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Pirke Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics [Paperback]

Leonard Kravitz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: UAHC Press (27 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807404802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807404805
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 19.4 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 435,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Synopsis

Traditional commentaries on Judaism by the leading scholars of our age. Original Hebrew is presented alongside the translation in linear, easy-to-read format.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
1:1 At Sinai Moses received the Torah and handed it over to Joshua who handed it over to the elders who handed it over to the prophets who in turn handed it over to the men of the Great Assembly. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Kravitz and Olitzky have created a very satisfying solution for how to juxtapose the translation (staying close to the Hebrew), the Hebrew itself, and their commentary, drawing upon a handful of key traditional commentators on Pirkei Avot. I was a little disappointed that there was not more detailed verse by verse commentary and explanation.

However, one of the great strengths of this book is what they have added at the end of each chapter. First, they write 1/3 or 1/4 page explanations of Jewish concepts or history that provide a useful overview for understanding the context in which the original writers and readers of Pirkei Avot were operating. Second, the 'Gleanings', their choice of source readings from 19th and 20th century Progressive and non-Orthodox Judaism are magnificent, and are an excellent complement to the translation and traditional (and, of course, Orthodox) commentators.

Pirkei Avot is a dense text, with rich references to other Jewish texts, and I wanted to learn more about the cross-references and teachings. However, no book can do everything, and has to strike a balance. I think that Kravitz and Olitzky have done this very well. To dive more deeply into the detail of the Pirkei Avot text and its far reaching ethical thinking, I have used, as a companion volume, Rami Shapiro's 'Ethics of the Sages' (a freer translation with more detailed verse commentary) - the two books work well together.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable book for any Judaic collection. 28 April 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have many different editions of Pirke Avot. I am, at this time, using this in a class I'm taking at our shul with the rabbi. The Kravitz/Orlitzky are very good.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five-Star Text, Three-Star Commentary 18 Aug 2002
By "krchicago" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Pirke Avot" (the "Chapter of the Fathers") is a tractate of the Mishnah that collects not laws but sayings of the tannaitic Rabbis, mostly concerning the virtues of Torah study and the proper conduct of scholars. It is one of the classics of rabbinic literature, included (in whole or in part) in most prayer books, and the source of many familiar sayings. The picture it presents of Torah study as a democratic ideal, available to all and instilling a generous humility and respect for others, is a goal we can still admire and aspire to.
The translation and commentary presented here is helpful but leaves something to be desired. Each passage of Avot is followed by a brief commentary, generally identifying the rabbis quoted, providing some quasi-historical background on them and their relationship to other quoted rabbis, clarifying obscure phrases and summarizing the thoughts of Rashi, Maimonides and Bartinoro on many of the passages. (The introduction might lead one to think that the commentary also summarizes "Avot de Rabbi Natan" and Yom Tov Lippman Heller's commentary, but I found only a few references to either of these works.) This commentary is very helpful for understanding the plain meaning of the text, but seldom goes beyond the plain meaning to explore the theological or ethical significance of the passage. (A few passages that make the Reform editors uncomfortable are noteable exceptions -- here the commentary notes that "we modern Jews" look at things differently. While I agree with the modern conclusions, I found this condescending attitude annoying and unnecessary.)
Each chapter of Pirke Avot is followed by a section of brief essays (usually two or three paragraphs) by the editors on "salient themes." These often seemed more tangential than salient to me (a brief statement in Avot 3:1 that we return to dust leads to an essay on Jewish views on cremation), but they were interesting and provided further background on various aspects of traditional Jewish history, practice and thought. The brief essays are followed by section of somewhat longer "gleanings" from the works of various Reform or liberal Jewish thinkers. These tend to be quite tangential and are plainly intended to provide food for thought and discussion, not to answer questions. A few of them seemed more than a little out-dated, but in general the selection was interesting, if obviously slanted toward a Reform view of the world.
A final note on the translation, which is colloquial and inclusive. The former (particularly the use of contractions, which to my ear made too many passages sound like "don't be a don't bee") was irritating to me, but that's a matter of taste. The attempt to be inclusive (i.e., to use gender-neutral language), however, led on more than one occasion to translations that were so awkward they were a distraction ("everyone has one's moment"), which I find more difficult to forgive.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirkei Avot Commentary on Jewish ethics 12 July 2012
By Donald J. Weinshank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Have already reviewed several times. Let's put it this way: I keep purchasing copies for friends

The book is so common that you can find it on the Web and in many traditional prayer books. However, THIS edition brilliantly contextualizes the aphorisms and commentaries in this book. I recommend this edition very highly.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirke Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics 13 Feb 2013
By Caren Weintraub - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great source book. Formated for easy understanding of the material. Used it in my Talmud class, when the topic was Pirke Avot.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulous, Lets say Great Wisdom Book for People of All Faiths, Including Jewish, with Grand Commentary- The Wisest book 15 Jun 2014
By Jeffrey Alan Shane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A Fabulous, Lets say Great Wisdom Book for People of All Faiths, Including Jewish, with Grand Commentary- The Wisest book of this year or any Year, Decade or Century
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's Talk with our students! 2 April 2014
By D. Sherman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I use this with my high school students. It is very good and encourages conversation between students. I prefer my students to collaborate together and not sit through 'frontal' teaching all class.
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