The Sages' guide to living with an anthologized commentary and anecdotes
Pirkei Avos, (Chapters of the Fathers) is usually called “Ethics of the Fathers.” The six chapters of this Talmudic tractate have a special place in the hearts of the Jewish people. The Talmudic Sages called it simply Fathers -- or, better said, parents -- because it is the guide to behavior, attitudes, civility, honor, integrity, faith, aspiration, and much more.
In short, Pirkei Avos is to the Jewish people what parents are to the Jewish child. One can learn laws and facts from books, but only from parents can one learn how to integrate laws and facts into life. Is there a better way to learn how to receive guests than to live with Abraham and Sarah in their old age as they received and lavished care on three weary travelers in oppressive heat? Is there a better way to appreciate the beauty of a Sabbath or love for Torah than to see it lived out by flesh and blood men and women in ordinary Jewish homes?
In Pirkei Avos we sit at the feet of the spiritual giants who guided our nation through five turbulent centuries. If the Jewish people has taught the world about faith, kindness, sensitivity, and all the values that society lumps under the rubric of “civilization,” it is because it learned those lessons from the “fathers” whose teachings are recorded in this magnificent volume.
Between the covers of this book, Pirkei Avos is illuminated with a commentary anthologized from two thousand years of Rabbinic literature. More -- the ideas are leavened with a scintillating collection of anecdotes and insights that cast a glow of experience and inspirational practice on the maxims of our Talmudic “fathers.”
It has been said that Pirkei Avos contains the way of life of the Torah’s sages. How apt!
Small wonder that the Jewish people has taken Pirkei Avos to its heart and adopted it for study during the long Sabbath afternoons of summertime. In its national genius, the Jewish people has grasped the immutable truth that character can and must be molded, and that there is no better way to do it than by listening, learning, and thinking about how the molders of our nation lived and how they urged us to behave.
This volume is a gift from parent to child, a precious gift indeed. It has been Israel’s treasured legacy for centuries -- with this beautiful commentary it belongs in every Jewish heart and home.
|Author||Rabbi Moshe Lieber|