(Chapters of the Fathers), the ninth tractate in the order Nezikin
, is one of the most popular rabbinic compositions of all time. Its original name, Avot
, may refer either to the many sages it quotes (“fathers [of the tradition]”) or to the first principles it teaches (a metaphoric use of “fathers”). The first four chapters set forth the unbroken “chain of transmission” of the Torah from Sinai through the end of the period of the Mishnah, quoting many aphorisms and wisdom teachings along the way. The fifth chapter gives various lists in descending numerical order, some of which help establish a chronology of events from Creation down to rabbinic times. The last chapter, also known as Kinyan torah
(Acquisition of the Torah), was appended to the end of the treatise in the geonic period. In his edition of Pirkei avot
– which, like Eduyyot
, has no Talmud – Bomberg included Maimonides’ commentary to the tractate (as translated from Judeo-Arabic by Rabbi Samuel Ibn Tibbon [ca. 1150-ca. 1230]), beginning with an eight-part introduction known as Shemonah perakim
A.M. Habermann, Ha-madpis daniyyel bombirgi u-reshimat sifrei beit defuso (Safed: The Museum of Printing Art, 1978), 62 (no. 110).
Vinograd, Venice 105