In the ancient Jewish text Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), a group of rabbinic scholars in Israel at the beginning of the Common Era fashioned a roadmap to living a moral life. The sages highlighted specific behaviors that would help to put a person on the moral path in life, offering ethical guidance and insight into Jewish tradition and scripture. A millennia and a half later, Ben Franklin created his own plan for a moral life. He identified 13 virtues as the framework for self-improvement and started his mutual-improvement club as a support group to keep him and his peers on track.
The initiative we’re calling Ben Franklin Meets Pirkei Avot pairs Franklin’s virtues — temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility — with corresponding selections from Pirkei Avot. The toolkit and resources below — created by 92Y, the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Synagogue — provide a side-by-side comparison of two great traditions. Download the full toolkit or one for each individual virtue. Use the readings, questions and outline provided to facilitate a unique and powerful dialogue about Jewish and American values.
“Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.”
Blog Post: Getting Started with Temperance
“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.”
The Eloquent Sounds of Silence
“Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
“Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”
“Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.”
Blog Post: Ben Franklin Has Something to Say to Millennials Directly
“Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.”
Ben Franklin Daily Routine Experiment
“Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
“Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
Justice Is Not Important for Its Own Sake
Elie Wiesel in Modern Tales: Jewish Attitudes Toward Justice
Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail
“Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
The Golden Mean and the Horses’ Path
Moderation: How Much Is Too Much?
Moderation Is a Useless Concept
“Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.”
Marie Kondo: The Three Steps to Her Konmari Method
Cleanliness Is Next to Happiness
“Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
“Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
Blog Post: Finding Tranquility
“Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
Blog Post: A Lesson in Humility
Blog Post: Are You Proud of Your Humility?