Aaron Koller – Limmud NY Presenter The fifth chapter of Pirqe Avot is structured by lists, organized according to numbers. First there are the ‘tens’: ten sayings with which the world was created; ten generations from Adam to Noah, and another ten from Noah to Abraham; ten trials by which Abraham was tested; ten miracles in Egypt, another ten at the Reed Sea, and yet a third set of ten miracles in the Temple; ten things that were created at twilight. Following the ‘tens’ come the ‘sevens’, then the ‘fours,’ and then a series of proverbs structured as binary oppositions (‘twos’). Since originally the fifth chapter was the last one in the tractate Avot, the last few mishnayot are conclusions to the book as a whole. The last of the ‘tens’, as mentioned, are the ten things created at twilight. The mishnah (Avot 5:8) reads: Ten things were created at twilight:
- the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korah]
- the mouth of the well [that provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness]
- the mouth of the donkey [that spoke to Balaam]
- and the rainbow
- and the manna
- and the staff
- and the shamir
- and the writing
- and the inscription
- and the tablets.
Aaron Koller is an associate professor of Near Eastern and Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, where he studies the ancient world of the Bible and rabbinic literature, especially material culture, language, and intellectual history. His most recent book is Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought (Cambridge UP). Aaron also has a longstanding involvement in the Drisha Institute, where he teaches Talmud and biblical interpretation. He lives in Queens with his wife, Shira Hecht-Koller, and their children.