Pirkei Avot- Ethics of the Fathers

Chapter 5

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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 6 of Pirkei Avot.

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