Pirkei Avot- Ethics of the Fathers

Chapter 3

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20. Rabbi Akiva used to say: All is given against a pledge, and the net is cast over all living; the shop stands open and the shopkeeper gives credit and the account book lies open and the hand writes. Every one that wishes to borrow let him come and borrow; but the collectors go their daily rounds and exact payment from man with or without his consent; for the collectors have that on which they can rely; and the judgment is a judgment of truth; and all is made ready for a feast.

21. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah used to say: Where there is no Torah there is no culture; and where there is no culture there is no Torah. Where there is no wisdom there is no fear of God, and where there is no fear of God there is no wisdom. Where there is no knowledge there is no discernment; and where there is no discernment there is no knowledge. Where there is no food there is no Torah; and where there is no Torah there is no food.

22. He used to say: He whose wisdom is more abundant than his works, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are abundant but whose roots are few; and the wind comes and uproots it and overturns it, as it is written (Jeremiah 17:6) "They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land." But he whose works are more abundant than his wisdom, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are many; so that even if all the winds in the world come and blow against it, it cannot be stirred from its place, as it is written (Jeremiah 17:8) "They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit."

23. Rabbi Elazar Ben Chisma used to say: The rules about bird offerings and the rules about ritual impurity of women are essentials of the Torah; but astronomy and linguistic numerics are incidentals to religious learning.

Click here for Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avot. Click here for Chapter 4.

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