The Basics of Hospitality

October 30, 2017 at 4:17 AM , , ,

“…And he lifted his eyes and he saw, and behold, there were three men standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them…” – Bereishit 18:2

וישא עיניו וירא והנה שלשה אנשים נצבים עליו וירא וירץ לקראתם… – בראשית יח, ב

In Parshas Vayeira, Avraham interrupts a visit from G-d Himself in order to host three passersby (angels disguised as travelers). This teaches us the tremendous value of the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, hosting guests. Per the Rambam (Laws of Avel 14:2):

“This is the tenet that our patriarch Avraham established and the path of kindness that he followed. He would feed wayfarers, provide them with drink, and accompany them. Showing hospitality for guests surpasses receiving the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, as is written: ‘And he saw, and behold, there were three men.’”

Yet considering that Avraham’s guests were actually angels, who had no need for the food and drink he offered, did Avraham actually fulfill the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim with this act of hospitality? In hindsight, it seems that Avraham disturbed his meeting with G-dfor guests who do not even qualify for hachnosas orchim!

the-basics-of-hospitality

From here we see that hachnosas orchim is defined primarily by the heartfelt concern that the host shows for his guests’ well-being, and not by the accommodations he provides (in which case the extent of the beneficiary’s need would be relevant). Although giving with a smile enhances any form of kindness or charity, we know that the ideal way of giving charity is actually when the donor and recipient never even meet face to face (see Rambam, Laws of Matnos Aniyim 10:8). Not so the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, where the fulfillment of this mitzvah is first and foremost through showing your guests your personal and sincere concern for their comfort and well-being.

Thus, regardless of whether the angels visiting Avraham needed or ate the food that he prepared for them, Avraham fulfilled the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim to the fullest with the care he exhibited toward them. Moreover, knowing (better than anyone) just how much Avraham was cherished by G-d, the guests, too, could appreciate the sincere interest this great man took in them, putting his meeting with G-d on hold in order to provide them with food and to escort them on their way.

 

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 25, pp. 76-78

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