Pirkei Avot- Ethics of the Fathers

Chapter 2

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9. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai received the Torah from Hillel and from Shammai. He used to say: If you have learnt much Torah do not claim for yourself moral excellence, for to this end you were created.

10. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five disciples and these are they: Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Joshua ben Chananiah, Yosi the Priest, Shimon ben Natanel, and Elazar ben Arach.

11. He used to say their praise: Eliezer ben Hyrcanus is a plastered cistern which does not lose a drop; Joshua ben Chananiah--happy is she that gave birth to him; Yosi the Priest is a saintly man; Shimon ben Natanel is fearful of sin; Elazar ben Arach is an ever-flowing spring.

12. He used to say: If all the sages of Israel were in one scale of the balance and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus in the other, he would outweigh them all. Abba Shaul, however, said in his name: If all the sages of Israel, together with Eliezer ben Hyrcanus were in one scale of the balance, Elazar ben Arach would outweigh them.

13. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said to them: Go and see which is the good a man shall cherish most. Rabbi Eliezer said, a good eye. Rabbi Joshua said, a good companion. Rabbi Yosi said, a good neighbor. Rabbi Shimon said, foresight. Rabbi Elazar said, a good heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to your words, for in his words yours are included.

14. He said to them: Go and see which is the evil way which a man should avoid. Rabbi Eliezer said, an evil eye. Rabbi Joshua said, an evil companion. Rabbi Yosi said, an evil neighbor. Rabbi Shimon said, he that borrows and does not repay. He that borrows from a man is as one that borrows from God, for it is written (Psalm 37:21) "The wicked borrow, and do not pay back, but the righteous are generous and keep giving." Rabbi Elazar said, an evil heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach to your words, for in his words yours are included.

15. They each said three things. Rabbi Eliezer said: Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own. Be not easily moved to anger. Repent one day before your death. Warm yourself before the fire of the sages, but be heedful of their glowing coals for fear that you be burned, for their bite is the bite of a jackal and their sting the sting of a scorpion and their hiss the hiss of a serpent, and all their words are like coals of fire.

16. Rabbi Joshua said: The evil eye, the evil desire and hatred of his fellow creatures put a man out of the world.

17. Rabbi Yosi said: Let the property of your fellow man be as dear to you as your own. Prepare yourself for the study of the Torah, for the knowledge of it is not yours by inheritance. Let all your deeds be done for the sake of Heaven.

18. Rabbi Shimon said: Be careful in the reciting of the Shema and in prayer. When you pray do not make your prayer a form of routine but a plea for mercy and supplications before God, for it is written (Joel 2:13), "For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing." Do not be wicked in your own mind.

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