Rabbi Philip Weintraub
November 6, 2020
Pirkei Avot 1:4
יוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹעֶזֶר אִישׁ צְרֵדָה וְיוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹחָנָן אִישׁ יְרוּשָׁלַיִם קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם.
Yose ben Yoezer (a man) of Zeredah and Yose ben Yohanan [a man] of Jerusalem received [the oral tradition] from them [i.e. Shimon the Righteous and Antigonus]
This is where we start seeing the religious leadership in pairs, one as the Nasi and one as the Av Bet Din--one the political figure and one the judicial figure. Some commentaries on this argue that in this generation of the Mishnah, the leadership devolved from one person to two.
יוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹעֶזֶר אִישׁ צְרֵדָה אוֹמֵר, יְהִי בֵיתְךָ בֵית וַעַד לַחֲכָמִים, וֶהֱוֵי מִתְאַבֵּק בַּעֲפַר רַגְלֵיהֶם, וֶהֱוֵי שׁוֹתֶה בְצָמָא אֶת דִּבְרֵיהֶם:
Yose ben Yoezer used to say: let thy house be a house of meeting for the Sages and sit in the very dust of their feet, and drink in their words with thirst.
At this moment, every house can be a house of meeting. Every home can be a Bet Midrash, a Bet Knesset, a Bet Tefillah. As you are listening to me in this moment, you have transformed your environment. You are welcoming us into your home. You are listening to words of Torah. You are davening with us. You are making a sacred choice. Yet, when this time inevitably ends, how will you continue that choice?
What will you do to welcome Torah, scholarship, prayer, into your home? How will you establish your home as a routine place of holiness? Yose ben Yoezer is a major challenge to us all. When I hear his words, I see a reminder to fill my home with Jewish books, to share Jewish stories with my children, to demonstrate regular prayer habits, to live Torah.
In my Introduction to Judaism course on Wednesday nights, I asked what inspires them about Judaism. Amidst many different beautiful answers, I heard that Judaism is inspiring because it is so all encompassing. It is not limited to the time we spend in synagogue, but can be relevant in every single moment of our lives.
As we continue our study of Pirkei Avot, these brief teachings have so much to offer. They remind us of our Torah’s continual relevance to our lives. It is not just at the big moments of High Holidays, of life or death, but each and every seemingly mundane moment can be a time to learn something new, to connect to God, to discover the insight of another. Let’s keep learning.