1.Moses received the Torah on Sinai and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence round the Torah.
The sages--blessed be he who chose them and their teachings --taught also the following in the style of the Mishnah:
Ethics Of The Fathers
2.Simeon the Just was one of the last survivors of the Great Assembly. He used to say: By three things is the world sustained: by the Torah, by the (Temple) service, and by deeds of loving kindness.
3.Antigonus of Soko received the Torah from Simeon the Just. He used to say: Be not like servants who minister unto their master for the sake of receiving a reward, but be like servants who serve their master not upon the condition of receiving a reward; and let the fear of Heaven be upon you.
4.Jose ben Joezer of Zeredah and Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem received the Torah from them. Jose ben Joezer of Zeredah said: Let thy house be a meetinghouse for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.
5.Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem said: Let thy house be wide open and let the poor be members of thy household; and engage not in much gossip with women. This applies even to one's own wife; how much more then to the wife of one's neighbor. Hence the sages have said: He that talks too much with women brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Torah and will in the end inherit Gehenna.
6.Joshua ben Perahyah and Nittai the Arbelite received the Torah from them. Joshua ben Perahyah said: Provide thyself with a teacher and get thee a companion (fellow disciple); and judge every man in the scale of merit.
7.Nittai the Arbelite said: Keep thee far from an evil neighbor and associate not with the wicked; and abandon not belief in retribution.
8.Judah ben Tabbai and Simeon ben Shetah received the Torah from them. Judah ben Tabbai said: Make not thyself like them that would influence the judges. When parties to a Torah suit are standing before thee let them be in thine eyes as wicked men, but when they have departed from before thee let them be in thine eyes as innocent, the verdict having been acquiesced in by them.
9.Simeon ben Shetah said: Examine the witnesses diligently and be cautious in thy words lest through them they learn to falsify.
10.Shemaiah and Abtalion received the Torah from them. Shemaiah said: Love work; hate domination; and seek not undue intimacy with the ruling power.
11.Abtalion said: Ye sages, give heed to your words lest ye incur the penalty of exile and ye be called to a place where the waters of learning are impure and the disciples that come after you drink of them and die; and the Heavenly Name is consequently profaned.
12.Hillel and Shammai received the Torah from them. Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving thy fellow creatures and bringing them nigh to the Torah.
13.Hillel used to say: He who aggrandizes his name, loses his name. He who does not increase his knowledge, decreases it. He who learns not, forfeits his life. He who makes unworthy use of the crown (of the Torah) shall pass away.
14.Hillel used to say: If I am not for myself who will be for me? Yet, if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?
15.Shammai said: Make your study of the Torah a fixed habit. Say little and do much, and receive all men with a cheerful countenance.
16.Rabban Gamaliel said: Provide yourself with a teacher and remove yourself from doubt, and accustom not yourself to give tithes by guesswork.
17.Simeon his son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have found naught better for a man than silence. Not the expounding of the Torah is the chief thing but the doing of it. Whoso multiples words causes sin.
18.Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel said: By three things is the world sustained: by truth, by judgment, and by peace, as it is written in Scripture: “Speak the truth to one another, render . . . judgments that are true and make for peace” (Zechariah 8.16).
1.Rabbi Judah “the Prince” said: Which is the right course that a man should choose for himself? That which is an honor to him and elicits honor from his fellow men. Be as scrupulous about a light precept as of a weighty one, for thou knowest not the reward allotted for each precept. Balance the material loss incurred by the fulfillment of a precept against the spiritual gain and the material gain accruing from a transgression against the spiritual loss it involves. Reflect upon three things and you will not come within the power of sin: Know what is above you --a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all your deeds recorded in a book
2.Rabban Gamaliel the son of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch said: Excellent is study of the Torah when combined with a worldly occupation, for toil in them both puts sin out of mind. All study of the Torah which is not supplemented by work must in the last analysis prove futile and may lead to sin. Let all who occupy themselves with communal affairs do so for Heaven's sake, for then the merit of their fathers sustains them and their righteousness endures forever. And as for you, God will then say: I count you worthy of great reward as if you had wrought it all yourselves.
3.Be you guarded in your relations with the ruling power; for they who exercise it draw no man nigh to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they stand not by a man in his time of stress.
4.He used to say: Do his will as if it was your will that he may do your will as if it was his will. Make your will of no effect before his will that he may make the will of others of no effect before your will.
5.Hillel said: Separate not yourself from the congregation; and trust not in yourself until the day of your death. Judge not your fellow until you are come unto his place. Say not of a thing which cannot be understood that it will be understood in the end. Say not: When I have leisure I will study; perchance you may never have the leisure.
6.Hillel used to say: A brutish man dreads not sin; an ignorant man cannot be pious, nor can the diffident man learn, or the impatient man teach. He who engages excessively in business cannot become wise. In a place where there are no men strive you to be a man.
7.Moreover he saw a skull floating on the surface of the water and he said unto it: Because you did drown others they drowned you; and at the last they that drowned you shall be drowned.
8.He used to say: The more flesh the more worms; the more possessions the more anxiety; the more women the more witchcraft; the more maidservants the more lewdness, the more menservants the more thieving. But the more study of the Torah the more life, the more schooling the more wisdom; the more counsel the more understanding; the more righteousness the more peace. If a man has acquired a good name he has gained something which enriches his manhood; but if he has acquired words of the Torah he has attained unto life eternal.
9.Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai received the Torah from Hillel and from Shammai. He used to say: If you have learnt much in the Torah claim not for yourself moral excellence, for to this end were you created.
10. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai had five disciples and these are they: Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Joshua ben Hananiah, Jose the Priest, Simeon ben Nathaniel, and Elazar ben Arak.
11. He used to recount their praise: Eliezer ben Hyrcanus is a plastered cistern which loses not a drop; Joshua ben Hananiah -- happy is she that gave birth to him; Jose the Priest is a saintly man; Simeon ben Nathaniel is fearful of sin; Elazar ben Arak 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 Saul, 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 Arak would outweigh them
13. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai said to them: Go forth and see which is the good a man shall cherish most Rabbi Eliezer said, a good eye. Rabbi Joshua said, a good companion. Rabbi Jose said, a good neighbor. Rabbi Simeon said, the gift of foresight. Rabbi Elazar said, a good heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arak more than your words, for in his words your words are included.
14. He said to them: Go forth and see which is the evil way which a man should shun. Rabbi Eliezer said, an evil eye. Rabbi Joshua said, an evil companion. Rabbi Jose said, an evil neighbor. Rabbi Simeon 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 borrows and cannot pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” Rabbi Elazar said, an evil heart. He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arak more than your words, for in his words your words are included.
15.They each said three things. Rabbi Eliezer said: Let the honor of your fellowman 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 lest 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 inclination and hatred of his fellow creatures put a man out of the world.
17. Rabbi Jose said: Let the property of your fellow man be as dear to you as your own. Qualify 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 Simeon said: Be heedful 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 mercies and supplications before God, for it is written, “For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil” ( Joel 2.13). Be not wicked in your own sight.
19. Rabbi Elazar said: Be eager to study the Torah. Know what answer to give to an unbeliever. Know before whom you toil and who is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.
20. Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the task is great, the laborers are slothful, the wage is abundant and the master is urgent.
21. He used to say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it. If you have studied much in the Torah much reward will be given you, for faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor. And know that the reward for the righteous shall be in the time to come.
1. Akabya ben Mahalalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not fall into sin. Know from whence you are come and whither you are going and before whom you are destined to give account and reckoning. From whence have you come?--from a putrid drop. Whither are you going?--to the place of dust, worm, and maggot. Before whom are you about to give account and reckoning?--before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he.
2. Rabbi Chanina, an assistant of the high priest said: Pray for the welfare of the government, since but for fear of it men would swallow each other alive.
3. Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion said: If two sit together and no words of the Torah are interchanged between them, theirs is the session of the scornful, as it is written (Psalm 1.1) “Nor sits in the seat of the scoffers.” But when two sit together and words of the Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them, as it is written (Malachi 3.16) “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another, the LORD heeded and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him, of those who feared the LORD and thought on his name.” Scripture speaks here of “two. Whence do we learn that if even one sits and occupies himself in the Torah, the Holy One blessed be he, appoints him a reward? Because it is written (Lamentations 3.28) “Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him.”
4. Rabbi Simeon said: If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken over it words of the Torah (Torah), it is as though they had eaten of the sacrifices of the dead, for it is written (Isaiah 28:8) “For all tables are full of vomit, no place l is without filthiness.” But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of the Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, for it is written (Ezekiel 41.22) “He said to me, 'This is the table which is before the LORD.'“
5. Rabbi Chaniah ben Hakinai said: He who keeps awake at night and goes on his way alone and turns his heart to idle thoughts endangers his life.
6. Rabbi Nehunya ben Ha-Kanah said: Whoso takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, from him shall be taken away the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly care; but whoso throws off the yoke of the Torah, upon him shall be laid the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly care.
7. Rabbi Halafta ben Dosa of Kefar Hanania used to say: If ten men sit together and occupy themselves with the Torah, the Divine Presence rests among them as is suggested by the. verse (Psalm 82.1) “God has taken his place in the divine council.” And whence do we learn that this applies even to five? Because it is written in Scripture (Amos 9.6) “And found his vault upon the earth.” And how do we learn that this applies even to three? Because it is written (Psalm 82.1) “In the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” And whence can it be shown that the same applies even to two? Because it is written (Malachi .16)”Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another; the LORD heeded and heard them.” And whence even of one? Because it is written (Exodus 20.24) “In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.
8. Rabbi Eleazar of Bartotha said: Render unto God what is his, for you and all that you have are his, as David expressed himself (I Chronicles 29.14): “For all things come from thee, and of thine own have we given thee.”
9. Rabbi Jacob said: If a man is walking by the way and studying and then breaks off his study and says: “How fine is this tree?” or “How fine is this ploughed field?” Scripture regards him as though he was guilty against his own soul.
10. Rabbi Dosethai ben Yannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir: He that forgets one word of his study, Scripture regards him as though he was guilty against his own soul; for it is written (Deuteronomy 4.9) “Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen.” Could this apply even if a man's study was too hard for him? Scripture says: “And lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” ( Deuteronomy 4.9 ) . Thus a person is not guilty unless he deliberately puts those lessons away from his heart.
11. Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa said: He in whom the fear of sin takes precedence of wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but he in whom wisdom takes precedence of his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure.
12. He used to say: He whose works exceed his wisdom, his wisdom endures; but he whose wisdom exceeds his works, his wisdom will not endure.
13. He used to say: He who in the spirit of mankind finds no delight, in him the spirit of God finds no pleasure.
14. Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas said: Sleeping away the morning, carousing at noonday, childish babbling and sitting in the meetinghouses of the vulgar wastes a man's life.
15. Rabbi Eleazer of Modiim said: If a man profanes things which are sacred, and despises the feasts and puts his fellow to shame publicly, and makes void the covenant of Abraham our father, and discloses meanings in the Torah which are not according to Halakah, even though a knowledge of the Torah and good works are his, he has no share in the world to come.
16. Rabbi Ishmael says: Be submissive to an elder and courteous to the young. Receive every man with good cheer.
17. Rabbi Akiba said: Jesting and frivolity lead a man towards lewdness. Tradition is a safeguarding fence around the Torah. Tithes are a fence to wealth. Vows a fence to abstinence. Silence is a fence to wisdom.
18. Rabbi Akiba used to say: Beloved is the man that he was created in the image of God; but greater yet is that love inasmuch as it has been made known by the verse in Scripture (Genesis 9.6) “For God made man in his own image”. Beloved are the Israelites that there has been given to them the precious instrument of the worlds creation; but greater yet is the love inasmuch as Scripture ha made this known to them in the verse (Proverbs 4.2) “For I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.”
19. Rabbi Akiba said: All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given. The world is judged in goodness, yet all is proportioned to one's work.
20. Rabbi Akiba used to say: All is given against a pledge, and the net is cast over all living; the shopstands 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 judgement is a judgement of truth; and all is made ready for a feast.
21. Rabbi Eleazer 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 reverence of God, and where there is no reverence 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 (economic stability) 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) “He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness.” 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) “He is like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
23. Rabbi Elazar Hisma used to say: The rules about bird offerings and the rules about uncleanness of women (menstruation) are essentials of the Torah; but astronomy and mathematics are incidentals to religious learning.
1. Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all men, as it is written (Psalm 119.99) “I have more understanding than all my teachers.” Who is mighty? He who subdues his passions, as it is written (Proverbs 16.32) “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes 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 be 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 lightly esteemed.”
2. Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfil the highest 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 but has his day and there is no thing but has its place.
4. Rabbi Levitas of Jamnia used to say: Be exceeding lowly of spirit, for the hope of man is but the worry.
5. Rabbi Johanan ben Baroka said: Whosoever profanes the name of Heaven in secret will pay the penalty in public. in profaning the name it is all one whether it be done unwittingly or wantonly.
6. Rabbi Ishmael 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 Zadok used to say: Do not keep aloof from the community. Do not seek to influence the judges. Do not make the Torah a crown wherewith to aggrandize yourself, nor use it as a spade wherewith 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.
8. Rabbi Jose used to say: He who honors the Torah is himself honored by mankind. He who dishonors the Torah shall himself be dishonored by mankind.
9. Rabbi Ishmael his son said: He who shuns the office of judge rids himself of enmity, theft, and false swearing. He who presumptuously lays down the Torah is foolish, wicked, and arrogant.
10. He used to say: Judge not alone, for none may judge alone save one. And say not, “Accept my opinion,” for it is for them to decide and not you.
11. Rabbi Jonathan said: He who fulfills the Torah in poverty shall in the end fulfil it in wealth. He who disregards the Torah in wealth shall in the end disregard it in poverty.
12. Rabbi Meir said: Engage not overmuch in business but occupy yourself with the Torah. Be humble in spirit before all men. If you neglect the Torah many causes for neglecting it will present themselves to you; but if you labor in the Torah then God has abundant reward to give you.
13. Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob used to say: He who performs one commandment acquires for himself one advocate, while he who commits one transgression has gotten for himself one accuser. Penitence and good deeds are as a shield against punishment.
14. Rabbi Johanan the sandal-maker said: Every assembly that is for a hallowed purpose shall in the end be established. But any assembly that is not for a hallowed purpose shall not ultimately be established.
15. Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua used to say: Let the honor of your pupil be as precious to you as your own; and the honor of your colleague as the respect due your teacher; and the respect towards your teacher as your reverence for God.
16. Rabbi Judah used to say: Be careful in teaching, for error in teaching amounts to deliberate sin.
17. Rabbi Simeon used to say: There are three crowns--the crown of the Torah, the crown of the priesthood, and the crown of kingship, but the crown of a good name excels them all.
18. Rabbi Nehorai said: Go as a voluntary exile to a place of the Torah, and do not say that the Torah will follow you, for it is your fellow students who will make or that your companions will make it your permanent possession. Do not rely upon your own understanding.
19. Rabbi Yannai used to say: It is not in our power to explain the well-being of the wicked or the sorrows of the righteous.
20. Rabbi Mattithyah ben Heresh used to say: Be first in greeting every man. Be a tail among lions rather than a head to foxes.
21. Rabbi Jacob used to say: This world is like a vestibule to the future world. Prepare yourself in the vestibule that you may enter into the banquet hall.
22. He also would say: Better is one hour of penitence and good deeds in this world than all the life of the world to come. Better is one hour of spiritual repose in the world to come than all the life of this world.
23. Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar used to say: Appease not your fellow man in the hour of his anger, nor comfort him while his dead lies before him. Question him not in the hour of his vow. Strive not to see him in the hour of his disgrace.
24. Samuel the Younger used to quote the saying (Proverbs 24.17-18) “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LoRD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.”
25. Elisha ben Abuyah used to say: He who learns as a child, to what is he like? To ink written on new paper. He who learns as an old man, to what is he like? To ink written on blotting paper
26. Rabbi Jose bar Judah of Kefar ha-Babli said: He who learns from the young, to what is he like? To one that eats unripe grapes and drinks wine fresh from his wine press. But he who learns from the aged, to what is he like? To one that eats ripe grapes and drinks old wine.
27. Rabbi Meir used to say: Look not on the flask but on what is in it; there may be a new flask that is full of old wine and an old flask that has not even new wine in it
28. Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kappar used to say: Jealousy, lust, and ambition remove man from the world.
29. He also used to say: They who have been born are destined to die. They that are dead are destined to be made alive They who live ( after death) are destined to be judged, that men may know and make known and understand that he IS God, he is the maker, he is the creator, he is the discerner, he is the judge, he is the witness, he is the complainant, and it is he that will in the future judge, blessed be he, in whose presence is neither guile nor forgetfulness nor respect of persons nor taking of bribes; for all is his. And know that everything is according to the reckoning. And let not your evil nature assure you that the grave will be your refuge: for despite yourself were you fashioned, and despite yourself were you born, and despite yourself you live, and despite yourself you die, and despite yourself shall you hereafter give account and reckoning before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he.
1. By ten divine fiats was the world created. Could it not have been created by one? What does Scripture wish to teach us? In order to emphasize the guilt of the wicked who mar his creation and the merit of the righteous who preserve it.
2. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to show how great was his long suffering, for every one of those generations provoked him continually until he brought upon them the waters of the Flood.
3. There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham, to show how great was his long suffering, for every one of those generations provoked him continually until Abraham, our father, came and received the reward of them all.
4. With ten temptations was Abraham, our father, tested. He stood steadfast in them all to show how great was his love
5. Ten wonders were wrought for our fathers in Egypt and ten at the sea.
6. Ten plagues did the Holy One, blessed be he, bring upon the Egyptians in Egypt and ten more at the sea.
7. Ten times our ancestors in the wilderness tried the Holy One, blessed be he, even as it is said in Scripture (Numbers 14.22) “Who . . . have put me to the proof these ten times and have not hearkened to my voice.”
8. Ten marvels were wrought for our fathers in the Temple: no woman miscarried from the odor of the flesh of the offerings; the flesh of the offerings never turned putrid; no fly was ever seen in the place of slaughter; the high priest never suffered a pollution on the Day of Atonement; rain never quenched the fire of the wood arranged on the altar; no wind prevailed over the pillar of smoke; never was a defect found in the omer or in the two loaves or in the showbread; though the worshipers stood pressed together yet they could freely prostrate themselves; never did serpent or scorpion do harm in Jerusalem; and no man said to his fellow, “There is no room for me to lodge in Jerusalem.”
9. Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath: the mouth of the earth ( Numbers 16.32 ); the mouth of the well (Numbers 21.16 ); the mouth of the ass (Numbers 22.28); the rainbow; the manna; Aaron's staff; the Shamir, writing; the inscription on the tablets of the Ten Commandments; and the tablets themselves. Some also include the evil spirits, the grave of Moses, the ram of Abraham; and others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.
10. Seven marks characterize the clod and seven the wise man. The wise man does not speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom and he does not break in upon the speech of his fellow. He is not hasty in making answer. He asks what is relevant and answers according to the Halakah. He speaks on the first point first and on the last point last. Where he has heard no tradition he says, “I have not heard”; and he agrees to what is true. The opposites of these attributes are the marks of the clod.
11. Seven kinds of punishment come upon the world for seven classes of transgression. If some give tithe and some do not give tithe, there comes famine from drought. Some hunger while some have a sufficiency. When all resolve not to give tithes there comes famine from tumult and drought. And if they will not set apart dough offerings ( Numbers 15.20 ) there comes an all-consuming famine. Pestilence comes upon the world because of crimes deserving of the death penalties enjoined in the Torah that are not brought before the court; and because of the transgressions of the Torahs of the seventh year produce (Leviticus 25.1-7). The sword comes upon the world because of the delaying of justice and the perverting of justice; and because of them that teach the Torah not according to the Halakah. Evil beasts come upon the world because of false swearing and the profaning of the name. Exile comes upon the world because of idolatry and incest and the shedding of blood; and because of neglect to give release to the soil during the sabbatical year.
12. At four periods pestilence increases: In the fourth year and the seventh year and in the year after the seventh year, and at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles every year. “In the fourth year”--because of neglect of the Poorman's Tithe in the third year (Deuteronomy 14.28- 30). “In the seventh year”--because of neglect of the Poorman's Tithe in the sixth year. “In the year after the seventh year”--because of transgressing the Torahs of the seventh year produce. “At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles every year”--because of robbing the poor of the harvest gifts that are their due.
13. There are four types among men: He who says, “What is mine is mine and what is thine is thine”--this is the common type, though some say that this is the type of Sodom. He who says, “What is mine is thine and what is thine is mine”--he is an ignorant man. He who says, “What is mine is thine and what is thine is thine own”--he is a saintly man. And he who says, “What is thine is mine, and what is mine is mine own”--he is a wicked man.
14. There are four temperaments among men: Easy to provoke and easy to appease--his loss is canceled by his gain. Hard to provoke and hard to appease--his gain is canceled by his loss. Hard to provoke and easy to appease--he is a saintly man. Easy to provoke and hard to appease--he is a wicked man
15. Four characteristics are found among students: Quick to learn and quick to forget, his gain is canceled by his loss. Slow to learn and slow to forget, his loss is canceled by his gain. Quick to learn and slow to forget, his is a happy lot. Slow to learn and quick to forget, his is an unhappy lot.
16.There are four types of almsgivers: He that is minded to give but does not wish that others should give--he begrudges what belongs to others. He that is minded that others should give but not that he should give--he begrudges what belongs to himself. He that is minded to give and also that others should give--he is a saintly man. He that is minded not to give himself and does not wish that others should give--he is a wicked man.
17. There are four types among those who attend the house of study: He who goes and does not practice--he has the reward of his going. He who practices but does not go--he has the reward of his practicing. He who goes and also practices--he is a saintly man. He who neither goes nor practices--he is a wicked man.
18. There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. “The sponge,” which soaks up everything. “The funnel,” which takes in at this end and lets out at the other. “The strainer,” which lets out the wine and retains the dregs. “The sieve,” which removes the coarse meal and collects the fine flour.
19. Whenever love depends upon some material consideration and the consideration passes away, then love passes away too. But if love does not depend upon some ulterior interest then love will never pass away. What is an example of the love which depended upon some material advantage? That of Amnon for Tamar. And what is an example of the love which did not depend upon some ulterior interest? That of David and Jonathan.
20. Any controversy waged in the service of God shall in the end be of lasting worth, but any that is not shall in the end lead to no permanent result. Which controversy was an example of being waged in the service of God? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which was not for God? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his company.
21. Whoever leads the masses in the right path will not occasion any sin, but whosoever leads the masses astray will not be able to do penance for all the wrong he occasions. Thus Moses was virtuous and he led the masses in the right path, and their merit is ascribed to him, as it is written in Scripture (Deuteronomy 33.21) “With Israel he executed the commands and just decrees of the LoRD.” 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 says in Scripture (I Kings 15.30) “For the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned and which he made Israel to
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 says in Scripture (Psalm 55.23) “But thou, O God, wilt cast them down into the lowest pit; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.”
23. Judah ben Tema 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 the God of our fathers, that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and grant our portion in thy Torah.
24. He used to say: At five years old a person should be fit to study the Scriptures, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the bridechamber, at twenty for one's life pursuit, at thirty for authority, at forty for discernment, at fifty for counsel, at sixty to be an elder, at seventy for gray hairs, at eighty for special strength (Psalm 90.10), at ninety for decrepitude, and at a hundred 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 its pages and turn it again, for everything is in it. Pore over it, and wax gray and old over it. Stir not from it for thou can have no better rule than it.
26. Ben Heh-Heh used to say: According to the effort is the reward.
1. Rabbi Meir used to say: He who occupies himself in the study of the Torah for its own sake merits many things; and, still more, the whole world is indebted to him. He is called friend, beloved, lover of God, lover of mankind. It clothes him with humility and reverence and fits him to become righteous, saintly, upright, and faithful. It keeps him far from sin and brings him near to virtue. From him men enjoy counsel and sound knowledge; as is suggested by Scripture (Proverbs 8.14) “I have counsel and sound wisdom, I have insight, I have strength.” It gives him rule and authority and insight into justice. To him are revealed the secrets of the Torah. He is made like a never-failing spring and like a river that flows on with ever sustained vigor. He becomes modest, patient, and forgiving of insult. It magnifies him and exalts him above all things.
2. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi used to say: Every day a heavenly voice goes forth from Mt. Horeb, proclaiming woe to mankind for their contempt of the Torah!” For he who occupies himself not in the study of the Torah is said to be under divine censure. To him may be applied the verse of Proverbs ( 11.22) “Like a golden ring in a swine's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Further, is his comment (Exodus 32.16) where Scripture says: “And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God graven upon the tables,” Rabbi Joshua ben Levi declared that we ought not read charut (engraved) but cheruth (freedom), for none can be considered free except those who occupies himself with the study of Torah. Anyone who occupies himself with the study of Torah shall be exalted, as it is said: “Through the Torah one attains the heritage of God; by the heritage of God one is raised to high places.
3. He who learns from his fellowman a single chapter or a single Halakah or a single verse, or a single expression or even a single letter, must show him honor. This we find exemplified in David king of Israel who learned only two things from Ahitophel, but called him his teacher, his guide, and his familiar friend, as we find it written (Psalms 55.13) “But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.” And is there not here an inference from the less to the greater? If David king of Israel, who learned but two things from Ahitophel, called him his teacher, his guide, and his familiar friend, how much more then must he that learns from his fellow a single chapter or a single Halakah or a single verse or a single expression or even a single letter pay him honor. And “honor” is naught else than “the Torah,” for it is written (Proverbs 3.35) “The wise will inherit honor.” And still again it says (Proverbs 28.10) “The blameless will have a goodly inheritance.” This is naught else than the Torah, for it is written (Proverbs 4.2) “For I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.”
4. This is the mode of living the study of the Torah entails: a morsel of bread and salt you must eat, and water by measure you must drink; upon the bare ground you must sleep, and a life of trouble you must live while you toil in the Torah. If you do thus, then--”You shall be happy and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128.2) “You shall be happy” in this world, and “it shall be well with you” in the world to come.
5. Seek not greatness for yourself, and crave not honor. Practice more than you learn. Yearn not after the tables of kings, for your table is greater than theirs and your crown nobler than their crown, while the master of your work can be trusted to pay you the reward of your labor.
6. Greater is the Torah than priesthood or royalty, for royalty is attained through thirty qualifications and the priesthood through twenty-four; but the Torah is attainable through forty-eight, to wit: by audible study, by distinct pronunciation, by understanding, by discernment of the heart, by awe, by reverence, by meekness, by cheerfulness, by ministering to the sages, by attaching oneself to colleagues, by discussion with disciples, by sedateness, by knowledge of the Scripture, by knowledge of the Mishnah, by minimizing business, by minimizing worldly interests, by minimizing indulgence, by minimizing sleep, by minimizing conversation, by minimizing jesting, by patience, by a good heart, by faith in the sages, by resignation under affliction, by knowing one's place, by rejoicing in one's lot, by setting a limit to one's words, by not claiming merit for oneself, by being one that is beloved, by loving God, by loving one's fellow- men, by loving the ways of justice, by loving rectitude, by loving reproof, by keeping oneself far from the pursuit of honor, by not being arrogant in learning, by not delighting to lay down legal decisions, by bearing the yoke with one's fellow student, by judging him favorably, by leading him to truth and peace, by being composed in one's study, by questioning and answering, by hearing and adding to what one hears, by learning in order to teach, by learning in order to practice, by making one's master wiser, by fixing attention upon his discourse, and by reporting a thing in the name of him who said it. So thou hast learned, that whosoever repeats a saying in the name of its author brings salvation to the world, as it is implied in Scripture: “And Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai” ( Esther 2.22 ) .
7. Great is the Torah which gives life to them that practice it both in this world and in the world to come, as it is written in Scripture (Proverbs 4.22) “For they are life to him who finds them, and healing to all his flesh.” And it further says in Scripture (Proverbs 3.8) “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” And it further says (Proverbs 3.18) “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.” And it also says ( Proverbs 1.9 ) “For they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.” And it says (Proverbs 4.9) “She will place on your head a fair garland, she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” And furthermore it says (Proverbs 9.11) “For by me your days will be multiplied and years will be added to your life.” And it says ( Proverbs 3.16) “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.” And it says (Proverbs 3.2) “For length of days, and years of life, and abundant welfare will they give to you.”
8. Rabbi Simeon ben Judah in the name of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai said: Beauty, strength, riches, honor, wisdom, old age, the hoary beard, and children are comely for the righteous and comely for the world for it is written (Proverbs 16.31) “A hoary head is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” And it further says (Proverbs 20.29) “The glory of young men is their strength but the beauty of old men is their gray hair.” And it says (Proverbs 14.24) “The crown of the wise is their wisdom.” And it says (Proverbs 17.6) “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged and the glory of sons is their fathers.” And it says (Isaiah 24.23) “Then the moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory.” Rabbi Simeon ben Menasya said: These seven qualities which the sages have reckoned as comely for the righteous were all of them fulfilled in Rabbi Judah “the Prince” and in his sons.
9. Rabbi Jose ben Kisma said: I was once walking by the way and a man met me and greeted me and I returned his greeting. He said to me, “Rabbi, from what place are you?” I answered, “I come from a great city of sages and scribes.” He said to me, “If you will dwell with us in our place I will give you a thousand thousand golden pieces and precious stones and pearls.” I answered, “If you gave me all the silver and gold and precious stones and pearls in the world I would not dwell except in a place where there is the Torah.” And thus it is written (Psalm 119.72) by David, king of Israel, “The Torah of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Moreover at the time of a man's departure, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones nor pearls go with him, but only the Torah and good deeds; for it is written (Proverbs 6.22) “When you walk they (the Torah) will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake they will talk with you.” When you walk it shall lead you--in this world; when you sleep, it shall watch over you--in the grave; and when you awake, it shall talk with you--in the world to come. Yea, further it is said in Scripture (Haggai 2.8), “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts.”
10. Five possessions did the Holy One, blessed be he, acquire in this world; and these are they: (a) the Torah, (b) heaven and earth, (c) Abraham, (d) Israel and (e) the Temple. Whence do we learn this of the Torah? Because it is written (Proverbs 8.22) “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” Whence do we learn this of heaven and earth? Because it is written (Isaiah 66.1), “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me and what is the place of my rest?” And it says (Psalm 104.24), “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy creatures.” Whence do we learn this of Abraham? Because it is written (Genesis 14.19), “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth.” Whence do we learn this of Israel? Because it is written ( Exodus 15.16), “Till thy people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom thou hast purchased.” And it says, “As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16.3). Whence do we learn this of the Temple? Because it is written (Exodus 15.17), “The place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thy abode; the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.” And it says (Psalm 78.54), “And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain, which his right hand had won.”
11. All that the Holy One, blessed be he, created in this world, he created only for his glory, as it says in Scripture (Isaiah 43.7) “Every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” “The LORD will reign for ever and ever” (Exodus 15.18).
1.Moses received the Torah on Sinai and handed it down to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence round the Torah.
The sages--blessed be he who chose them and their teachings --taught also the following in the style of the Mishnah: