Journals Log In | Journals Account Info

Books Cart  
Journals Cart  
Browse Books

Nebraska 150 Sale
New March Books
Passover Sale
Women's History Month Sale
March Madness Sale

ie logo
UNP e-Newsletter
(PDF version)


Facebook page  Twitter  Pinterest  Instagram
Connect with Us

Spring/Summer 2017 catalog

Spring/Summer 2017 Catalog
(Download PDF)


Fall/Winter 2016 catalog

Fall/Winter 2016 e-catalog
Download PDF

Potomac Books


Pirke Avot, Pirke Avot, 0827609175, 0-8276-0917-5, 978-0-8276-0917-4, 9780827609174, William Berkson Translated by William Berkson and Menachem Fisch, , Pirke Avot, 082761120X, 0-8276-1120-X, 978-0-8276-1120-7, 9780827611207, William Berkson Translated by William Berkson and Menachem Fisch

Pirke Avot
Timeless Wisdom for Modern Life
William Berkson
Translated by William Berkson and Menachem Fisch

2010. 240 pp.
$30.00 t

The great Jewish ethical tradition through a contemporary lens

In this new edition of the well-known Jewish classic, Berkson helps us see that Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) is more than just a fundamental religious text; it is also a compelling, contemporary ethical guide.

Berkson looks at the individual sayings, or mishnayot, through the interpretations of the great Jewish commentators and also within the broader context of Western thought—through views found in the Bible, the ancient Greeks, the Enlightenment, Buddhism, Confucianism, and American culture today.

The book’s most important and innovative feature is its exploration of the relationship between the beliefs of the ancient Sages and modern psychology, particularly the key to good relationships: ethical conduct. The result is a book that goes far beyond the plain meaning of the sayings to explore their ethical, psychological, and religious significance for us today.

Included are an extensive index and the full text of Pirke Avot in English and Hebrew on facing pages.


William Berkson completed his PhD in history and philosophy of science under Sir Karl Popper at the London School of Economics. He is author of Fields of Force: The Development of a Worldview from Faraday to Einstein and Learning from Error: Karl Popper’s Psychology of Learning. Since 1994 he has been the director of the Jewish Institute for Youth and Family.

“It’s very good. I like Pirke Avot a lot, but it’s never been better than it is in this commentary by Berkson.”—Reform Shuckle

“I have collected scores of commentaries on Pirke Avot over the years, and I find this to be one of the best—for its broad outlook, its combination of Jewish and secular thought, and for its inspiring application to modern life.”—Jewish Media Review

“Besides the accessible translation, Berkson makes three contributions: he focuses on the authors’ intent; places the author’s teaching in an historical perspective; and compares the ancient though with contemporary psychology, religious attitudes, and ethical notions.”—Jewish Eye

“William Berkson provides a fresh, insightful, and exciting approach to this central and compelling classical Jewish ethical text. He, with the assistance of Menachem Fisch, provides a clear and comprehensible translation of the tractate, and his historical commentary draws insightfully on the sources of Jewish tradition for its explication of its sayings. Most significantly, Berkson brings the ideas found in Avot into conversation with a wide variety of philosophical, psychological, and religious perspectives so that the reader can drink deeply from the wellsprings of wisdom that Avot offers for contemporary persons—Jews and non-Jews alike. This book is a most important contribution to Jewish conversation in our time!”—Rabbi David Ellenson, President Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

“Out of a passionate conviction that Pirke Avot is not merely an honored ancient text but one that has much to teach us still, William Berkson has fashioned a unique and deeply thoughtful book. Moving smoothly between ancient, medieval and modern thinkers from Jewish and other traditions, and incorporating the insights of psychology as well, he shows how Avot can serve as a profound springboard for leading an ethical life in today’s complex and conflicted world. An illuminating guide to the issues raised in text and in life."—Everett Fox, Allen M. Glick Professor of Judaic and Biblical Studies, Clark University

"Berkson's new Pirke Avot is fascinating and fun to read at the same time. It is perfect for personal use or as a way to encourage family discussions around the Sabbat table."—Jewish Book World

Also of Interest

Outside the Bible, 3-volume set
Louis H. Feldman

Sisters at Sinai
Jill Hammer

Toward an Anthropology of Nation Building and Unbu
Fran Markowitz

New Reform Judaism
Dana Evan Kaplan