Pirkei Avot

Pirkei Avot (Literally, "Chapters of the Fathers", and oftentimes called "Avot") is a tractate of the Mishna composed of ethical maxims of the Mishnaic period. This little tractate contains five chapters and is often called "Ethics of the Fathers".

The text of this edition of the Avot is a paraphrased translation in idiomatic language from the writings of H.H. Catholicos Patriarch +Mar Dalin II and various other translations of the same. The numbering of the "verses" is different than that of the traditional Avot, following that of +Mar Dalin II. +Mar Dalin III included the Pirkei Avot in his edition of the Peshitta.

Chapter 1

1. Mar-Yah gave Mosha the Torah at Sinai and Mosha handed it down to Yoshua. Yoshua handed it down to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets entrusted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. The Men of the Great Assembly would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many talmidim. And build a fence of protection around Torah.

2. The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of God, and good deeds.

3. Do not be like a slave, who serves his master for the sake of payment. Rather, be like a slave who serves his master not expecting any type of payment. And having this right attitude will cause you to have a greater reverence for that which is holy.

4. You should manage your home as a gathering place for wise teachers in the Way of Mshikha; apply the dust of their shoes to those of your own, and drink heartily of their words, for what they teach, being from God, are like streams of refreshing water.

5. Keep the doors of your home open to all peoples, and permit the underprivileged to become members of your household. And do not spend time speaking of unnecessary topics in conversation and do not share in the gossip of the women. One who shares in the gossip of others causes a great evil to himself, even to the point of neglecting the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits a field of waste.

6. Your teacher should be your friend, and you should think good of all people as far as possible.

7. Keep a close distance from all those who wish to ruin your good habits, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in justice.

8. Love work, be opposed to those who wish to lord over others, and avoid over confidence with one's government.

9. Scholars, be cautious with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements where they will alter your words to suit their own evil purposes. The talmidim who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and they will thus be destroyed, and all things that Wisdom calls Holy and Sacred will be desecrated.

10. Be like the talmidim of Aaron. Aaron was one who loved peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loved all creation and drew them close to Torah.

11. One who wishes to promote his own name will end up destroying it. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not learn is not deserving of the Life. And anyone who diminishes the crown of Torah and teaches others the same shall be called least in the Kingdom.

12. If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

13. Make the study of Torah as an eternal light within your soul. Say little and do much. Let the light of Torah shine forth from your soul to all peoples. Keep doubt far from your heart and mind; and do not become accustomed to pinching from your own tithes.

14. By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated in Zekhari'a 8:16, "You shall administer truth and judgement of peace at your gates."

Chapter 2

1. Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is in agreement with the Way of Mshikha.

2. Be as vigilant with a small commandment as with a most important one, for you do not know the full rewards of the commandments. Consider the cost of a commandment against its rewards, and the rewards of disobedience against its cost. For Maran Yeshua said, "anyone who dismisses one of these small commandments, and thus teach the sons of man to do so, will be called little in the Kingdom of Heaven; but those who do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

3. Reflect on these three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know that which is above you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.

4. Beautiful is the study of Torah and the labour of the hands, for the toil of them both causes sin to be miniscule. In the end, all Torah study that is not accompanied with labour is destined to cease and sin enters the door of one's heart.

5. Those who labour within the community should do so for the sake of Heaven; for then will those living within the community learn righteousness, and their righteousness shall endure forever.

6. You should not remove yourself from the community. Do not be critical of anyone until you have stood in his or her place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will eventually be understood. And never say "When I free myself of my daily activities, I will study Torah,'' for perchance you will never free yourself and the study of Torah will be neglected and sin will enter the door of your heart.

7. When you increase possessions, you increase worry but when you increase Torah, you increase life; one who increases study, increases wisdom; one who increases direction from others, increases understanding; one who increases charity, increases peace. One who acquires the words of Torah, has acquired life in the World to Come. If you have learned much Torah, never take credit for yourself, for it is for this that you have been called.

8. The honour of your fellow man should be as valuable to you as that of your own, and do not be easy to anger. Warm yourself by the fire of the wise, but be beware lest you be burned by its embers; for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals.

9. The possessions of your fellow man should be as precious to you as that of your own. Perfect yourself for the study of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you. And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven.

10. Be scrupulous with reference to the reciting of Sh'ma and with prayer itself. When you pray, do not allow your prayers to become lax or routine.

11. Be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic. And know before whom you labour, and who is your employer who will repay you the reward of your labours. The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.

12. It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task you started, but neither are you free to release yourself from it before it has been completed. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer can be relied upon to pay you the reward of all your labours. And always remember that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.

Chapter 3

1. Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting. From where you came--from a tiny little drop; where you are going--to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgement and accounting--before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

2. Pray for honesty within the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would eat his neighbour alive.

3. Two who sit and no words of Torah pass between them, this is a session of scorners, as is stated, "And in a session of scorners he did not sit" (Psalms 1:1). But two who sit and exchange words of Torah, the Divine Presence rests amongst them, as is stated, "Then those who have reverence for God conversed with one another, and God listened and heard; and it was inscribed before Him in a book of remembrance for those who reverence God and give thought to His Name" (Malachi 3:16). From this, I know only concerning two individuals; how do I know that even a single individual who sits and occupies himself with Torah, God designates reward for him? From the verse, "He sits alone in meditative stillness; indeed, he receives [reward] for it" (Lamentations 3:27).

4. One who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted from the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares; but one who casts off the yoke of Torah is saddled with the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares.

5. Give Him what is His, for you, and whatever is yours, are His. As David says: "For everything comes from You, and from Your own hand we give to You" (1 Chronicles 29:14).

6. Anyone who forgets even a single word of his or her learning in Torah, the Torah considers it as if that one had forfeited his or her life. As is stated, "Be observant, and be on guard for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen" (Deuteronomy 4:9). One might think that this applies also to one who has forgotten because his studies proved too complicated for him; but the verse goes on to tell us "and lest they be removed from your heart, throughout the days of your life." Hence, one does not surrender his life unless he deliberately removes them from his heart.

7. One who is pleasing to his fellow men is pleasing to God. But the one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to God.

8. One who profanes the holy things consecrated for the service of God, degrades the Holy Days, humiliates his friend in public, abrogates the covenant of our father Abraham, or who interprets Torah contrary to its true meaning and the forefathers---although he may possess knowledge and good deeds, he may end up having no share in the World to Come.

9. Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for self-restraint; a safety fence for wisdom is silence.

10. Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to him that he was created in the image, as it is says, "For in the image of God, He made man" (Genesis 9:6). Beloved is the House of Israel, for they are called children of God; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they are called children of God, as it is stated: "You are children of Mar-Yah your God" (Deuteronomy 14:1). Beloved is the House of Israel, for they were given a precious treasure; it is a sign of even greater love that it has been made known to them that they were given a precious article, as it is stated: "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it" (Proverbs 4:2).

11. If there is no Torah, there is no common decency; if there is no common decency, there is no Torah. If there is no wisdom, there is no reverence of God; if there is no reverence of God, there is no wisdom. [[Dalin adds: "If there is no Torah there is no Church."]]

12. One whose wisdom is greater than his deeds, what is he comparable to? To a tree with many branches and few roots; along comes a storm and uproots the tree, and turns it on its face. As is stated, "He shall be as a lone tree in a wasteland, and shall not see when good comes; he shall dwell parched in the desert, a salt land, uninhabited" (Jeremiah 17:6). But one whose deeds are greater than his wisdom, to what is he compared? To a tree with many roots and few branches, whom all the storms in the world cannot budge from its place. As is stated: "He shall be as a tree planted upon water, who spreads his roots by the river; who fears not when comes heat, whose leaf is ever lush; who worries not in a year of drought, and ceases not to yield fruit" (Jeremiah 17:8).

Chapter 4

1. The wise are those who learn from a righteous man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): "From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation."

2. The strong man is the one who overpowers his evil inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), "Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city."

3. The rich man is the one who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): "If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.

4. The honourable man is the one who honours his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): "For to those who honour me, I accord honour; those who scorn me shall be demeaned."

5. Run to follow a small mitzvah, and flee from all sin. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a sin brings more sin. For the reward of observing Torah is life, and the reward of sin is death.

6. Whoever desecrates the Divine Name covertly, is punished in public. Regarding the desecration of the Name, the wicked and the merely negligent are one and the same.

7. One who learns Torah for the purpose of teaching others is given the occasion to learn and teach. One who learns in order to do, is given the occasion to learn, teach, observe and do.

8. Do not separate yourself from your community. Do not make the Torah a crown to increase your fame. One who makes personal use of the Crown of Torah shall depart from this life. Hence, one who benefits himself from the holy words of Torah, removes his life from the evil world.

9. Whoever honours the Torah, is himself honoured by the people; whoever disgraces the Torah, is himself disgraced by the people.

10. Do not send forth a judgment by one's own hand, for there is no one who is qualified to judge by their own hand, only the One. And do not say, "You must agree to my views," for this is not in accordance to the Way of Mshikha.

11. Whoever fulfils the Torah in poverty, will ultimately fulfil it in wealth; and whoever neglects the Torah in wealth, will eventually neglect it in poverty.

12. Engage modestly in secular affairs, and occupy yourself with Torah as much as possible. Be unassuming before every person you meet. If you neglect Torah, there will be many more causes for neglect before you; if you labour each day in Torah, there is much reward waiting for you from the Father's storehouse.

13. Some of the fathers taught that he who fulfils one mitzvah, acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one sin, acquires against himself one angel-accuser. Penitence and good deeds act as a guard against evil inclinations.

14. Every gathering that is for the sake of Heaven, will endure with blessings; every gathering that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not receive blessings.

15. The dignity of your student should be as valuable to you as your own; the dignity of your friend, as your awe of your teacher; and your awe of your teacher as your awe of Heaven.

16. Be careful with your studies in Torah, for, according to the teaching of the forefathers in the faith, an error of learning is equivalent to a wilful sin.

17. There are three crowns - the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of dominion.

18. Banish yourself to a place of Torah on a regular basis; do not say that Torah will come after you, that you or your friends alone will help you learn from it. Do not rely on your own understanding.

19. Be the first to greet every man. Be a tail to lions, rather than a head to foxes.

20. When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; when he stumbles, do not allow your heart to be filled with joy - lest God see, and it will be displeasing in His eyes, and He will turn His wrath from him to you. (Proverbs 24:17-18).

21. One who learns Torah during his youth is like ink inscribed on new paper. One who learns Torah during his elderly years is like ink inscribed on used paper.

22. Those who are born will die, and the dead will live. The living will be judged, to learn, to teach and to comprehend that Mar-Yah is God, He is the former, He is the creator, He is the comprehender, He is the judge, He is the witness, He is the plaintiff, and He will judge.

23. Do not permit your heart to convince you that death is your escape; for against your will you are formed, against your will you are born, against your will you live, against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give a judgement and accounting before the king of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Chapter 5

1. A wise man shall not speak before one who is greater than him in wisdom or age. He shall not interrupt the words of his brother. He is not quick to answer. His questions are never off topic and his answers are to the point. He responds to first things first and to latter things later. The wise man does not give into hearsay. He always adheres to the truth.

2. When some tithe and others neglect the law concerning tithing, a hunger caused by disorder ensues: some are hungry, others have their fill of food. When everyone neglects to tithe, a hunger by drought ensues.

3. The sword comes to the world for delay in justice, fraudulent acts and because of those who misinterpret Torah. Bloodshed by wild beasts comes to the world because of false oaths and the desecration of the Name of God. Exile comes to the world for idol-worship, sexual promiscuity, murder and all forms of abandoning the mitzvoth.

4. There are four types of those persons who contribute to charity. One who wants to give but does not want others to give - is envious of others. One who wants that others should give but does not want to give - is envious of himself. One who wants that he as well as others should give, is a righteous person. One who wants neither himself nor others to give, is a wicked person.

5. Any love that is dependent on something - when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on anything never ceases. What is an example of a love that is dependent on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar. And one that is not dependent on anything? The love of David and Jonathan.

6. One who causes the community to be praiseworthy, no sin will come by his hand. One who causes the community to fall into sin, is delayed his occasion to repent, and thus bears more stripes than his brother who teaches righteousness within the community.

7. Whoever possesses the following three characteristics is of the talmidim of our father Abraham; and whoever possesses the opposite three characteristics is of the talmidim of wickedness. The talmidim of our father Abraham have a good eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul. The talmidim of wickedness have an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a gross soul. The talmidim of our father Abraham benefit in this world and inherit the World To Come, and as is stated, "To bestow to those who love Me there is, and their treasures I shall fill" (Proverbs 8:21). The talmidim of wickedness inherit unbearable stripes and tumble into the darker pits of Sheol, as is taught, "And You, God, shall cast them into the pit of destruction; bloody and untrustworthy men, they shall not attain half their days. And I shall trust in you".

8. Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleeting as a deer and mighty as a lion to do the will of your Father who is in Heaven. The shameless - to Sheol; the reserved - to Paradise. Consistent with the pain is the gain.

9. May it be Your will, Mar-Yah our God and God of our fathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days; and grant us our portion in Your Torah.