The Tabernacle Times
May 2018 ......................... Iyyar - Sivan 5778 ......................... Volume 13 Issue 5

Hospitality (Hachnasat Orchim)

Angela Kunkel
Angela Renee Kunkel
  Rabbinic literature abounds in statements praising the practice of hospitality on behalf of travelers and the destitute. Hachnasat Orchim, welcoming the stranger (ger), is a historical ethical value in Jewish tradition. Leviticus 19:33-34 states, “If an outsider dwells with you in your land, you should do him no wrong. The outsider dwelling among you shall be to you as the native-born among you. You should love him as yourself — for you dwelt as outsiders in the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your G~d.” his circumcision), he saw the three men and proceeded to go out of his way to welcome them and attend to their needs (Genesis 18:1-2). The writer of the book of Hebrews alludes to Abraham and Sarah entertaining visitors, in Hebrews 13:1-2, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers — for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

According to the sages, one who “entertained a scholar in his house and let him enjoy his possessions was regarded as if he had sacrificed the daily burnt offering” (Ber.10b). It is taught in the Talmud that one’s house should always be welcoming and open to strangers. The Torah affirms that Abraham as well as Job kept the doors of their homes open on all four sides, so that strangers knew they were welcome and could

There are numerous accounts of “hospitality” in the Bible. When Abraham saw the three men of Mamre he ran from the entrance of his tent to meet them. Abraham then brought them to his tent and proceeded to provide for their physical needs. Water was brought to bathe the guests’ feet, a comfortable place to rest under a shade tree, and bread to eat was offered to them. In addition to bread, Abraham ran to his herd and selected an ox from his herd and had his servant prepare it. (Genesis 18:1-8).

Just before the binding of Isaac, Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba. According to the Talmud, the Hebrew word for this tree, eshel (alef, shin, lamed) is an acronym for eating (achilah), drinking (sh’tiyah), and staying overnight (linah). Food, drink, and lodging were essential elements of Abraham’s devotion to
the welcoming of the stranger. You might say
Abraham established a sort of “hotel” there to serve people passing through. Abraham set the example
to the people of Beersheba to practice this virtue
of hospitality.

Other examples of hospitality in scripture: (1) When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, Laban welcomed Abraham’s ambassador. Laban ran to meet the man at the spring, welcomed him into his home, fed his camels, fed him and the men who were with him, and water was brought to bathe their feet. (Genesis 24:28-33). Jethro chastised his daughters, “Where is he then?” He said to his daughters. “Why did you leave the man behind? Invite him to have some food to eat!” Jethro’s daughters had failed to invite the stranger “Moses” who had rescued them from the shepherds. (Exodus 2:20).

(2) When the angel came to announce the birth of his son Samson, Manoah would not permit the angel to depart before sharing in his hospitality (Judges13:15). (3) The prominent Shunamite woman prepared a small walled room on the roof of her home, in it she placed a bed, a table, a chair, and a lampstand. The woman did this for the prophet Elisha, for she was convinced he was a holy man of G~d, and wished to provide for him whenever he would pass through Shunem.
(2 Kings 4:8-11).

(4) Protection of guests is taken to a most disturbing length, when the two angels came to Sodom. Lot greeted them and invited them to his home, bathed their feet, and prepared them a feast complete with matzot. Because of the sacred duty of providing security and safety to those who “have come under the protection of his roof”, Lot was willing to allow the men of Sodom to take his own daughters and do with them as they pleased so that he could safeguard his male guests from defilement. (Genesis 19:1-8)

(5) Some acts of hospitality are clearly rewarded in scripture. After hiding Joshua’s two spies, Rahab (and her family) was protected from harm when the Israelites conquered and utterly destroyed Jericho. (Joshua 2). (6) On the contrary, the shameful violation of the virtue of hospitality by the Benjamites led the Israelites to wage war on them. (Judges19-20).

(7) The only disobedience to the virtue of hospitality that was praised in scripture was Yael’s killing of Sisera. When the Canaanite general sought refuge in the home of Yael, she welcomed him, opened a skin of milk and made him drink some, covered him with a blanket and as he slept she drove a pin into his temple and he died. (Judges 4:18-21). The Holy One’s angel called Yael and her home blessed. (Judges 5:24-27).

For the Rabbi’s, “bringing in of guests” was regarded as an important element of “the giving of loving kindness”. Believing that “offering hospitality is greater than welcoming the Divine Presence [Shekhinah]” is based on the fact that when The Holy One had appeared to Abraham (to distract him from the pain of
            (Continued at top of next column)
  easily enter. The opening of one’s doors is why an invitation is delivered to the hungry and needy, as it is read in the Haggadah, “Whosoever is in need, let him come and eat”.


The Rabbis insist that a host is to make his guests comfortable and the guest is required to appreciate all the efforts of his host. The gracious guest is to also offer a blessing for the host in the “grace after meals”. The accepted blessing is, “May the Compassionate One bless the man and woman of this house, them, this house, their family, and all that is theirs”.

Our Compassionate Messiah fed the five thousand in an isolated area instead of sending them away. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17). During the wedding at Cana in the Galilee when the wine ran out Yeshua revealed His glory and turned the six stone jars of water into wine for the guests (John 2:1-11). Right before Passover, Yeshua was faced with a large crowd of people as he traveled up the mountainside on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Yeshua told his disciples to have the people recline in the grass, to get comfortable, as He turned the five barley loaves and two fish into enough to feed the multitude that had followed him. After they were full, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered. (John 6:1-14)

One of the most prominent of the teachings of our Messiah is written in the book of Matthew. “Now when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and invite You in? Or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “And answering, the King will say to them, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “
(Matthew 25:31-40).

How can we practice hospitality? Besides offering food, water and shelter, we have the opportunity to practice hospitality when we have a chance to make someone feel valued, whether it be a co-worker, customer, supplier, client, or a stranger. Making someone feel welcome, appreciated, or even loved is of great importance to
The Holy One.

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