Pirke Avot, verse five: open

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Now, to the text:

Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem said:—Let thy house be opened wide, and let the poor be thy household, and talk not overmuch with a woman.

He said it: in the case of his own wife, much more in the case of his companion’s wife.

Hence the Wise have said:—Everyone that talketh much with a woman causes evil to himself, and desists from words of Torah, and his end is he inherits Gehinnom.

It is said that Job not only opened his door wide, but actually had an open door on each side of his house, so that a poor man who came to his house would not even have to go around the corner to get hospitality. He boasted that he never ate a meal alone, without sharing with an orphan (Job 31:17). And yet, say the rabbis, his hospitality was nothing compared to the hospitality of Abraham, because where Job would stay in his house and wait for the poor to come and ask for help, Abraham would go out and seek out the hungry to bring home and feed. And where Job made doors in the four walls of his house, when Abraham was traveling, he would build booths for the shelter of wayfarers.

On the other hand, it is one thing to donate to a shelter, and another thing to keep your own doors open. I find Job pretty impressive on the hospitality front, myself.

The traditional interpretation of the open house is in reference to hospitality, which fits in with the second leg of the triad, but there are other possible meanings. If we carry over our ideas from the last verse, how is it possible to keep the doors open on our metaphorical houses? Is it having an open mind?How do we keep our minds not just open but hospitable?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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