The Jewish roots of hospitality

The Jewish roots of hospitality

Hospitality finds its roots in our nation’s founder and spreads deep into our culture. Hosting Israeli Travelers is in our DNA. Join us as we explore the Jewish roots of Hospitality.

Hospitality – Hakhnasat orchim – literally means the “bringing in of strangers”

Talk about extremists! So, there’s this guy, he’s in the middle of a chat with G-d, when out of the corner of his eye, I’m talking way, way, way in the distance he’s like…wait, wait, wait, would you excuse me for a bit, I just gotta do something and he runs over a bunch of sand dunes to these dudes and invites them over for a meal!

This guy happens to be the father of the Jewish people, Abraham himself!

A few years later, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. His servant rocks into town with 10 camels, and then there’s this girl Rebecca, kicking around at the local watering hole. She says “hey! Why don’t I water your thirsty camels?” We’re talking 10 CAMELS here. Think about it…1 camel drinks up to 50 gallons or 200 liters and that’s a whole lot of buckets from the well! No wonder Abraham’s servant was like…YES, SHE’S DEFINITELY THE ONE!

So, as the story goes Abraham’s children and their children and their children carry on with the tradition. In fact, Israel’s history is so rich in hospitality. So much so, that when we speak of hospitality, we’re actually talking about a mitzvah!

The Jewish roots of hospitality
Camels in Egypt

Jerusalem, The Roman Empire, and Hospitality

Fast forward 200 years, Residents of Jerusalem are portrayed in Midrashic literature as excelling in this virtue. When the Holy Temple still stood in Jerusalem, that city was the destination of pilgrims from throughout the Land of Israel at the three harvest festivals. The rabbinic storytellers of late antiquity relate that Jerusalem’s residents opened their homes for free to those visitors. “No person ever remarked to another, ‘I couldn’t find a bed to sleep on in Jerusalem.’ No person ever remarked to another, ‘Jerusalem is too small [i.e., crowded] for me to be able to stay over there’”. 

So admired by Jewish hospitality, when the Roman Emperor Julian set up backpacker hostels for travelers in every city. He referred to the example of the Jews “In whose midst no stranger goes uncared for”.

The Talmud teaches that one’s house should always be welcoming and open to strangers. In the Torah it affirms that Abraham always kept all four sides of his tent open, this was for guests to easily enter. The opening of one’s doors is why at the Seder on Passover, an invitation is delivered to the hungry and needy. It’s read in the Hagadah “Whosoever is in need let him come and eat” (Ta’anit 20b).

During the middle ages, the custom arose of providing a guest house (bet hakhnasat orehim) for the poor; This would later be called hekdesh (“sanctuary”). To this day, the Jewish roots of hospitality are so ingrained that the act of hospitality is almost considered a Mitzvot “commandment, obligation”. A ritual or ethical duty or act of obedience to God’s will.

Jewish Roots of Hospitality – Summary

We hope you enjoyed the Jewish Roots of Hospitality. We encourage you to explore hospitality to Jewish people. Gentiles who have hosted Israeli travelers during our darkest hours hold the highest places amoungst us bearing the title Righteous Gentiles. Will you bless the nation of Israel during some of our not so darkest hours by registering your interest in hosting Israeli travelers with

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