The mitzvah of inviting guests, called hachnasat orchim, goes back to our forefather Abraham. Three days after his circumcision at age 99, he happily greeted, fed and housed weary travelers. From Abraham’s actions I understand the importance of sacrificing my own comfort in exchange for another person’s wellbeing.

I’m working on it.

Maybe it’s a challenge because hospitality sounds too similar to “hospital.” It does not sound like fun.

But in Jewish life, Hospitality is an opportunity to create a bondit’s understood that hospitality is an opportunity to create a bond between Jews, a bond that can be achieved only when one Jew goes out of his way for another, no matter who that other is.

I still remember the first time I had the experience of someone I didn’t know doing something nice for me just because I was Jewish. A few months after my husband and I became observant, we had a baby boy, which meant that there was a shalom zachor, the mostly male celebration that takes place on the Friday night before the baby’s circumcision. I was amazed to receive a cake from someone named “Taibke” (I had never even heard that name) to use for the celebration.

In the world I had come from, there were only two reasons to do something nice for someone else: either that person was your friend (“friend” was defined primarily as someone who reciprocated such kindness), or that person was in serious trouble.

Doing something nice for someone just because that person was a fellow Jew would take some getting used to. And, I mean, it’s one thing to make a cake for someone you don’t know, but how about providing accommodations for an entire family you don’t know? And maybe for longer than you thought you’d have to?

Like all mitzvahs that apply between people, hachnasat orchim does more for the one who gives than for the one who receives. (Abraham’s guests were angels who didn’t even have the physical need to eat.) Chassidic lore is packed with stories of Jews and their guests. And all the stories have pretty much the same message: the host whose kindness transcends the guest’s outwardly bad behavior receives tremendous blessings.

While I’m not gritting my teeth while pretending to be cordialI don’t presume to know anything about the realm of heavenly bestowed blessings, I do know that the message transmitted by these stories places hachnasat orchim in a totally spiritual context. These stories tell me that I have no idea about the soul of any Jew, other than that it is holy and a part of G‑d Himself. When I do the mitzvah right, I’m not gritting my teeth while pretending to be cordial and hoping for a payback. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve G‑d. And if I’m really on top of things, a less-than-ideal guest will elicit compassion instead of disdain.

It has taken many years, but thank G‑d, I do find it easier to genuinely see the beauty of each guest. And for me, that is enough of a reward.