Translation:Mishnah/Seder Nezikin/Tractate Avot/Chapter 1/1
This Mishnah is the introduction to Avot. It first talks about the progression of the tradition from Moses to the Men of the Great Assembly, then discusses their sayings. It starts with this progression to show that even Avot, which deals with ethical and not technical laws, came directly from Sinai. It also shows that even the sayings of these people, in other Mishnayot in Avot, were derived from the Torah, even if we do not know how.
- משה קבל תורה מסיני,
- ומסרה ליהושע,
- ויהושע לזקנים,
- וזקנים לנביאים,
- ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי כנסת הגדולה.
- הם אמרו שלשה דברים:
- הוו מתונים בדין,
- והעמידו תלמידים הרבה,
- ועשו סיג לתורה.
- Moshe received the Torah from Sinai,
- And transmitted it to Yehoshua,
- And Yehoshua to the Elders,
- And the Elders to the Prophets,
- And the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly.
- They said three things:
- Deliberate before delivering a verdict,
- and establish many students,
- and make a fence for the Torah.
Elders: The Elders evidently refers to Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, etc., the leaders of Israel up until the beginning of the period of the Prophets. The last individual from this group was Eli.
Prophets: The period of the Prophets began with Samuel and ultimately ended after the First Temple was destroyed, which was when the Great Assembly took power.
Men of the Great Assembly: Evidently this refers to Ezra and the other priestly scribes who became the leaders of Israel after the end of the First Temple period.
Students: i.e. students of Torah.
a fence for the Torah: i.e. establish additional restrictions to ensure that the essential Biblical prohibitions are not transgressed.