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Pirkei Avot 1:4 – Walk in the Dust

Pirkei Avot 1:4

יוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹעֶזֶר אִישׁ צְרֵדָה וְיוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹחָנָן אִישׁ יְרוּשָׁלַיִם קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. יוֹסֵי בֶן יוֹעֶזֶר אִישׁ צְרֵדָה אוֹמֵר, יְהִי בֵיתְךָ בֵית וַעַד לַחֲכָמִים, וֶהֱוֵי מִתְאַבֵּק בַּעֲפַר רַגְלֵיהֶם, וֶהֱוֵי שׁוֹתֶה בְצָמָא אֶת דִּבְרֵיהֶם

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]. 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.

In earlier times, it was very common for Torah students to literally sit on the ground at the feet of their masters. These often sat on a low chair or on a cushion.[1] Bartenura mentions previous, but also raises the possibility that the verse means that the students walk behind his master, i.e. follows in his footsteps.[2] Which, of course, could very well be meant symbolically. Just as dust sticks to your feet, so the knowledge taught by the Sages on the Written and Oral Torah must stick to the students. The dust of the Torah lifestyle must stick to their feet, must make their actions conform to the Sages’ teachings.

A person who is thirsty drinks with full rigs. One who is not thirsty drinks only that which brings him pleasure. He is picky about what he takes in. The words of the Sages should be taken greedily. Their words need not be critically examined, we should trust that their words are good for us. We should also take all their words to us and not just the words that suit us, the words that are easy, or fit us.

In the past, I was affiliated with a Messianic (Christian) congregation. One of the things I noticed was that people seemed to arbitrarily choose what to observe and what not to observe. Jewish customs that were simply went in with ease. But Jewish customs that were inconvenient, painful, or uninteresting were ignored, or one came up with a good reason why that mitzvah was now no longer valid. This was 1 of the reasons why I started looking for “something” different, and thus ended up with the Noahide Way of Life. A way of life that seeks to follow the Torah and thus the interpretation and teachings of the Sages.

Two things have struck me over the years as a Noahide. There are Noahide movements that oppose the Oral Torah.However, without the Oral Torah, it is not possible to know how to interpret certain texts and how to observe them. For this, see the blogs: Noahides and the Oral Torah, Exodus 19:9 – Mesorah – Chain of Transmission and see the Shiur of Rabbi Tani Burton ” Torah Study“. We must walk in the dust of the Sages, and in our time in the footsteps of the great rabbis.

What I have also noticed is that people “chop” by rabbis. People already have in their heads how they want to live, what exactly they want to believe. In doing so, they look for rabbis who support their own rightness.It is therefore important to make a choice and see which rabbi suits you best. Next, you will follow a path of learning together with that rabbi.You can see the importance of “making yourself a rabbi” in Rabbi Skobac’s Q&A. “Why it’s important to have a rabbi”.

Make yourself a rabbi. Walk in his footsteps. That is, make use of the knowledge he has, make it your own and live by it.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] A New Israeli Commentary on Pirkei Avot 1:4:1-5
[2] Bartenura on Pirkei Avot 1:4:3

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