pirkei avot 1:5 - Connect to your fellow man

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah                                                               for her neshama.
By Elisheva Maline

Yosei ben (the son of) Yoezar of the village Tzreida and Yosei ben Yochanan of the metropolis Jerusalem received the tradition from Antigonos of Socho. Yosei ben Yoezar would say, "Let your home be a meeting place for the wise, dust yourself in the soil of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily."

Yosei ben Yochanan of Jerusalem would say, "May your home be open wide, and may the poor be members of your house etc. etc."

Although Yosei ben Yoezar and Yosei ben Yochanan lived by the dictum that one should fashion his home into something like a soup kitchen, they both come from differing premises. Yosei ben Yoezar expounds on the importance of giving to people who are distinguished and learned while Yosei ben Yochanan extols the ideal of keeping one's door open to the masses, regardless of status or how much Torah knowledge he has tucked under his belt. 

The latter Yosei's view on having guests over might remind one of Avraham avinu (Abraham our forefather), who was seen as the paradigm of chesed (benevolence, loving kindness) thanks to his larger-than-life penchant for giving unconditionally. The phrase, "Open wide your home" can be easily associated with Avraham and his four entrance tent. Avraham would usher passerby into his home, give them a bit to eat, some water to drink, and invite them to notice the good that G-d showers upon them. "It's not enough that G-d gave you a roof over your head, food to feed you and garments to clothe you. He also gave you delicacies bursting with a range of flavors (Asian, Thai, Italian, Moroccan, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Hungarian to name a few) and a closet of clothes suited to the seasons. G-d doesn't just hand us the necessities; He makes sure there is room for enjoying them in abundance as well. Just open your eyes." With these words, Avraham would accompany his guests to the door, sated and grateful to be alive.  

The question one may ask is, "How could Avraham have touched the lives of so many if he hadn't opened his home to anyone and everyone?" Now, several thousand year down the line, a man named Yosei ben Yochanan recommends, "Make sure the doors of your home are wide open and allow the poor to become members of your house." Like Avraham, Yosei saw value in the mitzah of hachnosas orchim (inviting guests). This time, however, he embellishes the lofty task and turns it into so much more than the sum total of its parts. The idea isn't to just do the mitzvah, do it in style.

"Make your home wide open" means "Widen the doorway of your home to welcome in all people: the passing traveler, the hungry charity collector from another city as well as your friendly neighbor." The suggestion is clear cut.The next phrase, however, "Make the poor members of your home" can be looked at from several angles. First, let's look at the thought as a whole: "Make sure the destitute and hungry are made to feel comfortable in your home." Tell them, "My home is your home." Or, "Help yourself to anything in the fridge." 

Now, let\s look at the word poor. The poor man is not just someone suffering from financial issues, he simply feels a lack. This is what makes him poor. Let your home be wide open to those who may feel they are lacking love, work, food, a spouse, parents or siblings. Some holes are easy to fill and some aren't. Do the best you can.

Remember: G-d bestows reward according to the effort, not the deed. In the book of prophets, Hosea says, "Giving is not a simple matter of cause and effect. When you give, not only do you receive the consequential benefits like a new friend or a reputation for being philanthropic, you continually reap whatever future benefits come out of your one act of giving.   

No comments:

Yashar LaChayal

The majesty of the Western Wall

Nefesh B'Nefesh