In Pirkei Avot 1:15 it says:

And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.

What exactly is meant by this advice and how far does it extend? Should you be going out of your way to socialize? What is the Torah's stance on socializing in general? Are there any other sources on the subject?

  • 1
    The commentaries to the Misha in Avot interpret it as instructions on how to greet others; in good spirits. Not about proactively approaching. Accordingly it is not particularly relevant to the question of whether one should socialize. – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 15:10
  • "What is the Torah's stance on socializing in general" Maybe the Torah doesn't have a stance on socializing. – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 15:11
  • @mevaqesh, doesn't the Torah have a stance regarding every single aspect of life? – Ani Yodea Oct 19 '15 at 15:37
  • Most of the Torah's commandments are how you should act in regards to other people. Don't steal (from others), have balanced scales (for transactions from others), give to the poor, etc. So while there isn't a direct miswah of "Get out there and be social," the Torah seems to take it as a given that you shouldn't be a loner. – Aaron Oct 19 '15 at 16:55
  • @AniYodea I don't know. I assume God has a stance regarding everything. Whether he reflected that in his Torah (whatever is meant by Torah), I do not know. That seems to have been the question here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/52550/… – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 19:41

See R. Ovadiah Barternura's commentary.

While he states the general focus of the Mishnah itself implies social relationships, and in this Mishnah, he states that when one invites someone to his home (a "social" function), he should not keep his face in the ground and have an "embarrassed look", regarding this last phrase of "greeting everyone with a cheerful countenance", R. Bartenura explains that this means that one should conquer his evil inclination and conquer against evil thoughts in his heart - which is a self-disciplinary function, per-se.

As a general rule, the written Torah does not provide much direct instruction regarding personal character directives, such as "Be a social butterfly; not a hermit". Perhaps, this is where the main focus of Pirkei Avot comes along to "fill in the gaps". I think Rabbi Yonah and Barternurah commentary on Pirkei Avot's 1st Mishnah which states "Moses received the Torah at Sinai" delve into some detail on what the term "Torah" means, and eventually, explain something about how Pirkei Avot, which deals with ethics, is part of the Torah. I think, there they explain, a bit, as to why the Torah does not, itself, explain directly about ethical behavior. Contact me if you have trouble locating this.

  • How is the Bartenura relevant? He says how the Mishna applies to social behavior; not that the Mishna mandates, or even encourages social behavior. – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 19:43
  • "While he states the general focus of the Mishnah itself implies social relationships" he does not state this. – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 19:45
  • @meavqesh - I didn't state that the Torah itself encourages social interaction, directly. Also, while the Mishnah does not "mandate" social interaction, Shamai says to "accept others" which is a means of social interaction. As stated, one can choose to be a hermit. But, IF not, Shamai is stating HOW to interact, and Bartenura focuses on how to invite guests IF you actually DO invite guests. Again, you could choose to be a hermit. – DanF Oct 19 '15 at 20:02
  • So just to recap: you have no evidence that the Torah has any given stance on whether or not we should engage in social interaction. It seems worthwhile to edit this point of clarification in, as that was the OP's main question. – mevaqesh Oct 19 '15 at 20:06
  • @mevaqesh ?? I think I stated that point in the 2nd par. of my answer. Is that unclear? – DanF Oct 19 '15 at 20:13

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