Friday, May 2, 2008

KEDOSHIM; HOLY HOSPITALITY

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

There's a Torah for being a host. We are taught how, like Avraham Avinu, we are supposed to serve our guests. And to serve them our choicest foods. In fact, we are to literally run to do this mitzvah of hachnasat orchim - hospitality. Our own beds if they are the most comfortable, should be offered to our guests for their lodging. We're not supposed to watch them eat lest they come to think that their host is actually counting how many portions they are taking.

We are instructed to ask our children to be careful not to say anything about the food or the sacrifices which were made to feed our guests lest the guests suspect that the hosts may have gone hungry for their sakes, and thus make them feel uncomfortable. We are to escort our guests at the end of their stay a minimum of four cubits when they leave our homes so as to give them honor and to show appreciation for their visiting our humble home.

But what about the Torah of being a guest? It seems that almost anyinconvenience for the sake of our guests should be endured for the sake of fulfilling the important mitzvah of hospitality. Is there a limit? The answer can be found in our parsha this week- Kedoshim.

In Lev 19:5-8, we learn of the particulars of the "peace offering," the zevach shelamim. As a good guest, we don't visit G*d's house empty handed.

Vs. 6 reads: b'yom zivchachem ye'achel u'mimacharat...

"you should eat it on the day of the sacrifice or the morrow..(and the leftovers should be burned in fire)."

And vs. 7: V'im he'achol ye'achol bayom hashlishi pigul hu lo yeratzeh...

"and if one (was planning) to eat it on the third day (he should know) it is considered putrid (pigul) and it is not acceptable."

Now, hospitality is not accidentally linked to "peace" or to peace offerings (shelamim). It was through hospitality that Avraham's peace of mind was assured through being granted knowledge of the future birth of a son and continuity of his lineage. All talk of a covenant was meaningless without certain knowledge of future heirs. The abstract was made real. After nearly a century, he and his wife, Sarah Imenu, were finally to have a child. Peace of mind is perhaps the best peace of all.

Now back to the "peace offering" of our parsha. Just as the meat of the zevach shelamim would become rancid in the heat by the third day and be considered pigul, or "putrid," so too the peace and completeness of our friendships may also begin to unravel by the third day. Since the Temple's destruction, our homes have become mikdashei me'at (minisanctuaries), and our tables have become altars. The Torah we share with our guests is our new offering, our truest offering.

The Torah is teaching us to be holy like G*d (kedoshim tihiyu ki kadosh ani). But just as the text says that up to three days is the maximum to keep the (original) "sacrifices for peace," so too there are limits to how much we may sacrifice for a friendship and for the great mitzvah of hospitality. True chesed empowers both the giver and the receiver.

Chesed, kindness - the insignia of Avraham, is the hallmark of our faith. To be truly holy is not measured solely by how we relate to G*d, but just as importantly, by how we relate to our fellow man. That is why Avraham and Sarah's hospitality is so stressed in the Torah. It is our blueprint for true holiness. And this holiness is a two way street. The host must love and honor his guest, and the guest must honor and love his host. Thus do we love and honor G*d.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!