Oct. 15, 2020

David Cygielman on Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:7 – “Who You’re With, Not Where You Are”

David Cygielman, founder and CEO of Moishe House, is Mark’s guest on the podcast today. David has been a non-profit innovator since high school when he started ‘Feed the Need’, a nationally recognized homeless feeding organization, and, in 2006, he helped establish Moishe House to be part of building something that would have a real impact on the global Jewish community and beyond. The passage he has chosen to discuss is one which Mark would never have known existed otherwise, Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:7.

They begin with David describing the origins of Moishe House and the work it continues to do today, and then moving on to summarizing the passage and the reasons why he chose it. He and Mark then explore the lessons the passage teaches, how it is manifest in the world today, and how its wisdom is applicable to Moishe House residents and other young people. As with all guests, David draws the episode to a close by offering the lessons he has learned about mankind. This is a passage whose very theme of continuing to learn and gain wisdom by surrounding yourself with others who will share their ideas and knowledge with you, constitutes a brilliant example of the importance and value of not just this episode, but of the entire Rabbi’s Husband podcast series as a whole.

Episode Highlights:

  • Moishe House
  • What happens in the passage and why David chose it
  • The lessons the passage teaches
  • How this passage is manifest in today’s world
  • The wisdom of this passage for Moishe House residents and other young people
  • The lessons the David has learned about mankind


“In addition to being roommates and having full-time jobs or being in graduate school, they’re turning their homes into community centers.”

“They should be coming to him, because he was the best student.”

“He had forgotten even the simple stuff.”

“It’s that humility to be humble and to be with the people that you surround yourself with, is what matters much more than where you physically are.”

“If you stay on vacation, the life as you know it will disintegrate.”

“It’s actually the work and the stress that is the meaning.”

“It’s who you’re with rather than where you are…it’s a deeply important Jewish teaching.”

“You cannot retire, you must rewire.”

“It’s the atmosphere you create that is paramount to the outcome that you’re going to have much more so than the physical space.”

“It’s more about their practice than it is about their denomination.”

“Maybe the key to happiness is having low expectations.”

“When you give people the opportunity to be really fully responsible for their own success or failure, they will do incredibly well.”

Ecclesiastes Rabbah

Rabbi Yochanan had five disciples, and as long as he lived they sat before him. When he died, they went to Yavneh. Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, however, joined his wife at Dyomset, a place of good water and beautiful scenery. He waited for them to come to him but they didn't. When they didn't come, he wanted to go to them, but his wife did not let him. "Who needs who" she asked. "They need me" he answered. She said to him: "In the case of a food container and mice, does the food go to the mice or do the mice go to the food?" He listened to her, and remained there until he forgot his learning. After a while they came and asked him "Which is better to eat along with a 'relish,' wheat bread or barley bread?" But he couldn't answer.


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