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What is Pirkey Avot?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Torah » Mishnah and Talmud | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Most tractates of the Mishnah are dedicated to Jewish law, but there is one tractate that is dedicated to behaviors that are "beyond the letter of the law". This is Pirkei Avot; a tractate devoted to Jewish morals, values and ethics -- the wisdom of life. It is commonly known as "Ethics of our Fathers."

It is customary to study Pirkei Avot on the Shabbatot between Passover and Shavuot and some have the custom of studying it throughout the summer months, until Rosh Hashanah.

There is a wealth of commentary on the Pirkei Avot, available at any Judaica store, and it makes for very enjoyable - and thought-provoking - reading.

See also What are "Jewish Ethics"?


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Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shavuot
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Shabbatot
Plural form of "Shabbat." Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Avot
"Ethics of our Fathers." A tractate of the Mishna (original rendition of the Oral Law) which discusses Jewish ethics and piety.