The Spirit of Hospitality

By Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim

4th Torah Portion for the Shabbat on October 18, 2013

Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24 (147 verses)

This week’s portion points to an important Jewish institutional value, “Welcoming the Stranger.”  Abraham, in a new home, not even settled, invites three strangers in and provides a wonderful meal for them.  Hospitality is not only a physical reality, but a spiritual one as well.  Rabbi Freehof, may his memory be for a blessing, said we should be conscious of three types of hospitality:

1. Hospitality of heart (to strangers).  Some people have their heart tightly closed, excluding not only strangers, but the nearest of kin as well.  This pathetic attitude leads to loneliness and alienation.  It also expresses contempt for our religious ideal that all are God’s children.  Our duty is to do as Abraham did, run to meet people halfway, be interested in new people and bring greater friendship into the world.

2.  Hospitality of mind (to new ideas).  Children have open and pliable minds.  They receive and are stimulated by new ideas and experiences all the time.  Adults unfortunately become satisfied with what they know and often are unwilling to discover new realities.  God is the God of knowledge.  Our religious duty is to receive and be open to this.  Remember that for those who are looking for spirituality and venturing into mysticism, the Hebrew word is Kabbalah, which means, “receive.”  We must keep our minds open, to be grateful for every new truth that comes.

3.  Hospitality of soul (to God). Most people believe in God.  Very few understand how God works through our souls and us.  God is  shut out of our souls.  The Psalmist cries out, “lift up your heads, you gates (of the heart) that the King of Glory may come in.”  Let our worship help open our hearts to God daily in our lives.

The Talmud teaches, “The actions of parents are a guide to the life of their children” (Sotah34a).  We are the children of Abraham when we follow his pattern of life.  Abraham’s hospitality should lead us to an openness that enhances our relationships with others, expands our minds and opens our hearts to the power of God every day.

Question:

1. Can you think of anyone or group in the past few weeks who would have benefited from this lesson?

Have a good week.