Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 22nd Av, 5769
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21 Av, 5769 / August 11, 2009
Day 139 – With a Smile
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – Part III Chapter II
One person provides an open door to his home, fine food and drink on his table and a soft bed to sleep in, constituting the perfect fulfillment of the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim. Another person offers all the same amenities — the same quality food, drink and bed — and the result is an assault on the guest’s spirit, a terrible transgression of the prohibition against embarrassing a fellow Jew. The only difference between the two scenarios is the expression on the host’s face.
Whatever a person’s private thoughts, whatever his financial or emotional state, his duty as a host is to smile. That is because the guest will automatically feel embarrassed if he detects unhappiness in his host’s demeanor. He will automatically assume that it is his presence that is causing — or at least exacerbating — the problem, even if the host explicitly tells him otherwise. Smiling through distress is a heroic act, a deed of self-sacrifice and self-control that elevates the emotional well-being of others above one’s own need to indulge in one’s worries. The person who takes it upon himself to make others feel good, even while he himself is suffering, earns great blessing. Conversely, the person who makes a guest worry and suffer, demonstrating through his expression that the visit is an imposition, thoroughly depletes the merit of his hospitality.
Ordinarily, the Jewish philosophy is to avoid flaunting one’s wealth. When a person brings a guest into his home, however, he is justified in projecting an image of affluence if in doing so, the host assures the guest that he is not usurping food or other assets that are in short supply. A host must never allow his guest to feel uncomfortable about indulging in whatever is being offered. He should not stare at the guest as he eats, and should certainly not complain that there is not enough food to go around. Making the food appear plentiful — even if it is not — is part of the mitzvah. “Break up your bread for the hungry,” says Yeshayah 48:10. The Zohar (Vayakhel) explains that this verse instructs the host to break the bread into large slices, so that the guest will feel comfortable taking an ample portion. Were he to slice it himself, he might feel constrained from taking as much as he desires.
Expressing interest in the guest as a person is also an essential to making him comfortable. Often the best policy is to sit with the guest and eat, so that a conversation can flow more easily and the guest is not too busy answering questions to partake of his meal.
For the overnight guest, the host must provide the best accommodations he has to offer. Putting someone in an uncomfortable bed or a noisy, cold or overheated room will certainly destroy his night’s sleep, and may make him feel like an unwelcome burden on the household as well. The guest who wakes up rested is one who leaves feeling physically and emotionally strengthened by his stay in his host’s home
Step by Step
I will pay attention to my facial expression when I serve my guests and try to overcome any fatigue or irritation I might be feeling.
Taken from “Chofetz Chaim: Loving Kindness – Daily Lessons in the Power of Giving,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation
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