Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Most Welcoming Guy in Canaan - Thursday Kavvanah, 11/10/2011

The beginning of Parashat Vayyera, which we are reading this week, features a fascinating vignette on hospitality.  Abraham is hanging out by the entrance to his tent, when three strangers approach.  He and his wife Sarah hasten to get them food, water, a place to wash the desert off their feet and chill out, and then stand by them patiently as they eat.  Abraham welcomes these people, with whom he has no connection whatsoever, and brings them into his home, no questions asked.

Sometimes, the famously dysfunctional characters of the book of Bereishit / Genesis are undeniably virtuous; this is one of those instances.  The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 127a) tells us that the mitzvah / commandment of hakhnasat orhim, welcoming visitors into your home, outweighs that of welcoming the Shekhinah, God's presence.

What do we learn from this?  In an age of increasing isolation, when some of us relate more easily to screens than to human faces, this is a time that we must all reach out to others, to make those connections that only people can make, and particularly in the synagogue.  Abraham welcomes the strangers into his tent, and so should we.

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