This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Vayeira (5761)
This week’s Torah section has three examples of fulfilling the very important commandment of "Hachnasat Orchim" taking in guests.
The first is Avraham (Abraham) who after sitting for hours in the sun looking for guests despite the pain of his recent circumcision, hosted three angels disguised as men.
Next is the frightening story of Lot risking his life in the name of hospitality (A trait obviously learned from his uncle Avraham, being that Lot in his own right was far from righteous, see Rashi 13;11) in the evil city of Sodom.
And finally the Torah tells us, (just before the story of the "Binding of Isaac"), that Abraham made an ‘Eshel’- a free restaurant in the desert, in order to advertise monotheism through hospitality.
So we see that hosting guests is very essential to Judaism. To understand this here is a story about hospitality.
The editor of Kfar Chabad Magazine, Rabbi Ahron Dov Haperin writes that once when traveling in the U.S.A. he ate a Shabbat meal in a Chabad House in California.
There were many guests at the table and the conversation was lively, when suddenly a strangely silent young man with very long hair and a wild look in his eyes entered the room, took a seat at the table and just stared blankly at his plate refusing to respond or react to anything around him.
He sat that way for a good half-hour, and just when everyone forgot about him, he suddenly looked up at the large picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that was hanging on the wall (as in every Chabad House), lunged from his seat, pulled it down, threw it to the ground and began screaming "Leave me alone!
The other guests subdued him and finally, when he had calmed down and drank some water, he began to talk.
He was the oldest child in a rich Jewish family from San Francisco. After graduating High School he enrolled in Berkley University and quickly became totally involved in the ‘hippy’ scene’.
Eventually, when the drugs and partying lost their charm, he made his way to India and ‘lost himself’ in one of the many spiritual cults there.
He cut off all contact with this mundane, illusionary world i.e. ‘his old self’, and it goes without saying from his parents, and had decided to devote his life to meditation and spiritual achievement.
Then, suddenly one late afternoon, after almost two years of complete silence he was overpowered with a sudden tremendous longing to see his parents. His heart ached for home. He tried to meditate, to think of something else but to no avail. The longing plagued him constantly for days until, weeping like a madman, he left his guru traveled to the nearest town, called home and asked his amazed parents to send him a plane ticket as fast as possible.
When he arrived home totally bewildered as to why, his parents were overjoyed to see him (despite his weird zombie-like appearance) which made him open up and tell them what had transpired in the last few years.
Then, when he got to the part about his sudden nostalgia a week or so ago, his father suddenly interrupted and said "Tell me, exactly when did this happen, what day and at what time? The reason I’m asking," the father continued, "is because a strange thing happened to me last week. I went with a group of businessmen on a trip organized by Chabad to see the Lubavitch Rebbe.
Some people asked the Rebbe for advice or for more blessings but I just took the dollar, said thank you, and continued walking.
But then the Rebbe called me back. His secretary pulled me back, and the Rebbe gave me another dollar and then said; ‘This is for your oldest son’. I thought to myself ‘That was a bizarre thing for him to say, especially because I hadn’t seen you in so long, and how did he know that I even had a son?’
And now, just a few days later… here you are!! It’s really a miracle!!"
When they calculated the time of boy’s longing they realized that it began just minutes after his father received that dollar.
And that is what brought about his outburst in the Chabad House a few days later. He wanted to return to his guru in India where he felt so ‘at peace’ but try as could he couldn’t manage to break away from home, his heart just wouldn’t allow him.
"So here is the dollar back!!" He screamed as he pulled the dollar his father received from the Rebbe out of his pocket, "Take it back and tell him to leave me alone!!!"
The story is not over.
Years later Rabbi Halperin met with a Knesset (Israeli Congress) member called Professor Avner Shaki (ob’m), who told him a similar story that had occurred to him a week or so earlier.
He was in Chabad House somewhere in California for Shabbat, and in the middle of the meal three hippies entered, sat down uninvited, began eating with their hands, refused to make blessings and were generally obnoxious.
He turned to the Shaliach (Chabad House manager) to ask him to do something to get rid of them but the Shaliach comforted him and said that he shouldn’t worry. "In fact" the Shaliach added, "a few years ago I was much worse, and if you don’t believe me, ask the editor of the Kfar Chabad Magazine."
This Shilach was the young man that the Rebbe saved from India years ago.
Now he himself chose the way of Avraham Avinu.
This answers our question; what is so important about taking in guests?
The answer is that having guests is very similar to, and is very important in bringing ……. the arrival of the Moshiach (Jewish Messiah that Jews have been awaiting since they left Egypt).
Taking in guests demands a certain type of openness on the part of the host to an unexpected energy, experience and life force that the new guest brings with him.
Similarly, the Moshiach will bring something completely unexpected into the life of each and every one of us; that the world will be filled with the awareness of the Creator.
It is even accepted by Chassidim that the soul of the Baal Shem Tov came into the world because of the self-sacrifice of his father for this Commandment.
That is the idea behind the Chabad Houses found throughout the world.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe insisted that there be as many Chabad Houses as possible because taking in guests is the best preparation for, and instigator of the New Era.
May we all merit to hosting the most wonderful guest of them all, the Moshiach, who will bring all of us to realize that all of us are really only guests of HaShem.
And just as a host provides all the needs of his guest so also HaShem should provide us with ours.
It all depends on us; one more good deed, word or even thought is enough to tilt the scales and bring....
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