Pirkei Avos Chapter 1-Mishnah 1:

Here’s a lesson on how to impress your ten-year-old son.


A few weeks ago, we walked out of shul after davening.  I noticed that behind me a member of the Border Police, who davened with us, was also walking out.  Now, a note about the Border Police:  They are a paramilitary police force brought in for not-so-non-violent situations, and in order to get in, your arm muscles must be as big as a tank and you need to be able to eat three (live) horses a day.

They’re not your everyday cop.

As we were walking out, I saw that somebody of…“not fully there” persuasion was talking to him.  And from previous experience, I knew that once he starts talking, there’s no getting out of it.  So, the poor guy was standing there, clearly waiting for his chance to bolt.  Me?  I had pity and told my son to wait a few minutes.  I quickly walked up to the officer and said to both of them, “Great!  I’m so happy you’re here! There’s this issue that I’ve been having problems with and I need to speak to somebody from the police!”  The not-so-normal guy said, “Well, HE’S from the police!” (not realizing that I can tell from his uniform and tank-sized arms, and half a horse in his mouth).  “Perfect!” I said, as I grabbed the officer’s arm and walked him away.  A few seconds later I released him and said, “You’re free now.”  After realizing what I did, he smiled and thanked me for the chesed.

When I returned to my son, he looked at me in shock and said, “You just grabbed an officer from the BORDER POLICE! WOW!”


“Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.”


-Chapter 1, Mishnah 1


They would always say these three things – These three things were aimed at preserving the Torah (Rashi).


Be cautious in judgment – Do not give hasty decisions, but analyze each question in depth.  Rendering a fair judgment is one of the highest forms of Torah study (Rashi, Rabbeinu Yona).  On a personal note, I ran into a quote from Rabbeinu Chanannel in Avodah Zorah (15b).  The Gemara was speaking about the importance of having BOTH Torah and Chesed, and that if a person has only Torah, he has nothing.  Rabbeinu Chanannel qualifies this saying that if a person is only learning Torah on a deep and proper level, that in itself is fine, since he is/will be doing chesed by helping other people by telling them the correct halachos.

If a person is quick to judge and he makes an honest mistake, it is considered as if he made a bad judgment on purpose, since he did not take his time to think about the case.


Establish many pupils – They did not say “teach” many pupils, but rather “establish” (i.e. support) many pupils, meaning the community is responsible for the proper support of scholars, so they can devote themselves to their studies and be free from other concerns.


Even though you trained students in your younger years, continue to do so in your later years, because you cannot know which group will be more successful (Rashi, Rabbeinu Yona).  This saying is attributed to the Men of the Great Assembly, who realized that the age of prophecy was coming to an end, and the need for as many teachers as possible was becoming more realized (Tiferes Yisroel). 


And make a safety fence around the Torah – Make a safeguard for its observance to prevent the violation of the Torah itself (Rashi).  Hence, the many Rabbinic mitzvos and enactments that we have today.  Take Shabbos, for example. We have rules of muktzeh (what you are and not allowed to carry), additional stringencies regarding where outside you are allowed to carry, etc. 

Heeding the words of the Sages is an act of greater piety than simply fulfilling the Torah itself, for the former demonstrates zeal in avoiding even the potential danger of transgressing the commandment of the Torah (Rabbeinu Yona).