By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
I love chuppahs – all chuppahs, from the majestic and flowery, to the look of simple elegance, to a plain taalis, they are all special.
Though different, every chuppah has something in common – the four sides are open.
My father, HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi zt”l, explained that the open sides are a message to the chosson and kallah. Build your home to be like the tent of Avraham and Sarah. They were known for their hachnosas orchim, providing hospitality to guests. Their tent was open 24/7, welcoming travelers from all directions – North, East, South and West.
The Torah relates that Avraham built an eishel. It was the “world’s first B&B”. Rashi in Maseches Sotah (10a) teaches that eishel, which is spelled in the Hebrew language as aleph, shin, lamed, is an acronym for aleph – achilah, food; shin – shtiyah, drink; and lamed – levoyah, escorting guests upon their departure.
There is a well known Midrash, “ma’aseh avos siman l’banim”, the actions of the fathers are a sign for the children. This week’s parshah tells us of the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim through the lives of Avraham and Sarah. They experienced first-hand the challenges and difficulties of the nomadic traveler. They lived the life of lech lecha, a life of journeys. They knew what it meant to walk upon burning hot sand, to be parched and in need of water, to feel weak and tired, and in need of a place to rest. They were the perfect couple to build an “open home”, an eishel.
Our Torah is a living Torah, with life lessons for all times, each with its own powerful message.
…”and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day” (Bereishis 18:1).
Avraham, at age 99, was recuperating from his bris. Anyone else would have been lying down, taking it easy. Not Avraham. Despite the intense heat, and being “post-op”, Avraham was out there, looking for guests.
“He lifted his eyes and saw three men” (Bereishis 18:2). Unbeknownst to Avraham, these men were malochim, angels, HaShem’s messengers. They appeared as typical travelers. Avraham ran to greet to greet them, and invited them to the tent. Hachnosas orchim.
It’s an honor and privilege to invite an angel of HaShem into our home. Who wouldn’t want that blessing! Yet, we see that though Avraham saw the angels as “anoshim – ordinary men”, nonetheless, he ran to greet them and invited them in. Through his actions, Avraham teaches us, to open our homes to all in need. Not to be selective or judgmental, and to make room in our heart, and around our table for all of HaShem’s people. To treat every guest with respect and dignity.
“Rabbi Yossi ben Yochanan taught, let your house be open wide, and treat the poor as members of your household” (Pirkei Avos/Ethics 1:5)
Each of us is created “b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of G-d” When welcoming guests to our home, we are honoring the “Divine spark” within each person.
Avraham could not have accomplished what he did without his life partner, Sarah. Together they were a team.
Avraham also included his son Yishmael in welcoming his guests, conveying to him the importance of hospitality (Rashi to Bereishis 18:7).
How vital it is for us to include our children in the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim. There are so many ways our children can participate. Let them help set a table, serve and clear off. It is as an opportunity to teach a way of life.
Even though he had household help, Avraham insisted on personally taking care of the guests’ needs.
A story of told about the holy Barditchever, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok (1740–1809), who was widely known for his warmth and hospitality. The Rebbe considered it his honor to personally tend to the needs of his guests.
Once, the Rebbe’s father-in-law questioned his actions, and inquired as to why he doesn’t enlist help with the numerous chores. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied, “Shall I give away the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, and even pay someone for the privilege?”
Avraham served his guests the best food, including the choicest meats. “Rach v’tov”, tender and good. (Bereishis 18:7). Rashi adds that it was served with “chardal”, mustard. What is the significance? Do we really think that Avraham needed mustard? And imagine how difficult it must have been to obtain mustard in the desert, yet Avraham had it readily available.
Dips have become the condiment to have with our challah. When our married children join us for a Shabbos meal, I am sure to have a variety of dips on the table.
My husband couldn’t understand. He said we all grew up without dips. Was this new modern-day phenomenon really necessary?
And then, I saw the above Rashi, telling us that Avraham served mustard. Avraham thought of what would please his guests, how he could make his guests’ meal more enjoyable.
I felt validated. A lesson from Avraham – serve what makes a happy guest.
Welcoming guests is a mitzvah we can all do in a variety of ways.
After teaching a lunch-and-learn class in Boro Park, I lingered on, speaking with the women who attended. One of them approached me and asked if I would like to hear a dvar Torah. Always happy to learn, I said “sure”.
“Did you know that we can do hachnosas orchim in our cars? By giving someone a ride, taking them on an errand, driving them to a simchah or a doctor’s appointment.”
“What a beautiful thought,” I mused. “One can invite a guest without cooking, cleaning, or changing linen.”
On a whim, I asked her if she needed a ride home. To which she replied, “How did you know?”
We recite in the morning prayers that hachnosas orchim is one of ten deeds whose benefits are infinite. We enjoy its fruits in this world, and are rewarded in the World to Come. May we all merit the privilege and the reward for our genuine acts of hachnosas orchim.
Chaya Sora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l