We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Look for an opportunity to do something small to help someone else out.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
Perek Aleph, Mishna Hai Part 1
Y’hi Baischa Pasu’ach Lirvacha – Open Your Home Wide
Story: (based on a true story)
I am not a guest person. I just can’t handle having them.
I love people, but I also like my routine. A Shabbos meal that goes too long makes the kids hyper. Getting a guest room ready takes precious time that I don’t have on Thursday nights. I cook and buy extra things, my fridge gets over-crowded with things I don’t normally need and people bring food to the guest room and basement even though that floor has a no food rule. The whole thing makes me anxious; I just need my own space, where I can check on the kids in the middle of the night without putting on a tichel.
I’ve gotten used to meal guests over the years, though we don’t do it all that often in deference to my need for calm and predictability. My husband wanted company, which I wasn’t used to because my parents never really had any, so I pushed myself a little and I can now even enjoy it. But sleeping guests are just too hard--too much arranging, and too much of them just being there. I wish I could be that person who is always having people’s relatives stay for simchos, but I can’t. I’ve always been glad my in-laws are local and my parents don’t like to travel, because having anyone over is hard.
Instead, I help people in other ways. I send meals out a lot, so while I may not feed people as much in my home I feed them in theirs. And I have a half-day in my week portioned out for driving people in need to appointments and running errands for them. So my heart is open, but the doors to my home are not.
Until recently, that is. A few months ago, my mother-in-law took a bit of a downturn health wise. As the only local relatives, we began hosting them for Shabbos lunch weekly. While my mother-in-law was in the hospital, my father-in-law slept by us. And since she could no longer host the extended family that came in from out-of-town, they came to stay by us, too.
I had previously told my husband that I didn’t think I could stretch enough to deal with over-night guests, but HaShem knew otherwise. I couldn’t say no to my mother-in-law who has helped us so much over the years, and couldn’t say “I don’t feel like it” to my husband’s brothers and sisters who came to stay and visit with their parents. My home became a hub of gathering on a regular basis.
And I hated it. I was glad I was doing it, but I hated it. I snapped at my kids, and worried over my grocery list, planning snacks for the guests and manageable meals that were crowd-pleasers. My husband and I reworked our budget to get me cleaning help. (Our youngest would go to a back-yard camp instead of the big one in town.) I kept a pre-tied tichel by my bedside and bought a comfy robe to sleep in. I set limits by making solid rules in the house and blocked out quiet weekends when no one would come. And it was still hard.
But it was important, so I got used to it. Often I even like it, and my children have benefited as well. They learn new things and have become better at interacting with people who are different from them and not part of their every-day life. HaShem knew that for me and my nature, I wouldn’t be able to slowly push the door to my home open but bit by bit, letting in more and more people slowly, a bar mitzva here and an aufruf there. Apparently, I needed my door flung wide open and my house filled with people in order to get used to them being there.
So I try to enjoy my guests and the opportunities they bring, and to remember how the mitzva is helping me to become more flexible and patient as well. And even when it’s difficult, and I am stressed, I know I am doing an important thing. I feel the need for the people staying with me to have a place to be and to feel comfortable and cared for. I feel their want for a fun meal, listening to the children’s divrei Torah. So I give it to them. Some mitzvos are easier for us, and some are harder. I hope that by doing this mitzva the best I can, I will be training my children to be able to one day do this mitzva in their own homes, with an open heart and an open door.
“Yosi ben Yochanan ish Yerushalayim omer, Y’hi Baischa pasu’ach lirvacha…”
“Yosi son of Yochanan of Yerushalayim says, open your home wide…” (Perek Aleph, Mishne Hai).
Just as your home must be a center of Torah (as described in the previous mishna), so must it radiate kindness. It must welcome guests and extend generosity to the needy.
According to the Bartenura, the mishna is urging us to open all four doors of our home to guests, just as Avraham did. This interpretation is supported by the name with which the Torah refers to the city of Chevron--Kiryas Arba. While this is generally translated as “the city of the four giants”, in light of our mishna, the term may be understood as the city of Avraham whose door was open on four sides.
By emphasizing the need for an open door, the mishna may be subtly reminding us that a guest is entitled to leave at will in the same manner as he enters. Do not pressure him to remain. (Maggidei HaEmes.)
Later in the mishna, we are told that the poor should be members of your household. This directive is well-founded, but it can have unintended consequences. If a person opens his home only to the poor, those who wish to conceal their poverty will not come. Therefore Yosi Ben Yochanan advises us to open our homes to everyone. Then no one will be able to guess why any particular guest is sitting at our table.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
How can we choose our paths in hachnasas orchim based on our personalities and family circumstances, to make it manageable?
How can doing a mitzva that is difficult for us improve us?
Stretch of the Week:
Invite someone over who could use a break.