This Friday, you can feel a sense of excitement in our home. My husband told me that this Shabbat we are hosting a group of young teenagers from South America, none of whom we know, and who also need a place to stay. Besides our weekly Shabbat preparations, there is plenty of extra work. More beds are needed. And we will have to add an extra table in the dining room. And more shopping, of course. We want to make a special menu for this Shabbat in honour of our special guests.
My daughter is singing while she sets the table. My son, who had to vacate his room for our guests, has already driven to the supermarket twice, but has not complained even once. This is my personal “Shabbat magic hour”. Everybody is willing to help, and happily! We have made the mitzvah of welcoming guests a part of our family’s mission statement.
But, there is also some slight concern… we don’t know how many guests are coming. “What if they are too many, mommy?” my youngest daughter asks me. “What if there is no room at the table for all of us?”
The Oral Torah describes the residents of Jerusalem as extremely hospitable. During the three “Pilgrimage Festivals” – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot – they opened their homes for their brothers and sisters who would arrive from every corner of the land of Israel. As the verse states, “A person never said to his fellow, ‘It is too crowded for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem.'” I think this describes not only the feelings of the guests, but those of the hosts as well.
I explain to my daughter that no place can ever be too small for kindness, because being kind expands your mind, and allows you to see that your house is as big as you want it to be.
“But mommy, do we know these boys or their families?”
“No”, I say, “but what a great opportunity to meet Jewish people you’ve never met before… remember Rivka from the Torah? Did she know Eliezer? And still she showed extreme kindness to him.”