Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 3:17

Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 3:17 (Modified Translation)

ג,כ [יז] רבי אלעזר בן עזריה אומר, אם אין תורה, אין דרך ארץ; אם אין דרך ארץ, אין תורה. אם אין חכמה, אין יראה; אם אין יראה, אין חכמה. אם אין דעת, אין בינה; אם אין בינה, אין דעת. אם אין קמח, אין תורה; אם אין תורה, אין קמח.

Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah says: If there is no Torah study, there is no derech eretz (worldly involvement); if there is no derech eretz, there is no Torah study. If there is no wisdom, there is no fear of God; if there is no fear of God, there is no wisdom. If there is no reason, there is no understanding; if there is no understanding, there is no reason. If there is no flour, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour.


Source: Translation modified from Soncino Classics, Version 2.2. Hebrew text from Mechon Mamre.

Discussion Questions for Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 3:17 (Modified Translation)

  1. In your own words, what is this text saying? What is “Torah?” What is “flour?”
  2. What does this text teach us about the relationship between work and one’s quality of life?
  3. How might workers’ needs for “Torah?” and “flour” come in conflict with employers’ needs for “Torah?” and “flour?”
  4. If you were a worker during this time, how might you interpret this text? How could this text support the mission of joining a union to fight for better wages and working conditions?
  5. If you were a factory owner during this time, how might you interpret this text? How could this text support the decision to keep a union out of your factory?
  6. Now prepare a short presentation for the other groups in which you will share your text and then discuss:

    1. Does this text seem to favor the perspective of the worker, the factory owner, or is it neutral? What makes you say that?
    2. After your discussion ask if any of the other groups have a different interpretation of your text that they would like to share.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 3:17." (Viewed on April 12, 2024) <http://jwa.org/node/22246>.