As many of you know, there is a widespread Jewish custom of learning Pirkei Avos in the six week period between Pesach and Shavous. Some have the custom to keep on learning a perek a week until Rosh Hoshana.
Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld of Beit Shemesh, Israel has an excellent commentary to Pirkei Avos over at Torah.org.
A few years ago, to facilitate review of Pirkei Avos, I cut and pasted Rabbi Rosenthal’s translation into a document so that I could print off the perek of the week and keep it in my wallet for review. Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the man administering Torah.org, Cross-Currents.com and other spreading Torah projects was gracious enough to allow the document to be downloaded here.
Here is the link for the English Translation of Pirkei Avos.
Here is the translation for Chapter Three:
1. “Akavia the son of Mehalalel said, consider three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you have come, to where you are heading, and before Whom you will give justification and accounting. From where have you come – from a putrid drop; to where are you heading – to a place of dirt, worms and maggots; and before Whom will you give justification and accounting – before the King of kings, the Holy One blessed be He.”
2. “Rabbi Chanina the deputy High Priest said, pray for the welfare of the government (lit., monarchy), for if not for its fear, a person would swallow his fellow live.”
3. “Rabbi Chanina the son of Tradyon said, if two people sit together and do not share words of Torah between them, it is a company of scorners, as the verse says, ‘in the company of scorners he (the righteous man) did not sit [rather in G-d’s Torah was his desire…]’ (Psalms 1:1-2). But if two people sit and share words of Torah between them the Divine Presence rests between them, as the verse says, ‘Then spoke those who fear G-d to one another, and G-d listened and heard, and it was written in a book of remembrance before Him, for those who fear G-d and regard His Name’ (Malachi 3:16). From here we may learn about two. How do we know that even one who sits and studies Torah G-d designates a reward for him? The verse says, ‘Let him sit alone and be silent, for it (a reward) will be placed upon him’ (Lamentations 3:28).”
4. “Rabbi Shimon said, three people who have eaten at the same table and did not speak words of Torah are as if they had eaten from the sacrifices of dead [idols], as the verse states ‘For all such tables are full of vomit and filth without room’ (Isaiah 28:8). But three who have eaten at the same table and did speak words of Torah are as if they had eaten from the Lord’s table, as it states ‘And he (the angel) said to me, this is the table that is before the Lord’ (Ezekiel 41:22).”
5. “Rabbi Chanina the son of Chachiniye said, one who stays awake at night or one who travels on the road alone and leaves his heart open to idleness – behold, he bears the guilt for his own soul.”
6. “Rabbi Nechunia the son of Hakanah said, anyone who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of government and the yoke of earning a livelihood will be removed from him. Anyone who casts off of himself the yoke of Torah, the yokes of government and earning a livelihood will be placed upon him.”
7. “Rabbi Chalafta the son of Dosa of K’far Chananya said, if ten people sit together and study Torah, the Divine Presence dwells among them, as the verse states ‘The L-rd stands in the assembly of G-d’ (Psalms 82:1). How do we know this even for five? As it states ‘He has established his bundle on the land’ (Amos 9:6). How do we know even three? As it states ‘In the midst of judges He judges’ (Psalms 82:1). How do we know even two? As it states ‘Then those who feared the L-rd spoke one to the other, and G-d listened and heard’ (Malachi 3:16). How do we know even one? As it states ‘In every place where My Name is mentioned I will come to you and bless you’ (Exodus 20:21).”
8. “Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa said, give Him from His own, for you and your possessions are His. And so does the verse say regarding King David, ‘For everything is from You, and from Your hands we have given to You.'”
9. “Rabbi Yaakov said, one who is walking along the road and is studying [Torah], and then interrupts his studies and says ‘How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this plowed field!’ – Scriptures considers it as if he himself bears the guilt for his soul.”
10. “Rabbi Dostai the son of Yannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir, whoever forgets anything from his Torah learning, Scripture considers it as if he bears the guilt for his own soul, as the verse says, ‘Only take heed and guard yourself well, lest you forget the things which your eyes saw’ (Deuteronomy 4:9). One might think this applies even if his studies were too difficult for him? The verse therefore continues, ‘and lest they be removed from your heart all the days of your life.’ Thus, one does not bear the guilt for his soul unless he sits and removes them from his heart.”
11. “Rabbi Chanina the son of Dosa said, anyone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. And anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure.”
12. “He (Rabbi Chanina) used to say, anyone whose good deeds are greater than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure. Anyone whose wisdom is greater than his good deeds, his wisdom will not endure.”
13. “He (Rabbi Chanina) used to say, anyone who is pleasing to his fellows is pleasing to G-d. Anyone who is not pleasing to his fellows is not pleasing to G-d.”
14. “Rabbi Dosa the son of Horkinos said, sleep in the morning, wine in the afternoon, the chatter of the youth, and sitting in the gatherings of the ignorant drive a person out of the world.”
15. “Rabbi Elazar of Modin said, one who desecrates sacred objects, one who disgraces the festivals, one who shames his fellow in public, one who annuls the covenant of our forefather Abraham, or one who interprets the Torah not according to Jewish law – even if he has Torah [study] and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come.”
16. “Rabbi Yishmael said, be yielding to a superior, gentle to the young, and receive every person with happiness.”
17. “Rabbi Akiva said, jesting and lightheadedness accustom a person to immorality. The oral transmission is a protective fence around the Torah. Tithes are a protective fence for wealth. Vows are a protective fence for abstinence. A protective fence for wisdom is silence.”
18. “He (Rabbi Akiva) used to say, beloved is man for he was created in G-d’s image. It is a greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in G-d’s image, as it is said, ‘For in the image of G-d did He make man’ (Genesis 9:6). Beloved is Israel for they are called the children of the L-rd. It is a greater love that it was made known to them that they are the children of the L-rd, as it is said, ‘You are children to the L-rd your G-d’ (Deuteronomy 14:1). Beloved is Israel that they were given a precious utensil (the Torah). It is an greater love that it was made known to them that they were given a precious utensil, as it is said ‘For I have given you a good possession; do not forsake My Torah’ (Proverbs 4:2).”
19. “Everything is foreseen, yet free will is given. The world is judged with goodness, and all is according to the majority of deeds.”
20. “He (Rabbi Akiva) used to say, everything is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The store is open, the Storekeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, the hand writes, and whoever wants to borrow may come borrow. The collectors make their rounds constantly every day, and they collect from a person whether he realizes it or not, and they have what to rely upon. The judgment is true, and everything is prepared for the banquet (of Leviathan).”
21. “Rabbi Elazar ben (son of) Azariah said: If there is no Torah there is no proper conduct; if there is no proper conduct there is no Torah. If there is no wisdom there is no fear of G-d; if there is no fear of G-d there is no wisdom. If there is no knowledge there is no understanding; if there is no understanding there is no knowledge. If there is no flour (sustenance) there is no Torah; if there is no Torah there is no flour.”
22. “He (Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah) used to say, anyone whose wisdom is greater than his deeds to what is he comparable? To a tree whose branches are many and whose roots are few, and the wind comes and turns it over. As it is said ‘And he will be like a lonely tree in a wasteland, and it will not see when good comes. It will dwell on parched soil in the desert, a salted land, uninhabited’ (Jeremiah 17:6). But one whose deeds are greater than his wisdom to what is he comparable? To a tree whose branches are few and whose roots are many, that even if all the winds in the world blow against it, they do not move it from its place. As it is said ‘And he shall be like a tree planted on the water, and towards the stream it spreads its roots, and it will not see when heat comes. Its leaves will be fresh, in a year of drought it will not worry, and it shall not cease yielding fruit’ (ibid. 17:8).”
23. “Rabbi Elazar ben (son of) Chisma said, The laws of the offerings of pairs of birds and the beginning of menstrual periods – these are essential laws. Astronomy and the numeric values [of the Hebrew letters] are the spices to wisdom.”