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פרקי אבות פרק ו׳ | Pirqei Avot: Chapter Six, cantillated by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Many older Mishnaic manuscripts (such as some of those found in the Cairo Geniza) have a unique feature – they include Ta’amei Miqra (commonly known as cantillation marks or trop). Ta’amei Miqra are far more than just musical notation – they also code syntactic divisions, functioning almost like punctuation. Thus many earlier texts used Ta’amei Miqra to mark punctuation – and Mishnaic texts were no exception.

Pirqei Avot, the second-to-last Mishnaic tractate in Seder Neziqin, has had an important place in the heart of the Jewish people for centuries. Full of ancient pearls of wisdom – for instance, Hillel’s famous meditation ‘If I am not for me, who will be for me? And if I am for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” – many communities recite one chapter every Shabbat during the counting of the Omer, and read from it on a regular basis.

Taking into account both of these, this text includes all of Pirqei Avot with full ta’amei miqra added (to coin a word, it’s fully מְטוֹעָם m’to’am). It could be recited at any time when Pirqei Avot would normally be read or studied, using a cantillation system or not. (The systems for Torah and for the Three Scrolls work the best, in the opinion of the m’ta’em.)

Some notes:

In locations where Pirqei Avot quotes from Miqra itself, the original cantillation marks are preserved. The exceptions are quotations from Psalms, Proverbs and Job. Although the m’ta’em has previously developed a method of reciting the cantillation for these poetic EMe”T books, it is often difficult to transition from one system to another – ask those who read Megilat Esther! Thus, those readings have been m’to’am a second time to follow the pattern of the twenty-one other books.

There are multiple vocalized versions of Pirqei Avot, differing in order, spelling, and vocalization. None of them were really satisfying to the m’ta’em. The text here is a combination of the lot, largely based on the Ashkenazi text, mostly using Mishnaic Hebrew vocalizations (lakh vs. lekha etc.), and treating של־ as an attached prefix according to the Yemenite records. It may occasionally feel a bit unfamiliar, but it is this m’ta’em’s attempt to create a text as grammatically accurate to the original as possible while preserving as much accessibility as possible.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

פרק ו
Chapter 6

כׇּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֕ל יֵ֥שׁ לָהֶ֛ם חֵ֖לֶק לְעוֹלָ֥ם הַבָּֽא׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר וְעַמֵּךְ֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם צַדִּיקִ֔ים לְעוֹלָ֖ם יִ֣ירְשׁוּ אָ֑רֶץ נֵ֧צֶר מטעו מַטָּעַ֛י מַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָדַ֖י לְהִתְפָּאֵֽר׃
All Yisrael have a share in the World to Come, as it is said: ‘Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever; they are a plant of my own, the work of my hands, wherein I may glory.'[1] Isaiah 60:21. 

שָׁ֥נוּ חֲכָמִ֖ים בִּלְשׁ֣וֹן הַמִּשְׁנֶ֑ה בָּר֕וּךְ שֶׁבָּחַ֥ר בָּהֶ֖ם וּבְמִשְׁנָתָֽם׃
The sages taught [also the following] in the style of the Mishnah; blessed be he who was pleased with them and their teaching.

רַ֥בִּי מֵאִ֖יר אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־הָעוֹסֵ֤ק בַּתּוֹרָה֙ לִשְׁמָ֔הּ זוֹכֶ֥ה לִדְבָרִ֖ים הַרְבֵּ֑ה וְלֹ֣א ע֗וֹד אֶ֚לָּא שֶׁכׇּל־הָעוֹלָ֣ם כֻּלּ֔וֹ כְּדַ֖אי ה֥וּא לֽוֹ׃ נִקְרָ֣א ׀ רֵ֣עַ ׀ אָה֣וּב ׀ אוֹהֵ֣ב אֶת־הַמָּקוֹם֩ אוֹהֵ֨ב את־הַבְּרִיּ֜וֹת מְשַׂמֵּ֨חַ֙ אֶת־הַ֣מָּק֔וֹם מְשַׂמֵּ֖חַ אֶת־הַבְּרִיּ֑וֹת וּמַלְבַּשְׁתּ֣וֹ ׀ עֲנָוָ֣ה וְיִרְאָ֗ה וּמַכְשַׁרְתּ֞וֹ לִהְי֨וֹת צַדִּ֤יק חָסִיד֙ יָשָׁ֣ר וְנֶאֱמָ֔ן וּמְרַחַקְתּוֹ֙ מִן־הַחֵ֔טְא וּמְקָרַבְתּ֖וֹ לִידֵ֥י זְכֽוּת׃ וְנֶהֱנִין֙ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ עֵצָ֥ה וְתוּשִׁיָּ֖ה בִּינָה וּגְבוּרָ֑ה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר לִי֙ עֵצָ֣ה וְתוּשִׁיָּ֔ה אֲנִ֥י בִינָ֖ה לִ֥י גְבוּרָֽה׃ וְנוֹתֶ֣נֶת ל֗וֹ מַלְכ֤וּת וּמֶמְשָׁלָה֙ וְחִקּ֣וּר דִּ֔ין וּמְגַלִּ֥ין ל֖וֹ רָזֵ֣י תוֹרָ֑ה וְנַעֲשֶׂה֙ כְּמַעְיָ֣ן הַמִּתְגַּבֵּ֔ר וּכְנָ֖הָר שֶׁאֵינ֥וֹ פּוֹסֵֽק׃ וְהֹוֶ֤ה צָנוּע֙ וְאֶ֣רֶךְ ר֔וּחַ וּמוֹחֵ֖ל עַל־עֶלְבּוֹנ֑וֹ וּמְגַדַּלְתּוֹ֙ וּמְרוֹמַמְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כׇּל־הַמַּעֲשִֽׂים׃
Rebbi Meir said: “Whoever occupies himself with the study of the Torah for its own sake merits many things; nay more, the whole world is worthwhile for his sake. He is called friend, beloved; he loves the Maqom and he loves mankind; he pleases the Maqom and he pleases mankind. The Torah invests him with humility and reverence; it enables him to become righteous, a Ḥasid, upright and faithful; it keeps him far from sin, and draws him near to virtue. Men are benefited by him with counsel and sound wisdom, understanding and strength, as it is said: ‘Mine are counsel and sound wisdom; mine are reason and might.'[2] Proverbs 8:14.  It gives him rule and dominion [personality that commands obedience] and judging ability. To him the secrets of the Torah are revealed; he is made like a never-failing fountain, and like a stream that ever gathers force. He becomes modest, patient, and forgiving of insults. The Torah makes him great and raises him above all creatures.”

אָמַ֛ר רַ֥בִּי יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ בֶּ֥ן לֵֽוִי׃ בְּכׇל־י֣וֹם וָיוֹם֩ בַּת־ק֨וֹל יוֹצֵ֤את מֵהַר־חוֹרֵב֙ וּמַכְרֶ֣זֶת וְאוֹמֶ֔רֶת א֧וֹי לָהֶ֛ם לַבְּרִ֥יּוֹת מֵעֶלְבּוֹנָ֖הּ שֶׁלְּתּוֹרָ֑ה שֶׁכׇּל־מִ֤י שֶׁאֵינוֹ֙ עוֹסֵ֣ק בַּתּוֹרָ֔ה נִקְרָ֖א נָזֽוּף׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר נֶ֥זֶם זָהָ֖ב בְּאַ֣ף חֲזִ֑יר אִשָּׁ֣ה יָפָ֔ה וְסָ֖רַת טָֽעַם׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר וְהַ֨לֻּחֹ֔ת מַעֲשֵׂ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים הֵ֑מָּה וְהַמִּכְתָּ֗ב מִכְתַּ֤ב אֱלֹהִים֙ ה֔וּא חָר֖וּת עַל־הַלֻּחֹֽת׃ אַל־תִּקְרָא֙ חָר֔וּת אֶ֖לָּא חֵר֑וּת שֶׁאֵ֣ין לָךְ֩ בֶּ֨ן חוֹרִ֧ין אֶ֛לָּא מִ֥י שֶׁעוֹסֵ֖ק בְּתַלְמ֥וּד תּוֹרָֽה׃ וְכׇל־מִ֥י שֶׁעוֹסֵ֖ק בְּתַלְמ֖וּד תּוֹרָ֑ה הֲרֵי־זֶ֥ה מִתְעַלֶּ֖ה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ וּמִמַּתָּנָ֖ה נַחֲלִיאֵ֑ל וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵ֖ל בָּמֽוֹת׃
Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: “Every day a heavenly voice resounds from Mount Ḥorev, proclaiming these words: ‘Woe to the people for their disregard of the Torah!’ For whoever does not occupy himself with the Torah is considered rebuked, as it is said. ‘Like a golden ring in the snout of a swine is a fair woman lacking in taste:'[3] Proverbs 11:22.  The Torah says: ‘The tablets were the work of Elohim, and the writing was the writing of Elohim, engraved upon the tablets.'[4] Exodus 32:16.  Read not here ḥarut [meaning ‘engraved’] but ḥerut [which means ‘freedom’], for none can be considered liberated except those who occupy themselves with the study of the Torah. Anyone who occupies himself with the study of the Torah shall be exalted, as it is said: ‘Through the [Torah] gift one attains the heritage of El; by the heritage of El [one is raised] to the heights.'[5] Numbers 21:19. 

הַלוֹמֵ֣ד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ֩ פֶּ֨רֶק אֶחָ֜ד א֣וֹ ׀ הֲלָכָ֣ה אֶחָ֗ת א֨וֹ פָּס֤וּק אֶחָד֙ א֣וֹ־דִבּ֣וּר אֶחָ֔ד א֥וֹ אֲפִ֖ילוּ א֣וֹת אֶחָ֑ת צָרִ֥יךְ לִנְהָג־בּ֖וֹ כָּבֽוֹד׃ שֶׁכֵּ֨ן מָצִ֤ינוּ בְּדָוִד֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שֶׁלֹּ֨א לָמַ֧ד מֵאֲחִית֛וֹפֶל אֶלָּא־שְׁנֵ֥י דְבָרִ֖ים בִּלְבָ֑ד קְרָא֨וֹ רַבּ֤וֹ אַלּוּפוֹ֙ וּמְיֻדָּע֔וֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר וְאַתָּ֧ה אֱנ֛וֹשׁ כְּעֶרְכִּ֥י אַלּוּפִ֖י וּמְיֻדָּעִֽי׃ וַהֲלֹ֤א דְבָרִים֙ קַ֣ל וָח֔וֹמֶר וּמַ֤ה דָוִד֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שֶׁלֹּ֨א לָמַ֧ד מֵאֲחִית֛וֹפֶל אֶלָּא־שְׁנֵ֥י דְבָרִ֖ים בִּלְבָ֑ד קְרָא֕וֹ רַבּ֥וֹ אַלּוּפ֖וֹ וּמְיֻדָּעֽוֹ׃ הַלוֹמֵ֣ד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ֩ פֶּ֨רֶק אֶחָ֜ד א֣וֹ ׀ הֲלָכָ֣ה אֶחָ֗ת א֨וֹ פָּס֤וּק אֶחָד֙ א֣וֹ־דִבּ֣וּר אֶחָ֔ד א֥וֹ אֲפִ֖ילוּ א֣וֹת אֶחָ֑ת עַ֥ל אַחַת֙ כַּמָּ֣ה וְכַמָּ֔ה שֶׁצָּרִ֥יךְ לִנְהָג־בּ֖וֹ כָּבֽוֹד׃ וְאֵ֥ין כָּב֖וֹד אֶ֣לָּא תוֹרָ֑ה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֞ר כָּב֤וֹד חֲכָמִים֙ יִנְחָ֔לוּ וּתְמִימִ֥ים יִנְחֲל֖וּ טֽוֹב׃ וְאֵ֥ין ט֖וֹב אֶ֣לָּא תוֹרָ֑ה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֞ר כִּ֨י לֶ֤קַח טוֹב֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לָכֶ֔ם תּוֹרָתִ֖י אַֽל תַּעֲזֹֽבוּ׃
“He who learns from his fellow man a single section, a single rule, a single verse, a single expression, or even a single letter, ought to treat him with respect; for so we find with David, king of Yisrael, who learnt only two things from Aḥitophel, and yet regarded him as his master, guide and intimate friend, as it is said: ‘You were my equal, my teacher and intimate friend.'[6] Psalm 55:14.  This certainly presents an argument from minor to major: if David, king of Yisrael, who learnt only two things from Aḥitophel, regarded him as his master, guide and intimate friend, how much more ought one who learns from his companion a section, rule, verse, expression, or even a single letter, to treat him with respect. Honor implies Torah, as it is said: ‘The wise shall inherit honor; men of integrity shall attain good fortune.'[7] Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 28:10.  Good implies Torah, as it is said: ‘I give you good doctrine; forsake not my Torah.'[8] Proverbs 4:2. 

כַּ֛ךְ הִ֥יא דַּרְכָּ֖הּ שֶׁלְּתּוֹרָֽה׃ פַּ֤ת בַּמֶּ֨לַח֙ תֹּאכֵ֔ל וּמַ֥יִם בַּמְּשׂוּרָ֖ה תִּשְׁתֶּ֑ה וְעַ֣ל ׀ הָאָ֣רֶץ תִּישָׁ֗ן וְחַיֵּ֤י צַ֨עַר֙ תִּחְיֶ֔ה וּבַתּוֹרָ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה עָמֵֽל׃ אִ֤ם אַתָּה֙ עֹשֶׂ֣ה כֵּ֔ן אַשְׁרֶ֖יךָ וְט֣וֹב לָ֑ךְ אַשְׁרֶ֨יךָ֙ בָּעוֹלָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְט֥וֹב לָ֖ךְ לָעוֹלָ֥ם הַבָּֽא׃
“This is the way of Torah study: eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, sleep on the bare ground, and live a life of hardship while you toil in the Torah [study of the Torah is expected even if one is extremely poor]. If you do this, ‘happy shall you be and it shall be well with you’;[9] Psalm 128:2.  happy shall you be in this world, and it shall be well with you in the World to Come.”

אַל־תְּבַקֵּ֥שׁ גְּדֻלָּ֖ה לְעַצְמָ֑ךְ וְאַ֤ל־תַּחְמוֹד֙ כָּב֔וֹד יוֹתֵ֥ר מִלִּמּוּדָ֖ךְ עֲשֵֽׂה׃ וְאַל־תִּתְאַוֶּ֥ה לְשֻׁלְחָנָ֖ם שֶׁלְּשָׂרִ֑ים שֶׁשֻּׁלְחָנָךְ֙ גָּד֣וֹל מִשֻּׁלְחָנָ֔ם וְכִתְרָ֖ךָ גָּד֥וֹל מִכִּתְרָֽם׃ וְנֶאֱמָ֥ן ה֖וּא בַּ֣עַל מְלַאכְתָּ֑ךְ שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּ֥ם לָ֖ךְ שְׂכַ֣ר פְּעֻלָּתָֽךְ׃
“Do not seek greatness for yourself and do not crave honor; let your deeds exceed your learning; do not desire the table of kings, for your table is greater than theirs, your crown is more glorious than theirs; your Employer can be trusted to pay you for your work.”

גְּדוֹלָ֣ה תּוֹרָ֔ה יוֹתֵ֥ר מִן־הַכְּהוּנָּ֖ה וּמִן־הַמַּלְכ֑וּת שֶׁהַמַּלְכ֤וּת נִקְנֵית֙ בִּשְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים מַעֲל֔וֹת וְהַכְּהֻנָּה֙ בְּעֶשְׂרִ֣ים וְאַרְבַּ֔ע וְהַתּוֹרָ֧ה נִקְנֵ֛ית בְּאַרְבָּעִ֥ים וּשְׁמוֹנֶ֖ה דְבָרִֽים׃ וְאֵלוּ־הֵ֕ן בְּתַלְמוּד֙ בִּשְׁמִיעַ֣ת הָאֹ֔זֶן בַּעֲרִיכַ֥ת־שְׂפָתָ֖יִם בְּבִינַת־הַלֵּֽב׃ בְּאֵימָ֛ה בְּיִרְאָ֥ה בַּעֲנָוָ֖ה בְּשִׂמְחָ֥ה בְּטׇהֳרָֽה׃ בְּשִׁמּ֣וּשׁ חֲכָמִ֔ים בְּדִקְדּ֥וּק חֲבֵרִ֖ים בְּפִלְפּ֥וּל הַתַּלְמִידִֽים׃ בְּיִשּׁ֥וּב בְּמִקְרָ֖א בְּמִשְׁנָֽה׃ בְּמִע֣וּט סְחוֹרָ֔ה בְּמִע֥וּט דֶּרֶךְ־אֶ֖רֶץ בְּמִע֣וּט תַּעֲנ֑וּג בְּמִע֣וּט שֵׁנָ֔ה בְּמִע֥וּט שִׂיחָ֖ה בְּמִע֥וּט שְׂחֽוֹק׃ בְּאֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם בְּלֵ֣ב ט֑וֹב בֶּאֱמוּנַ֥ת חֲכָמִ֖ים בְּקַבָּלַ֣ת הַיִּסּוֹרִֽין׃ הַמַּכִּ֥יר אֶת־מְקוֹמ֖וֹ וְהַשָּׂמֵ֣חַ בְּחֶלְק֑וֹ וְהָעוֹשֶׂה֙ סְיָ֣ג לִדְבָרָ֔יו וְאֵינ֛וֹ מַחֲזִ֥יק טוֹבָ֖ה לְעַצְמֽוֹ׃ אָה֕וּב אוֹהֵ֥ב אֶת־הַמָּק֖וֹם אוֹהֵ֣ב אֶת־הַבְּרִ֑יּוֹת אוֹהֵ֨ב אֶת־הַצְּדָק֜וֹת אוֹהֵ֣ב אֶת־הַמֵּישָׁרִ֗ים אוֹהֵ֤ב אֶת־הַתּוֹכָחוֹת֙ וּמִתְרַחֵ֣ק מִן־הַכָּב֔וֹד וְלֹ֨א מֵגִ֤יס לִבּוֹ֙ בְּתַלְמוּד֔וֹ וְאֵינ֥וֹ שָׂמֵ֖חַ בְּהוֹרָאָֽה׃ נוֹשֵׂ֤א בְעֹל֙ עִם־חֲבֵר֔וֹ וּמַכְרִיע֖וֹ לְכַ֣ף זְכ֑וּת וּמַעֲמִיד֤וֹ עַל־הָאֱמֶת֙ וּמַעֲמִיד֣וֹ עַל־הַשָּׁלוֹם וּמִתְיַ֥שֵּׁב לִבּ֖וֹ בְּתַלְמוּדֽוֹ׃ שׁוֹאֵ֥ל וּמֵשִׁ֖יב שׁוֹמֵ֥עַ וּמוֹסִֽיף׃ הַלּוֹמֵד֙ עַל־מְנָ֣ת לְלַמֵּ֔ד וְהַלּוֹמֵ֖ד עַל־מְנָ֣ת לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת הַמַּחְכִּ֣ים אֶת־רַבּ֔וֹ וְהַמְכַוֵּ֖ן אֶת־שְׁמוּעָתֽוֹ׃ וְהָאוֹמֵ֥ר דָּבָ֖ר בְּשֵׁ֣ם אוֹמְר֑וֹ הָא־לָמַ֞דְתָּ כׇּל־הָאוֹמֵ֤ר דָּבָר֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם אוֹמְר֔וֹ מֵבִ֥יא גְאֻלָּ֖ה לָעוֹלָֽם׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר וַתֹּ֧אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֛ר לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בְּשֵׁ֥ם מָרְדֳּכָֽי
“The Torah is greater than priesthood or royalty; for royalty is acquired by virtue of thirty qualifications, and priesthood by twenty-four, while the Torah is acquired by forty-eight, namely: study, attentive listening, ordered speech [audible rehearsing], mental alertness, intuitive insight, awe [in the student’s attitude towards his master], reverence [for God], humility, cheerfulness, attendance on scholars, close association with colleagues, discussion with students, sedateness, knowledge of Scriptures and Mishnah, moderation in business, moderation in worldly interests, moderation in pleasure, moderation in sleep, moderation in conversation, moderation in merriment, patience, a good heart [un-selfishness], intellectual honesty, uncomplaining acceptance of chastisement, knowing one’s place, being content with one’s lot, setting a limit to one’s words, claiming no credit for oneself, being beloved, loving the Maqom, loving mankind, loving righteousness, loving equity, loving reproof, shunning honors, taking no pride in one’s learning, not delighting in dictating decisions, bearing the yoke with one’s colleague, judging him favorably, directing him to truth and peace, being composed in one’s study, asking and answering, listening and adding to one’s knowledge, learning in order to teach, learning in order to practice, making his teacher wiser, noting with precision what one has learnt, and reporting a thing in the name of the person who said it. You may infer that whoever reports a thing in the name of the person who said it brings deliverance into the world, for it is said: ‘And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai.'[10] Esther 2:21 

גְּדוֹלָ֖ה תוֹרָ֑ה שֶׁהִ֨יא נוֹתֶ֤נֶת חַיִּים֙ לְעֹשֶׂ֔יהָ בָּעוֹלָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה וּבָעוֹלָ֥ם הַבָּֽא׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר כִּי־חַיִּ֥ים הֵ֖ם לְמֹצְאֵיהֶ֑ם וּלְכׇל בְּשָׂר֖וֹ מַרְפֵּֽא׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר רִפְא֖וּת תְּהִ֣י לְשָׁרֶּ֑ךָ וְשִׁקּ֖וּי לְעַצְמוֹתֶֽיךָ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר עֵץ־חַיִּ֥ים הִ֖יא לַמַּחֲזִיקִ֣ים בָּ֑הּ וְֽתֹמְכֶ֖יהָ מְאֻשָּֽׁר׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר כִּ֣י ׀ לִוְיַ֣ת חֵ֗ן הֵ֕ם לְרֹאשֶׁ֑ךָ וַעֲנָקִ֖ים לְגַרְגְּרֹתֶֽךָ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר תִּתֵּ֥ן לְרֹאשְׁךָ֖ לִוְיַת־חֵ֑ן עֲטֶ֖רֶת תִּפְאֶ֣רֶת תְּמַגְּנֶֽךָּ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר כִּי־בִ֖י יִרְבּ֣וּ יָמֶ֑יךָ וְיוֹסִ֨יפוּ֙ לְּךָ֔ שְׁנ֖וֹת חַיִּֽים׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר אֹ֥רֶךְ יָמִ֖ים בִּֽימִינָ֑הּ בִּשְׂמֹאולָ֔הּ עֹ֖שֶׁר וְכָבֽוֹד׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר כִּ֛י אֹ֥רֶךְ יָמִ֖ים וּשְׁנ֣וֹת חַיִּ֑ים וְשָׁל֕וֹם יוֹסִ֖יפוּ לָֽךְ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר דְּרָכֶ֖יהָ דַרְכֵי־נֹ֑עַם וְֽכׇל־נְתִ֖יבוֹתֶ֣יהָ שָׁלֽוֹם׃
Great is Torah, for it gives to those who fulfill it life in this world and in the World to Come, as it is said: ‘For they are life to those who find them, health to all their flesh.'[11] Proverbs 4:22.  ‘It shall be health to your body, marrow to your bones.'[12] Proverbs 3:8.  ‘It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it; happy are those who support it.'[13] Proverbs 3:18.  ‘They shall be a graceful garland for your head, a necklace around your neck.'[14] Proverbs 1:9.  ‘It shall place on your head a graceful garland; a crown of glory shall it bestow on you.'[15] Proverbs 4:9.  ‘By me your days shall be multiplied, the years of your life shall be increased.'[16] Proverbs 9:11.  ‘Long life is in its right hand; in its left hand are riches and honor.'[17] Proverbs 3:16.  ‘Length of days, years of life and peace, shall they add to you.'[18] Proverbs 3:2.  ‘Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.'[19] Proverbs 3:17. 

רַ֥בִּי שִׁמְע֖וֹן בֶּן־יְהוּדָ֑ה מִשּׁ֛וּם רַ֥בִּי שִׁמְע֖וֹן בֶּן־יוֹחָאִ֥י אוֹמֵֽר׃ הַנּ֤וֹי וְהַכֹּ֨חַ֙ וְהָע֣וֹשֶׁר וְהַכָּב֔וֹד וְהַחׇכְמָ֥ה וְהַזִּקְנָ֖ה וְהַשֵּׂיבָ֣ה וְהַבָּנִ֑ים נָאֶ֥ה לַצַּדִּיקִ֖ים וְנָאֶ֥ה לָעוֹלָֽם׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר עֲטֶ֥רֶת תִּפְאֶ֖רֶת שֵׂיבָ֑ה בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ צְדָקָ֔ה תִּ֖מָּצֵֽא׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר תִּפְאֶ֥רֶת בַּחוּרִ֖ים כֹּחָ֑ם וַהֲדַ֥ר זְקֵנִ֖ים שֵׂיבָֽה׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר עֲטֶ֥רֶת חֲכָמִ֖ים עׇשְׁרָֽם׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר עֲטֶ֥רֶת זְקֵנִ֖ים בְּנֵ֣י בָנִ֑ים וְתִפְאֶ֥רֶת בָּנִ֖ים אֲבוֹתָֽם׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר וְחָֽפְרָה֙ הַלְּבָנָ֔ה וּבוֹשָׁ֖ה הַחַמָּ֑ה כִּֽי־מָלַ֞ךְ יהו֣ה צְבָא֗וֹת בְּהַ֤ר צִיּוֹן֙ וּבִיר֣וּשָׁלַ֔‍ִם וְנֶ֥גֶד זְקֵנָ֖יו כָּבֽוֹד׃ רַ֛בִּי שִׁמְע֥וֹן בֶּן־מְנַסְיָ֖א אוֹמֵֽר׃ אֵ֚לּוּ שֶׁ֣בַע מִדּ֔וֹת שֶׁמָּ֥נוּ חֲכָמִ֖ים לַצַּדִּיקִ֑ים כֻּלָּם נִתְקַיְּמ֕וּ בְּרַ֖בִּי וּבְבָנָֽיו׃
Rebbi Shimon ben Yehudah said in the name of Rebbi Shimon ben Yohai: “Beauty and strength, wealth and honor, wisdom and age, gray hair and children are comely to the righteous and comely to the world, as it is said: ‘Gray hair is a crown of glory, to be found in the path of righteousness.'[20] Proverbs 16:31.  ‘The glory of the young men is their strength, and the beauty of old men is gray hair.'[21] Proverbs 20:29.  ‘The crown of the wise is their riches.'[22] Proverbs 14:24.  ‘Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and fathers are the pride of their children.'[23] Proverbs 17:6.  And it says: ‘The moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed; for YHVH of hosts will be King on Har Tsiyon and in Yerushalayim, and there shall be kavod before the elders of his people.'[24] Isaiah 24:23. ” Rebbi Shimon ben Menasya said: “These seven qualities, which the sages have enumerated as becoming to the righteous, were all realized in Rebbi Yehudah ha-Nasi and his sons.”

אָמַ֛ר רַ֥בִּי יוֹסֵ֖י בֶּ֥ן קִֽסְמָא׃ פַּ֨עַם אַחַ֜ת הָיִ֤יתִי מְהַלֵּךְ֙ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּפָּ֥גַע בִּ֖י אָדָ֣ם אֶחָ֑ד וְנָתַ֤ן לִי֙ שָׁל֔וֹם וְהֶחֱזַרְתִּ֥י ל֖וֹ שָׁלֽוֹם׃ אָמַר־לִי֙ רַ֔בִּי מֵאֵ֥יזֶה מָק֖וֹם אָ֑תָּה אָמַ֣רְתִּי ל֔וֹ מֵעִ֧יר גְּדוֹלָ֛ה שֶׁלְּחֲכָמִ֥ים וְשֶׁלְּסוֹפְרִ֖ים אָֽנִי׃ אָמַ֣ר לִ֔י רַ֧בִּי רְצוֹנָ֛ךְ שֶׁתָּד֥וּר עִמָּ֖נוּ בִּמְקוֹמֵ֑נוּ וַאֲנִ֣י ׀ אֶתֵּ֣ן לָ֗ךְ אֶ֤לֶף אֲלָפִים֙ דִּנְרֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב וַאֲבָנִ֥ים טוֹב֖וֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּֽוֹת׃ אָמַ֣רְתִּי ל֗וֹ אִ֣ם אַתָּה֩ נוֹתֵ֨ן לִ֜י כׇּל־כֶּ֤סֶף וְזָהָב֙ וַאֲבָנִ֣ים טוֹב֔וֹת וּמַרְגָּלִיּ֖וֹת שֶׁבָּעוֹלָ֑ם אֵינִ֧י דָ֛ר אֶ֖לָּא בִּמְק֥וֹם תּוֹרָֽה׃ וְכֵ֨ן כָּת֜וּב בְּסֵ֤פֶר תְּהִלִּים֙ עַל־יְדֵ֣י דָוִ֔ד מֶ֖לֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל טוֹב־לִי֙ תוֹרַ֣ת פִּ֔יךָ מֵאַלְפֵ֖י זָהָ֥ב וָכָֽסֶף׃
Rebbi Yoséh ben Qisma said: “I was once travelling on the road when a man met me and greeted me, and I returned his greeting. He said to me: ‘Rebbi, from what place are you?’ I said to him: ‘I come from a great city of sages and scholars.’ He said to me: ‘Rebbi, are you willing to live with us in our place? I will give you a million golden dinars, and precious stones and pearls.’ I told him: ‘Were you to give me all the silver and gold and precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not live anywhere except in a place of Torah.’ In a like manner, it is written in the Book of Psalms by David, king of Yisrael: ‘Your own teaching means more to me than thousands in gold and silver.'[25] Psalm 113:72. 

וְלֹא־ע֣וֹד ׀ אֶ֣לָּא ׀ שֶׁבִּשְׁעַ֣ת ׀ פְּטִירָת֣וֹ שֶׁלְּאָדָ֡ם אֵין֩ מְלַוִין־ל֨וֹ לְאָדָ֜ם לֹ֥א כֶ֨סֶף֙ וְלֹ֣א זָהָ֔ב וְלֹ֛א אֲבָנִ֥ים טוֹב֖וֹת וּמַרְגָּלִ֑יּוֹת אֶ֧לָּא תּוֹרָ֛ה וּמַעֲשִׂ֥ים טוֹבִ֖ים בִּלְבָֽד׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ֣ ׀ תַּנְחֶ֣ה אֹתָ֗ךְ בְּֽשׇׁכְבְּךָ֕ תִּשְׁמֹ֖ר עָלֶ֑יךָ וַ֣הֲקִיצ֔וֹתָ הִ֖יא תְשִׂיחֶֽךָ׃ בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ֞ תַּנְחֶ֤ה אֹתָךְ֙ בָּעוֹלָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה בְּֽשׇׁכְבְּךָ֛ תִּשְׁמֹ֥ר עָלֶ֖יךָ בַּקָּ֑בֶר וַהֲקִיצ֤וֹתָ הִיא֙ תְשִׂיחֶ֔ךָ לָעוֹלָ֖ם הַבָּֽא׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר לִ֥י הַכֶּ֖סֶף וְלִ֣י הַזָּהָ֑ב נְאֻ֖ם יהו֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃
“Furthermore, when a man dies, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls accompany him, but Torah and good deeds alone, as it is said: ‘When you walk, it shall guide you; when you lie down, it shall watch over you; and when you awake, it shall talk with you.'[26] Proverbs 6:22.  When you walk, it shall guide you in this world; when you lie down, it shall watch over you in the grave; and when you awake, it shall talk with you in the World to Come. It says also: ‘Mine is the silver and mine is the gold, says YHVH Tseva’ot.'[27] Haggai 2:8. 

חֲמִשָּׁה֙ קִנְיָנִ֔ים קָנָ֥ה ל֖וֹ הַקָּד֣וֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ־הֽוּא בְעוֹלָ֕מוֹ וְאֵ֖לּוּ הֵֽן׃ תּוֹרָה֙ קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֔ד שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָ֖רֶץ קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֑ד אַבְרָהָ֞ם קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֗ד יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֔ד בֵּ֥ית הַמִּקְדָּ֖שׁ קִנְיָ֥ן אֶחָֽד׃ תּוֹרָ֑ה מִנַּ֖יִן דִּכְתִֽיב׃ יְהוָ֤ה קָנָ֨נִי֙ רֵאשִׁ֣ית דַּרְכּ֔וֹ קֶ֥דֶם מִפְעָלָ֖יו מֵאָֽז׃ שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָ֖רֶץ קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֑ד מִנַּ֖יִן דִּכְתִֽיב׃ כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כִּסְאִ֔י וְהָאָ֖רֶץ הֲדֹ֣ם רַגְלָ֑י אֵי־זֶ֥ה בַ֙יִת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּבְנוּ־לִ֔י וְאֵי־זֶ֥ה מָק֖וֹם מְנוּחָתִֽי׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר מָ֥ה רַבּ֖וּ מַעֲשֶׂ֣יךָ יְהוָ֑ה כֻּלָּ֤ם בְּחׇכְמָה֙ עָשִׂ֔יתָ מָלְאָ֥ה הָאָ֖רֶץ קִנְיָנֶֽךָ׃ אַבְרָהָ֖ם קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֑ד מִנַּ֖יִן דִּכְתִֽיב׃ וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר בָּר֤וּךְ אַבְרָם֙ לְאֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן קֹנֵ֖ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֑ד מִנַּ֖יִן דִּכְתִֽיב׃ עַד־יַעֲבֹ֤ר עַמְּךָ֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה עַֽד־יַעֲבֹ֖ר עַם־ז֥וּ קָנִֽיתָ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר לִקְדוֹשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּאָ֖רֶץ הֵ֑מָּה וְאַדִּירֵ֖י כׇּל־חֶפְצִי־בָֽם׃ בֵּ֥ית הַמִּקְדָּ֖שׁ קִנְיָ֣ן אֶחָ֑ד מִנַּ֖יִן דִּכְתִֽיב׃ מָכ֧וֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ֛ פָּעַ֖לְתָּ יְהֹוָ֑ה מִקְּדָ֕שׁ אֲדֹנָ֖י כּוֹנְנ֥וּ יָדֶֽיךָ׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר וַיְבִיאֵ֖ם אֶל־גְּב֣וּל קׇדְשׁ֑וֹ הַ֣ר זֶ֔ה קָנְתָ֖ה יְמִינֽוֹ׃
Five possessions has the blessed Holy One specifically declared his own in his world, namely: the Torah, Heaven and Earth, Avraham, Yisrael, and the Beit Hamiqdash. How do we know this about the Torah? Because it is written: ‘YHVH possessed me first of his creation, first of all his works in days of old.'[28] Proverbs 8:22.  How do we know this about heaven and earth? Because it is written: ‘Thus says YHVH: The Heaven is my throne, and the Earth is my footstool; what manner of house would you build for me, what manner of place as my residence?'[29] Isaiah 66:1.  It says also: ‘How manifold are thy works, YHVH! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your possessions.'[30] Psalm 104:24.  How do we know this about Avraham? Because it is written: ‘And he blessed him and said: Blessed be Avram of El Elyon, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.'[31] Genesis 14:19.  How do we know this about Yisrael? Because it is written: ‘Until thy people pass over, YHVH; until the people whom you possess pass over.'[32] Exodus 15:16.  It says also: ‘As for the holy people who are on earth, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.'[33] Psalm 16:3.  How do we know this about the Beit Hamiqdash? Because it is written: ‘The place of your abode which you, YHVH, have made; the Beit Hamiqdash, YHVH, which your hands have established.'[34] Exodus 15:17.  It says also: ‘And he brought them to the region of his Beit Hamiqdash, to the mountain which his might had acquired.'[35] Psalm 78:54. 

כׇּל־מַ֣ה שֶּׁבָּרָ֔א הַקָּד֥וֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ־ה֖וּא בְּעוֹלָמ֑וֹ לֹ֥א בְרָא֖וֹ אֶ֥לָּא לִכְבוֹדֽוֹ׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר כֹּ֚ל הַנִּקְרָ֣א בִשְׁמִ֔י וְלִכְבוֹדִ֖י בְּרָאתִ֑יו יְצַרְתִּ֖יו אַף־עֲשִׂיתִֽיו׃ וְאוֹמֵ֕ר יְהֹוָ֥ה ׀ יִמְלֹ֖ךְ לְעֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד׃
Whatever the blessed Holy One created in his world, he created only for his kavod/spiritual resplendence, as it is said: ‘Everything that is called by my name, it is for my kavod that I have created it; I have formed it, I have made it.'[36] Isaiah 13:7.  It says also: ‘YHVH shall reign in the Cosmos forever.'[37] Exodus 15:18. 

רַ֛בִּי חֲנַנְיָ֥א בֶּן־עֲקַשְׁיָ֖א אוֹמֵֽר׃ רָצָ֗ה הַקָּדוֹשׁ֙ בָּר֣וּךְ ה֔וּא לְזַכּ֖וֹת אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לְפִיכָ֕ךְ הִרְבָּ֥ה לָהֶ֖ם תּוֹרָ֥ה וּמִצְוֹֽת׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר יְהֹוָ֥ה חָפֵ֖ץ לְמַ֣עַן צִדְק֑וֹ יַגְדִּ֥יל תּוֹרָ֖ה וְיַאְדִּֽיר׃
Rebbi Ḥananya ben Aqashya said: “The blessed Holy One desired to purify Yisrael; hence he gave them a Torah rich in rules of conduct, as it is said: ‘YHVH was pleased, for the sake of [Yisrael’s] righteousness, to render the Torah great and glorious.'[38] Isaiah 42:21. 

I have adapted the English translation of Pirqei Avot by Paltiel Birnbaum, as published in his Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem (1949), mostly to re-Hebraize names, but also to edit and replace some of the commentary that he left in brackets. I’ve also made numerous other small changes. –Aharon Varady

Source

Notes

1 Isaiah 60:21.
2 Proverbs 8:14.
3 Proverbs 11:22.
4 Exodus 32:16.
5 Numbers 21:19.
6 Psalm 55:14.
7 Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 28:10.
8 Proverbs 4:2.
9 Psalm 128:2.
10 Esther 2:21
11 Proverbs 4:22.
12 Proverbs 3:8.
13 Proverbs 3:18.
14 Proverbs 1:9.
15 Proverbs 4:9.
16 Proverbs 9:11.
17 Proverbs 3:16.
18 Proverbs 3:2.
19 Proverbs 3:17.
20 Proverbs 16:31.
21 Proverbs 20:29.
22 Proverbs 14:24.
23 Proverbs 17:6.
24 Isaiah 24:23.
25 Psalm 113:72.
26 Proverbs 6:22.
27 Haggai 2:8.
28 Proverbs 8:22.
29 Isaiah 66:1.
30 Psalm 104:24.
31 Genesis 14:19.
32 Exodus 15:16.
33 Psalm 16:3.
34 Exodus 15:17.
35 Psalm 78:54.
36 Isaiah 13:7.
37 Exodus 15:18.
38 Isaiah 42:21.

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