Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2:3

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מסכת אבות פרק ב

ב,ג  הוו זהירין ברשות–שאין מקרבין לו לאדם, אלא לצורך עצמן:  נראין כאוהבין בשעת הנאתן, ואין עומדין לו לאדם בשעת דוחקו.

Be cautious with the people who govern, for they draw a man near in friendship only for their own purposes. They show themselves as friends when it is to their benefit, but they do not stand by a man in his hour of difficulty.

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This mishna relates to Rabban Gamliel’s context. He is probably speaking from his own personal knowledge and the wide experience that his father, Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi, had with Rome. The Talmud and the Mishna both tell of Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi’s lifelong friendship with Roman emperors. In the historical context, the Romans approached Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi repeatedly for advice which he freely gave, but when he needed help it was not forthcoming. It is this that underlies the above mishna.

Interestingly, the Pirkei Avot Chapter 1:10, Shemaya advised to “despise rulership”. In contrast Rabban Gamliel tells us here that the people who govern can be useful and that a relationship with them is important; however, one should be cautious when dealing with the rulers.

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