Get the best of Chabad.org content every week!
Find answers to fascinating Jewish questions, enjoy holiday tips and guides, read real-life stories and more!
ב"ה

The Kabbalah of Ethics

‘Ethics of Our Fathers’ on Five Levels

Decode the successive layers of meaning embedded in the classic teachings of Ethics of Our Fathers (Pirkei Avot), from the basic understanding to the more mystical interpretation—encompassing five levels of meaning.

22:14
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.
Watch
31:04
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?
Watch
32:08
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)
Watch
23:11
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)
Watch
27:49
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)
Watch
29:38
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)
Watch
18:59
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Run to an easy mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression. (Ethics of Our Fathers ch.4:2)
Watch
21:39
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Make that His will should be your will, so that He should make your will to be as His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He should nullify the will of others before your will. (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:4)
Watch
24:34
Learning Pirkei Avot
Ch. 2, Mishnah 4-5: Hillel would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood. And do not say "When I free myself of my concerns, I will study. A boor cannot be sin-fearing, an ignoramus cannot be pious, a bashful one cannot learn, a short-tempered person cannot teach, nor does anyone who does much business grow wise. In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
Watch
33:11
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)
Watch
28:31
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.
Watch
18:16
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)
Watch
23:11
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)
Watch
18:33
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)
Watch
29:18
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)
Watch
19:51
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)
Watch
19:48
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Anyone who forgets even a single word of this learning, the Torah considers it as if he had forfeited his life … one does not forfeit his life unless he deliberately removes them from his heart. (Ethics of Our Fathers 3:8)
Watch
30:09
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)
Watch
16:47
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)
Watch
1:16:19
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)
Watch
32:54
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)
Watch
20:40
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)
Watch
22:02
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)
Watch
26:26
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)
Watch
22:18
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)
Watch
34:04
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)
Watch
25:31
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.’”
Watch
31:47
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Rabbi Yossei would say: Whoever honors the Torah, is himself honored by the people; whoever degrades the Torah, is himself degraded by the people. (Ethics of Our Fathers 4:6)
Watch
20:45
Learning Pirkei Avot on Five Levels
Everything that G d created in His world, He did not create but for His glory. As is stated: "All that is called by My name and for My glory, I created it, formed it, also I made it." And it says: "G d shall reign forever and ever." (Ethics of Our Fathers 6:11)
Watch
Related Topics