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Let your house be a gathering place for the wise;
Be covered by the dust of their feet,
And drink in their words with thirst.
—Yosse ben Yo’ezer


Commentary [1:4]
This saying takes up the theme of the devotion to learning, introduced in the first Mishnah. Classical Judaism’s devotion to learning has many dimensions. Study of Torah by the young the is believed to help form good moral character. In adulthood, Torah study continues to guide a person on the right path and to help him resist temptations to do wrong. Study is also, in the view of the sages, a goal in itself. Studying and interpreting the sacred texts is a form of worship, and brings us close God.

Here Yosse ben Yo’ezer urges devoted personal association with scholars, particularly those of greater learning than we are. Learning, for the sages, is a way of life, and should affect those whom we listen to, associate with, and marry. To be an ‘intellectual’ was for the Rabbis a goal that everyone should strive for as a religious duty, even if not everyone could achieve it.


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