Abraham “planted an eshel,”1 which can be translated as an inn.2 Eshel is an acronym for three Hebrew words: achilah, “eating”; shetiyah, “drinking”; and levayah, “accompaniment.” Abraham’s inn was unique. He offered food and drink like any other inn. In addition, he offered a somewhat unusual service. He accompanied each of his guests part of their way.

On the surface, accompaniment seems a less important benefit than food and drink. The traveler is hungry and wants a square meal. Accompaniment is not as critical to the traveler, who journeyed to this point without assistance and is perfectly capable of continuing without company. But on a deeper level, accompaniment is a most important element. A weary traveler thirsts on two separate levels: the body hungers for food; the soul hungers for warmth, acceptance and camaraderie.

When travelers leave your home, the warm cheer and soothing comfort of your hospitality fade quickly as the daunting specter of loneliness dawns again. When you accompany your guests, you assure them that they aren’t traveling alone. You communicate that though you are parting in body, you will not part in spirit. They will know that someone back there will think of them, worry for them and pray for their welfare. That is a nurturing thought.

The Final Journey

The Torah doesn’t say that Abraham built an inn, but that he planted an inn. The strange terminology hints at a deep message that Abraham sought to implant in the hearts of his guests.

Our sages teach that Abraham not only fed his guests with physical food, but he nourished them with food for thought. When they concluded their meal, he implored them to thank G‑d rather than their host. Building on this concept, Rabbi Yisrael of Modzitz suggests that by accompanying them, Abraham sought to impart a lasting lesson as well.

Most of our day is spent on providing for ourselves and our families. Occasionally we make time for holy endeavors such as Torah study, ritual traditions, and acts of goodness and kindness.

When we embark on our final journey, the items for which we toiled so mightily, the house and furniture, the savings and bonds, don’t come with us. Only things of lasting value accompany us: the mitzvahs that we did, the charity that we gave, the time that we spent in the study of G‑d’s Torah.

When Abraham accompanied his guests, he would teach them about the eventual final journey. He would thank them for giving him the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality, a lasting gift which would fortify him and accompany him on his final journey. He would appeal to them to fill their lives with the same kind of gifts.

The food that we eat nurtures us for a day and must be replenished tomorrow. Our garments wear out and must eventually be replaced. Once we spend our money, it is gone. But the food, clothes and money that we give to others remain with us forever.

On the final journey, there are only so many types of luggage that we are permitted to take along. The wise person accumulates more of what can be taken along than of what must be left behind.


The other day, I met two people assessing the gardens at our synagogue. Not knowing much about gardening, I asked them what type of work is required in the fall. They replied that fall is the season to transplant and to trim. Some plants, they explained, grow quickly and crowd out the slower-growing plants. They need to be trimmed back to make space for their slower-growing counterparts.

I realized that we always read about Abraham’s inn during the fall. Now is the season to trim back and transplant the shallow endeavors that crowd out the more important things in life. The immediate need for more and for better, the desire for fancier and for more expensive, consumes so much of our time and energy that it crowds out the important endeavors of Torah, mitzvahs, goodness and kindness.

Now is the time to consider whether we have allowed the least important parts of life to take up the most space. If we have, then this is the perfect time to correct it.

Three Friends

An old parable teaches us about three types of friends. The first doesn’t even accompany us on the journey; the second accompanies us for part of the journey and then takes his leave. The third stays with us the entire way.

The first friend is the possessions that we accumulate over a lifetime, which don’t even come to the funeral. The second friend is our family and social circle, who come only until the grave, and at that crossroads must bid us farewell.

It is only the third friend, the good deeds that we accumulate over the course of a lifetime, that stays with us for the entire journey.

Life in this world is temporal. Life in the world to come is eternal. The wise person invests in eternity.