This is my collection of Ultimate Pirkei Avot Quotes on Humility, Action, and Relationships.
Pirkei Avot is one of sixty-three tractates of the Mishnah, a foundational Jewish text which was codified by the 3rd century C.E.. Unlike the other 62 tractates which focus on legal instruction, Pirkei Avot is a collection of ethics and moral insight from revered Jewish sages, including famous names like Hillel the Elder, Rabbi Akiva, and Shimon ben Gamaliel (president of the Great Sanhedrin).
A Book Of Maxims
Pirkei Avot is filled with maxims. Maxims are pithy statements expressing a general truth, rule of conduct or a guiding principle. For this reason, Pirkei Avot is easily one of the most quotable–and quoted–Jewish texts. It includes many one-liners from the sages on issues that still resonate with significance today, particularly around ethics and relationships.
These original texts, particularly the ones around relationships, use male-gendered language. We’ve preserved the original language out of respect to the text, but these quotes can easily be read with other gendered pronouns and reclaimed for one’s own story.
One of the most recurrent themes is that of humility in the form of silence.
“Speak little, but do much; and receive all men with a pleasant countenance.” – Shammai, Pirkei Avot 1:15
“I have found nothing better for a person than silence.” – Shimon ben Gamaliel, Pirkei Avot 1:17
“A fence to wisdom is silence.” – Rabbi Akiva, Pirkei Avot 3:13
“One who makes his name great causes his name to be destroyed.” – Hillel, Pirkei Avot 1:13
On Taking Action
The sages also emphasize the importance of actions over simply studying or speaking about wisdom.
“Study is not the most important thing, but actions.” – Shimon ben Gamaliel, Pirkei Avot 1:17
“Let thy house be wide open, and let the poor be members of thy household.” – Yose ben Yochanan, Pirkei Avot 1:5
“On three things does the world stand: On justice, on truth and on peace.” – Shimon ben Gamaliel, Pirkei Avot 1:18
“Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not covet honor. Practice more than you learn.” – Pirkei Avot 6:5
“Be strong as a leopard, and swift as an eagle, and fleet as a gazelle, and brave as a lion, to do the will of your Father who is in heaven.” – Judah ben Tema, Pirkei Avot 5:20
On Learning from Our Relationships
The sages remind us to approach one another in humility, ready to learn and be open to compassion.
“Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own.” Rabbi Eliezer, Pirkei Avot 2:10
“Do not judge your fellow man until you have reached his place.” – Pirkei Avot 2:4
“Do not despise any man, and do not discriminate against anything, for there is no man that has not his hour, and there is no thing that has not its place.” – Ben Azzai, Pirkei Avot 4:2
“Who is wise? He who learns from every man.” – Ben Zoma, Pirkei Avot 4:1
On Religious Responsibilities
“Know before whom you toil, and that your employer is faithful, for He will pay you the reward of your labor.” – Rabbi Elazar, Pirkei Avot 2:14
“Where there is no fear of God, there is no wisdom.” – Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Pirkei Avot 3:17
“When you pray, do not make your prayer something automatic, but a plea for compassion before God.” – Rabbi Shimon, Pirkei Avot 2:13
“If you have learned much Torah, do not claim credit for yourself, because for such a purpose were you created.” – Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, Pirkei Avot 2:8
“The more Torah, the more life; the more sitting [in the company of scholars], the more wisdom; the more counsel, the more understanding; the more charity, the more peace.” – Pirkei Avot 2:7
Quotations are food for thought
Reading quotations is an easy and quick way to connect to meaningful ideas throughout our busy days. The process of choosing these Pirkei Avot Quotes felt nourishing to me, as I contemplated the meaning of each. Words are “food” for our mind, body and soul and help us to learn, get unstuck and move forward. Did you enjoy these Pirkei Avot Quotes? Please share your favorite in the comments below.
Here are more collections of meaningful quotations to inspire us: