Parshas Vayera: Giving Your Best to Your Guests
One of the most exciting things about having a fixed address is that we can entertain guests. In fact, I used to always insist she “wanted a kitchen.” “Just a kitchen?” Rabbi Ben would ask. “Well, a kitchen and a dining room… So I can cook and then have somewhere for people to eat when they come over,” I would reply. “What about a bedroom?” “We can sleep under the dining room table.” “A bathroom?” “There’s always the great outdoors.”
The point of having a house is to use it for doing mitzvot like entertaining guests, not for our own comfort. When people shop for a new house, they have numerous requirements: a Jacuzzi in the master bath, a big bedroom, a walk-in closet, a garage. Our biggest requirement (perhaps our only requirement) was that it be outfitted well for entertaining: a sufficient kitchen and a nice big dining room. Everything else is a bonus.
We learn a lot about entertaining guests in this week’s parsha. Avraham wants so badly to have guests that he is willing to sit outside in unbearable heat on the third day after his circumcision (when it is the most painful) just so he can look for guests. And when some guests do come along, he goes overboard with the preparations and slaughters entire animals for them, in addition to having Sarah bake mountains of fresh bread. Abraham wanted to give his guests the best of what he had.
Not only did he provide for their physical needs, but Avraham provided for their spiritual needs as well. He was not bothered in the least that he would now spend hours entertaining total strangers. He took their arrival as an opportunity to speak to them about G-d and feed them spiritually as well as physically.
So, too, must we when we entertain guests. We should use the freshest produce, the nicest and ripest fruits and vegetables, the fanciest desserts. We should pull out all the stops and do our best to make sure that the food on the table is so abundant there is no way it could all be finished. No matter who or when or what or why, one should do their best to make themselves available to speak with or counsel anyone who needs it. We must strive to make sure that nobody leaves our house hungry, spiritually or physically.
This is the ideal in Judaism and this is what we strive to emulate. We Jews are happy when our tables are full of guests. We are happy when we can offer someone else food or drink, or can give them a hug or a listening ear when they need it. We are happy when we can give our very best to our guests.
Read more about Parshas Vayera: The Journey Continues