55 - Welcoming Guests Part 1

The mitzva of hachnosas orchim, welcoming guests,is an application of the mitzvos of v'ahavta l'rayacha kamocha and v’halachta bid’rachav.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Before giving a piece of advice, think about your motives.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #55


PART 1 - Hospitality to Guests


The mitzva of hachnosas orchim, welcoming guests,is an application of the mitzvos of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha and v’halachta bid’rachav.  It is incumbent upon everyone, men and women, rich or poor, to provide hospitality to others, whether these guests are men or women or rich or poor.  Many details of hachnosas orchim are derived from the Torah's narrative of Avraham Avinu's experience in welcoming the angels.  

Some opinions maintain that we fulfill this mitzva even when we invite friends to our home who are not necessarily in need, as long as we are doing so for their honor.

The mitzva includes welcoming the guest, giving him food and drink, providing sleeping accommodations and washing facilities, accompanying him when he departs, along with any other particular need that arises.  Even a poor or sickly person should perform this mitzva to the extent that he is able to do so, as long as he follows the rules of chayecha kodmin-your own life takes precedence, as well as the principle of mib’sarcha-relatives take precedence.

Even though the general rule is that it is preferable to do a mitzva personally than to delegate it to an agent, in the case of hachnosas orchim, we should allot some part of the mitzva to our children, since it is important to train them in welcoming guests, as Avraham Avinu did with his son Yishmael.

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

My friends from out of town were on a road trip to a family simcha and they were stopping for Shabbos at our house!  I wanted everything perfect for the Shabbos guests.  I made my shopping lists, cooking lists, and cleaning lists.  I looked up creative new recipes in my newest cookbook and wrote three menus for the Shabbos meals with no dishes repeated.  Guest bags with water bottles, reading material and nosh were prepared.  Kugel was ready for Friday afternoon and cake for Shabbos morning for those who make Kiddush early.  I shopped in the three stores needed to find all the ingredients on Wednesday and began cooking on Thursday.  My kids were all enlisted to help:  clean your rooms, cut the vegetables, make the fruit platter, put flowers in the guest room, fluff the couch pillows, put out the towels, move your things out of your room, prepare toys and activities for the little ones...all in an effort to make our guests feel comfortable

The Shabbos was lovely, there was plenty of delicious food, the children were on their best behavior; everything went smoothly.  I got accolades from the guests.  I was proud of my family and I was proud of how I am teaching my children to do hachnosas orchim.

So I was pretty surprised at the response the next week when I mentioned that we should invite guests for this Shabbos.  The kids started groaning, making excuses, rolling their eyes.  Even my husband suggested that I take a break.  What's going on here?   Why didn't my family members appreciate this mitzva?

I looked back over the past week and I remembered...I had no time to do homework with the seven year old, no time to drive the ten year old to her tutor, and I forgot to pick up my husband from the train.  My temper was short, and I barked out orders.  I was too exhausted to speak to my sister on the phone.  Apparently, I had not been so easy to live with!

My family's solution was to cut down on the workload; next time we would make fewer courses, simpler recipes, less perfection.  I was appalled.  What would my guests think of me and my abilities as a hostess? 

I slowly came to realize that a lot of my personal satisfaction in fulfilling this mitzva was coming from my need to impress others.  I was so concerned with making a good impression that the essence of the Mitzva was lost.  Using the welfare of my guests as the excuse, I was really thinking more of myself, and teaching my children, by my example, to devalue an important mitzva.  

Discussion Question Options:

How can we make sure that our efforts in hachnosas orchim are truly for the purpose of seeing to the welfare of our guests and not to further our own personal motives or needs?

How do should we deal with difficult guests?

How can we make an effort to go beyond our friends and family in inviting guests?

Stretch of the Week:

Invite someone over who needs a meal, a place to sleep, or even just some company.


Stretch Of The Week