Pirke Avot 2

The second Shabbat after the start of Pesach is on April 14, 2018. As mentioned in a previous blog, it is customary to study a weekly chapter of Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) on each Shabbat after Pesach until Shavuot. In this blog, we will look at some selected mishnayot from chapter 2 of Pirke Avot (translation from The Mishnah: Pirke Avot, the Sefaria edition of the Mishnah with community translation) as well as the classical commentary by Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenura (from The Sefaria edition of The Bartneura with community translation):

Let’s look at what “The Bartenura” has to say about the the first two mishnayot as well as mishnah 13 (from, The Sefara edition of the commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenura with community translation):

Which is the right path for a person to take? We must always remind ourselves to follow a moral compass. Too often we hear “It’s not personal, it’s just business”. The Torah takes a different view of things. Knowing what is right and wrong, in terms of business is just as important and knowing how to give charity, study Torah, perform mitzvot. We are commanded in the Torah to have honest “weights and measures”, and to avoid charging excessive interest (ribbit). We should not separate ourselves from the community as Judaism commands action as well as study. The sages debated this issue in Meseches Kiddushin 40b (from The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren Noe Talmud Bavli):

We must be deliberate in our actions, and consider the consequences of our thoughts, speech, and actions. Keeping to a fixed schedule of actions or rituals is important, but contemplation regarding them is just as important.  Pirke Avot is our moral compass for self introspection during these weeks between Pesach and Shavuot.


About the Author
Jonathan Wolf is a retired high school physics teacher. He retired to NJ with his wife. He is an adjunct professor of physics at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has published professional papers and has been the author of AP Physics review books as well as general HS and college physics review books. He is a past President and ritual chairman at a conservative synagogue on Long Island, NY before he retired to NJ.
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