I recently received a question about Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” as they relate to the importance of studying together rather than alone. In my book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, on page 72, I read this line about the importance of community in general.
One reader pointed out that the context of this verse is within Jesus’ teaching about making a decision regarding a sinner. Is it OK to apply it more broadly, or should we stick to a narrow interpretation?
My answer was that several Jewish sayings of this type apply to study, and sometimes when judicial verdicts are given. Rendering judgment requires a type of study, because rabbis were often asked to interpret the Torah in order to decide whether it had been broken or not.
“When two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them” Mishnah Avot 3:3
“When three eat at one table and speak the words of Torah there, it is as though they have eaten from the table of God.” Mishnah Avot 3:4
“When three sit as judges, the Shekinah is with them,” Talmud Berachot 6
“Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shekinah rests.” Talmud Sanhedrin 39
There’s also a teaching about how many people it takes for God’s presence…