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One of my non-Jewish co-workers has been fascinated with Jewish ethics, and I assume that while searching on the web, he discovered "Ethics of the Fathers". He's read a few adages and has discussed them with me. He's indicated an interest in knowing more about this book.

I'd like to get him a copy of Pirkei Avot, in English, of course (it could have Hebrew on a facing page, if "needed"). He needs something "simple" that he can understand as someone unfamiliar with Jewish life or laws.

I think that an explanation that not only accurately translates the Hebrew but also provides some brief historical context to both Pirkei Avot, in general, as well as some bio / history on each Rabbi's saying (so he can get a sense of when the rabbi lived; who he was and what important events may have caused him to state what he did) would be useful.

There are numerous versions of Pirkei Avot around, and I am uncertain of which version would be the best option for a "novice". I'd appreciate any recommendation with a short explanation of why you recommend this version over any others.

Note: - I'm interested in a physical book form only; not Kindle or just a web resource.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seeks a product recommendation specifically for a non-Jewish audience. – Seth J Oct 30 '15 at 15:08
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    @SethJ, how is that off topic? – Yishai Oct 30 '15 at 15:23
  • @Yishai, it has nothing to do with Judaism. – Seth J Oct 30 '15 at 17:14
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    @Monica I've edited. Let's see what DanF thinks. DanF, why "of course" and why put quotes around "simple"? Also, I don't think you'll find the contextual information in easily accessible format. You may find PhD theses about some of the rabbis and their adages, though... – Seth J Nov 1 '15 at 3:30
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I would recommend the Kehot version to meet your criteria of:

not only accurately translates the Hebrew but also provides some brief historical context to both Pirkei Avot, in general, as well as some bio / history on each Rabbi's saying (so he can get a sense of when the rabbi lived; who he was and what important events may have caused him to state what he did) would be useful.

The only thing is, as I remember, important events tend not to be the motivation ascribed to specific sayings. The general timeline from Sinai is introduced as the Mishna unfolds, and as each sage is introduced a short biography is presented. You can get a sample at the link by clicking "View Additional Images".

Although it has Hebrew, it reads in the direction of an English book, so a non-Hebrew speaker will find it more comfortable.

This answer does not constitute an endorsement of purchasing for the recipient intended in the question. For that, CYLOR.

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