Pirkei Avot: In the Image Mishnah 2:2

Artist, Tzfat, Israel, 2010 © Zion Ozeri

(ב) רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הַנָּשִׂיא אוֹמֵר, יָפֶה תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, שֶׁיְּגִיעַת שְׁנֵיהֶם מְשַׁכַּחַת עָוֹן. וְכָל תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהּ מְלָאכָה, סוֹפָהּ בְּטֵלָה וְגוֹרֶרֶת עָוֹן...

(2) Rabban Gamaliel the son of Rabbi Judah Hanasi said: excellent is the study of the Torah when combined with a worldly occupation, for toil in them both keeps sin out of one’s mind; But [study of the] Torah which is not combined with a worldly occupation, in the end comes to be neglected and becomes the cause of sin...

1) The words the artist is carving in the photograph come from the beginning of the book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heavens..." How do these words effect your understanding of this photograph?

2) What other title and caption or midrash might you suggest for this image?


1) Why do you think Rabban Gamliel thinks it is "excellent" to combine studying Torah with a "worldly occupation?" What do the two contribute to one another?

2) Saying that study alone leads to sin is a pretty strong statement for a rabbi. Why do you think Rabban Gamliel might say that?

3) Think about times in your life when you have chosen one priority over another. What is that experience like? What is it like to try to achieve more than one of your priorities?


Help build a digital scrapbook by adding your own image or Midrash, with a caption, here, in response to these questions:

1) What does it look like to make practical choices that are influenced by or combined with Torah ideals?

2) What happens when we divorce our ideals from the work that we do on a daily basis?