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פרקי אבות פרק ג׳ | Pirqei Avot: Chapter Three, 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 ג
Chapter 3

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. 

עֲקַבְיָ֥ה בֶן־מַהֲלַלְאֵ֖ל אוֹמֵר׃ הִסְתַּכֵּ֖ל בִּשְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה דְבָרִ֑ים וְאֵ֧ין אַתָּ֛ה בָ֖א לִידֵ֥י עֲבֵרָֽה׃ דַּ֚ע מֵאַ֣יִן בָּ֔אתָ וּלְאָ֖ן אַתָּ֣ה הוֹלֵ֑ךְ וְלִפְנֵי־מִ֕י אַתָּ֧ה עָתִ֛יד לִתֵּ֥ן דִּ֖ין וְחֶשְׁבּֽוֹן׃ דַּ֚ע מֵאַ֣יִן בָּ֔אתָ מִלֵּחָ֖ה סְרוּחָֽה׃ וּלְאָ֖ן אַתָּ֣ה הוֹלֵ֑ךְ לְרִמָּ֖ה וּלְתוֹלֵעָֽה׃ וְלִפְנֵי־מִ֕י אַתָּ֧ה עָתִ֛יד לִתֵּ֥ן דִּ֖ין וְחֶשְׁבּ֑וֹן לִפְנֵ֤י מֶ֨לֶךְ֙ מַלְכֵ֣י הַמְּלָכִ֔ים הַקָּד֖וֹשׁ בָּר֥וּךְ הֽוּא׃
Aqavyah ben Mahalalel said: “Reflect on three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: know whence you came, whither you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a strict account. Whence you came — from a malodorous drop; whither you are going — to a place of dust, worms and moths; and before whom you are destined to give a strict account — before the supreme King of kings, the blessed Holy One.”

רַ֣בִּי חֲנִ֔ינָא סְגַ֥ן הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים אוֹמֵֽר׃ הֱוֵ֣י מִתְפַּלֵּ֔ל בִּשְׁלוֹמָ֖הּ שֶׁ֥לַּמַּלְכ֑וּת שֶׁאִלּוּלֵי֙ מ֣וֹרָאָ֔הּ אִ֧ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֛הוּ חַיִּ֖ים בָּלַֽעְנוּ׃
Rebbi Ḥanina, the deputy high-priest, said: “Pray for the welfare of the government, since were it not for the fear of it men would swallow each other alive.”

רַ֛בִּי חֲנַנְיָ֥ה בֶן־תַּרְדְּי֖וֹן אוֹמֵֽר׃ שְׁנַ֣יִם ׀ שֶׁהָ֣יוּ יוֹשְׁבִ֗ים וְאֵ֤ין בֵּינֵיהֶן֙ דִּבְרֵ֣י תוֹרָ֔ה הֲרֵ֥י זֶ֛ה מוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵצִ֖ים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֑ר וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵצִ֖ים לֹ֥א יָשָֽׁב׃ אֲבָ֣ל ׀ שְׁנַ֣יִם שֶׁיּוֹשְׁבִ֗ים וַעֲסוּקִים֙ בְּדִבְרֵ֣י תוֹרָ֔ה שְׁכִינָ֥ה בֵינֵיהֶ֖ם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ אָ֧ז נִדְבְּר֛וּ יִרְאֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵ֑הוּ וַיַּקְשֵׁ֤ב יְהֹוָה֙ וַיִּשְׁמָ֔ע וַ֠יִּכָּתֵ֠ב סֵ֣פֶר זִכָּר֤וֹן לְפָנָיו֙ לְיִרְאֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה וּלְחֹשְׁבֵ֖י שְׁמֽוֹ׃ אֵ֥ין לִ֖י אֶ֣לָּא שְׁנַ֑יִם מְנַ֩יִן֩ שֶׁאֲפִ֨לּוּ אֶחָ֜ד שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁ֣ב ׀ וְעוֹסֵ֣ק בַּתּוֹרָ֗ה שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ֩ בָּר֨וּךְ ה֧וּא קוֹבֵ֛עַ ל֥וֹ שָׂכָ֖ר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ יֵשֵׁ֤ב בָּדָד֙ וְיִדֹּ֔ם כִּ֥י נָטַ֖ל עָלָֽיו׃
Rebbi Ḥananya ben Tardyon said: “If two sit together and no words of Torah are spoken between them, they are a session of scoffers, of whom it is said: ‘[A good man] does not sit in the company of scoffers.'[2] Psalm 1:1.  But when two sit together and interchange words of the Torah, the Shekhinah abides between them, as it is said: ‘Then those who revered YHVH spoke to each other, and YHVH listened and heard, and in his presence a record was written of those who revere YHVH and respect his name.'[3] Malachi 3:16.  Now, this verse refers to two persons; whence do we know that even if one person engages in the study of the Torah, the blessed Holy One determines his reward? It is said: ‘Though he sits alone in thoughtful meditation, yet he receives’ [the reward].[4] Lamentations 3:28. 

רַ֥בִּי שִׁמְע֖וֹן אוֹמֵֽר׃ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה שֶׁאָכְל֗וּ עַ֚ל שֻׁלְחָ֣ן אֶחָ֔ד וְלֹ֛א אָמְר֥וּ עָלָ֖יו דִּבְרֵ֣י תוֹרָ֑ה הֲרֵ֨י אֵ֧לּוּ כְאוֹכְלֵ֛י זִבְחֵ֥י מֵתִ֖ים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ כִּ֚י כׇּל־שֻׁלְחָנ֔וֹת מָלְא֖וּ קִ֣יא צֹאָ֑ה בְּלִ֖י מָקֽוֹם׃ אֲבָל ׀ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה שֶׁאָכְל֗וּ עַ֚ל שֻׁלְחָ֣ן אֶחָ֔ד וְאָמְר֥וּ עָלָ֖יו דִּבְרֵ֣י תוֹרָ֑ה כְּאִ֗לּוּ אָכְלוּ֙ מִשֻּׁ֣לְחָנ֔וֹ שֶׁ֥לְּהַקָּד֛וֹשׁ בָּר֥וּךְ ה֖וּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אֵלַ֔י זֶ֚ה הַשֻּׁלְחָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֖ר לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃
Rebbi Shimon said: “If three have eaten at a table and have held no conversation on Torah, it is as though they had eaten of sacrifices offered to the dead [idols], as it is said: ‘For all their tables are full of filth without the presence of Maqom.'[5] Isaiah 28:8.  But if three have eaten at a table and have conversed on Torah, they are as though they had eaten from the table of the blessed Holy One, as it is said: ‘He said to me: This is the table which is in the presence of YHVH.'[6] Ezekiel 41:22. 

רַ֛בִּי חֲנַנְיָ֥ה בֶן־חֲכִינַ֖י אוֹמֵֽר׃ הַנֵּע֤וֹר בַּלַּ֨יְלָה֙ וְהַמְהַלֵּ֣ךְ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּמַפְנֶ֥ה לִבּ֖וֹ לְבַטָּלָ֑ה הֲרֵ֥י זֶ֖ה מִתְחַיֵּ֥ב בְּנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃
Rebbi Ḥanina ben Ḥakinai said: “He who is awake at night, or travels alone on the road, and turns his mind to idle thoughts, commits a deadly transgression.”

רַ֛בִּי נְחוֹנְיָ֥ה בֶן־הַקָּנָ֖ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־הַמְקַבֵּ֥ל עָלָ֖יו עֹ֣ל תּוֹרָ֑ה מַעֲבִירִ֣ים מִמֶּ֗נּוּ עֹ֧ל מַלְכ֛וּת וְעֹ֖ל דֶּ֥רֶךְ אֶֽרֶץ׃ וְכׇל־הַפּוֹרֵ֥ק מִמֶּ֖נּוּ עֹ֣ל תּוֹרָ֑ה נוֹתְנִ֣ים עָלָ֗יו עֹ֧ל מַלְכ֛וּת וְעֹ֖ל דֶּ֥רֶךְ אֶֽרֶץ׃
Rebbi Neḥunya ben ha-Qanah said: “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah will be relieved from the yoke of the government and the yoke of worldly affairs [the struggle for existence]; whoever divests himself of the yoke of the Torah will be burdened with the yoke of the government and the yoke of worldly affairs.”

רַ֥בִּי חֲלַפְתָּ֖א בֶן־דּ֑וֹסָא אִ֕ישׁ כְּפַ֥ר חֲנַנְיָ֖ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ עֲשָׂרָה֙ שֶׁ֣יּוֹשְׁבִ֔ין וַעֲסוּקִ֖ין בְּדִבְרֵ֥י תוֹרָ֑ה שְׁכִינָ֥ה בֵינֵיהֶ֖ם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ אֱלֹהִ֥ים נִצָּ֖ב בַּעֲדַ֥ת אֵֽל׃ וּמְנַ֨יִן אֲפִ֤לּוּ חֲמִשָּׁה֙ שֶׁנֶּ֣אֱמַ֔ר וַאֲגֻדָּת֖וֹ עַל־אֶ֣רֶץ יְסָדָ֑הּ וּמְנַ֨יִן אֲפִ֤לּוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ שֶׁנֶּ֣אֱמַ֔ר בְּקֶ֥רֶב אֱלֹהִ֖ים יִשְׁפֹּֽט׃ וּמְנַ֨יִן אֲפִ֤לּוּ שְׁנַ֨יִם֙ שֶׁנֶּ֣אֱמַ֔ר אָ֧ז נִדְבְּר֛וּ יִרְאֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵ֑הוּ וַיַּקְשֵׁ֤ב יְהֹוָה֙ וַיִּשְׁמָ֔ע וַ֠יִּכָּתֵ֠ב סֵ֣פֶר זִכָּר֤וֹן לְפָנָיו֙ לְיִרְאֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה וּלְחֹשְׁבֵ֖י שְׁמֽוֹ׃ וּמְנַ֕יִן אֲפִ֥לּוּ אֶחָ֖ד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֑ר בְּכׇל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַזְכִּ֣יר אֶת־שְׁמִ֔י אָב֥וֹא אֵלֶ֖יךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּֽיךָ׃
Rebbi Ḥalafta ben Dosa of Kfar Ḥananya said: “When ten people sit together and occupy themselves with the Torah, the Shekhinah abides among them, as it is said: ‘Elohim stands in the assembly of El.'[7] Psalm 82:1.  Whence do we know that the same applies even to five? It is said: ‘He has founded his band upon the earth.'[8] Amos 9:6.  Whence do we know that the same applies even to three? It is said: ‘In the midst of the judges he judges.'[9] Psalm 82:1.  Whence do we know that the same applies even to two? It is said: ‘Then those who revered YHVH spoke to each other, and YHVH listened and heard.'[10] Malachi 3:16.  Whence do we know that the same applies even to one? It is said: ‘In every place where I have my name mentioned I will come to you and bless you.'[11] Exodus 20:21. 

רַ֨בִּי אֶלְעָזָ֧ר בֶּן־יְהוּדָ֛ה אִ֥ישׁ בַּרְתּ֖וּתָה אוֹמֵֽר׃ תֶּ֥ן לוֹ֙ מִשֶּׁלּ֔וֹ שֶׁאַ֥תְּ וְשֶׁלָּ֖ךְ שֶׁלּ֑וֹ וְכֵ֛ן ה֥וּא אוֹמֵ֖ר בְּדָוִֽד׃ כִּי־מִמְּךָ֣ הַכֹּ֔ל וּמִיָּדְךָ֖ נָתַ֥נּוּ לָֽךְ׃
Rebbi Elazar of Bartuta said: “Give to him [God] of his own, for you and yours are his. The same thought was expressed by David, who said: ‘For all things come from you, and we have given you only what is yours.'[12] I Chronicles 29:14. 

רַ֥בִּי שִׁמְע֖וֹן אוֹמֵֽר׃ הַמְהַלֵּ֣ךְ בַּדֶּ֡רֶךְ וְ֠שׁוֹנֶה וּמַפְסִ֨יק מִשְׁנָת֜וֹ וְאוֹמֵ֗ר מַ֤ה נָּאֶה֙ אִילָ֣ן זֶ֔ה וּמַ֥ה נָּאֶ֖ה נִ֣יר זֶ֑ה מַעְלִ֧ין עָלָ֛יו כְּאִ֖לּוּ מִתְחַיֵּ֥ב בְּנַפְשֽׁוֹ׃
Rebbi Shimon said:[13] Others attribute to Rebbi Yaaqov  “He who travels on the road while reviewing what he has learnt, and interrupts his study and says: ‘How fine is that tree, how fair is that field!’ Scripture regards him as if he committed a grave transgression [14] Paltiel Birnbaum provides the pshat explanation, “study is more important than the admiration of nature” however this teaching re: the praxis of mentally reviewing Torah may be understood differently. Both the tree and the field may signify the Torah (as conceived as the Tree of Life) and Shadai (as conceived as the fertile sadeh/field) respectively. Thus, I understand this teaching as a warning not to interrupt and replace the highly associative state of contemplative ruminations with that of any immanent phenomenal representation. –ANV .

רַ֥בִּי דּוֹסְתַּ֖אי בְּרַ֣בִּי יַנַּ֑אי מִשּׁ֛וּם רַ֥בִּי מֵאִ֖יר אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־הַשָּׁכַח֙ דָּבָ֣ר אֶחָ֔ד מִ֖מִּשְׁנָת֑וֹ מַעְלִ֧ין עָלָ֛יו כְּאִ֥לּוּ מִתְחַיֵּ֖ב בְּנַפְשׁ֥וֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ יָכ֨וֹל אֲפִ֣לּוּ תׇקְפָה֮ עָלָ֣יו מִשְׁנָתוֹ֒ תַּלְמ֣וּד לוֹמַ֔ר וּפֶן־יָס֙וּרוּ֙ מִלְּבָ֣בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ הָ֚א אֵ֣ינוּ מִתְחַיֵּ֔ב עַ֛ד שֶׁיֵּשֵׁ֥ב וִיסִירֵ֖ם מִלִּבּֽוֹ׃
Rebbi Dostai ben Yannai said in the name of Rebbi Meir: “Whoever forgets anything of what he has learned, Scripture regards him as if he committed a grave transgression, for it is said: ‘Only take care, and watch yourself well that you do not forget the things which your eyes saw.'[15] Deuteronomy 4:9.  Now, one might suppose that this applies even to a person who has forgotten because his study proved too hard for him; it is therefore explicitly added: ‘Lest they be removed from your heart/conscience all the days of your life.'[16] Deuteronomy 4:9.  Thus, he incurs a grave sin only when he deliberately removes the lessons from his heart/conscience.”

רַ֛בִּי חֲנִ֥ינָא בֶן־דּ֖וֹסָא אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־שֶׁיִּרְאַ֤ת חֶטְאוֹ֙ קוֹדֶ֣מֶת לְחׇכְמָת֔וֹ חׇכְמָת֖וֹ מִתְקַיֶּ֑מֶת חׇכְמָת֤וֹ קוֹדֶ֨מֶת֙ לְיִרְאַ֣ת חֶטְא֔וֹ אֵ֥ין חׇכְמָת֖וֹ מִתְקַיֶּֽמֶת׃ ה֖וּא הָיָ֥ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו֙ מְרֻבִּ֣ים מֵחׇכְמָת֔וֹ חׇכְמָת֖וֹ מִתְקַיֶּ֑מֶת חׇכְמָתוֹ֙ מְרֻבָּ֣ה מִמַּעֲשָׂ֔יו אֵ֥ין חׇכְמָת֖וֹ מִתְקַיֶּֽמֶת׃ ה֖וּא הָיָ֥ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־שֶׁר֤וּחַ הַבְּרִיּוֹת֙ נוֹחָ֣ה הֵימֶ֔נּוּ ר֥וּחַ הַמָּק֖וֹם נוֹחָ֣ה הֵימֶ֑נּוּ וְכׇ֨ל־שֶׁאֵין־ר֤וּחַ הַבְּרִיּוֹת֙ נוֹחָ֣ה הֵימֶ֔נּוּ אֵין־ר֥וּחַ הַמָּק֖וֹם נוֹחָ֥ה הֵימֶֽנּוּ׃
Rebbi Ḥanina ben Dosa said: “Anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom [whose moral conduct means more to him than his learning], his wisdom shall endure; anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom shall not endure [not being subjected to the moral demands of wisdom, he will give up wisdom so that it might not trouble his conscience].” He used to say: “Anyone whose deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom shall endure; anyone whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, his wisdom shall not endure.” He used to say: “Anyone who is liked by his fellow creatures is liked by HaMaqom; anyone who is not liked by his fellow creatures is not liked by HaMaqom.”

רַ֛בִּי דּ֥וֹסָא בֶן־הַרְכִינָ֖ס אוֹמֵֽר׃ שֵׁנָ֨ה שֶׁלְּשַׁחֲרִ֜ית וְיַ֣יִן שֶׁלְּצָהֳרַ֗יִם וְשִׂיחַ֧ת הַיְלָדִ֛ים וִישִׁיבַ֥ת בָּתֵּי־כְנֵסִיּ֖וֹת שֶׁלְּעַמֵּ֣י הָאָרֶ֑ץ מוֹצִיאִ֥ין אֶת־הָאָדָ֖ם מִן־הָעוֹלָֽם׃
Rebbi Dosa ben Harkinas said: “Morning sleep [late sleeping], wine drinking at noon, [frivolous] children’s conversation, and attending the meeting-places of the ignorant shorten a person’s life.”

רַ֛בִּי אֶלְעָזָ֥ר הַמּוֹדָעִ֖י אוֹמֵֽר׃ הַמְחַלֵּ֨ל אֶת־הַקׇּדָשִׁ֜ים וְהַמְבַזֶּ֣ה אֶת־הַמּוֹעֲד֗וֹת וְהַמְגַלֶּ֤ה פָנִים֙ בַּתּוֹרָ֔ה וְהַמֵּפֵ֤ר בְּרִיתוֹ֙ שֶׁלְּאַבְרָהָ֣ם אָבִ֔ינוּ וְהַמְּאַדִּ֖ים אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י חֲבֵר֑וֹ אַף־עַל־פִּ֞י שֶׁיֵּ֤שׁ בְּיָדוֹ֙ מַעֲשִׂ֣ים טוֹבִ֔ים אֵ֨ין ל֧וֹ חֵ֛לֶק לָעוֹלָ֖ם הַבָּֽא׃
Rebbi Elazar of Modiin said: “He who profanes sacred objects, slights the festivals, puts his fellow to shame in public, breaks the covenant of our father Avraham, or misinterprets the Torah — even though he has Torah and good deeds to his credit — has no share in the World to Come.”

רַ֥בִּי יִשְׁמָעֵ֖אל אוֹמֵֽר׃ הֱוֵ֕י קַ֥ל רֹ֖אשׁ וְנ֣וֹחַ תִּשְׁחֹ֑רֶת וֶהֱוֵ֕י מְקַבֵּ֥ל אֶת־כׇּל־הָאָדָ֖ם בְּשִׂמְחָֽה׃
Rebbi Yishmael said: “Be submissive to a superior and kindly to the young; and receive all men cheerfully.”

רַ֥בִּי עֲקִ֖יבָא אוֹמֵֽר׃ שְׂח֖וֹק וְקַלּ֣וּת רֹ֑אשׁ מַרְגִּילִ֥ים אֶת־הָאָדָ֖ם לָעֶרְוָֽה׃ מַעַשְׂרוֹת֙ סְיָ֣ג לַתּוֹרָ֔ה נְדָרִ֕ים סְיָ֖ג לִפְרִישׁ֑וּת סְיָ֥ג לַחׇכְמָ֖ה שְׁתִיקָֽה׃ ה֖וּא הָיָ֥ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ חָבִ֥יב אָדָ֖ם שֶׁנִּבְרָ֣א בְצֶ֑לֶם חִבָּ֨ה יְתֵרָ֜ה נוֹדַ֣עַת ל֗וֹ שֶׁנִּבְרָא֙ בְצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃ חֲבִיבִ֥ין יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל שֶׁנִּקְרְא֣וּ בָנִ֑ים חִבָּ֨ה יְתֵרָ֜ה נוֹדַ֣עַת לָהֶ֗ם שֶׁנִּקְרְא֤וּ בָנִים֙ לַמָּק֔וֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר בָּנִ֣ים אַתֶּ֔ם לַיהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃ חֲבִיבִין֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שֶׁנִּתַּ֥ן לָהֶ֖ם כְּלִ֣י חֶמְדָּ֑ה חִבָּ֨ה יְתֵרָ֜ה נוֹדַ֣עַת לָהֶ֗ם שֶׁנִּתַּ֤ן לָהֶם֙ כְּלִ֣י חֶמְדָּ֔ה שֶׁבּ֖וֹ נִבְרָ֥א הָעוֹלָֽם׃ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַ֕ר כִּ֕י לֶ֥קַח ט֖וֹב נָתַ֣תִּי לָכֶ֑ם תּוֹרָתִ֖י אַל־תַּעֲזֹֽבוּ׃ הַכֹּ֤ל צָפוּי֙ וְהָרְשׁ֣וּת נְתוּנָ֔ה וּבְט֥וּב הָעוֹלָ֖ם נִדּ֑וֹן וְהַכֹּ֛ל לְפִ֖י רֹ֥ב הַמַּעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ה֖וּא הָיָ֥ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ הַכֹּ֕ל נָת֖וּן בְּעֵרָב֑וֹן וּמְצוּדָ֥ה פְרוּשָׂ֖ה עַל־כׇּל־הַחַיִּֽים׃ הֶחָנ֤וּת פְּתוּחָה֙ וְהַחַנְוָנִ֣י מַקִּ֔יף הַפִּנְקֵ֥ס פְּתוּחָ֖ה וְהַיָּ֣ד כּוֹתֶ֑בֶת וְכׇ֨ל־הָרוֹצֶ֤ה לִלְווֹת֙ יָבֹ֣א וְיִלְוֶ֔ה וְהַגַּבָּאִ֞ים מַחֲזִירִ֣ים ׀ תָּמִ֣יד בְּכׇל־י֗וֹם וְנִפְרָעִ֤ין מִן־הָאָדָם֙ מִדַּעֲתּ֔וֹ וְשֶׁלֹּ֣א מִדַּעֲ֔תּוֹ וְיֵ֥שׁ לָהֶם֙ עַל־מַ֣ה שֶּׁיִּסְמֹ֔כוּ וְהַדִּ֨ין דִּ֧ין אֱמֶ֛ת וְהַכֹּ֥ל מְתֻקָּ֖ן לַסְּעוּדָֽה׃
Rebbi Akiva said: “Jesting and light-headedness lead a man on to lewdness. The Massorah [the tradition as to the correct text of the Scriptures] is a fence to the Torah [and preserves its integrity]; tithes form a fence to wealth; vows are a fence [a help] to self-restraint; a fence to wisdom is silence.” He used to say: “Beloved is mankind, for it was created b’tselem [in the image of the Divine]; it is by special divine love that humanity is informed that it was created b’tselem, as it is said: ‘For in the image of Elohim was Adam made.'[17] Genesis 9:6.  Beloved are Yisrael, for they were called the children of Maqom; it is by special divine love that they are informed that they were called the children of Maqom, as it is said: ‘You are the children of YHVH your elo’ah.'[18] Deuteronomy 14:1.  Beloved are Yisrael, for to them was given a precious instrument [the Torah]; it is by special divine love that they are informed that to them was given the precious instrument through which the world was created, as it is said: ‘For I give you good leqaḥ/doctrine; forsake not my Torah.'[19] Proverbs 4:2.  Everything is foreseen, yet freewill is granted; the world is ruled with divine goodness, yet all is according to the productivity of labor. He used to say: “Everything is given on pledge, and a net is spread for all the living [none can escape divine justice]; the store is open, and the storekeeper allows credit; the ledger is open, and the hand writes; whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow, but the collectors go around regularly every day and exact payment from man, whether or not he realizes [that he is punished for his sins]; they have good authority on which they can rely, since the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet [the reward of the righteous is assured].”

רַ֛בִּי אֶלְעָזָ֥ר בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָ֖ה אוֹמֵֽר׃
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין תּוֹרָ֔ה
אֵ֖ין דֶּ֣רֶךְ אֶרֶ֑ץ
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין דֶּ֣רֶךְ אֶ֔רֶץ
אֵ֖ין תּוֹרָֽה׃
 
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין חׇכְמָ֔ה
אֵ֖ין יִרְאָ֑ה
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין יִרְאָ֔ה
אֵ֖ין חׇכְמָֽה׃
 
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין דַּ֔עַת
אֵ֖ין בִּינָ֑ה
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין בִּינָ֔ה
אֵ֖ין דַּֽעַת׃
 
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין קֶ֔מַח
אֵ֖ין תּוֹרָ֑ה
אִ֚ם אֵ֣ין תּוֹרָ֔ה
אֵ֖ין קֶֽמַח׃
Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah said:
“Where there is no Torah,
there is no proper conduct;
where there is no proper conduct,
there is no Torah.
 
Where there is no wisdom,
there is no reverence;
where there is no reverence,
there is no wisdom.
 
Where there is no knowledge,
there is no understanding;
where there is no understanding,
there is no knowledge.
 
Where there is no bread,
there is no Torah;
where there is no Torah,
there is no bread.”

ה֖וּא הָיָ֥ה אוֹמֵֽר׃ כׇּל־שֶׁחׇכְמָ֞תוֹ מְרֻבָּ֣ה מִמַּעֲשָׂ֗יו לְמַ֕ה ה֖וּא דּוֹמֶ֑ה לְאִילָ֞ן שֶׁנּוֹפ֣וֹ מְרֻבֶּה֮ וְשׇׁרָשָׁ֣יו מְעוּטִין֒ וְהָר֤וּח בָּאת֙ וְעוֹקְרַתּוֹ֙ וְהוֹפְכַ֥תּוֹ עַל־פָּנָ֖יו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ וְהָיָה֙ כְּעַרְעָ֣ר בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א יִרְאֶ֖ה כִּֽי־יָ֣בוֹא ט֑וֹב וְשָׁכַ֤ן חֲרֵרִים֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר אֶ֥רֶץ מְלֵחָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א תֵשֵֽׁב׃ וְכׇל־שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂ֞יו מְרֻבִּ֣ין מֵחׇכְמָת֗וֹ לְמַ֕ה ה֖וּא דּוֹמֶ֑ה לְאִילָ֞ן שֶׁנּוֹפ֣וֹ מְמוּעָט֮ וְשׇׁרָשָׁ֣יו מְרֻבִּין֒ שֶׁאֲפִ֤לּוּ כׇל־הָרוּחוֹת֙ שֶׁבָּעוֹלָ֔ם בָּאוֹת֙ וְנוֹשְׁב֣וֹת בּ֔וֹ אֵ֧ין מְזִיזִ֛ין אוֹת֥וֹ מִמְּקוֹמ֖וֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַֽר׃ וְהָיָ֞ה כְּעֵ֣ץ ׀ שָׁת֣וּל עַל־מַ֗יִם וְעַל־יוּבַל֙ יְשַׁלַּ֣ח שׇׁרָשָׁ֔יו וְלֹ֤א ירא יִרְאֶה֙ כִּי־יָ֣בֹא חֹ֔ם וְהָיָ֥ה עָלֵ֖הוּ רַעֲנָ֑ן וּבִשְׁנַ֤ת בַּצֹּ֙רֶת֙ לֹ֣א יִדְאָ֔ג וְלֹ֥א יָמִ֖ישׁ מֵעֲשׂ֥וֹת פֶּֽרִי׃
He used to say: “One whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what is he like? To a tree that has many branches and few roots, so that when the wind comes, it plucks it up and turns it over, as it is said: ‘And he shall be like a lonely tree in the desert, and shall not see the coming of good; he shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and uninhabited.'[20] Jeremiah 17:6.  But one whose deeds exceed his wisdom, to what is he like? To a tree that has few branches and many roots, so that even if all the winds in the world come and blow upon it, they cannot move it out of its place, as it is said: ‘And he shall be like a tree planted by waters, that spreads out its roots beside a stream; it sees not the coming of heat, and its leaves are ever green; in a year of drought it is not troubled, and ceases not to bear fruit.'[21] Jeremiah 17:8. 

רַ֛בִּי אֱלִיעֶ֥זֶר בֶּן־חִ֖סְמָא אוֹמֵֽר׃ קִנִּין֙ וּפִתְחֵ֣י נִדָּ֔ה הֵ֥ן הֵ֖ן גּוּפֵ֣י הֲלָכ֑וֹת תְּקוּפוֹת֙ וְגֵמַ֣טְּרִי֔וֹת פַּרְפְּרָא֖וֹת לַחׇכְמָֽה׃
Rebbi Elazar ben Ḥisma said: “The laws concerning the sacrifices of birds and the purification of women are essential precepts; astronomy and geometry are the auxiliaries of wisdom.”

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.'[22] 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 Psalm 1:1.
3 Malachi 3:16.
4 Lamentations 3:28.
5 Isaiah 28:8.
6 Ezekiel 41:22.
7 Psalm 82:1.
8 Amos 9:6.
9 Psalm 82:1.
10 Malachi 3:16.
11 Exodus 20:21.
12 I Chronicles 29:14.
13 Others attribute to Rebbi Yaaqov
14 Paltiel Birnbaum provides the pshat explanation, “study is more important than the admiration of nature” however this teaching re: the praxis of mentally reviewing Torah may be understood differently. Both the tree and the field may signify the Torah (as conceived as the Tree of Life) and Shadai (as conceived as the fertile sadeh/field) respectively. Thus, I understand this teaching as a warning not to interrupt and replace the highly associative state of contemplative ruminations with that of any immanent phenomenal representation. –ANV
15 Deuteronomy 4:9.
16 Deuteronomy 4:9.
17 Genesis 9:6.
18 Deuteronomy 14:1.
19 Proverbs 4:2.
20 Jeremiah 17:6.
21 Jeremiah 17:8.
22 Isaiah 42:21.

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