Pirke Avot

(ca. 200)

Pirke Avot, or “The Sayings of the Fathers,” is one of the sixty-three tractates of the Mishnah, the oldest document of classical Jewish (rabbinic) literature, which was composed at the beginning of the third century CE. Apart from its inclusion in the Mishnah, Pirke Avot circulated independently. It is also included in the Talmud, a central text of Judaism composed of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law and ethics. The period from ca. 70 CE until ca. 700 CE is called the Rabbinic Period in Jewish history, and the literature from that period is termed rabbinic literature, with the Mishnah and Talmud being the main works. The sages mentioned therein are the “rabbinic sages,” or rabbis.

Unlike other tractates of the Mishnah, Pirke Avot contains almost no religious rules or commandments; rather, it consists of wise sayings. It is therefore usually classified as wisdom or ethical literature. Except for several anonymous proverbs, the wise sayings derive from some sixty-three...

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Ancient city of Jerusalem with Solomon's Temple (Library of Congress)

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