Before studying the weekly chapter of Pirkei Avot, it is customary to say the following paragraph from the Mishnah:

Every Israelite has a share in the World to Come, as it is stated (Isaiah 60:21): "And your people are all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever. They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hand in which to take pride."

As can be expected, many reasons have been given for the choice of this passage as preface to the weekly Ethics chapter. Here's one of them:

Much of the tractate of Avot deals with interpersonal relationships. Greeting everyone with a smile, opening one's house to the poor, respecting peers, etc. This may be difficult sometimes, considering that our fellows sometimes appear to be far from perfect, or even decent.

No matter the person's external appearance, "Every Israelite has a share in the World to Come..."This is why we preface the study with a statement regarding every indvidual's inherent value. No matter the person's external appearance, "Every Israelite has a share in the World to Come," because "your people are all righteous."


After studying the chapter, the following Mishnaic passage is customarily recited:

Rabbi Chananiah ben Akashiah said: "The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore he gave them Torah and mitzvot in an abundant measure — as it is written (Isaiah 42:21): 'G‑d desired, for the sake of [Israel's] righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious.'"

The Hebrew word for "meritorious," lizakot, can also mean to "refine." As such, Rabbi Chananiah's statement can also mean that G‑d gave us the Torah in order to refine us. And for this purpose He gave us a voluminous Torah and many mitzvot, as each mitzvah has the power to refine us in a unique way.

Whereas all of Torah is intended to refine us, this tractate is the one most directly devoted to this endeavor.