Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 27th Av, 5769
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24 Av, 5769 / August 14, 2009
Day 143 – Eternal Wages
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED — Part III Chapter II
The wages one earns by helping a guest are inestimable, as is illustrated in an episode from the Book of Judges. During the time in history that is recorded there, the Jews were in the process of conquering the Canaanite cities in the land of Israel. A group of Jewish spies waited outside one such city until a Canaanite man emerged from the gate. They asked the man for directions: How could they enter the city, and where could they hide? They promised that neither he nor his family would be harmed when the Jews came to conquer. The man saw their vulnerability in their current situation, and gave them the information they needed. He and his family were protected in the bloody conquest that ensued, and the man then went on to found a city, which he named Luz.
Luz is a city synonymous with the concept of eternity. The Angel of Death had no dominion there; people who reached an age at which they were satiated with life on earth had to leave the city limits to embark on their journey to the Next World. Earthly conquerors had no power in Luz either — neither Sennacherib nor Nebuchadnezzer were able to destroy the city. The Chofetz Chaim points to this story as the Torah’s illustration of the everlasting rewards that can result from just one instance of helping a traveler in need. There are many ways of providing this help — directions, shelter, food, use of a cell phone, assistance with a flat tire or a dead battery — and all have the potential to bring immeasurable reward, for they remove the traveler from his vulnerable position and prevent any harm that might have come to him.
The Chofetz Chaim introduces another concept in the realm of receiving guests — including a guest room in the construction of one’s house. The person who includes in his blueprint for construction a place for the car, a place for the toys, a place for the computer and so forth may well have the resources to include a place for guests as well. Such a room, which offers guests an added degree of comfort and privacy, can become the wellspring of great blessing for the entire household. One should remember to preserve this blessing by sending the guest off in the right way — well prepared and safely escorted. As the story of Jonathan and David (see Day 132) illustrated, the entire mitzvah can be turned toward tragedy by failing to provide food for the road.
In one final instruction on hachnasas orchim, the Chofetz Chaim reiterates that this mitzvah is a communal responsibility. Any upstanding Jewish community should be sure that it has an organized method of taking care of guests who enter its precincts. There should be an official group of designated people whose task is hachnasas orchim. “Those that strengthen themselves in this mitzvah,” says the Chofetz Chaim, “how happy is their lot.”
Step by Step
If my synagogue or community does not have an official hospitality committee, I will try to initiate the organization of one.
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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