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Posted March 28, 2007

Book: Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A modern reading of Pirke Avot
Author: Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro
Bell Tower. New York. 2007. Pp. 137

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Wisdom of the Jewish Sages is a fresh interpretation of Judaism’s principal ethical scripture, Pirke Avot or The Sayings of the Fathers — a treasury of maxims on justice, integrity, and virtue. Gathered into one volume in the third century, it represents the essential spiritual teaching of sixty-five remarkable rabbis who spanned the preceding six hundred years. For centuries it has been the most widely studied book in traditional Jewish homes. Now Rabbi Shapiro’s modern reading of Pirke Avot makes its timeless knowledge available to a new generation of seekers.

Excerpts from the Book:

Rabbi Jacob said:

If you are walking lost in wonder,
empty of self, and mindful of Reality,
and suddenly you interrupt this peace to exclaim:
“How beautiful is this tree!
How magnificent this field!”
You forfeit life.

The intrusion of self
and the imposing of judgment
separates you from Reality
and snares you in the net of words.

Be still and know.
Embrace it all in silence.

Rabbi Eleazar Chisma said:

No deed is minor
to one who attends to Reality.

No learning is useless
to one who lives with fullness of mind.

Nothing is beneath doing
to one who knows what needs to be done.

The wise may not achieve fame,
but their days are rich with meaning.

Rabbi Chanina ben Chachinai said:

Those who stay awake too late at night
neglect the body;
Those who walk alone
neglect the heart:

Those who allow the mind to be idle
neglect the soul.

All these forfeit life —
Even while they live, they are as dead.

Table of Contents:

Chapters 1 - 6