Pirkei Avot Lesson 9
Sandy Kress

Ethics of the Fathers – Lesson Plan – Session Nine – WHPC

I. Introduction

II. Verses to Consider

A. He (Yochanan ben Zakkai) said unto them (his disciples): Go forth and observe which is the evil way which a man should shun? Eliezer said, an evil eye; Yehoshua said, a wicked friend; Yose said, a wicked neighbor; Shimon said, one who borrows and does not repay; one who borrows from man is like one who borrows from the Omnipresent, as it says, the wicked one borrows and does not pay, while the Righteous One is gracious and gives (Psalms 37:21); Elazar said, a wicked heart.

He said to them: I prefer the words of Elazar…for your words are included in his… 2:14 


Shimon is the only disciple who answers this question in a manner other than the negative of the previous question. The Mishnah obviously wants us to explore why.

He said the right path was through one who considers the outcome of a deed. Here he says the wrong path was through one who borrows and does not repay.

What’s the coherence in these two answers?

B. Rabbi Eliezer says: Let your fellow’s honor be as dear to you as your own. Do not anger easily. And repent one day before your death. 2:15


1. Why should we hold others’ honor as dear as our own? Indeed, first, before answering that, tell us what it means to do so?

2. Eliezer also prizes a good eye, and he cherishes learning. What might those attitudes have to do with his commitment to honoring others?

3. What, if anything, does refraining from angering easily have to do with all these virtues?

4. The wisdom doesn’t ask us not to anger, but not to anger easily. Why?

5. What’s the impact of being expected to repent one day before our death?

C. Rabbi Yehoshua says: An evil eye, the evil inclination, and hatred of other people remove a person from the world. 2:16


1. Here we’re taught three different ways not to be. Explain each as best you can. What do these three phrases – evil eye, evil inclination, and base hatred of others – mean; what do they entail?

2. How does acting in these ways have the effect of removing us from the world?

III. Conclusion – takeaways from today’s study

Pirkei Avot Lesson 9

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