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Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot_Annotated & Explained (SkyLight Illuminations) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1594732072
ISBN-10: 1594732078
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Pirke Avot has always been my favorite book in the vast sea of rabbinic literature. It is a remarkable collection of relevant proverbs on how best to live an ethical, sensible, reasoned life. Rabbi Shapiro's comments help the reader to apply the ethical wisdom of the Rabbis to our own lives. The author writes: "When you realize God is all, you engage all as God. You meet each being as a manifestation of the One Being and treat all things with justice, compassion, and humility. This is the politics of Olam HaBa [the World to Come] that Pirke Avot promotes."

There are thousands of commentaries on Pirke Avot, so why another one? I have a strong predilection toward the writings of Rami Shapiro. See his other books also published by SkyLight Illuminations, and you will catch his particular style, theology and philosophy. He tends to mix some Eastern religious views into his writings, but nothing that would contradict Judaism―in fact it can only enhance what Judaism brings to the table. Those who reject the Buddhist view that God is everything may not be totally comfortable with his views, but we can all learn from his unusual perspective. What he brings to the book are ideas that a reader will not find in other commentaries, and therefore collectors of books on Pirke Avot (like me) must add this important addition to their library.

Rabbi Shapiro focuses on the central themes in Pirke Avot―study, kindness, compassion, showing us the contemporary significance of their timeless wisdom and distills this Jewish wisdom compendium not as a book about ethics but a practical guide to living ethically today. Once you have tasted this excellent book, you'll want to turn to Shapiro’s other excellent books on Hasidic tales, the Hebrew prophets and others.

(Dov Peretz Elkins Jewish Media Review)

About the Author

Rami Shapiro, a renowned teacher of spirituality across faith traditions, is an award-winning storyteller, poet and essayist. He is author of The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, Recovery―The Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice and The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature: Selections Annotated & Explained (all SkyLight Paths), among other books.

Rami Shapiro is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Writing―The Sacred Art: Beyond the Page to Spiritual Practice
  • Stop Playing God: 12 Steps as Spiritual Practice
  • Biblical Wisdom for Post-biblical Times: An Exploration of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job
  • The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Cultivating Compassion in Daily Life
  • Hasidic Wisdom: An Exploration of Hasidic Storytelling, Theology and Contemplative Practice
  • Saints and Sages: Biblical Prophets, Ancient Rabbis and the Building of a Just World

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Product Details

  • Series: SkyLight Illuminations
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: SkyLight Paths; 1 edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594732078
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594732072
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Translated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Ethics of the Sages Annotated & Explained presents wisdom sayings of the early rabbinic sages (250 BCE - 250 CE) collected in the classic "Pirke Avot" with extensive facing-page commentary that clarifies and explains the meaning of every segment. For example, passage 3:13 reads "And he said, / If you bring joy to others, God rejoices in you. / If you bring no joy to others, God does not rejoice in you." The corresponding annotation reads, "Better even than the pursuit of wisdom is the bringing of joy. Wisdom can bring you to the knowledge of God; joy brings you into the presence of God." An introduction, comments on the translation, very brief biographical sketches of the rabbis quoted, a glossary, and a suggested reading list round out this modernized compilation of pithy sayings that vastly transcend their era. Recommended especially for Judaic studies shelves and reading lists, as well as for personal study and enlightenment.
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Rami Shapiro's work with Skylight Illuminations has been consistently good, but with ETHICS OF THE SAGES he has achieved a masterly integration of vision and material with a firm confidence in method and an equally firm control of presentation.

ETHICS OF THE SAGES is actually Rami's second encounter with the Pirke Avot. An earlier book, WISDOM OF THE JEWISH SAGES, is also an interpretative rendering, but unlike the newer work which aims for a crisper translation with the interpretation on a facing page, WISDOM reads Rami's interpretations directly into the text. WISDOM is still a valuable book though, and it gains from being read side-by-side with ETHICS.

In ETHICS, Rami's singular emphasis on principle over practice coupled with uncompromising non-dualism -- used to such great effect in HASIDIC TALES, THE HEBREW PROPHETS, and THE DIVINE FEMININE -- reaches a new height with this clear and compelling post-modern midrash on a classic ethical tractate.
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Format: Paperback
Rabbi Shapiro provides interesting exegesis in this work, bringing his nondual version of Judaism to one of the religion's most ancient ethical texts. His interpretation is deeply rooted in the belief of God's Oneness and immanence in the world. The human mind, when open to that Oneness and Immanence, becomes the Spacious Mind. It sees itself as part of the greater whole; as one with Being, which is also God, nature, and people. The narrow mind, on the other hand, sees only division and discord.

Rabbi Shapiro loosely translates this text to fit around his dual psychology (don't expect a scholarly treatment of this work here.)

However this book presents a well ordered and clever example of midrashic interpretation of an old text. This is the living spirit of Jewish life and learning itself.
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Format: Paperback
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is the author of many Skylight Path Publishing books. He writes well, is clear and easy to follow, and he adds interesting information. This book contains the full text of what others translate as "Ethics of the Fathers," and is not, as many of his other books are because of their size, only selections. Actually, neither translation is precise since the Hebrew "Pirke" means "Chapters." Since the goal of the work is to pass on wise sayings or life goals of the ancient sages from about 150 BCE to about 250 CE and since ethics per se was not their goal, a better translation might be Sayings of the Sages.

Rabbi Shapiro's translation is original but still traditional. He places the translation on the right-hand pages and his comments on the left side. He uses his comments to give sources for the sayings of the sages and to elucidate them.

While chapter six is not part of the original Pirke but was added later, he includes it in this book. He also includes a 32 page introduction with information about the history of this rabbinical work, words about the translation, and an informative bio of each of the several dozen people mentioned in Pirke. He concludes his book with a six page glossary and two pages of suggested readings. Thus this is a comprehensive and very informative work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Rabbi's translation of this important text is insightful. His commentary is original and refreshing! I go back to it again and again because of Rabbi Rami Shapiro's provocative point of view. Any liberal-thinking Jew will want to read it and keep it close at hand.
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Fantastic interpretation of a timeless classic. Something to keep coming back to it. Shapiro is great at extrapolating the spiritual side of Judaism that is too often omitted from today's Jewish practice and synagogues.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A wonderful translation, interpretation that deserves a place on your bookshelf as a supplement to a more complete commentary of Pirke Avor, but adds insightful nuance and infusion of spiritual energy from kaballah
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