Quick Facts: What is Pirkei Avot?
- a part of the Mishna, the first text of the oral law
- it appears in Nezikin, the section of the mishna concerned with torts
- it is understood to be the sayings or ethics of the fathers
- avot can also be understood to be categories or bases rather than fathers, as in ‘av melacha’ (the categories of work prohibited on shabbat). Thus, Pirkei Avot can be considered to be the categories of dignified behaviours.
- while the bulk of the mishna is concerned with actual law, Pirkei Avot is about behaviour, conduct and character
- Pirkei Avot was developed in the time of the rishonim
- Pirkei Avot appears in the siddur as the conclusion to Shabbas mincha – many people study Pirkei Avot on Shabbat
- It is common to study Pirkei Avot in the period after Pesach, leading up to Shavuot. Some people continue studying it until Rosh Hashana. It is thought that this is due to the fact that character refinement is important in the lead up to Shavuot.