"יוסי בן יועזר איש צרדה אומר יהי ביתך בית ועד לחכמים... (אבות א:ד)
Yose ben Yoezer from Tzreida said, "Your house should be a meeting place for the Rabbis."
Last week we explained that despite the fact that a single meeting place should suffice for any given city, nevertheless, Yose ben Yoezer's dictum could apply to every individual. They can fulfill it by ensuring that their house is an appropriate abode for housing Chachomim. This week, we will offer a different explanation.
The Rambam, in his introduction to mishnayos, reveals a fascinating phenomenon. He writes that while everything created has a purpose, the most significant component of creation is man, and the primary purpose of his existence is to engage in intellectual pursuits. Hence, he asks, for what reason did Hashem create billions of human beings who never spend a day in their lives accumulating wisdom?
He answers that all these individuals are there to serve the select individuals who do spend their lives the way that Hashem intended. There is no way that these men could possibly become scholars if they also had to worry about sewing clothes, building houses and preparing food. Thus, Hashem put millions of people in the world to ensure that these individuals would be free to engage in Torah and mitzvos. Hashem sometimes has thousands of people work on building a single edifice so that one time, many years later, a pious individual will be able to rest his weary body in the shade of that building. Hashem orchestrates everything in the world for the sake of the small amount of righteous people.
This concept manifested itself during the Mir Yeshiva's escape from Poland during the Second World War.
Thousands upon thousands of workers spent years upon years laying the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The first time that the railroad was used was when the train transported hundreds of Mirrer Yeshiva students across Asia. After arriving in Shanghai, they found a large empty Shul that had been built by a wealthy businessman years earlier for no apparent reason. The amount of seats in the Shul matched the number of students almost exactly! (An interesting note: Just prior to the outbreak of the war, Rav Wolbe, due to his German citizenship, was forced to leave Poland. He found a haven in Sweden and thus he became the liaison between the Jews in America and the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai).
The Gemara (Sukkah 45b) relates a remarkable statement of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai: "I have seen bnei aliyah (people who are constantly growing spiritually) and they are few. If there are a thousand, my son and I are amongst them. If there are a hundred, my son and I are amongst them. If there are two, my son and I are they." Reb Chatzkel Levenstein zt"l explains that Rebbi Shimon was not bragging, rather, he was teaching us an important haskafa. Don't be preoccupied with how many people around you are actively pursuing spiritual growth. Make sure that you are a ben aliyah and willing to take any initiative in order to grow.
Accordingly, although Yose ben Yoezer is addressing everyone in Klal Yisrael, practically, only a ben aliyah will comply with his directive. Indeed, in every community there is only one house designated as the meeting place for Chachomim. The Tanna is exhorting each of us to strive to be that single ben aliyah. And the same holds true for all areas of Yiddishkeit. Don't look around to see what everyone else is doing; just make the effort to climb as high as you possibly can.
Ask yourself and answer: Do I make an effort to seize spiritual opportunities when they present themselves, or do I pass them up for a "more opportune" time?