Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Ethics of the Fathers

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_217

“Ethics of the Fathers,” called, in Hebrew, Pirkei Avot and more properly translated as “Chapters of the Fathers,” is known as “Ethics of the Fathers” because of its content – a collection of laws, aphorisms, and guides to ethical behavior – wisdom literature that is over 2,000 years old. It asks and tries to explain what makes a good person and how to get along with family members, teachers, and the neighbors. Pirkei Avot is concerned with down-to-earth, hands-on, practical living – like an early self-help book.

The emphasis is on doing, embodying the religious life even in everyday actions. This accessibility makes it very popular, so it is included in many prayer books. Some famous teaching examples are:
  • Shammai: “Say little and do much” (Shapiro 2006, p. 15).

  • Hillel: “Don't judge your fellowman until you are in his place” (Shapiro 2006, p. 21).

  • Ben Zoma: “Who is wise? He who learns from every man…. Who is a hero? He who controls his passions” (Pirkei, Ch 4, Minsha 1).

  • Hillel: “If I...

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  1. Shapiro, R. R. (2006). Ethics of the Sages Pirke Avot annotated and explained. Woodstock: Skylight Paths.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Expressive AnalysisNew YorkUSA