Mishna Avot 1

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Chapter 1.

1 Sinai was the spiritual experienc efrom which Moshe received Torah. He transmitted it to Yehoshu’a, who gave it to the Elders; the elders gave it to the Prophets. The Prophets transmitted it to the members of the Kneset Gedola, who taught three primary teachings: always peg deliberation to judging matters brought to your attention; your many students should be able to stand up for themselves; and protect Torah with appropriate boundaries.

2 Shimon Ha’Tzadiq? He was among the remnant of the Kneset Gedola. He often taught: The world’s foundation is based on three things: [a] on Torah; [b] on service; and [c] on random acts of irrational piety.

3 Antignos? He led Soko. He received what Shimon Hatzadiq transmitted and was fond of teaching this: Do not serve with any expectation of great reward; rather, your service should be without any expectation of reward whatsoever! Furthermore, always stand in awe of Heaven.

4 Yosé Ben-Yo’ezer? He led Tzar’éda. And Yosé Ben-Yo’hanon? He was the leader of Yerushalayim. They jointly received from Antignos and Shimon Ha’Tzadiq. Yosé Ben-Yo’ezer famously taught that your house should be a council house for the wise, in the dust of whose feet you should sit, so as to absorb everything they say.

5 Yosé Ben-Yo’hanon? He had a different perspective with respect to your house. It should be open wide, he said, to the poor. He also taught that one should not converse too much with a woman. With respect to his wife, the Sages said, so how much more so should this be applied to someone else’s wife?! Moreover, such intimacy could lead to to bad advice, loss of Torah learning and, ultimately, Géhinom.

6 Yehoshu’a Ben-Prah’yah and Nit’i of Arbéli received what had been trasnmitted by Yosé of Tzar’éda and Yosé of Yerushalayim. Yehoshu’a Ben-Prah’yah was known to teach find yourself a teacher, acquire a close friend, and judge all people favourably.

7 Nit’i of Arbéli was of another opinion in this matter. Stay away from evil neighbourhoods, he taught, and do not befriend the wicked; furthermore, do not be discouraged by calamity when it occurs.

8 Yehuda Ben-Tab’i and Shimon Ben-Shatak received what had been transmitted by their predecessors. Yehuda Ben-Tab’i would frequently teach: Don’t be certain of yourself when called upon to advocate on matters of law. When the litigants stand before you they are both equally culpable. When you have discharged them? So long as they accept the arbitration, they are equally innocent.

9 Shimon Ben-Shatak, however, was most particular when it came to questioning witnesses; one had to be cautious with each answer given, he taught, since witnesses often had compelling reasons to lie.

10 Shmy’ah and Avtal’yon learned and applied the recorded precedents of previous gerations. Shmy’ah taught: Love work, avoid the Rabanut and do not counsel the governors.

11 Avtalyon taught the following: Sages! Be cautious with what you say, do and teach. You are obligated in this matter! Not following this perspective can result in leading your students to become heretical or schismatic in their approaches. The consequence? Future generations will suffer! Let the Name in Heaven never become profaned!

12 Hillel and Shahm’I learned and applied the recorded precedents of previous generations. Hillel said: Be as Aaron’s students: Love peace, pursue peace, love every person, and bring each one as close to Torah as possible.

13 He often taught: Resistance or contradiction profanes The Name. If you don’t add, you end. Advance your knowledge or die! Misuse what you know and perish.

14 He was also famous for teaching this: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?

15 Shahm’I? He taught this: Torah should be studied on a fixed schedule; say little and accomplish much; be of the opinion that everyone has an inner beauty.

16 Rabban Gamaliel often said: Make your master, stay far from doubt, and do not overpay tithes by estimating the value of your produce

17 Shimon his son taught: Every day I was among the sagacious greats. In my opinion, nothing is better for anybody than silence. And the main point is not study — rather, it is action! Too much talk leads to sin.

18 Rabban Shimon Ben-Gamaliel said this: On three things this world stands: Justice, truth and peace. It is said [Zechar’yah 8:16] “Truth and the judgement of peace are to be the pillar of your justice system.”