Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Text of Chapter One

Text of Chapter One


1. Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.

2. Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great assembly. He would say: The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G‑d, and deeds of kindness.

3. Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

4. Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah, and Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem, received the tradition from them. Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say: Let your home be a meeting place for the wise; dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink thirstily of their words.

5. Yossei the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem would say: Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household. And do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman. This is said even regarding one's own wife--how much more so regarding the wife of another. Hence, the sages said: One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory.

6. Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit.

7. Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.

8. Judah the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shotach received from them. Judah the son of Tabbai would say: When sitting in judgement, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgement, regard them as equally righteous.

9. Shimon the son of Shotach would say: Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.

10. Shmaayah and Avtalyon received from them. Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government.

11. Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.

12. Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aaron--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, one who loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.

13. He would also say: One who advances his name, destroys his name. One who does not increase, diminishes. One who does not learn is deserving of death. And one who make personal use of the crown of Torah shall perish.

14. He would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

15. Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.

16. Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by estimation.

17. His son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on sin.

18. Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), "Truth, and a judgement of peace, you should administer at your [city] gates.''

The content in this page is republished with permission from If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email for permission.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Sort By:
Discussion (21)
April 7, 2016
Hello Dear Rabbi can you explain this to me please ? Thanks
14. He would also say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
Raphael Moïse Jacob
December 28, 2015
A fence is a separation or barrier between what is holy, torah, and what is profane, purity is only possible when what is vile is kept away or separated.
Reb Chaim Raphael
July 13, 2015
I thought shammai and hillel were of the great assembly before those mentioned.
nick macina
September 27, 2014
"10. Shmaayah and Avtalyon received from them. Shmaayah would say: Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government."...A lot of our problems would disappear if we would obey this simple commandment.
August 2, 2013
the problem is that some are so stringent in keeping certain torah laws, that the fence they build so high as to inadvertently keep some outside and apart from the beauty of torah life.
July 24, 2013
Text Of Chapter One
Dear Rabbi Brownstein would you be so kind as to elaborate on verse 11? Thank you for your kindness. I love these teachings!!
November 4, 2012
To A.S.
We observe in daily life that men and women have different natures. The potential for impurity of thought and deed is much more likely for a man than for a woman, and an innocent conversation with a woman will have a more deleterious effect on him than on her. As regards friendship, the commandment to love one's fellow applies to both men and women. However, social companionship should be sought among those of one's own gender for reasons of modesty and propriety.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
October 21, 2012
What does it mean for a woman's behavior?
"do not engage in excessive conversation with a woman."
Has anything ever been said about this being also meant as advice for women when it comes to engaging in conversation with men?

If so, what is the difference between the male and female perspectives?

It almost sounds like if a men wishes to grow spiritually, then he should be "scared" of women, in a way.

I wonder whether avoiding "excessive conversation" means that there can be no friendship between men and women (?).
A. S.
July 14, 2012
A great chapter
This chapter touched my soul as does the entire Torah. Shalom. G-d guide you with care and grace.
Roger Dale Hadden
Evansville, In. USA
June 2, 2012
safety fence around the torah
May I say a fence to guard against adding or taking away what G-d has so gratuitously given to us as a people, a fence to guard His words that teach us obedience to our Creator and the path of life He chooses for us. Thank you chabad.
wilmington, n.c.
Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.
More in this section
This page in other languages