We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving the way we interact with others
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Choose one act of loving your fellow Jew (ahavas Yisrael) that you may have procrastinated in performing and commit to doing it this week.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Judaism teaches that welcoming guests and attending to their needs is very important. Therefore, whenever we encounter a traveler or anyone who needs food and lodging, we are obligated to accommodate him in the manner that we ourselves would wish to be treated. Some opinions maintain that we fulfill the mitzvah of welcoming guests even when we invite people to our home who are not necessarily needy, as long as we are doing it for their honor.
The mitzvah includes welcoming the guest into our home, providing him with food and drink, arranging sleeping accommodations and accompanying him when he departs, along with addressing any other needs he may have.
The Torah illustrates the hospitality that Avraham showed the angels, despite his own period of illness. During his recovery, he sat out in the hot sun, hoping to find guests. Upon meeting what appeared to be simple travelers, he respected them as though they were distinguished gentlemen, begging them to join him as his guests. He offered them the opportunity to wash up from their journey and rest. Realizing that they might be anxious to continue on their way, he immediately brought them bread and water but also prepared a full, substantial meal that he insisted on serving himself. Subsequently, he personally escorted them on their way.
Following Avraham’s example, we should provide for the needs of our guests – food, drink, a place to wash and rest, etc. – enthusiastically and quickly. The host should always serve with a smile, as if he is wealthy and has plenty to spare.
The host should also be extremely careful to maintain a positive demeanor. As showing sadness or frustration may make all present feel uncomfortable, this might discourage his family members from inviting guests in the future.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Sabbath meals during my childhood were always marked with an abundance of food and guests. If by chance, there was a meal and my parents hadn’t invited anyone, my siblings and I would protest and proclaim that it wouldn’t be the same. In fact, we would beg our father to find someone from the synagogue to bring home. As a child, having guests was entertaining. We’d love to hear their funny, meaningful, and often miraculous stories. I often reflect upon those times and realize that, from our narrow perspective as small children, guests were looked upon as serving our desire for entertainment, not necessarily as a vehicle for us to share with others.
When we got married and purchased a home, my new husband and I couldn’t wait to start hosting guests. Within a few months, we began entertaining and I couldn’t have been happier. One particular Friday night, we decided to invite some of my husband’s friends over for a meal. I meticulously planned every detail. The meal started pleasantly with everyone enjoying themselves and having a great time. When it was time to serve the main course, I saw that my green beans were brown, mushy and overcooked. The chicken had dried out and the rice had hardened. I was mortified. How in the world was I going to serve this food with a smile? I quickly figured I’d put together a salad or two, sprinkle some almonds on the green beans, and pour duck sauce on the chicken. With great trepidation, I brought the food to the table with a sullen face and a negative attitude.
I regained my composure by telling myself that my feelings were misguided and that I had just performed a wonderful mitzvah. My guests didn’t run out of the house in anger or seem bothered at all. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the realization that I had conjured up a picture in my head of how I thought I was being viewed. I had feared that my guests would think badly of my cooking or not want to come back again. Was I taking things too far? Did they even give it any thought at all?
The following week we were guests at the home of another family. During our stay, G-d had orchestrated the exact scenario I needed to experience. When the woman of the house opened the crock pot, the unmistakable smell of burned barley, meat and potatoes was quite obvious. “Oh boy” she said, “looks like our Creator had other plans for our meal today. Let’s see what else we can serve. Tell everyone at the table that we have some ‘technical difficulties’ and we’ll be a little delayed.” Everyone scrambled in the kitchen to pull some other dishes together. The hostess even asked me for advice and then put me to work slicing roasted chicken from the night before to produce a makeshift chicken salad. With all of us working together while laughing and cracking jokes about the humorous turn of events, before we knew it the food was served and the meal ended beautifully. After we expressed our appreciation, I pulled my friend, the hostess, into a side room and inquired as to how she had the strength to deal with the situation so calmly.
“I learned long ago that the most important ingredient in anything I cook is a big warm smile.” I used to be very self-conscious about everything I prepared. However, I eventually realized that our guests come to be with us, not to experience a gourmet restaurant. I try to ensure that I have a nice amount of simple food that is always served with a smile. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details but if the focus is on serving others with joy and respect then I don’t need expensive serving pieces or gourmet recipes”
This was exactly what I needed to hear. I was trying to control the entire situation and simultaneously look good in the process. As soon as I learned to relax, and truly enjoy the experience of welcoming guests, my ability to serve others improved tremendously.
Discussion Question Options:
What are the most important feelings we want to convey to our guests when they are in our home?
Why do we, as women, often become self-conscious when we have guests?
To what level should we take the mitzvah of welcoming guests when it starts to become uncomfortable for us?
Stretch of the Week:
Invite a guest this week and actively work on taking pleasure in serving them.