This volume joins two classics of Jewish ideals and teachings: Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers and the profound thought of Sfas Emes and other chassidic masters, mostly those of the other incisive Polish masters. Their insights and ideas penetrated unerringly to the very hearts of the Talmudic teachings and the minds and consciences of serious and committed Jews.
Pirkei Avos is the only tractate that begins with the statement that Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it, generation after generation, to the Jews for whom it was intended. Why is this said only of Avos? Because it is all too easy to think that the Torah consists primarily of laws and mitzvos, and that the Oral Law controls only deeds, dealings, and rituals, hardly anything more.
No! Avos teaches us. Character, integrity, grace, generosity, manners -- these, too, emanate from Sinai, and these, too, were channeled to us by Moses and his great successors in the chain of the Mesorah, through the ages.
To students of Torah -- chassidic and non-chassidic alike -- the name “Sfas Emes” has a unique resonance. The second Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Alter, was a scholar, leader, and teacher of monumental proportions. One of the world’s greatest authorities on his thought said, “I have learned Sfas Emes countless times, but every time I look at the sefer I find new ideas.”
But the Sfas Emes did not live in a vacuum. He was the product of several generations of great tzaddikim, teachers, and leaders. And he, in turn, spawned children and grandchildren who were worthy heirs of a great and holy dynasty.
This superlative anthology is based primarily on the writing of Sfas Emes, but it includes many others in the Polish chain of greatness. In addition, each citation includes extracts from the original Hebrew text.
As an extra service to readers, the author has included biographical sketches of all the major figures whose comments are included in this volume.
PIRKEI AVOS: SFAS EMES