Jew­ish Text

The Koren Pirkei Avot

  • Review
By – May 13, 2016

Matthew Miller of Koren Pub­lish­ers states that the goal for the Koren Pirkei Avot is to ful­fill the teach­ing, It is not for you to com­plete the task, but nei­ther are you free to stand aside from it” for the curi­ous, thought­ful stu­dent. The trans­la­tion pro­vid­ed by Rab­bi Lord Jonathan Sacks and the com­men­tary of Rab­bi Marc D. Angel cre­ate a holis­tic approach to the text and encour­age the read­er to strive for a truth­ful and unique­ly spir­i­tu­al life. The struc­ture is designed to pro­vide orig­i­nal insights to the read­er who is famil­iar with the text, and at the same time pro­vide expla­na­tions of the sages’ per­son­al­i­ties and the time peri­ods in which they served to give the unfa­mil­iar read­er a clear­er under­stand­ing of the teach­ings. Rab­bi Sacks’s con­cise trans­la­tion is true to Pirkei Avot’s straight­for­ward pre­sen­ta­tion and Rab­bi Angel’s com­men­tary, which includes con­tem­po­rary cre­atives, sci­en­tists, and philoso­phers as sources, bring a new sense of con­nec­tion to the teach­ings for the mod­ern read­er. It is evi­dent that Rab­bi Angel has inter­nal­ized the text deeply. He does not shy away from ques­tion­ing the motives behind the teach­ings, yet he com­pas­sion­ate­ly crafts answers that encour­age us to try to under­stand the sages and their per­son­al chal­lenges. What makes this ver­sion of Pirkei Avot unique is a recur­ring reminder to the read­er to hon­or the teach­ings of the sages, yet bal­ance those teach­ings with an hon­est per­son­al under­stand­ing. In response to the teach­ing Let your house be a meet­ing place for sages; sit in the dust at their feet, and with thirst, drink in their words,” Rab­bi Angel explains that The Tal­mu­dic tra­di­tion, too, fos­ters a spir­it of ques­tion­ing, analy­sis, and care­ful rea­son­ing. While stu­dents must lis­ten atten­tive­ly to the words of their teach­ers, they must nev­er sur­ren­der their own intel­lec­tu­al free­dom in the process.” This empow­er­ing expla­na­tion gives as much respon­si­bil­i­ty to the read­er as to the two great lead­ers who col­lab­o­rat­ed on this ver­sion of Pirkei Avot, to con­tin­ue the chain of cre­at­ing new and excit­ing approach­es to our tradition.

Relat­ed Content:

Jes­si­ca Deutsch is a New York based artist. She earned a BFA in illus­tra­tion at Par­sons school of Design. Her work explores the inter­sec­tion of lofty spir­i­tu­al teach­ings and mod­ern life.

Discussion Questions