MY son, give God all honour and the gratitude which is His due. Thou hast need of Him, but He needs thee not. Put no trust in thy mere corporeal well-being here below. Many a one has lain down to sleep at nightfall, but at morn has not risen again. Fear the Lord, the God of thy fathers; fail never at eventide to pronounce the great word wherein Israel is wont to proclaim that He is, and that He is One, and One only; at dawn fail never to read the appointed prayer. See that thou guard well thy soul’s holiness; let the thought of thy heart be saintly, and profane not thy soul with words of impurity.
Visit the sick and suffering man, and let thy countenance be cheerful when he sees it, but not so that thou oppress the helpless one with gaiety. Comfort those that are in grief; let piety where thou seest it affect thee even to tears; and then it may be that thou wilt be spared the grief of weeping over the death of thy children.
Respect the poor man by gifts whose hand he knows not of; be not deaf to his beseechings, deal not hard words out to him, and give him of thy richest food when he sits at meat with thee.
From a wicked neighbour, see that thou keep aloof, and spend not much of thy time among the people who speak ill of their brother-man; be not as the fly that is always seeking sick and wounded places; and tell not of the faults and failings of those about thee.
Take no one to wife unworthy to be thy life’s partner, and keep thy sons close to the study of Divine things. Dare not to rejoice when thine enemy comes to the ground; but give him food when he hungers. Be on thy guard lest thou give pain ever to the widow and the orphan; and beware lest thou ever set thyself up to be both witness and judge against an other.
Never enter thy house with abrupt and startling step, and bear not thyself so that those who dwell under thy roof shall dread when in thy presence. Purge thy soul of angry passion, that inheritance of fools; love wise men, and strive to know more and more of the works and the ways of the Creator.
ELIEZER BEN ISAAC, 1050.
BE not ready to quarrel; avoid oaths and passionate adjurations, excess of laughter and outbursts of wrath; they disturb and confound the reason of man. Avoid all dealings wherein there is a lie; utter not the name of God superfluously, or in places dirty or defiled.
Cut from under thee all mere human supports, and make not gold the foremost longing of thy life; for that is the first step to idolatry. Rather give money than words; and as to ill words, see that thou place them in the scale of understanding before they leave thy lips.
What has been uttered in thy presence, even though not told as secret, let it not pass from thee to others. And if one tell thee a tale, say not to him that thou hast heard it all before. Do not fix thine eyes too much on one who is far above thee in wealth, but on those who are behind thee in worldly fortune.
Put no one to open shame; misuse not thy power against any one; who can tell whether thou wilt not some day be powerless thyself?
Do not struggle vaingloriously for the small triumph of showing thyself in the right and a wise man in the wrong; thou art not one whit the wiser therefor. Be not angry or unkind to any one for trifles, lest thou make thyself enemies unnecessarily.
Do not refuse things out of mere obstinacy to thy fellow-citizens, rather put thy will below their wishes. Avoid, as much as may be, bad men, men of persistent angry feelings, fools; thou canst get nothing from their company but shame. Be the first to extend courteous greeting to every one, whatever be his faith; provoke not to wrath one of another belief than thine.
ASHER BEN YECHIEL, 1300.