Leipzig, 1901). An excellent text with notes. Very valuable.

9. Lazarus Goldschmidt, in Talmud Babli, Der Babylonische Talmud (Berline, 1903), vol. VII, p. 1151 et seq. Based on oldest texts of Abot. Textual variants and German translation with notes. Very valuable.

10. Simeon Singer, Perke Abot, Ethics of the Fathers, in The Authorized Daily Prayer Book. Eighth edition (London, 5668-1908), pp. 184-209. Hebrew text, with an excellent English translation, and a few notes.

11. Kaim Pollak, Rabbi Nathans System der Ethik un Moral (Budapest, 1905). A translation in German, with notes, of Abot de Rabbi Natan (Schechter's version A).

12. Paul Fiebig, Pirque 'aboth, Der Mischnahtraktat Spruche der Vater (Tubingen, 1906). German translation and notes, with especial reference to the New Testament. The Nachwort, pp. 42-43, consists of a comparison of Abot with the New Testament, pointing out the likenesses and differences.

13. Josef ibn Nachmia's, Perush Pirke Abot, Commentar zu den Pirke Abot . . . nach der Parmaer Hadschrift De Rossi Nr. 1402 . . . mit Anmerkungen von M. L. Bamberger (Berlin, 1907).

14. M. Rawicz, Der Commentar der Maimonides zu den Spruchen der Vater, zum ersten Male ins Deutsch ubertragen (Offenberg [Baden], 1910). Contains "The Eight Chapters" (25).

(25) The Eight Chapters is the introduction of Maimonides to his commentary on Abot. Its Hebrew name is Shemonah Perakim. It is a remarkable instance of the harmonious welding of the ethical principles contained in Abot with mediaeval Aristotelian philosophy.

15. Sefer Musar, Kommentar zum Mischnatraktat Aboth von R. Joseph ben Jehudah. Zum ersten Male herausgegeben von Dr. Wilhelm Bacher. In the Schriften des Vereins Makize Nirdamim. 3. Folge, Nr. 6 (Berlin, 1910).

16. M. Lehmann, Pirke Aboth, Spruche der Vater uberzetzt und erklart (Frankfurt a. M., 1909).

17. Jehudah Leb Gordon, Perki Abot, in Siddur Bet Yehudah (New York, 5672, 1911-12), pp. 106-165. Prayer-book according to the Ashkenazic rite, with Yiddish translation and notes. Contains biographical sketches of all the authorities mentioned in Abot.

18. Jules Wolff, Les Huit Chapitres de Maimonide, ou Introduction a la Mischna d'Aboth, Maximes des Peres (de la Synagogue). Traduits de l'Arabe (Lausanne, Paris, 1912).

19. Joseph I. Gorfinkle, The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics, Edited, Annotated, and Translated with an Introduction (New York, 1912). Columbia University Oriental Studies, vol. VII (26).

(26) A list of MSS., editions, translations, and commentaries of the Eight Chapters, some including Abot, is found on pp.27-33 of this work.

Homiletical Works

1. Lazarus Adler, Spruche der Vater (Furth, 1851).

2. W. Aloys Meisel, Homilien uber die Spruche der Vater (1885).

3. Alexander Kohut, The Ethics of the Fathers (New York, 1885). Translated from the German by Max Cohen.

General Works

Abelson, J. The Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature (London, 1912).

Bacher, Wilhelm, (1) Die Agada der Tanaiten, I, II, (Strassburg, 1884, 1890). (2) Zwei alte Abotkommentare, in Monatschrift fur Geschichte und Wiss. d. Judenthums, 1095, pp. 637-666; 1906, pp. 248-248.

Brull, Enstehung und ursprunglicher Inhalt des Traktates Abot, in Jahrbucher fur Jud. Geschichte und Lit., VII (1885).

Danziger, Jewish Forerunners of Christianity (New York, 1903).

Dukes, Rabbinische Blumenlese (Leipzig, 1844), pp. 67-84.

Friedlander, M. The Jewish Religion (London, 1902).

Friedlander, G., The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount (London, 1911).

Geiger, Judaism and its History (New York, 1911).

Graetz, History of the Jews.

Herford, Pharasaism (London, 1912).

Hoffmann, Die erste Mischna und die Contraversen der Tannaim (Berlin, 1882).

Isaacs, Stories from the Rabbis (New York, 1893).

Jewish Encyclopedia.

Josephus, Antiquities.

Jung, Kritik der samtlichen Bucher Aboth in der althebraischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1888).

Lazarus, The Ethics of Judaism (Philadelphia, 1900).

Loeb, (1) La Chaine de la Tradition dans le premier Chapitre des Pirke Abot, in Bibliotheque de l'ecole des hautes Etudes, Sciences religeuses, vol. I, pp. 307-322 (Paris, 1889). (2) Notes sur le chapitre Ier des Perke Abot, in Revue des Etudes Juives, Vol. XIX (1889), pp. 188-201.

Mielziner, (1) Introduction to the Talmud, second edition (New York, 1903). (2) Articles Abot and Abot de-R. Natan, in Jewish Encyclopedia.

Myers, The Story of the Jewish People, I (New York and London, 1909).

Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (New York, 1909).

Schurer, Some Aspects of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (27) (New York, 1891), I, i, p. 124; I, ii, p. 353 et seq.; III, ii, p. 30 et seq.

(27) Contains very full bibliographies and has other excellent characteristics, but it is a work that must be used with caution. Its chief fault, according to Schechter, is that it is one of a class of works in which "no attempt is made . . . to gain acquaintance with the inner life of the Jewish nation" (Studies, II, pp. 119-120).

Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, fourth edition (Leipzig, 1908).

Zunz, (1) Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden (Berlin, 1832), p. 101 et seq. (2) Die Ritus des Synagogalen Gottesdienstes (Berlin, 1859).


One of the following chapters is read on each Sabbath from the Sabbath after Passover until the Sabbath before New Year.

All Israel (1) have a portion in the world to come, and it is said, "And thy people shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land (2) for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified" (3).

(1) This does not mean that Israel alone, to the exclusion of other nations, will have a portion in the future world. On the future world ([olam haba]), see [Chapter II], n. 21. "The pious of all nations have a portion in the world to come" (Tosefta Sanhedrin, chap. XII; Maimonides, in Mishneh Torah, I, Hilchot Teshubah, iii, 5) sums up the Rabbinic opinion.

(2) I.e., the land of everlasting life.

(3) Sanhedrin, X (XI), 1; Isaiah lx, 21. This passage is recited before each chapter.


1. Moses received the Torah (4) from Sinai (5), and handed it down to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders (6), and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets delivered it to the men of the Great Synagogue (7). They said three things, "Be deliberate in judgment; raise up many disciples; and make a fence about the Torah" (8).

(4) The word Torah is usually translated by "law," but it means rather "teaching," "instruction" of any kind, or "doctrine." This term is generally used to designate the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch, called the "written law" ([torah shebichtav]), but it is also employed as a designation of the whole of the Old Testament. Besides the "written law," according to tradition, there was also communicated to Moses, on Mt. Sinai, the "oral law" ([torah she'b'al peh]), supplementing the former and other laws and maxims, and explaining it. This "oral law" was handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, but subsequently, after the destruction of the second Temple, it was committed to writing, and constitutes the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the Midrashim. The "oral law" develops, illuminates, and comments upon the "written law." Here, Torah means the "oral law," which Moses communicated to Joshua, Joshua, in turn, to the elders, and so on. See Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, p. 105 et seq., and 134-135; Friedlander, The Jewish Religion, p. 136 et seq.; Jewish Encyclopedia, arts. Law and Oral Law; Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, Chapter VIII; Strack, Einleitung, pp. 9-10, and Herford, Pharisaism, chapter on "the Theory of Torah," p. 57 et seq.

(5) I.e., from God. Compare the expression [halacha l'moshe misinai], "the law to Moses from Sinai (God)," Peah, II, 6, Eduyot, VIII, 7, etc.

(6) The elders were the wise men who were the members of the supreme national tribunal. See Joshua XXIV, 31.

(7) The Great Synagogue, whose establishment, after the return from Babylonian captivity, tradition attributes to Ezra the Scribe, consisted of 120 men, who comprised the highest judicial tribunal, and who occupied a position in the early days of the Temple similar to that of the later Sanhedrin. The historical foundation of this tradition is Nehemiah VIII-X, in which is recounted the solemn acceptance of the Law by a great assembly of the people. The men of the Great Synagogue appear here in Abot as the depositaries of the tradition of the Torah, coming in the chain between the last prophets and the earliest scribes. From this chapter and other Rabbinical sources, we gather that the men of the Great Synagogue constituted a sort of college of teachers, one of the last survivors being Simon, the Just (Chapter I, 2). Their work was to interpret, teach, and develop the Torah, and to them were ascribed all kinds of legal enactments. They instituted the Shemoneh Esrah (the Eighteen Benedictions) and other prayers, and cast the entire ritual into definite shape. They admitted Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes into the Old Testament canon. A number of modern scholars, notably Kuenen, are of the opinion that this body never existed in the form represented by Jewish tradition (see Schurer, History, I, ii, pp. 354-355). On the controversy regarding the existence of the Great Synagogue see Schechter, Studies, II, 105-106. Consult Taylor, ibid., pp. 110-111; Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. I, p. 381, 394, vol. II, p. 19. For further bibliography, see Strack, Spruche, p. 11. See especially Herford, Pharisaism. pp. 18-28.

(8) Take measures to prevent the breaking of any of the divine precepts. Thereby, certain things which are in themselves lawful are prohibited in order to enforce the observance of things the doing of which is unlawful. Compare Leviticus XVIII, 30, "make a mishmeret to my mishmeret" (Yabamot, 21a), and Abot, III, 17, "the Massorah is a fence to the Torah."

2. Simon, the Just (9), was of the last survivors of the Great Synagogue. He used to say, "Upon three things the world rests: upon the Torah, upon the Temple service (10), and upon the doing of acts of kindness" (11).

(9) Simon, the Just, son of Onias, was high-priest about 300 B.C.E. See Josephus, Antiquities, XII, ii, 5. Consult Sammter, Mischnaioth Ordnung Zeraim (Berlin, 1887), Introduction, pp. 10-22; Meilziner, Introduction to the Talmud, pp. 22-39; the Jewish Encyclopedia, and Strack, Einleitung, p. 82 et seq., for the lives of the authorities mentioned in Abot and for bibliographies.

(10) Cf. Nedarim, 32b, "Great is the Torah, for if it did not exist, the heaven and the earth would have no permanence." Abodah is the service and sacrifice of the Temple which was then standing. After the destruction of the Temple, this word was used to designate the service of prayer. It is used in one of the benedictions after the reading of the Haftarah: al ha-torah we-al ha-abodah, "for the law and for the divine service," see Prayer-book, ed. Singer, p. 149. See Friedlander, ibid., p. 413 et seq.

(11) [g'milut chasadim] "benevolence," "the doing of kindnesses," consists of practical deeds of personal service, as visiting the sick, burying the dead, comforting mourners, peacemaking, etc. It is greater than [tzedakah] "charity" in its narrower sense, as benevolence may be shown to the rich as well as to the poor. See Friedlander, ibid., pp. 301-305. On this verse, see Herford, ibid., p. 22 et seq.

3. Antigonus of Soko (12) received (the tradition) from Simon, the Just. He used to say, "Be not like hirelings who work for their master for the sake of receiving recompense; but be like servants who minister to their master without any thought of receiving a reward; and let the fear of Heaven (13) be upon you."

(12) According to Abot de-Rabbi Natan, Chapter V, ed. Schechter, p. 26, Antigonus had two disciples, Zadok and Boethos, from whom arose the Sadducees and the heretical sect of Boethusians, from their misinterpretation of this verse, both denying the doctrines of immortality of the soul and resurrection. Se Kohut, The Ethics of the Fathers, p. 43; Schurer, History, II, ii. p. 29 et seq.; Geiger, Judaism and Its History, p. 99 et seq.; and Jewish Encyclopedia, arts. Boethusians and Sadducees.

(13) "The fear of Heaven" does not mean dread of punishment, but rather awe at the greatness and might of God, and is identical with love and service (see Deuteronomy, VI, 13 and X, 12). It is produced by following out the practices ordained in the Torah (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, ed. Friedlander, p. 392). Consult Friedlander, Jewish Religion, pp. 273-274, the Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Fear of God, and Schechter, Aspects, p. 72.

4. Jose, the son of Joezer, of Zeredah, and Jose, the son of Jochanan (14), of Jerusalem received (the tradition) from them (15). Jose, the son of Joezer, of Zeredah said, "Let thy house be a meeting-place for the wise; cover thyself with the dust of their feet (16), and drink in their words with thirst."

(14) In Chagigah, II, 2, we are told that when two leading teachers are named in the Mishnah as having received the Torah, they constitute a "pair" ([zug]), the first being the president([nasi]), and the second the vice-president ([av beit din]) of the Sanhedrin. There were five pairs of such teachers, flourishing between 170 and 30 B.C.E., the first being Jose b. Joezer and Jose b. Jochanan, and the last being Hillel and Shammai. See Frankel, Monatschrift, 1852, pp. 405-421, Mielziner, Introduction, pp. 22-23, and Strack, Spruche, p. 13.

(15) Some texts read "from him" ([mimenu]). "From them" must refer to disciples of Antigonus whose sayings have been lost.

(16) It was the custom of pupils to sit at the feet of their teachers.

5. Jose, the son of Jochanan, of Jerusalem said, "Let thy house be open wide; let the poor be members of thy household, and engage not in much gossip with woman." This applies to one's own wife; how much more (17), then, to the wife of one's neighbor? Hence the sages say, "Whoso engages in much gossip with woman brings evil upon himself, neglects the study of the Torah, and will in the end inherit gehinnom" (18).

(17) On the kalwa-chomer, "a conclusion a minori ad majus," see Meilziner, Introduction to the Talmud, p. 130 et seq., and Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, p. 120. Cf. Chapter VI, 3. The equivalent biblical expression is [af ki].

(18) [gey-hinim (gimil-yud hey-nun-yud-mem(sofit))], [gei ben-hinim], a glen south of Jerusalem where Moloch was worshipped, whence a place where the wicked were punished in the hereafter; "hell, being the opposite of 'the Garden of Eden,'" "paradise." Cf. chapter V, 22 and 23. See Friedlander, Jewish Religion, p. 223.

6. Joshua, the son of Perachyah, and Nittai, the Arbelite, received (the tradition) from them. Joshua, the son of Perachyah, said, "Provide thyself with a teacher, and possess thyself of a companion (19); and judge every man in the scale of merit."

(19) A fellow-student.

7. Nittai, the Arbelite, said, "Keep aloof from a bad neighbor (20); associate not with the wicked, and abandon not the belief in retribution" (21).

(20) Cf. chapter II, 14.

(21) This may mean either that one must not imagine that punishment for evil deeds will not befall him, or when punishment has been meted out, one must not despair of the good.

8. Judah, the son of Tabbi, and Simeon, the son of Shatach (22), received (the tradition) from them. Judah, the son of Tabbi, said, "(In the judge's office) act not the counsel's part (23); while the litigants are standing before thee, let them be regarded by thee as guilty, but when they are departed from thy presence, regard them as innocent, the verdict having been acquiesced in by them."

(22) Lived about 104-69 B.C.E. He was a leader of the Pharisees at the time of Alexander Jannaeus.

(23) A judge should be strictly impartial.

9. Simeon, the son of Shatach, said, "Be very searching in the examination of witnesses (24), and be guarded in thy words, lest through them they learn to lie."

(24) It is related that the son of Simeon b. Shatach was innocently condemned to death, because the witnesses were not carefully cross-questioned.

10. Shemaiah and Abtalion (25) received (the tradition) from them. Shemaiah said, "Love work; hate lordship (26); and seek no intimacy with the ruling power" (27).

(25) Lived about the middle of the first century B.C.E.

(26) "Woe to leadership, for it buries those who possess it." (Pesachim, 87b).

(27) That is, Rome. Avoid office seeking.

11. Abtalion said, "Ye sages, be heedful of your words, lest ye incur the penalty of exile and be exiled to a place of evil waters, and the disciples who come after you drink thereof and die, and the Heavenly Name be profaned" (28).

(28) Scholars must be careful in their teachings, lest their disciples misinterpret their words, and thus adopt false doctrines, as was the case with the disciples of Antigonus of Soko (Supra, n. 12). "Evil waters" may stand for evil doctrines or evil people. When a teacher went into banishment, he was usually followed by his disciples. Departure from the law is equivalent to death.

12. Hillel and Shammai (29) received (the tradition) from them. Hillel said, "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace (30), loving mankind and drawing them night to the Torah" (31). 13. He used to say, "A name made great is a name destroyed (32); he who does not increase (his knowledge) decreases (it); and he who does not study deserves to die; and he who makes a worldly use of the crown (of the Torah) shall waste away." 14. He used to say, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I care for myself only, what am I? (33). And if not now, when?"

(29) Hillel and Shammai, the most renowned of the "pairs" ([zugot]), lived about 100 years before the destruction of the Temple. Each was the founder of a school, Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai, being generally opposed to one another in the interpretation of the Torah. Hillel was the embodiment of humility, gentleness, and kindness; Shammai was irritable, and lacked gentleness and patience. The former's most celebrated saying is, "What is hateful to thee do not do unto thy fellow man; this is the whole Torah, the rest is mere commentary." See Bacher, Agada der Tanaiten; Schurer, History, I, ii, p. 359 et seq.; Myers, story of the Jewish People, I, p. 136 et seq.; geiger, Judaism and its History, p. 113 et seq.

(30) Psalm XXIV, 15: "Seek peace and pursue it."

(31) Draw men to the Torah by good example, not by endeavoring to make converts.

(32) He who seeks a name loses fame.

(33) Be self-reliant, but not selfish.

15. Shammai said, "Set a fixed time for thy (study of) Torah; say little and do much (34); and receive all men with a cheerful countenance."

(34) Or "promise little." Be like Abraham, who promised only bread, but brought a "calf tender and good" (Genesis XVIII, 5 and 7).

16. Rabban (35) Gamaliel said, "Provide thyself with a teacher; be quit of doubt (36); and accustom not thyself to give tithes (37) by a conjectural estimate."

(35) "Our teacher," "our master," a title given only to the presidents of the Sanhendrin, Gamaliel being the first to be thus known. Gamaliel was a grandson of Hillel and a teacher of Paul. See Strack, Einleitung, p. 85.

(36) Establish over you the authority of a teacher, to hold you from the clutch of doubt (Kohut).

(37) There were three kinds of tithes (the tenth part of anything): (a) "the first tithe" (_maaser rishon), given to the Lebites; "the second tithe" (_maaser sheni_), taken to Jerusalem and consumed there by the owner and his family; and (c) the tithe paid to the poor (_maaser ani_). See Leviticus XXVII, 30 _et seq._, Numbers XVIII, 21-24, and Deuteronomy XIV, 22-29; also _Tractates Maasrot_ and _Maaser Sheni_ of the _Mishnah_. Consult Babbs, _The Law of Tithes_.

17. Simeon (38) his son, said, "All my days I have grown up amongst the wise, and I have found nothing better for man than silence (39); not learning but doing is the chief thing (40); and whoso multiplies words causes sin" (41).

(38) Simeon beg Gamaliel I lived at the time of the war with Rome. See Josephus, Jewish Wars, IV, 3, 9.

(39) Cf. chapter III, 17.

(40) Where words fail, deeds tell. Non scholae sed vitae.

(41) Cf. Proverbs X, 19.

18. Rabban Simeon, the son of Gamaliel (42) said, "By three things is the world preserved (43); by truth, by judgment, and by peace, as it is said, 'Judge ye the truth and the judgment of peace in your gates'" (44).

(42) Rabban Simeon II, son of Gamaliel II (80-115 C.E.) and grandson of Simeon (verse 17).

(43) Cf. chapter I, 2. Torah, Temple service, and benevolence are the foundations and, at the same time, the aims of the world. Truth, judgment, and peace maintain the world's permanency.

(44) Zechariah VIII, 16.

Rabbi Chanania (45), the son of Akashia, said, "The Holy One, blessed be He, was pleased to make Israel worthy; wherefore He gave them a copious Torah and many commandments, as it is said, 'It pleased the Lord, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify the Torah and make it honorable'" (46).

(45) This saying did not belong originally to Abot, but was taken from Makkot, III, 16. According to Goldschmidt, it was introduced into the Mishnah from the separate editions, and then found its way into the Talmudical texts of Abot. This verse is recited at the end of each chapter. See Rawicz, Commentor des Maimonides, p. 114, n. 1.

(46) Isaiah, xlii, 21.


All Israel have a portion in the world to come, and it is said, "And thy people 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".

1. Rabbi (1) said, "which is the right course that a man should choose for himself? (2) That which is a pride to him who pursues it and which also brings him honor from mankind. Be as scrupulous about a light precept as about a grave one, for thou knowest not the grant of reward for each precept. Reckon the loss incurred by the fulfilment of a precept against the reward secured by its observance (3), and the gain gotten by a transgression against the loss it involves. Consider three things, that thou mayest not come within the power of sin (4). Know what is above thee—a seeing eye, and a hearing ear, and all thy deeds written in a book" (5).

(1) Rabbi Judah (135-220 C.E.), son of Simeon (chapter I, 18), was known as "Rabbi," as a mark of distinction, owing to the fact that he was the chief reviser and compiler of the Mishnah. Earlier compilers of the Mishnah had been Hillel, Akiba, and R. Meir. Rabbi Judah was also known as Rabbenu (our Master), ha-Nasi (the Prince), and ha-Kodesh (the Holy). He is said to have died[*] on the day that Akiba met his death at the hands of the Romans. See Danziger, Jewish Forerunners of Christianity, pp. 242-274, Myers, Story of the Jewish People, I, 210-222, and Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, p. 96. [* a prior owner of the source text annotated it by crossing out "died" and writing in "been born".]

(2) Maimonides interprets this verse as meaning to pursue a medium course between two equally bad extremes, the too much and the too little. On this subject, see his celebrated fourth chapter of the Shemonah Perakim (The Eight Chapters) on the "mean"; ed. Gorfinkle, p. 54, et seq.

(3) I.e., the loss in this world as against the reward in the future world. On the Rabbinic idea of reward and punishment, see Schechter, Aspects, pp. 162-163, and Herford, Pharisaism, p. 267 et seq.

(4) Cf. chapter III, 1. No deeds, great or small, are lost sight of by God.

(5) On the divine books or book, see Exodus XXXII, 35. Malachi III, 16, and Daniel VII, 10, etc. The heavenly "Book of Life" is prominently mentioned in the ritual of the New Year and the Day of Atonement, especially in the celebrated prayer, U-netanneh Tokef of Rabbi Amnon of Mayence. The New Year's greeting, "May you be inscribed for a happy year!" is evidence of the popularity of the idea of a divine book in which the fate of a man is written. See the Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Book of Life.

2. Rabban Gamaliel, the son of Rabbi Judah, the Prince, said, "Excellent is the study of Torah combined with some worldly pursuit (6), for the effort demanded by them both makes sin to be forgotten. All study of Torah without work must at length be futile, and leads to sin (7). Let all who are employed with the congregation act with them for Heaven's sake, for then the merit of their fathers sustains them, and their righteousness endures for ever (8). And as for you (God will then say), 'I account you worthy of great reward, as if you had wrought it all yourselves.' 3. Be on your guard against the ruling power (9); for they who exercise it draw no man near to them except for their own interests; appearing as friends when it is to their own advantage, they stand not by a man in the hour of his need." 4. He used to say, "Do His will as if it were thy will. Nullify thy will before His will, that He may nullify the will of others before thy will."

(6) The expression Talmud Torah (lit., "study of the Law") means the study of all sacred learning. The word Torah, here, is to be construed in its broadest sense. See chapter I, n. 4. Such study was one of the duties to which no limit was fixed (Peah I, 1). The expression [derech eretz] means "good manners" (chapter III, 21), or "worldly business," or "care" (chapter III, 6), according to the context. Study combined with some trade or profession is, according to R. Gamaliel, the proper thing. See chapter IV, n. 24.

(7) Cf. Kiddushin, 29a, "He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to be a thief."

(8) In every community, the work and goodness of past generations live in the present, and the good that the community does in the present will live on in the future. On the "merit of the fathers" ([z'chut avot]), see Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, chapter XII, especially pp. 175-177, where this passage is quoted.

(9) This verse is directed toward the leaders of the community. Cf. above, chapter I, 10.

5. Hillel (10) said, "Separate not thyself from the congregation (11); trust not in thyself until the day of thy death (12); judge not thy neighbor until thou art come into his place; and say not anything which cannot be understood at once, in the hope that it will be understood in the end (13); neither say, 'When I have leisure I will study'; perchance thou wilt have no leisure." 6. He used to say, "An empty-headed man cannot be a sin-fearing man, nor can an ignorant person (14) be pious, nor can a shamefaced man (15) learn, nor a passionate man (16) teach, nor can one who is engaged overmuch in business grow wise (17). In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man" (18). 7. Moreover, he once saw a skull floating on the surface of the water. He said to it, "Because thou didst drown (others) they have drowned thee, and at the last they that drowned thee shall themselves be drowned" (19). 8. He used to say, "The more flesh, the more works; the more property, the more anxiety; the more women, the more witchcraft; the more maid-servants, the more lewdness; the more men-servants, the more robbery; the more Torah, the more life (20); the more schooling, the more wisdom; the more counsel, the more understanding; the more charity, the more peace. He who has acquired a good name has acquired it for himself; he who has acquired for himself words of Torah has acquired for himself life in the world to come" (21).

(10) The chain of traditional sayings is continued here from chapter I, 14, with other maxims of Hillel. See Introduction, p. 17.

(11) I.e., share its weal and woe. Cf. Taanit, 11a, "He who does not join the community in times of danger and trouble will never enjoy the divine blessing."

(12) One should constantly be on guard against oneself. The Talmud (Berachot, 29a) illustrates this saying by referring to a certain Jochanan, who, after having been high-priest for eighty years, became a heretic.

(13) This verse may be variously translated and interpreted. Its translation here is in accordance with the interpretation of Maimonides. Do not express yourself in such a way that your words may be understood only after careful study and deep thought, but let them be clear and intelligible.

(14) The word [bur (bet-vov-resh)] means "uncultivated" ([sadeh bur] "an uncultivated field"). It is used of an ignorant, uncultured, mannerless person, possessing no moral or spiritual virtues. Taylor translates it by "boor." [am ha'aretz], literally "people of the land," "country people," is applied to an individual who may possess good manners, and may be literate, but who has no religious knowledge, nor training, nor does not observe religious customs. Taylor renders it "vulgar." Mayer Sulzberger maintains that this term was applied to an assembly of representatives of the people constituting a body similar to the modern Parliament, and divided into a lower and upper house. See his "The Am Ha-aretz, The Ancient Hebrew Parliament." On the Am ha-aretz and his opposite the chaber, see Schurer, History, II, ii, pp. 8, 9 and pp. 22 et seq., also Herford, ibid. pp. 46-47.

(15) I.e., he who is ashamed to ask questions for fear of exposing his ignorance.

(16) He who has no patience to answer all the questions of his pupils.

(17) Cf. chapter IV, 12. One of the qualifications necessary for the acquirement of the Torah is moderation in business.

(18) Do not boldly push yourself forward; but where there is no one to fill the position of teacher or leader, or to be the head of the community, and you have the qualifications, do not shrink from being the man.

(19) Retribution is sure. Cf. Sanhedrin, 100a and Sotah, 9b, "with what measure a man measures, is it measured unto him."

(20) Cf. Prov. III, 1 and 2.

(21) The expression "the world to come" may mean the Messianic days, the time after the Messianic era, the days after the resurrection or the spiritual hereafter. Maimonides discusses at length the various theories, in Perek Chelek (Commentary on Sanhedrin, X, 1), which has been translated into English by J. Abelson, in the Jewish Quarterly Review (London), vol. XXIX, p. 28 et seq. See also The Hebrew Review (London, 1840), p. 254 et seq. Consult Schurer, History, II, ii, 92.

9. Rabban Jochanan, the son of Zakkai (22) received (the tradition) from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say, "If thou hast learnt much Torah, ascribe not any merit to thyself, for thereunto wast thou created."

(22) Rabban Jochanan ben Zakkai was known as the least of the disciples of Hillel. He was a contemporary of the historian Josephus. Escaping in a coffin from Jerusalem, when it was besieged by the Roman general Vespasian, and predicting the latter's elevation to the imperial dignity, Jochanan was allowed by Vespasian to go to Jabneh (Jamnia), where he founded the celebrated academy which became the centre of learning in Palestine, as Jerusalem had previously been. He was the most important scribe in the first decade after the destruction of the Temple (70 C.E.). See Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, p. 86 et seq., Bacher, Agada der Tanaiten, pp. 25-46, Myers, Story of the Jewish People, I, pp. 151-160, and Danziger, Jewish Forerunners of Christianity, pp. 55-72.

10. Rabban Jochanan, the son of Zakkai, had five disciples (23), and these are they: Rabbi Eliezer, the son of Hyrcanus; Rabbi Joshua, the son of Hananiah (24); Rabbi Jose, the Priest; Rabbi Simeon, the son of Nataniel; and Rabbi Eleazar, the son of Arach. 11. He used thus to recount their praise: "Eliezer, the son of Hyrcanus, is a cemented cistern, which loses not a drop (25); Joshua, the son of Hananiah, happy is she that bare him (26); Jose, the Priest, is a pious man (27); Simeon, the son of Nataniel, is a fearer of sin; Eleazar, the son of Arach, is like a spring flowing with ever-sustained vigor" (28). 12. He used to say, "If all the sages of Israel were in one scale of the balance, and Eliezer, the son of Hyrcanus, in the other, he would outweigh them all." Abba Saul (29) said in his name, "If all the sages of Israel were in one scale of the balance, and Eliezer, the son of Hyrcanus, also with them, and Eleazar, the son of Arach, in the other scale, he would outweigh them all." 13. He said to them, "Go forth and see which is the good way to which a man should cleave." R. Eliezer said, "A good eye" (30); R. Joshua said, "A good friend"; R. Jose said, "A good neighbor" (31); R. Simeon said, "One who foresees the fruit of an action" (32); R. Eleazar said, "A good heart." Thereupon he said to them, "I approve of the words of Eleazar, the son of Arach, rather than your words, for in his words yours are included" (33). 14. He said to them, "Go forth and see which is the evil way that a man should shun." R. Eliezer said, "An evil eye" (34); R. Joshua said, "A bad friend"; R. Jose said, "A bad neighbor"; R. Simeon said, "One who borrows and does not repay—it is the same whether one borrows from man or the Omnipresent (35); as it is said, 'The wicked borroweth and payeth not again, but the righteous dealeth graciously and giveth'" (36); R. Eleazar said, "A bad heart." Thereupon he said to them, "I approve of the words of Eleazar, the son of Arach, rather then your words, for in his words yours are included."

(23) Of special excellence.

(24) On the life of R. Joshua (40-130 C.E.), see Bacher, ibid., 129-194, Myers, ibid., 161-170, Danziger, ibid., 122-151.

(25) He forgets nothing he has learned. On R. Eliezer, see Danziger, ibid., 91-121.

(26) When yet a child in the cradle, his mother took him into the synagogue that he might thus early hear the words of the Torah.

(27) A chasid ([chasid]), "saint," is one who does more than the strict letter of the law requires. See Schechter, Studies, II, pp. 148-181, idem, Aspects, p. 209, Rawicz, Commentar des Maimonides, pp. 95-96, and Gorfinkle, The Eight Chapters, pp. 60-62.

(28) "A welling spring" (Taylor).

(29) He lived in the first half of the second century, C.E.

(30) I.e., an eye that looks upon people with benevolence and kind feelings, free from envy and ill-will.

(31) A good friend is one who induces his associate to study Torah, and who reproves him when he sees him doing wrong. The passage means not so much to gain a good friend as to be a good friend.

(32) One who balances the present against the future.

(33) The heart was considered the seat of all moral and spiritual functions. See Schechter, Aspects, p. 255 et seq.

(34) Denotes niggardliness, envy, or jealousy.

(35) _I.e._, one who lacks foresight and incurs responsibilities he is unable to meet borrows from God, as all wealth belongs to Him, and men are merely His stewards. The word [makom], literally "place," "space," was used to designate Jerusalem, or the Temple, as being _the_ place where God's spirit dwells; or it may also refer to the divine court of the _Sanhedrin_. It then came to be used as an appellative for God. As Schechter remarks, "The term is mainly indicative of God's ubiquity in the world and can best be translated by 'Omnipresent.'" See Hoffmann, _Sanhedrin_ VI, note 56, Taylor, _Sayings_, p. 53, note 42, and Schechter, _Aspects_, pp. 26-27, where the literature on this subject is given. See also Friedlander, _The Jewish Religion_, p. 287, and the Jewish Encyclopedia_, art. _Names of God_.

(36) Psalm XXXVII, 21.

15. They each said three things. R. Eliezer said, "Let thy friend's honor be as dear to thee as thine own (37); be not easily excited to anger; and repent one day before thy death" (38). And (he further said), "Warm thyself by the fire of the wise, but beware of their glowing coals, lest thou be burnt, for their bite is the bite of the fox, and their sting is the scorpion's sting, and their hiss is the serpent's hiss, and all their words are like coals of fire" (39). 16. R. Joshua said, "The evil eye, the evil inclination (40), and hatred of his fellow-creatures (41), put a man out of the world." 17. R. Jose said, "Let the property of thy friend be as dear to thee as thine own; prepare thyself for the study of Torah, since the knowledge of it is not an inheritance of thine, and let all thy deeds be done in the name of God" (42). 18. R. Simeon said, "Be careful in reading the Shema (43) and the Amidah (44); and when thou prayest, consider not thy prayer as a fixed (mechanical) task, but as (an appeal for) mercy and grace before the All-present, as it is said, 'For he is gracious and full of mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness, and repenteth him of the evil' (45); and be not wicked in thine own esteem" (46). 19. R. Eleazar said, "Be diligent in studying Torah, and know what answer to give to the unbeliever (47); know also before whom thou toilest, and who thy Employer is, who will pay thee the reward of thy labor."

(37) Cf. chapter IV, 15.

(38) Man should repent every day of his life, for he knows not on what day he may die (Shabbat, 153a).

(39) One who wishes to warm himself remains a certain distance away from the fire; if he approaches too near, he is burned; so, do not endeavor to become too intimate with the wise, as their opinion of you may change to your detriment. The "bite," the "sting," and the "hiss" represent the terribleness of the looks of the wise who have been angered.

(40) Passion, evil nature, or evil inclination.

(41) Misanthropy.

(42) In making man's highest ideal the comprehension of God, Maimonides, in the Shemonah Perakim, supports his view by referring to the latter part of this verse. He says, "The sages of blessed memory, too, have summed up this idea in so few words and so concisely, at the same time elucidating the whole matter with such complete thoroughness, that when one considers the brevity with which they express this great and mighty thought in its entirety, about which others have written whole books and yet without adequately explaining it, one truly recognizes that the Rabbis undoubtedly spoke through divine inspiration. This saying is found among their precepts, and is, 'Let all thy deeds be done in the name of God.'" See Gorfinkle, The Eight Chapters, p. 73.

(43) This prayer consists of three portions of the Pentateuch (Deut. VI, 4-9; XI, 13-21; Num. XV, 37-41), and gets its name from the initial word of the first portion. It is appointed to be read twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. On the time when the Shema is to be read, see Berachot I, 1. See Schurer, History, II, ii, 77, 83, et seq.; Friedlander, Jewish Religion, pp. 430, 435; Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Shema, and Adler, in the Jewish Review (London, 1910), vol. I, number 2, p. 159.

(44) An important part of the ritual said at the daily morning, afternoon, and evening service, and also at the additional service on Sabbaths and holy days, is known as (1) Tefillah (prayer), or (2) Shemoneh Esreh (eighteen), or (3) Amidah (standing). It is known as Tefillah because it is considered the prayer par excellence; as Shemoneh Esreh because originally it consisted of eighteen prayers (now nineteen); and as Amidah (by Sephardic Jews) because it must be said standing. The Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh have been appropriately styled the "two pillars of the fabric of the liturgy." See Schurer, ibid.; Friedlander, ibid., pp. 430, 437; in the Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Shemoneh Esreh; Schechter, Studies, II, pp. 67068; Adler, ibid., p. 159; and Herford, ibid., pp. 298-299.

(45) Joel II, 13.

(46) Do not do what your conscience tells you is wrong, even though it does not appear to others as such; or, do not sin in secret, thinking that you will escape punishment because others do not see you.

(47) Apikuros is a term originally used to designate a follower of the philosopher Epicurus, whose axiom was that "happiness or enjoyment is the summum bonum of life." Later, this word was used by the Rabbis to designate a free-thinker, a heretic, an unbeliever, or a despiser of the Law, Jewish or non-Jewish. Josephus (Antiquities, X, 11, 7, ed. Whiston-Margoliouth, p. 300) describes the Epicureans as those "who cast providence out of human life, and do not believe that God takes care of the affairs of the world, nor that the universe is governed and continued in being by that blessed and immortal nature, but say that the world is carried along of its own accord without a ruler and a curator." Maimonides, in his commentary on Sanhedrin, X, 1, derives the word from the Hebrew, [hefkeir (hey-fey-kuf-resh)], "freedom," and defines it as one who refuses obedience to the Law. Schechter (Studies in Judaism, I, p. 158) says, "It implies rather a frivolous treatment of the words of Scripture and tradition." See the Jewish Encyclopedia art. Apikuros, and Barton, Ecclesiastes, p. 41. This verse may also be rendered, "Study Torah, and also know ([v'da (vov-daled-ayin)]) how to answer an unbeliever," meaning that first one should study Torah and Talmud, and then give his time to learning other knowledge, so as to be able to refute those who stray from the truth.

20. Rabbi Tafron (48) said, "The day is short, the task is great (49), the laborers are sluggish, the reward is much, and the Master of the house (50) is urgent." 21. He also used to say, "It is not thy duty to complete the work, but neither art thou free to desist from it; if thou hast studied much Torah, much reward will be given thee; and faithful is thy Employer to pay thee the reward of thy labor; and know that the grant of reward unto the righteous will be in the time to come" (51).

Rabbi Chanania, the son of Akashia, said, "The Holy One, blessed be He, was pleased to make Israel worthy; wherefore He gave them a copious Torah and many commandments, as it is said, 'It pleased the Lord, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify the Torah and make it honorable'".

(48) A contemporary of Jochanan ben Zakkai's five disciples and of Akiba. See Bacher, ibid., pp. 348-358, and Meyer, ibid., p. 179.

(49) The day, i.e., the life of man, is brief. Art is long, but life is short.

(50) I.e., God.

(51) A man cannot finish the work of the world, yet he must not yield to idleness and despair, but must do his share to the best of his ability. His reward will come in the future.


All Israel have a portion in the world to come, and it is said, "And thy people 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".

1. Akabia (1), the son of Mahalalel, said, "Consider three things, and thou wilt not come within the power of sin (2): know whence thou camest, and whither thou art going, and before whom thou wilt in the future have to give an account and reckoning (3). Whence thou camest: from a fetid drop; whether thou art going: to a place of dust, worms, and maggots (4); and before whom thou wilt in the future have to give an account and reckoning: before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He."

(1) He lived about the middle of the first century.

(2) Cf. chapter II, 1.

(3) Compare with this saying the exposition by Akiba of Eccl. XII, 1: [uzechor et bor'ech (bor'ech is: bet-vov-resh-alef-yud-chof(sofit)] "but remember thy creator." Playing upon the word [bor'ech], he says, "Remember thy source ([bet-alef-resh-chof(sofit)]), thy grave ([bet-vov-resh-chof(sofit)]), and thy creator ([bet-resh-alef-chof(sofit)])," Kohelet Rabbah, ad. loc. If man thinks of whence he comes, he is rendered humble; if he reflects upon whither he is going, he prizes worldly things lightly; and if he considers HIm before whom he must give an account, he obeys God's laws.

(4) Cf. Job XXV, 6: "How much less the mortal, the mere worm ([rimah])? and the son of the earth, the mere maggot ([toleah])?" can be pure in God's eyes.

2. R. Chanina, the Vice-High-Priest (5), said, "Pray for the welfare of the government, since but for the fear thereof men would swallow each other alive" (6).

(5) Chief of the priests, adjutant high-priest. The _segan_ was next in rank to the high-priest. None could be appointed high-priest unless he had occupied the office of the _segan_ (Palestinian _Talmud_, _Yoma_, III, 41a, top). According to Schurer, he was "the captain of the Temple," whose duty it was to superintend arrangements for keeping order in and around the Temple. He was also present at all important functions in which the high-priest took part, such as the drawing of lots in the case of the two goats on _Yom Kippur_ (_Yoma III, 9, IV, 1); when reading from the _Torah_ (_Yoma_, VII, 1; _Sotah_ VII, 7, 8), and when offering the daily sacrifice (_Tamid_ VII, 3). Rabbi Chanina was the last to bear this title, his son being known as Simeon ben ha-Segan. See Bacher, _Agada der Tanaiten_, pp. 55-58, Schurer, _History_, II, i, 257-259.

(6) Cf. Jer. XXXIX, 7, "And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace," and Abodah Zarah, 3b.

3. R. Chananiah, the son of Teradion (7), said, "If two sit together and interchange no words of Torah, they are a meeting of scorners, concerning whom it is said, 'The godly man sitteth not in the seat of the scorners' (8); but if two sit together and interchange words of Torah, the Divine Presence (9) abides among them; as it is said, 'Then they that feared the Lord spake one with the other; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name,' (10). Now the Scripture enables me to draw this inference in respect to two persons; whence can it be deduced that if even one person sedulously occupies himself with the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, appoints unto him a reward? Because it is said, 'though he sit alone, and meditate in stillness, yet he taketh it (the reward) upon him'" (11).

(7) He lived about 120 C.E. He was the father of Beruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir.

(8) Ps. I, 1. Verse 2 of this psalm continues, "But his delight is in the Law of the Lord."

(9) [shechinah] literally "dwelling," is a name applied to God when He is spoken of as dwelling among men. See Schechter, Aspects, en passim; Abelson, Immanence of God, p. 77 et seq.

(10) Mal. III, 16.

(11) Lam. III, 27.

4. R. Simeon (12) said, "If three have eaten at a table and have spoken there no words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to dead idols, of whom it is said, 'For all their tables are full of vomit and filthiness; the All-present is not (in their thoughts)' (13). But if three have eaten at a table and have spoken there words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten at the table of the All-present, for Scripture says, 'And he said unto me, This is the table that is before the Lord'" (14).

(12) Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai lived about the middle of the second century C.E., and was a pupil of Akiba. See Danziger, ibid., pp. 211-241. He was long thought to be the author of the well-known kabbalistic work Zohar, which was, however, probably written in the thirteenth century by Moses Shem Tob de Leon. See the Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Zohar; Graetz, History, IV, p. 11 et seq.; Schechter, Studies, I, pp. 18, 19, 133; and H. Sperling, in Aspects of the Hebrew Genius, p. 165 et seq.

(13) Isa. XXVIII, 8. The literal interpretation of [bli makom] is, there is "no place" clean of defilement; but the word [makom] being used to designate God (see above, chapter II, n. 35), suggests the interpretation, "without mention of the name of God."

(14) Ezek. XLI, 22.

5. R. Chanina, the son of Hakinai (15), said, "He who keeps awake at night, and goes on his way alone, while turning his heart to vanity, such a one forfeits his own life" (16).

(15) He lived about 120 C.E., and was a pupil of Akiba. See Bacher, ibid., 436 et seq.

(16) Even the sleepless man and the solitary traveller must turn their thoughts to the Torah.

6. R. Nechunya, son of ha-Kanah (17), said, "Whoso receives upon himself the yoke of the Torah, from the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly care will be removed (18), but whoso breaks off from him the yoke of the Torah, upon him will be laid the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly care."

(17) He lived about 80 C.E. See Bacher, ibid., pp. 58-61.

(18) The "yoke of the kingdom" refers to the taxes and burdens exacted by the government; the "yoke of worldly care" is anxiety of the struggle for existence.

7. R. Chalafta, the son of Dosa (19), of the village of Chanania said, "When ten people sit together and occupy themselves with the Torah, the Shechinah (20) abides among them, as it is said, 'God standeth in the congregation (21) of the godly' (22). And whence can it be shown that the same applies to five? Because it is said, 'He hath found his band (23) upon the earth' (24). And whence can it be shown that the same applies to three? Because it is said, 'He judgeth among the judges' (25). And whence can it be shown that the same applies to two? Because it is said, 'Then they that feared the Lord spake one with the other; and the Lord hearkened, and heard' (26). And whence can it be shown that the same applies even to one? Because it is said, 'In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come unto thee and I will bless thee'" (27).

(19) He was probably a disciple of R. Meir. See below, n. 32.

(20) See above, n. 9.

(21) An edah, "assembly," "congregation," "prayer-meeting," consists of at least ten persons (Megillah, 23b). See Sulzburger, The Ancient Hebrew Parliament, chapter I.

(22) Ps. LXXXII, 1.

(23) An agudah (lit., "bundle," "bunch"), "bond," "union," is constituted of at least five, though some authorities maintain that it stands for three. See Taylor, Sayings, p. 46, n. 15. This word is used in the name of a number of Jewish societies whose members bind themselves to brotherly love and mutual assistance. as Agudat Achim, "United Brethren," etc.

(24) Amos, IX, 6.

(25) Ps. LXXXII, 1. Every bet din, "judicial tribunal," consisted of at least three members (Sanhedrin, 3b).

(26) Mal. III, 16.

(27) Ex. XX, 24.

8. R. Eleazar of Bertota (28) said, "Give unto Him of what is His, for thou and thine are His: this is also found expressed by David, who said, 'For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own we have given Thee'" (29).

(28) He lived during the second century C.E. See Bacher, ibid., pp. 442-445.

(29) I Chron. XXIX, 14.

9. R. Jacob said, "He who is walking by the way and studying, and breaks off his study and says, 'How fine is that tree, how fine is that fallow,' him the Scripture regards as if he had forfeited his life" (30).

(30) One must not interrupt his studies even to admire the beauties of nature.

10. R. Dostai (31), the son of Jannai, said in the name of R. Meir (32), "Whoso forgets one word of his study, him the Scripture regards as if he had forfeited his life, for it is said, 'Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen' (33). Now, one might suppose (that the same result follows) even if a man's study has been too hard for him. (To guard against such an inference), it is said, 'And lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life' (34). Thus a person's guilt is not established until he deliberately and of set purpose removes those lessons from his heart."

(31) He lived about 160 C.E.

(32) Rabbi Meir was the celebrated pupil of Akiba. His wife was the well-known Bruriah. On his interesting career, see Blumenthal, Rabbi Meir, Myers, The Story of the Jewish People, I, pp. 189-204, and Danziger, Jewish Forerunners of Christianity, pp. 185-210.

(33) Deut. IV, 9.

(34) Deut. IV, 9.

11. R. Chanina, the son of Dosa (35), said, "He in whom the fear of sin precedes wisdom, his wisdom shall endure; but he in whom wisdom comes before the fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure" (36). 12. He used to say, "He whose works exceed his wisdom, his wisdom shall endure; but he whose wisdom exceeds his works, his wisdom will not endure" (37). 13. He used to say, "He in whom the spirit of his fellow-creatures takes not delight, in him the Spirit of the All-present takes not delight."

(35) A contemporary of Jochanan ben Zakkai (10 B.C.E.-90 C.E.). See Friedlander, Ben Dosa und seine Zeit (Prag, 1872), and Bacher, ibid., 283 et seq.

(36) Cf. Ps. CXI, 10: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord." "A man's fear of sin should be instinctive, rather than a result of calculation, . . . a man should build upon the foundation of religious feeling, rather than upon philosophy" (Taylor).

(37) Cf. above, chapter I, 17, "Not learning but doing is the chief thing."

14. R. Dosa, the son of Horkinas (38), said, "Morning sleep, midday wine, childish babbling, and attending the houses of assembly of the ignorant waste a man's life" (39).

(38) A contemporary of Jochanan ben Zakkai.

(39) Idleness, etc., indispose one for the study of the Torah and for business.

15. R. Eleazar ha-Mudai said, "He who profanes things sacred, and despises the festivals, and puts his fellow-man to shame in public, and makes void the covenant of Abraham, our father (40), and makes the Torah bear a meaning other than the right (41); (such a one) even though knowledge of the Torah and good deeds be his, has no share in the world to come" (42).

(40) I.e. circumcision.

(41) Or "acts barefacedly against the Torah."

(42) Knowledge and moral excellence alone are not sufficient.

16. R. Ishmael (43) said, "Be submissive to a superior (44), affable to the young (45), and receive all men with cheerfulness" (46).

(43) Lived about 120 C.E. See Bacher, ibid., pp. 240-271.

(44) Or "be pliant of disposition."

(45) [l'tishchoret] is variously rendered as the "young" (Maimonides, Bartenora, Geiger, Jastrow), "impressment" (Rashbam, Taylor), "sovereign authority" (Levy, Chald. Worterbuch, sub [shachar (shin-chet-resh)], Fiebig), and "a suppliant" (Singer).

(46) Cf. chapter I, 15.

17. R. Akiba (47) said, "Jesting and levity lead a man on to lewdness. The Massorah (48) is a rampart around the Torah; tithes are a safeguard to riches (49); good resolves are a fence to abstinence (50); a hedge around wisdom is silence" (51). 18. He used to say, "Beloved is man, for he was created in the image (of God); but it was by a special love that it was made known to him that he was created in the image of God, as it is said, 'For in the image of God made he man' (52). Beloved are Israel, or they were called children of the All-present, but it was by a special love that it was made known to them that they were called children of the All-present, as it is said, 'Ye are children unto the Lord your God' (53). Beloved are Israel, for unto them was given the desirable instrument (54); but it was by a special love that it was made known to them that that desirable instrument was theirs, through which the world was created, as it is said, 'For I give you good doctrine; forsake ye not my Torah' (55). 19. Everything is foreseen, yet free will is given (56); and the world is judged by grace, yet all is according to the amount of the work" (57). 20. He used to say, "Everything is given on pledge (58), and a net is spread for all living (59); the shop is open (60); the dealer gives credit; the ledger lies open; the hand writes; and whosoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow; but the collectors regularly make their daily round, and exact payment from man whether he be content or not (61); and they have that whereon they can rely in their demand; and the judgment is a judgment of truth (62); and everything is prepared for the feast" (63).

(47) Akiba ben Joseph (born about 50 C.E., died about 132) was the greatest of the Tannaim (teachers mentioned in the Mishnah). He was a "proselyte of righteousness" (ger tzedek). Until middle age, he remained illiterate and averse to study, but was spurred on to become learned in the Torah by the daughter of the rich Kalba Shabua, whom he subsequently married. He was the pupil of R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanos, R. Jochanan ben Chanania, and Nahum of Gimzo. He espoused the cause of Bar Kochba, acknowledging him as the Messiah, and is said to have travelled throughout the land stirring up opposition to Rome. At the fall of Betar, he was captured by the Romans, and most cruelly put to death, expiring with the Shema upon his lips. R. Akiba definitely fixed the canon of the Old Testament. He compiled and systematized the traditional law, in this respect being the forerunner of R. Judah ha-Nasi (see chapter II, n. 1), whose Mishnah may be considered as being derived from that of the school of Akiba. His importance may be gauged by the following statement from the Talmud, "Our Mishnah comes directly from R. Meir (a disciple of Akiba), the Tosefta from R. Nehemiah, the Sifra from R. Judah, and the Sifre from R. Simon; but they all took Akiba for a model in their works and followed him" (Sanhedrin, 86a). Akiba introduced a new method of interpreting Scripture, in which not a word, syllable, or letter was considered superfluous, finding thereby a basis for many oral laws. His hermeneutical and exegetical activities were remarkable. Many interesting legends have clustered around his name. See Bacher, ibid., 271-348; Meilziner, Introduction to the Talmud, pp. 29, 125-126; Isaacs, Stories from the Rabbis, p. 61 et seq.; Danziger, ibid., pp. 152-184; the Jewish Encyclopedia, arts. Akiba ben Joseph and Akiba ben Joseph in Legend; Myers, Story of the Jewish People, pp. 171-188; and Geiger, Judaism and its History, p. 226 et seq., 230 et seq.

(48) Massorah, from root masar, "to deliver," "hand over," "transmit," means a "chain of tradition." It is used to designate tradition in general, and is thus correlative with kabbalah. The Massorah contains information for the correct transcription of the Scripture. As used here, it means the traditional interpretation of the Torah. Cf. chapter I, 1, "Moses received the Torah on Sinai, and handed it down (umsarah) to Joshua," and "make a fence around the Torah." Consult Driver, Notes on Samuel, Intro., p. 37 et seq.; Schurer, ibid., II, i, 328; Taylor, Sayings, p. 55, n. 33; Friedlander ibid., p. 55, 203, 266; Jewish Encyclopedia s.v.; and The Companion Bible (London, Oxford University Press), Pt. I, Appendix, 30.

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