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Pirkei Avot Videos

The Ten Utterances
Video | 43:38
The Ten Utterances
Ethics of Our Fathers 5:1
The world was created with ten utterances. What does this come to teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single utterance...
Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 1
The Wisdom of Pirkei Avot
In this class we take a practical and relevant approach in studying this classic text. We’ll examine the wisdom of Pirkei Avot through the lens of the classical commentators as well as the Kabbalists to gain an even more profound understanding of its many life-lessons.
Introduction to Learning Pirkei Avot
Why the tractate in the Mishnah on ethics is called Avot or “Fathers”. Learn the distinction between law and beyond the law, and how this can be applied practically.
Humility, Prerequisite to Torah
Farbrengen, 19 Kislev, 5743 • December 5, 1982
When recording the chain of passing down the Torah, Ethics of the Fathers states that the Torah was received by Moses from Sinai. Why the emphasis on this particular individual and this particular location? Moses and Sinai each stand for unique traits that must distinguish anyone true student of Torah – one who is to receive the Torah in his or her own life.
The Greatest Job
Video | 8:54
The Greatest Job
The Mishna states in Ethics of the Fathers: “Any Torah study that is not combined with work will not endure.” Elsewhere, the Talmud asserts that man was created for toil in Torah.
Speak Like a Chasid
The Talmudic tractate Pirkei Avos is a guide to higher ethical conduct. It does not deal with the basic tenets of Jewish law. Pirkei Avos is concerned with matters that go beyond the letter of the law.
Does Being Spiritual Mean Rejecting Our Bodies?
Jewish approaches to asceticism from the Mishnah to Chassidic teachings
Some Jewish commentators saw the conflict between body and soul as insurmountable, others saw it as non-existent, yet others saw it as an opportunity for a step by step process of mystical synthesis
Who Frequented the Study Halls of 1st Century Israel?
A close look at the composition of a typical study hall during the early Mishnaic period. Looking for clues in the Kaufmann Manuscript of the fifth chapter of Ethics of Our Fathers.
A Vengeful G-d?
Video | 38:05
A Vengeful G-d?
The first teaching of the fifth chapter of 'Ethics of Our Fathers' states that the primary reason why G-d created the world in the manner in-which He did is to 'exact retribution from the wicked'. This statement appears puzzling and indeed disturbing. This class will peel back the layers in light of the teachings of Chassidus and reveal its powerfully loving message.
What Is an Argument for the Sake of Heaven?
When division becomes a virtue
Our Sages declare that Korach and his followers are the symbol of divisiveness that "will not ultimately endure"; whereas the dissenting views of Hillel and Shamai represent a virtuous difference of opinion "that will ultimately endure". But why would argument of any kind, especially one that endures forever, be considered a virtue?! In answering this question, this class traces the origins of all conflicts and reveals the ultimate resolution to them all. (Based on the Maamar Vayikach Korach 5767)
Setting the World Straight
The 3 Pillars of Torah, Prayer and Acts of Kindness
The world, our Sages tell us, stands on three pillars—Torah, Avodah (Prayer) and Acts of Kindness. This class will explore the inner dimension and effect of these 'pillars', both on the individual and the world at large. (Based on the maamor Podoh B'sholom 5716)
The Ethics of our Fathers
with Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz
All Jews Have a Place in the World to Come
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
The prevalent custom is to study a chapter of Ethics of Our Fathers each week starting the Shabbat after Passover. Prior to studying each chapter, we add the introductory teaching of ‘Kol Yisrael’ (All Jews). Learn why this is inserted as a preface to Pirkei Avos.
The Ethics of Sinai
Video | 31:04
The Ethics of Sinai
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Ethics of Our Fathers begins by stating that Torah was received by Moses at Sinai and was passed down to the subsequent generations. The Mishnah specifies five generations in particular, why?
The World Stands on Three Pillars
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
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. (Ethics of Our Fathers 1:2)
What Is the Straight Path for Man?
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Rebbi [Yehudah HaNassi] would say: Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for the one who does it, and harmonious for mankind. (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:1)
Beloved Are Jews
Video | 30:09
Beloved Are Jews
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Beloved is man, for he was created in the image [of G d]; Beloved are the people Israel, for they are called children of G d; Beloved are the people Israel, for a precious article was given to them. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.3:14)
The Crown of a Good Name
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Rabbi Shimon would say: There are three crowns—the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood and the crown of sovereignty—but the crown of good name surmounts them all. (Ethics of Our Fathers 4:13)
According to the Pain is the Reward
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Ben Bag Bag would say: Delve and delve into it (Torah), for all is in it; see with it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for there is nothing better. Ben Hei Hei would say: According to the pain is the gain. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.5:21)
What King David Learns from Achitofel
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
One who learns from his fellow…a single law…must treat him with respect. For so we find with David, king of Israel, who did not learn anything from Achitofel except for two things alone, yet he called him his "master," his "guide" and his "intimate"… (Ethics of Our Fathers, ch.6:3)
G-d Wants Us to Be Meritorious
Why we need so many mitzvahs
Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya said: “The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvot in abundant measure, as it is written: ‘The L rd desired, for the sake of his [Israel’s] righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious.’”
Creation and the Kabbalah of You
Why there’s so much human failure
Humans seemed hard-wired to fail. Why would G-d especially design His world to allow so much failure? To address this topic, we explore the teaching in Ethics of Our Fathers that the world was created with ten statements (ch.5:1).
Examine the Witnesses Exceedingly
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
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. (Ethics of Our Fathers 1:9)
What Shammai Would Say
Learning Pirkei Avot
Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.1:15)
R’ Yochanan ben Zakai’s Five Disciples
Learning Pirkei Avot
Rabban Yochanan the son of Zakkai had five disciples: R’ Eliezer the son of Hurkenus, R’Yehoshua the son of Chananya, R’ Yossei the Kohen, R’ Shimon the son of Netanel, and R’ Elazar the son of Arach. He would recount their praises… (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.2:9)
Respect Your Fellow’s Money as Your Own
Rabbi Yosei would say: The property of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own. Perfect yourself for the study of Torah, for it is not an inheritance to you. And all your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven.
Hillel and the Floating Skull
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
He (Hillel) also saw a skull floating upon the water. Said he to it: Because you drowned others, you were drowned; and those who drowned you, will themselves be drowned. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.2:6)
Learning Pirkei Avot
Rabbi Shimon would say: Be meticulous with the reading of the Shma and with prayer. When you pray, do not make your prayers routine, but [an entreaty of] mercy and a supplication before the Almighty… And do not be wicked in your own eyes. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.2:13)
The Day Is Short, but the Work Is a Lot
Rabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing. (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:15)
Reflect on Three Things to Avoid Sin
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Akavia the son of Mahalalel would say: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting. From where you came--from a putrid drop; where you are going--to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting--before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.3:1)
Words of Torah at Your Table
Rabbi Shimon would say: Three who eat at one table and do not speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten of idolatrous sacrifices… But three who eat at one table and speak words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten at G d's table… (Ethics of Our Fathers 3:3)
Who Is Wise, Strong, Rich, and Honored?
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.4:1)
A Mitzvah Gets You a Guardian Angel
He who fulfills one mitzvah, acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one transgression, acquires against himself one angel-accuser. Repentance and good deeds are as a shield against retribution. (Ethics of Our Fathers 4:11)
Why the World Was Created with Ten Utterances
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
The world was created with ten utterances. What does this come to teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single utterance. However, this is in order to make the wicked accountable for destroying a world that was created with ten utterances, and to reward the righteous for sustaining a world that was created with ten utterances. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.5:1)
The Heavenly Voice
Video | 22:18
The Heavenly Voice
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Said Rabbi Yehoshua the son of Levi: Every day, an echo resounds from Mount Horeb (Sinai) proclaiming and saying: "Woe is to the creatures who insult the Torah.”And the tablets are the work of G d, and the writing is G d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty" (chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.6:2)
Four Types of Contributors to Charity
One who wants to give charity, but does not want others to give—is begrudging of others. One who wants that others should give but does not want to give—begrudges himself. One who wants that he as well as others should give, is a chassid. One who want neither himself nor others to give, is wicked. (Ethics of Our Fathers 5:13)
Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 2
The Wisdom of Pirkei Avot
In this class we take a practical and relevant approach in studying this classic text. We’ll examine the wisdom of Pirkei Avot through the lens of the classical commentators as well as the Kabbalists to gain an even more profound understanding of its many life-lessons.
Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 3
The Wisdom of Pirkei Avot
In this class we take a practical and relevant approach in studying this classic text. We’ll examine the wisdom of Pirkei Avot through the lens of the classical commentators as well as the Kabbalists to gain an even more profound understanding of its many life-lessons.
Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 4
The Wisdom of Pirkei Avot
In this class we take a practical and relevant approach in studying this classic text. We’ll examine the wisdom of Pirkei Avot through the lens of the classical commentators as well as the Kabbalists to gain an even more profound understanding of its many life-lessons.
Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 5
The Wisdom of Pirkei Avot
In this class we take a practical and relevant approach in studying this classic text. We’ll examine the wisdom of Pirkei Avot through the lens of the classical commentators as well as the Kabbalists to gain an even more profound understanding of its many life-lessons.
Beyond the Letter of the Law
What is the focus of Ethics of Our Fathers? What is the difference between a law and an ethic? How can these teachings apply to me?
Drive and Motivation
Mishnah 1:3 “Do not be as slaves who serve their master for the sake of reward…” What drives you? How do you motivate yourself? Is there any place for extrinsic motivation or should it only be internal drive and personal passion that motivates you?
Peace and Unity—How to Create It Socially
Mishnah 1:12 “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace.” Peace is not uniformity. Peace brings together disparate parts into harmony. We do not all need to be the same in order to have peace but we need to embrace the diversity. Here are the necessary 4 steps to peace.
Taking Responsibility and Seizing the Moment
Mishna 1:14 “If I am not for myself who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” You are the only one who can own your behavior. If you do not get the job done, it is not going to happen. You are responsible for your own inspiration and your own goodness.
Protected from Transgression
Mishnah 2:1 “Contemplate these three things and you won’t come to the hands of transgression…” Without G-d our world is full of duality and dissonance. Surrendering to G-d’s will, allows us to avoid even the “hands” of transgression and to live at our highest level.
Nullifying Our Will and Breaking Limitations
Mishnah 2:4 “Make His will, your will…” G-d asks us to remake our character and refine ourselves. Sensitizing ourselves to G-dliness means to internalize the will of G-d and aligning ourselves with G-d’s will.
Why Fear of Sin Trumps Wisdom
Mishnah 3:9 ”One whose fear of sin takes precedence over his wisdom, his wisdom endures.” Why is fear of sin even more essential than spiritual wisdom? Why is wisdom not enough? The mind left to its own devices is on a slippery slope.
The Portal to Wisdom
Mishnah 3:10 “One whose deeds exceeds his wisdom, his wisdom endures.” Why is action so essential? Reverence and action preserves and grows wisdom. We need to be living what we believe.
Attaining Wisdom, Strength, Wealth and Honor
Mishnah 4:1 “Who is wise? Who is strong? Who is wealthy? Who is honorable?” The answers that the Book of Ethics provides to the question of how to of attain these qualities seem counter-intuitive. What is Ben Zoma really teaching us about how to reach self-mastery in these attributes?
The Characteristics of a Wise Person
Mishnah 5:7 “Seven qualities that bring us to the acquisition of truth…” The layout of the Mishnah teaches us that framing things in the positive is better than focusing on what is wrong. It then continues to teach us a progression of seven ideas that help us to attain wisdom.
Looking at Ages and Stages
Mishnah 5:22 “At five, we begin the study of Scripture. At 10, the Oral Tradition…At 80, self-mastery… At 100….” Each age of life is appropriate for a different stage of growth. This class looks at the various stages of development and the deeper meaning behind the Mishna’s description for each one.
Forty-Eight Qualities to Acquiring Divine Wisdom
Mishnah 6:6 “Torah is greater than priesthood or sovereignty…Torah is acquired with 48 qualities…” Listen and meditate on these 48 qualities necessary to acquire Divine wisdom. How many of these qualities do you connect with? Which of these come easily to you and which are challenging for you?
Every Jew Has a Share in the World to Come
The customary preamble to Pirkei Avot
Ethics and the Transmission of Torah
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 1
The Three Pillars of the World
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 2-3
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G d, and deeds of kindness.” “Do not be as slaves who serve their master for the sake of reward...”
Make Your Home a Place of Torah and Hospitality
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 4-5
“Let your home be a meeting place for the wise… Let your home be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household…”
A Spiritual Mentor and a Good Friend
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 6
Make for yourself a rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.
Distance Yourself from a Bad Neighbor
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 7
“Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.”
Guidance for Judges, Love Work and Abhor Power
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 8-10
When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty… Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses… Love work, loath mastery over others, and don’t fraternize with the government.
Love and Pursue Peace Like Aaron
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 11-12
"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…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."
Torah for Personal Gain & My Responsibility
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 13-14
One who advances his name, destroys his name… 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?
Make Torah Your Focus
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 1, mishnah 14-15
Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance. Make for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by estimation.
What Is the Straight Path for Man?
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 2, mishnah 1
Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is harmonious for oneself and for mankind. Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one… Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.
A Prescription for Happiness
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 4, mishnah 1
Who is wise? One who learns from every man…Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations…Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot…Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.
The Jewish View of Cosmology
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 5, mishnah 1
The world was created with ten utterances. What does this come to teach us? Certainly, it could have been created with a single utterance. However, this is in order to make the wicked accountable for destroying a world that was created with ten utterances, and to reward the righteous for sustaining a world that was created with ten utterances.
The Greatness of Torah Study
Learning Pirkei Avot: chapter 6, mishnah 1
Rabbi Meir would say: Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things; not only that, but [the creation of] the entire world is worthwhile for him alone. He is called friend, beloved, lover of G‑d, lover of humanity, rejoicer of G‑d, rejoicer of humanity… (Pirkei Avot 6:1)
Creatures of Holiness
The Sages instruct us in Ethics of Our Fathers: “Be of the disciples of Aaron the High Priest.” Aaron was the holiest Jew. Yet, which of his qualities do the Sages instruct us to emulate? “Love peace and pursue peace; love all creatures and draw them close to Torah.”
Uncompromising Love
The Mishnah instructs us to “Be a student of Aaron,” love peace, pursue peace; love G-d’s creations...” Notably, the passage concludes, “and bring them close to Torah.”
My Thoughts on Charity (part 3)
The four types of people in giving charity described in Ethics of Our Fathers.
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.