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Look who’s coming for dinner!


His hallmark was his open-tent policy. He pitched his non-profit hospitality in the middle of the desert, and pulled in every traveler and nomad for a hot meal and a night’s rest.

Some considered him an extremist. Once he was in the middle of a chat with G‑d Himself when some travelers appeared in the distance. He excused himself and ran off to invite in the guests! To Abraham, hospitality was greater even than communion with G‑d.

The tradition stayed in the family. When the Roman emperor Julian ordered the establishment of hostels for transients in every city, he referred to the example of the Jews “in whose midst no stranger goes uncared for.” Even in the worst of times, every Jewish community had a society to provide food and lodging for any traveler, without discrimination.

It’s such a great mitzvah, you don’t want to wait for someone to call and ask

How To Host

Hospitality—hachnasat orchim—is primarily fulfilled by providing for visitors from out of town. But local guests are fine, too. Since it’s such a great mitzvah, you don’t want to wait for someone to call and ask: invite them yourself, or volunteer your home to local organizations that place visitors.

Once inside, some guests are too abashed to ask for a cold drink or an extra pillow. A good host anticipates their needs.

Here’s another cue from Abraham: although he had many servants, he stood over his guests and served their needs himself. If it’s such a great mitzvah, why give it away?

When your guests leave, make sure to pack them some kosher food for the road. It’s a mitzvah to escort them to the airport, bus or train, or at least four cubits (approximately seven feet) from your home’s entrance. In fact, the reward for escorting guests exceeds the reward for everything else we afford them. It goes beyond caring for them in your town—you want to ensure they get to their next destination safe and sound.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Maurice H December 15, 2016

We can only hope that Hashem sees our kindness or remembers it when it comes time to be judged! Reply

Mitzie Ketner USA December 15, 2016

Be careful though. I hired a homeless man to do some small job, gave him food, shelter and money. In return, he stole cash from me. Reply

jim dallas December 15, 2016

modern american cities should have hostels for free overnights. Reply

Judith Rothstein Hamden December 15, 2016

Mitzvah minute on hospitality and Abraham and Roman Empire hostels Beautiful sentiment. Applies to numerous situations. Love it. Reply

Maurice H December 15, 2016

Unfortunately, some people don't know how to show it and think because they are religious and follow the "law" that is the only thing that counts;wrong! Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NEW YORK October 29, 2012

Re:Hospitality on Shabbat We always cook more than needed for Shabbat In case we encounter one or more people who will be our guest we are prepared.If none shows the extra is eaten on Sunday. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via October 28, 2012

Re: Hospitality on Shabbat Yes, one may still not cook food on Shabbat, even if one has unexpected guests. It's always a good idea to have some food that can be eaten cold prepared in advance or some kosher non perishables such as crackers, bread, cold cuts or cheese, hard boiled eggs etc, combined with a vegetable salad one can serve a nice and filling meal without having to desecrate the Shabbat. Reply

Anonymous Laurinburg, NC October 28, 2012

Hospitality on Shabbat If a friend arrives unexpectedly on Sabbath, is it "unlawful" to cook for them? Reply

SZE Australia October 28, 2012

reply to *Lorena y Gabriel Fridrij* I agree! Reply

Basya Cleveland October 28, 2012

Hospitality Someone said why not here? What makes you think "not here"? YES here. Before every Shabbos, or every festival, we phone the synagogue and ask whether they know of anyone who needs a place to go for a festive meal. We also phone Hillel, in case someone would rather eat at a home than attend the Hillel dinner. It's sometimes difficult to come up with guests. But keep trying. You'll do best at the orthodox synagogue, inmy experience. People there are accustomed to it. That's where I get almost all of my guests, even though I'm not orthodox. And if your congregation is not orthodox, and you are active there, ask them. And keep asking them. Tell them you want to do the mitzvah in your own temple, too. And hopefully they will respond. Reply

Anonymous highland, Indiana November 15, 2011

Temple hospitality As Avraham was revealed in this week's parasha going out to meet the strangers and offering them bread, in his excitement he gave the stranger so much more than the basics. Reply

Dr Thomas m. DiResta(Proselyte) Swampscott, MASS November 14, 2011

I read and agree with Abraham's movement; why not here (or do we have one, i.e.hospitality to the stranger or are we too afraid to invite anyone in "our tents"? Reply

Anonymous Malta July 30, 2010

Look Who's Coming for Dinner! Insightful... Reply

ken solkowitz raleigh, nc July 29, 2010

Hospitality it's great to engage your children and have them particpate. Our kids now ask why we don't have guests. I must say, my wife turned me onto having guests and it's wonderful - I haven't looked back. Reply

Lorena y Gabriel Fridrij Tucuman, Argentina via July 25, 2010

We live the example of this beautiful mitzvah. We live a year in Antwerp and no Shabbat (except the one I gave birth) dined alone at home.
Today, almost eleven years later, we remember those beautiful moments, with great affection and try to replicate the example we saw in families and were constantly invited us, here in Tucuman, Argentina Reply

Mrs. judy emerson-ennis July 18, 2010

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