Click here for Chapter 4 of Pirkei Avot.
1. By ten divine sayings the world was created. Could it not have been created by one? What does this teach us? In order to emphasize the guilt of the wicked who destroy the world that was created with ten sayings and the merit of the righteous who preserve the world that was created with ten sayings.
2. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to show how great was His patience, for every one of those generations provoked Him continually until he brought upon them the waters of the Flood.
3. There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham, to show how great was His patience, for every one of those generations provoked Him continually until Abraham, our father, came and received the reward of them all.
4. With ten tests was Abraham, our father, tested and he stood steadfast in them all; [they were] to show how great was His love.
5. Ten wonders were performed for our fathers in Egypt and ten at the sea.
6. Ten plagues did the Holy One, blessed be He, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten more at the sea.
7. Ten times our ancestors in the wilderness tested the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written (Numbers 14:22) "Who ... tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice."
8. Ten miracles were performed for our fathers in the Temple:
· No woman miscarried from the odor of the flesh of the offerings;
· The flesh of the offerings never turned putrid;
· No fly was ever seen in the place of slaughter;
· The high priest never suffered a pollution on the Day of Atonement;
· Rain never quenched the fire of the wood arranged on the altar;
· No wind prevailed over the pillar of smoke;
· Never was a defect found in the omer or in the two loaves or in the showbread;
· Though the worshipers stood pressed together, they could freely prostrate themselves;
· Never did serpent or scorpion do harm in Jerusalem;
· No man said to his fellow, "There is no room for me to lodge in Jerusalem."
9. Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath:
· The mouth of the earth (Numbers 16:32);
· The mouth of the well (Numbers 21:16);
· The mouth of the ass (Numbers 22:28);
· The rainbow;
· The manna;
· Aaron's staff;
· The Shamir, writing;
· The inscription on the tablets of the Ten Commandments;
· The tablets themselves.
Some also include the evil spirits, the grave of Moses, the ram of Abraham; and others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.
10. Seven marks characterize the clod and seven the wise man. The wise man does not speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom and he does not break in upon the speech of his fellow. He is not hasty to answer. He asks what is relevant and answers according to the Halakah. He speaks on the first point first and on the last point last. Where he has heard no tradition he says, "I have not heard"; and he agrees to what is true. The opposites of these attributes are the marks of the clod.
11. Seven kinds of punishment come upon the world for seven classes of transgression. If some give tithe and some do not give tithe, there comes famine from drought. Some hunger while some have a sufficiency.
When all resolve not to give tithes there comes famine from tumult and drought.
And if they will not set apart dough offerings (Numbers 15:20) there comes an all-consuming famine.
Pestilence comes upon the world because of crimes deserving the death penalties enjoined in the Torah that are not brought before the court; and because of the transgressions of the Torahs of the seventh year produce (Leviticus 25:1-7).
The sword comes upon the world because of the delaying of justice and the perverting of justice; and because of those that teach Torah not according to the halakhah.
Evil beasts come upon the world because of false swearing and the profaning of the name.
Exile comes upon the world because of idolatry and incest and the shedding of blood; and because of neglect to give release to the soil during the sabbatical year.
12. At four periods pestilence increases: In the fourth year and the seventh year and in the year after the seventh year, and at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles every year.
"In the fourth year"--because of neglect of the Poorman's Tithe in the third year (Deuteronomy 14:28-30).
"In the seventh year"--because of neglect of the Poorman's Tithe in the sixth year.
"In the year after the seventh year"--because of transgressing the Torahs of the seventh year produce.
"At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles every year"--because of robbing the poor of the harvest gifts that are their due.
13. There are four types among men:
He who says, "What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours"--this is the common type, though some say that this is the type of Sodom.
He who says, "What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine"--he is an ignorant man.
He who says, "What is mine is yours and what is yours is thine own"--he is a saintly man.
And he who says, "What is yours is mine, and what is mine is mine"--he is a wicked man.
14. There are four temperaments among men:
Easy to provoke and easy to appease--his loss is canceled by his gain.
Hard to provoke and hard to appease--his gain is canceled by his loss.
Hard to provoke and easy to appease--he is a saintly man.
Easy to provoke and hard to appease--he is a wicked man.
15. Four characteristics are found among students:
Quick to learn and quick to forget, his gain is canceled by his loss.
Slow to learn and slow to forget, his loss is canceled by his gain.
Quick to learn and slow to forget, his is a happy lot.
Slow to learn and quick to forget, his is an unhappy lot.
16. There are four types of charity-givers:
He who wants to give but does not wish that others should give--he begrudges what belongs to others.
He who wants that others should give but not that he should give--he begrudges what belongs to himself.
He who wants to give and also that others should give--he is a saintly man.
He who does not want to give himself and does not wish that others should give--he is a wicked man.
17. There are four types among those who attend the house of study:
He who goes and does not practice (study)--he has the reward of his going.
He who practices (studies) but does not go--he has the reward of his practicing (studying).
He who goes and also practices (studies)--he is a saintly man.
He who neither goes nor practices (studies)--he is a wicked man.
18. There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve.
"The sponge," who soaks up everything. "The funnel," who takes in at this end and lets out at the other. "The strainer," who lets out the wine and retains the dregs. "The sieve," who removes the coarse meal and collects the fine flour.
19. Whenever love depends upon something and it passes, then the love passes away too. But if love does not depend upon some ulterior interest then the love will never pass away.
What is an example of the love which depended upon some material advantage? That of Amnon for Tamar. And what is an example of the love which did not depend upon some ulterior interest? That of David and Jonathan.
20. Any controversy waged in the service of God shall in the end be of lasting worth, but any that is not shall in the end lead to no permanent result.
Which controversy was an example of being waged in the service of God? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which was not for God? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his company.
21. Whoever leads the masses in the right path will not come to any sin, but whoever leads the masses astray will not be able to repent for all the wrong he commits.
Thus Moses was virtuous and he led the masses in the right path, and their merit is ascribed to him, as it is written (Deuteronomy 33:21) "He executed the justice of the Lord, and His ordinances for Israel."
But Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, sinned and caused the multitude to sin, and so the sin of the masses is ascribed to him as it is written (I Kings 15:30) "Because of the sins of Jeroboam that he committed and that he caused Israel to commit."
22. Whosoever possesses these three qualities belongs to the disciples of Abraham our father: a generous eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul.
But he who possesses the three opposite qualities--an evil eye, a proud spirit, and a haughty soul--is of the disciples of Balaam the wicked.
How do the disciples of Abraham differ from the disciples of Balaam? The disciples of Abraham enjoy this world and inherit the world to come, as it is written (Proverbs 8:21) "Endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries." The disciples of Balaam inherit Gehenna and go down to the pit of destruction, as it is written (Psalm 55:23) "But you, O God, will cast them down into the lowest pit; the bloodthirsty and treacherous shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you."
23. Judah ben Teima used to say: Be strong as the leopard, swift as the eagle, fleet as the gazelle, and brave as the lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven. He also used to say: The impudent are for Gehenna and the affable for Paradise. (He used to pray): May it be thy will, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and grant our portion in your Torah.
24. He used to say: At five years old a person should study the Scriptures, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for the commandments, at 15 for the Talmud, at 18 for the bridechamber, at 20 for one's life pursuit, at 30 for authority, at 40 for discernment, at 50 for counsel, at 60 to be an elder, at 70 for gray hairs, at 80 for special strength (Psalm 90:10), at 90 for decrepitude, and at a 100 a man is as one who has already died and has ceased from the affairs of this world.
25. Ben Bag-Bag used to say of the Torah: Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. Pore over it, and wax gray and old over it. Stir not from it for you can have no better rule than it.
26. Ben Heh-Heh used to say: According to the effort is the reward.
Click here for Chapter 4 of Pirkei Avot.
Pirkei Avot Articles