Login  

Register  

Parshas Chayei Sarah - The Good Old Days of Hachnasas Orchim

By Reb Eliezer Bulka

Posted on 11/14/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

Rather than discuss what we have all been involved in over the last many months, as I have been trying to do, I would like to shift to discussing something we are likely all doing much less of these days, namely the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim. Hopefully, in this merit we will soon be able to engage in this mitzvah more freely as before.


If one were to ask what the parsha of hachnasas orchim is, the answer would likely be last week's parsha, Vayeira. Indeed, that is where we find the prominence of hachnasas orchim in general. But this week's parsha teaches us a number of important nuances. Eliezer designs his test to find the right girl for Yitzchak very cleverly. Surely, there would be plenty of people who would offer water to a thirsty man who asks for it outright. That is why it was necessary for him to add that – without asking – this girl must on her own offer to feed his camels as well. The way to take chesed to the next level is to anticipate the other's needs before they are even expressed.


Interestingly, Rivkah seemed to have learned this sensitivity from her home. Lavan greets Eliezer and invites him in and declares (24:31) "I have cleared the house." Rashi comments that he cleared the house from avodah zarah. At the risk of perhaps giving Lavan a bit too much credit, it seems that upon learning that Avraham’s servant had come, he knew that it would not be sufficient to make a place for him to stay. Coming from Avraham's house he would not tolerate avodah zarah so he went out of his way to make sure there was none to be seen.


Eliezer asks Rivkah (24:23) if there is place in her father's home for him lalin. She answers him that there is room lalun. Rashi explains the difference. He only asked for one night. Lalun, however, refers to sleeping for many nights. (Possibly related to the French word for moon?) Rivkah teaches us that a truly gracious host goes not just the extra kilometre, but the extra mile! Offering a guest exactly what they need. But guests are often timid and afraid to ask for everything they might want. True chesed is offering much more than the guest appears to need.


My inspiration to write about this actually came from an intriguing halachah I recently happened upon in Mishnah Berurah. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 515:1) explains that if a non-Jew brings a gift to a Jew on yom tov, if it was fruit that were likely picked on that day, it is forbidden for the Jew – as well as others – to partake of this gift on yom tov. Rama adds another stringency that even if it as a two-day yom tov, one should not partake of the gift on the second day. But if he has guests the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim allows them to partake of the gift. Mishna Berurah(515:12), however, takes it one step further. If the host is eating with them, he may partake of the gift as well because this is part of the mitzvah. (A similar halachah exists regarding one who is careful not to eat pas akum168:5.) The message is clear: the essence of true hachnasas orchim is to make the guests feel like they aren't guests at all.