pirkei avot 3:2 (continued) - Lofty conversation versus idler's laughter

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

Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon used to say, "If two sit together and no words of Torah are spoken between them, theirs is a session of scoffers for it says, '[Fortunate is the man who...] does not sit in the assembly of scoffers' (Psalms 1). However, if the two sit together discussing words of Torah, it is considered as if the Divine Presence is residing between them for it says, 'Then those who revered the L-rd hearkened and heard and it was written in The Book of Remembrance before Him of those who esteemed His name' (Malachi 3). Now [from this teaching], I can derive about two persons; from where do we learn that even if one person sits alone and learns Torah, the Holy One rewards him? From the verse, 'Though he sits alone and meditates in stillness, yet He [G-d] takes the reward unto him' (Eicha 3:28). (Ethics from Sinai, vol. I, pg 234)

Discovering that Einstein's best buddies are a troupe of kindergartners is as likely to happen as finding a [true] Torah scholar hanging out in a bikers' bar. Generally, a person who holds himself up to certain standards will not be found in the company of people who belittle them (albeit, unintentionally). The same idea holds water with scoffers. If you see a group of hecklers gathering, chances are they're not exclaiming over the intricacies of halacha (Jewish law).

Where does Rabbi Tradyon draws this dichotomy between Torah scholars and jokers from? The Psalms. The Psalmist (David haMelech) informs us, with the words he uses to begin his Book of Tehillim, that the beginning and end of all things is joy i.e. doing anything that will bring one to a state of connection with Hashem while avoiding anything that will bring one to a state of disconnect. "Ashrei ha'ish, praiseworthy is the man who does not follow the counsel of the wicked; neither does he stand himself in the way of sinners, nor does he sit in the company of scorners. Rather, he delights in learning the laws of G-d; it is on that which he meditates day and night" (Tehillim 1:1-2).   

The further away a man goes from discussing good things, lofty ideals etc., the further he is from G-d and, consequently, feelings of joy for it says in Path of the Just, "Man was created to take delight in the experience of drawing close to G-d and to benefit from the radiance of His Divine Presence." There are few things further from G-d than a person who idles away his time by making what is great appear small in the eyes of others
. Is it, therefore, surprising that, sometimes, the people who bring the most laughter are the ones who experience the deepest sadness? Of course everyone needs a release from the pressures of everyday life now and then; [clean] stand up comedy never did a whole lot of harm nor going out for dinner with friends. However, when these moments become the focal point of one's life, he will leave off feeling hollowed out. G-d does not waste time with idlers and scoffers.

It must be noted that feeling close to G-d is not limited to an exchange of spiritual wisdom between two or more people. Rambam (Maimonides), answers the question "'From where do we learn that even if one person sits alone and learns Torah, the Holy One rewards him?' by saying, "There is a verse in Shemot, "In every place that My name [G-d] is mentioned I will come to you and bless you' (Exodus 20:21). One who learns, even at a table for one, has the pleasure of G-d's company. A similar idea surfaces after Yosef (Joseph) is sold and sent down to Egypt. He finds favor in the eyes of all who meet him. "And it was that G-d was with Joseph; he was a successful man in all his endeavors" (Genesis 39:2-3). His success did not stem from luck, though, nor was it an expression of his brilliance. Rashi says that it came about because "the name of Heaven lived in his mouth," meaning that every time Potiphar, his slave master, complimented something he did, Yosef replied, "It was G-d, Blessed be He, Who helped me to do it."  

May we all be blessed to find reasons to bring G-d into our daily lives.

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