When the doorbell rang as a child, my siblings and I would race to be the first one to ask, “Who is it?” Today, the doorbell is extinct.
I can be 2,000 miles away, hear the Ring app on my phone, have a full conversation with the guest outside the door, and never welcome the person into my home.
If only we could go back to the days of Abraham as he stood at the door of his tent, welcoming strangers into his home. Abraham, while having to believe that these strangers were from the nomadic tribes in the surrounding neighborhood, treated his guests with full respect.
Rabbi Pinchas Peli tells the story of a great rabbi, poor and unknown, who would travel to a city where the only person who would offer him a place to stay was a poor Jew in a poor section of town.
As he became well known, on his return visits, the Rabbi would be welcomed into the homes of the heads of the community. The Rabbi would send his horses to the wealthy homes, but he would always go stay in the poor home that invited him first. His hosts would ask, “Rabbi, why don’t you stay at my house?” And the Rabbi would answer, “When I used to come before, you did not invite me to your homes. Now that I have horses and a carriage, it is not me but my horses you honor. They should go to your home and be the guests of honor.”
The Talmud teaches, “Being hospitable to a guest is more important than receiving the shechina, God’s presence.” Rabbi Peli relates that God can be put on hold, but the stranger, who may be hungry or thirsty, cannot. As we learn from Abraham this Shabbat, we must regain the gift of hospitality. The higher we build our fences and gates, the more human touch, relationship building, and knowing of the other we need to overcome the lack of closeness. Just weeks ago, God told us we are btzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Now, may we acknowledge that image and reflect the other within ourselves.