Pirkei Avot: Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 4

Chapter 4

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Click here for Chapter 3 of Pirkei Avot. Click here for Chapter 5.

1. Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all men, as it is written (Psalm 119:99) “I have gained understanding from all my teachers.”

Who is mighty? He who subdues his passions, as it is written (Proverbs 16:32) “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” “You shall be” refers to this world; and “it shall be well with you” refers to the world to come.

Who is honored? He that honors his fellow men as it is written (I Samuel 2:30) “For those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt.”

2. Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfill the smallest duty and flee from transgression; for one duty induces another and one transgression induces another transgression. The reward of a duty is a duty, the reward of one transgression is another transgression.

3. He also used to say: Despise no man and deem nothing impossible; for there is no man who does not have his day and there is no thing that does not have its place.

4. Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh used to say: Be exceeding lowly of spirit, for the hope of man is with worms.

5. Rabbi Yochanan ben Baroka said: Whoever profanes the name of Heaven in secret will pay the penalty in public, whether it be done accidentally or intentionally.

6. Rabbi Yishmael his son used to say: He who learns in order to teach will be enabled both to learn and to teach. But he who learns in order to practice will be enabled to learn, to teach, to observe, and to practice.

7. Rabbi Tzadok used to say: Do not make the Torah a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, nor use it as a spade with which to dig. As Hillel used to say: He who makes worldly use of the crown of the Torah shall perish. Thus you may infer that any one who exploits the words of the Torah removes himself from the world of life.

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