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Mishna - Mas. Avoth Chapter 1
MISHNAH 1. MOSES RECEIVED THE TORAH1 AT2 SINAI AND TRANSMITTED IT TO
JOSHUA,3 JOSHUA TO THE ELDERS,4 AND THE ELDERS TO THE PROPHETS, AND THE
PROPHETS TO THE MEN OF THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE.5
THE LATTER USED TO SAY THREE THINGS:6 BE PATIENT IN [THE ADMINISTRATION
OF] JUSTICE, REAR MANY DISCIPLES AND MAKE A FENCE ROUND THE TORAH.7
MISHNAH 2. SIMEON THE RIGHTEOUS8 WAS ONE OF THE LAST OF THE MEN OF THE
GREAT SYNAGOGUE. HE USED TO SAY: THE WORLD IS BASED UPON THREE THINGS:
THE TORAH, DIVINE SERVICE, AND THE PRACTICE OF KINDLINESS.9
MISHNAH 3. ANTIGONUS10 (A MAN) OF SOCHO11 RECEIVED [THE ORAL TRADITION]
FROM SIMEON THE RIGHTEOUS. HE USED TO SAY: BE NOT LIKE UNTO SERVANTS
WHO SERVE THE MASTER IN THE EXPECTATION OF RECEIVING A GRATUITY,12 BUT
BE LIKE UNTO SERVANTS WHO SERVE THE MASTER WITHOUT THE EXPECTATION OF
RECEIVING A GRATUITY, AND LET THE FEAR OF HEAVEN13 BE UPON YOU.14
MISHNAH 4. JOSE15 B. JO'EZER (A MAN) OF ZEREDAH,16 AND JOSE B. JOHANAN [A
MAN] OF JERUSALEM RECEIVED [THE ORAL TRADITION] FROM THEM [I.E. SIMEON
THE RIGHTEOUS AND ANTIGONUS].
JOSE. B. JO'EZER17 USED TO SAY: LET THY HOUSE BE A HOUSE OF MEETING FOR
THE SAGES AND SUFFER THYSELF TO BE COVERED BY THE DUST OF THEIR FEET,18
AND DRINK IN THEIR WORDS WITH THIRST.
MISHNAH 5. JOSE B. JOHANAN (A MAN) OF JERUSALEM USED TO SAY: LET THY
HOUSE BE WIDE OPEN, AND LET THE POOR BE MEMBERS OF THY HOUSEHOLD,19
ENGAGE NOT IN TOO MUCH CONVERSATION WITH WOMEN. THEY20 SAID THIS WITH
REGARD TO ONE'S OWN WIFE, HOW MUCH MORE [DOES THE RULE APPLY] WITH
REGARD TO ANOTHER MAN'S WIFE. HENCE HAVE THE SAGES SAID:21 AS LONG AS A
MAN22 ENGAGES IN TOO MUCH CONVERSATION WITH WOMEN, HE CAUSES EVIL TO
HIMSELF, [FOR] HE GOES IDLE FROM [THE STUDY OF] THE WORDS OF THE TORAH, SO
THAT HIS END WILL BE THAT HE WILL INHERIT GEHINNOM.23
MISHNAH 6. JOSHUA B. PERAHIAH24 AND NITTAI25 THE ARBELITE26 RECEIVED [THE
ORAL TRADITION] FROM THEM [I.E. THE FOREGOING].
JOSHUA B. PERAHIAH USED TO SAY: APPOINT FOR THYSELF A TEACHER27 AND
ACQUIRE FOR THYSELF A COMPANION28 AND JUDGE ALL MEN IN THE SCALE OF
MISHNAH 7. NITTAI THE ARBELITE USED TO SAY: KEEP AT A DISTANCE30 FROM AN
EVIL NEIGHBOUR, DO NOT MAKE THYSELF AN ASSOCIATE OF A WICKED MAN,31
NEITHER DO THOU ABANDON FAITH IN [DIVINE] RETRIBUTION.32
MISHNAH 8. JUDAH B. TABBAI AND SIMEON B. SHETAH33 RECEIVED [THE ORAL
TRADITION] FROM THEM [I.E. THE FOREGOING].
JUDAH B. TABBAI SAID: DO THOU NOT [AS-A JUDGE] PLAY THE PART OF AN
ADVOCATE;34 WHILST THEY [I. E. THE PARTIES IN A LAWSUIT] ARE STANDING
BEFORE THEE, LET THEM BE REGARDED BY THEE AS IF THEY WERE [BOTH OF THEM]
GUILTY, AND WHEN THEY LEAVE THY PRESENCE, [AFTER] HAVING SUBMITTED TO
THE JUDGMENT35 LET THEM BE REGARDED BY THEE AS IF THEY WERE [BOTH OF
MISHNAH 9. SIMEON B. SHETAH36 USED TO SAY: BE THOROUGH IN THE
INTERROGATION OF WITNESSES, AND BE CAREFUL IN THY WORDS, LEST FROM
THEM [I. E. FROM YOUR WORDS] THEY LEARN TO UTTER FALSEHOOD.37
MISHNAH 10. SHEMAIAH AND ABTALION38 RECEIVED [THE ORAL TRADITION]
FROM THEM [I.E. THE FOREGOING]. SHEMAIAH USED TO SAY: LOVE WORK, HATE
ACTING THE SUPERIOR, AND DO NOT BRING THYSELF TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
MISHNAH 11. ABTALION USED TO SAY: YE SAGES BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR
WORDS,39 LEST YE BE CONDEMNED TO EXILE,40 AND YE BE EXILED TO A PLACE OF
EVIL WATERS,41 AND THE DISCIPLES WHO FOLLOW YOU42 DRINK AND DIE,43 WITH
THE RESULT THAT THE NAME OF HEAVEN BECOMES PROFANED.44
MISHNAH 12. HILLEL AND SHAMMAI45 RECEIVED [THE ORAL TRADITION] FROM
THEM [I.E. THE FOREGOING].
HILLEL USED TO SAY: BE THOU OF THE DISCIPLES OF AARON, LOVING PEACE AND
PURSUING PEACE,46 [BE THOU47 ] ONE WHO LOVETH [ONE'S FELLOW.] CREATURES
AND BRINGETH THEM NIGH TO THE TORAH.
MISHNAH 13. HE [ALSO] USED TO SAY: A NAME THAT IS WIDESPREAD LOSES ITS
FAME; ONE WHO DOES NOT ADD [TO HIS KNOWLEDGE] CAUSES [IT] TO CEASE;48
WHOEVER DOES NOT STUDY49 [THE TORAH] DESERVES DEATH; WHOEVER MAKES
[UNWORTHY] USE OF THE CROWN50 [OF LEARNING] PASSETH AWAY.
MISHNAH 14. HE [ALSO] USED TO SAY: IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF, WHO IS FOR ME,
BUT IF I AM FOR MY OWN SELF [ONLY],51 WHAT AM I, AND IF NOT NOW, WHEN?52
MISHNAH 15. SHAMMAI USED TO SAY: MAKE THY [STUDY OF THE] TORAH [A
MATTER OF] ESTABLISHED [REGULARITY];53 SPEAK LITTLE, BUT DO MUCH; AND
RECEIVE ALL MEN WITH A PLEASANT COUNTENANCE.54
MISHNAH 16. RABBAN GAMALIEL55 USED TO SAY: APPOINT A TEACHER FOR
THYSELF AND AVOID DOUBT,56 AND MAKE NOT A HABIT OF TITHING BY
MISHNAH 17. SIMEON, HIS SON,58 USED TO SAY: ALL MY DAYS I GREW UP AMONG
THE SAGES, AND I HAVE FOUND NOTHING BETTER FOR A PERSON59 THAN SILENCE.
STUDY IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, BUT DEED; WHOEVER INDULGES IN
TOO MANY WORDS BRINGS ABOUT SIN.60
MISHNAH 18. RABBAN SIMEON, SON OF GAMALIEL61 USED TO SAY: ON THREE
THINGS DOES THE WORLD STAND:62 ON JUSTICE, ON TRUTH AND ON PEACE, AS IT IS
SAID: JUDGE YE TRUTHFULLY AND A JUDGMENT OF PEACE IN YOUR GATES.63
(1) Scripture and its complementary Oral Instruction, with special reference to the latter.
(2) Lit., ‘from’.
(3) IARN, Ch. I, ‘Joshua received from Moses’. The transmission and reception were done orally. All evidence goes to show that there was a continuous succession of ‘schools’ headed by the Elders, prophets and scribes of their respective
generations, which maintained and developed the theoretical study and practical application of the Torah. For a full examination of the terms rxn (transmitted) and kce (received) v. Bacher, Tradition und Tradenten, p. 1.
(4) The Elders that outlived Joshua, Judges II, 7. ‘Elders’ in this Mishnah includes the Judges.
(5) Kenesseth hagedolah: A body of 120 men founded by the leaders of the Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity.
(6) Whereby reverence for, the knowledge of, and the inviolability of the Torah might be secured (cf. Rashi).
(7) The Torah is conceived as a garden and its precepts as precious plants. Such a garden is fenced round for the purpose of obviating wilful or even unintended damage. Likewise, the precepts of the Torah were to be ‘fenced’ round with additional inhibitions that should have the effect of preserving the original commandments from trespass.
(8) Son of Onias. According to the older authorities, also Frankel, Graetz and Halevy, it was Simeon b. Onias I (ca. 300 B.C.E.) referred to in Sirach, Ch. L, and Josephus Ant. XII, 2, 5; 4, 1. Others (e.g. Krochmal, Brull) say it was Simeon b. Onias II (219-199 B.C.E.). Halevy says it could not have been the latter, as he could not have been designated ha-Zaddik (the Righteous), and that, in fact, the elder Simeon b. Onias (I) was not so designated until later times, when it became necessary to distinguish the worthy grandfather from the unworthy grandson.
(9) Some commentators cite Ps. LXXXIX, 3 vbch sxj okug (the usual translation of which is forever is Mercy
built) taking okug as meaning world, and rendering the world is built on kindness. ohsxj ,ukhnd is enumerated in another old Mishnah (Pe'ah I, 1) among ‘the things the fruits of which a man enjoys in this world, while the stock remains intact for him for the world to come’.
(10) The first noted Jew known to have had a Greek name. First half of the third century B.C.E.
(11) Josh. XV, 35. I Sam. XVII, 1.
(12) ‘Gratuity’ rather than ‘reward’ (for which rfa would have been used and not xrp ) since a servant may rightly and without reproach expect and accept his wage (v. M.).
(13) The term was used before the Persian and Greek periods (Marmorstein, A., The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God, p. 14 and pp. 105-6), as against the view that ‘Heaven’ for God, in Jewish literature is an expression derived from the Greek, as Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums, p. 359, n. 3).
(14) ‘Antigonus’ trilogy was directed against Epicurean teachings; the first and second sayings against the eudaemonist doctrine that all action, even specifically moral action, should be undertaken for the purpose of creating happiness for oneself; the third, against the Epicurean doctrine that whereas there are gods, these gods do not concern themselves with the doings of men,’ (Frankel, op. cit. pp. 8-9).
(15) Short form of Joseph.
(16) I Kings XI, 26.
(17) Called Hasid shebikehunnah, ‘the most saintly man in the Priesthood’. Hag. II, 7.
(18) Either: let the dust of the feet of the Sages, as they walk, cover you (i.e., follow them closely), or, sit in the dust (on the ground) at their feet whilst they teach. The two Jose's were the first of the Zugoth, GR.** ‘pairs’ of scholars (one a Nasi, Prince, President, Patriarch; the other Ab-Beth-din, Father of the Court) referred to in Pe'ah II, 6 (as Zugoth) and Hag. II, 2 (by their names as here). How did the Zugoth arise? Weiss, op. cit. p. 103: it is a reversion to an earlier practice, the first sign of which (v. ob. p. 35) is the dual appointment in II Chron. XIX, 5-11. Bacher, op. cit. p. 48 ff.
points out that there were Zugoth from Moses onwards. Frankel, op. cit., p. 32: When Hellenistic High Priests rose to power and became a menace to Judaism, it was felt that two leaders would be able to cope with the situation better than one. Halevy, op. cit., p. 199: Simeon the Righteous was succeeded by his brother Eleazar, as High Priest, but not as Head of Sanhedrin. This dignity devolved on Antigonus who was followed by Jose b. Johanan. Eleazar was followed (in the High Priesthood) by Onias II (another son of Simeon the Righteous) who handed over the civil power to the Tobiads. The latter disregarded the Sanhedrin and, exercising a powerful influence over the court of the King of Egypt, carried on
in a high-handed way. The Sanhedrin then found it necessary to appoint, in addition to the Ab-Beth-din, a Nasi who should represent the Sanhedrin vis-a-vis the people, and as first Nasi they appointed Jose ben Jo'ezer, a younger disciple of Antigonus, who was both a scholar and of eminent priestly descent.
(19) Either: treat the poor as members of your own family or, employ poor men (rather than slaves) as servants (so Rashi and Maim.). The commentary Ez Joseph renders: ‘let the members of thy family be poor’, i.e. content themselves with poorer fare, so that you may be able to keep an open door and hospitable table for strangers.
(20) What follows is the addition of the Redactor of the Mishnah. Herford, p. 24 reads urnt ‘He (Jose) said it.’
(21) The term ohnfj urnt itfn points to an ancient Mishnah. (Frankel, op. cit., p. 305.) For a full examination
of the term see Bacher, op. cit. p. 160 and p. 171 ff.
(22) The P. B. version has ‘whoever’.
(23) V. infra V, 20, notes.
(24) According to Sotah 470 (ed. Amsterdam), also MS. Brit. Mus. Or. 1389 (a collection of Haggadic writings) fol. 158a, line 28 ff, he fled to Alexandria owing to Sadducee hostility but was recalled later by Simeon b. Shetah (v. Mish. 8) when ‘peace’ was restored. But J. Hag. 77d reports this of Judah b. Tabbai.
(25) ht,b or h,b, J. Hag. 76d has h,n Mattai.
(26) Arbel. Hosea XI, 14. In Galilee, v. l Mace. IX, 2.
(27) Cf. Mish. 16. II ARN, Ch. XVIII. vnfjk cr , explained as a master to supply one with knowledge already
(28) II ARN, ibid. vbank rcj , explained as a companion for studying together, so that one may be able to note what the other misses, or to supply information not known to the other.
(29) Frankel, op. cit. p. 35, says Joshua b. Perahiah said this when John Hyrcanus was still with the Pharisees, with whom he later broke after Eleazar b. Po'irah made mischief over the demand made by the Pharisees, that John Hyrcanus should content himself with the crown, and relinquish the High Priesthood, for which, they said, he was unfit on account of his mother having been (as they alleged) once taken captive at Modin. The allegation was disproved and the king turned against the Pharisees. (Sotah 47a. Frankel and Weiss take htbh there to be John Hyrcanus rather than Alexander Jannaeus.) II ARN attributes the sayings given here as Joshua b. Perahiah's to Nittai.
(30) II ARN, ‘Run away’.
(31) As one might be tempted to do should one see the wicked prosper.
(32) Wickedness will not succeed in the end. Frankel ibid.: Nittai said this after John Hyrcanus joined the Sadducees. In ARN this is attributed to Joshua b. Perahiah.
(33) J. Hag 77d states that in later times there was disagreement as to whether Judah b. Tabbai was Nasi, and Simeon b. Shetah Ab-Beth-din, or vice-versa. Frankel, op. cit. p. 37, says: ‘at first Judah was Nasi, but after his mistaken decision in the case of a false witness (‘Ed Zomen v. Mak. 5b) he resigned in favour of Simeon and thus they changed posts.’ These scholars lived in the reigns of John Hyrcanus, Alexander Jannaeus and Queen Salome. II ARN attributes Judah's sayings to Simeon and vice-versa.
(34) I.e., do not suggest to either party a line of argument. For a case involving the question of the applicability of this principle see J. B.B. IX, 6; J. Keth. IV, 10. A woman came before R. Johanan with a claim on her husband (or her late husband's heirs) for the cost of medical attention during her illness, and R. Johanan said to her: ‘If the sum has been previously agreed upon with the physician you cannot recover it from your husband (or from his estate), but it must come out of your marriage-settlement.’ Otherwise it is included in the husband's alimentation obligation to the wife, v. Epstein, M., Marriage Contract, 163. Objection was taken to R. Johanan for having said this, as being at variance with the dictum here in Aboth, which had been interpreted by R. Haggai in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi as: ‘It is prohibited
(for a judge) to reveal to any one litigant the law as it applies to his case.’ This objection is answered thus: R. Johanan knew that this applicant was a woman of high principles who would not take unfair advantage of that knowledge, but tell the truth as to whether the sum of the physician's fee had been a pre-arranged one or not. I and II ARN take this in a quite different sense, viz. advice against allowing oneself to be prejudiced by any considerations, and against treating
one party differently to the other. ARN seems to understand ohbhhsv hfrug to mean judges who estimate’ and make up their minds by conjecture before they have heard the whole case.
(35) This is the best translation of ukceaf, and gives the best sense; it is only when a litigant has submitted to the decision that he can be considered guiltless, but not if he is recalcitrant. (V. Buchler, op. cit. p. 53, n. 4.)
(36) Brother of Queen Salome. He reinstated the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin which had, for some time, been dominated by the Sadducees.
(37) It is suggested that the tragic episode that led to the execution of his own son, which had been due to reliance on evidence which (when it was too late) proved to have been false (v. J. Sanh. 23b), prompted this dictum.
(38) Said to have been descendants of proselytes, themselves descendants of Sennacherib.
(39) II ARN, ch. XXIII, amplifies ‘lest you teach anything not in accordance with the teachings of the Torah’. M.:
Inexact language would give heretics an opportunity for misrepresenting your teaching. Halevy: Abtalion supplemented
Shemaiah's advice: be careful even in your words, so as not to embroil yourselves with the rival sides.
(40) By the Sadducees and Hellenists (who had regained power at the Court), as had already happened in the cases of
Joshua b. Perahiah and Judah b. Tabbai.
(41) A place of heretical teachings (e.g. Alexandria).
(42) Into exile.
(43) Spiritual death.
(44) By reason of the spiritual disaster that will have overtaken students of the Torah, faith in, and reverence for, God would wane.
(45) Identified by Halevy, op. cit. p. 40 ff. (and others) with Sameas and Pollion of Jos. Ant. XIV, 9, 4; XV, 1, 1; XV, 10, 4. V. Bacher, Tradition, pp. 51-2, who identifies similarly but, owing to chronological difficulties created by the
Josephus passages, he suggests that on account of the similarity, especially in Greek pronunciation, of Shemaiah and Shammai, Josephus did not keep the two pairs (Shemaiah-Abtalion and Hillel-Shammai) sufficiently distinct. (46) For the qualities of the ideal priest, v. Mal. II, 6.
(47) So MV, p. 473. i.e. this is not a continuation of the description of Aaron, or of Aaron's disciples, but a further admonition by Hillel.
(48) Or, (himself) ceases (to be).
(49) Another reading ‘teach’, i.e., one who refuses to impart the knowledge he has.
(50) 1. The Shem ha-meforash, the Name of God in its full form (I ARN, Ch. XII). 2. ‘The Crown of God’, i.e., a man who claims divine honours and prerogatives (II ARN, Ch. XXVII).
(51) One must be self-reliant and not accustom oneself to depend on others; but, being exclusively for oneself is an unworthy attitude for a human being. M.: If I do not rouse my soul to higher things who will rouse it? Rashi: If I do not acquire merit for myself who should do it for me, and when I have already achieved that, have I even then done the
whole of my duty? L.: If my ego is not mine (i.e. under my control) over whom can I exercise influence, and when I
have myself to myself (and I examine myself) I am led to ask myself, what am I?
(52) If I do not act in accordance with these reflections now that I realize them (or now whilst I am young, or alive),
then, when? Later it may be too late.
(53) L.: Ideal conditions for study are fixity of purpose, regularity of habits and stability of temperament on the part of
the student, as well as an habitual locale and students’ accessories of suitable and standard types. B. cites another
rendering, viz., ‘Make thy (decisions in) Law consistent’.
(54) This advice on the part of Shammai is the more noteworthy in view of his own impatient nature (as compared with
Hillel's at any rate).
(55) Son of Simeon (who was Nasi after his father Hillel, according to Graetz for 20 years, but according to Halevy only
a very short time), known as Rabban Gamaliel Ha-zaken (the Elder). Although here he follows Hillel and Shammai, he is
not said to have received’ (the oral teaching) from them (that is said of Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai, supra II, 5) and this
leads some to say that he was not a Nasi. Hoffmann (Erste Mishnah, p. 26) says the dictum here is by R. Gamaliel II (of
Jabneh). Geiger adheres to Gamaliel I. It is probably the same Gamaliel (‘a doctor of the Law’) as in Acts V, 34; XXII,
(56) According to M. and others this is advice to one who is himself a Rabbi, that he should choose another scholar
whom he is to respect as a greater authority, and whom he should consult in cases of difficulty and doubt before giving a
(57) L.: To be too strict is one's decision (a course a Rabbi would be likely to take when he is in doubt) is a fault, even as
it is wrong to give more than is due in tithes by tithing by conjecture instead of by measure.
(58) I.e., the son of R. Gamaliel I. He was slain at the time of the fall of Jerusalem. He is not called Rabban here, because
he said this before he was Nasi.
(59) Heb. ;ud body, person, cf. IV, 6.
(60) Cf. Prov. X, 19.
(61) Son of Gamaliel II of Jabneh and grandson of the Simeon in the foregoing Mishnah. Others say it is that same
Simeon but one dictum was uttered before, and the other (here) after, he became Nasi (hence the title Rabban here).
(62) Is its stability founded; cf. Mishnah 2.
(63) Zech. VIII, 16. Rashi says that in the Mishnah of Tiberias (MV, ‘in careful texts’) the Scriptural quotation is not