Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Re-thinking Hachnassat Orchim

my Rosh Hashanah table (before the food!)
In the hour before the beginning of all Jewish holidays, many friends post photos of their holiday table.   My Instagram and Facebook feeds could form a Jewish Beautiful Homes magazine.  Festive tablecloth, many places at the table, appetizing food.  (To be fair, some of the Jewish Martha Stewart-types on my friends list start posting two days before the holiday.) Same thing happens right before Shabbat.

What could be wrong? What’s missing?

Hachnassat Orchim הכנסת אורחים, as it sometimes turns out.  Not the Jewish hospitality that has us invite our family and closest friends.  No, what’s sometimes missing is the hachnassat orchim that includes the people with no close friends or families who are hosting a meal and who may not be in a position to host.

As we think of our next holiday, we may want to stretch our idea of the ideal holiday guest.  Rather than simply inviting the people we invited last year, here are some people we may want to consider inviting to our table:

  • The family where one or both parents are unemployed.
  • Singles.  Especially singles who don’t have family in the area.
  • People who travel, and who may have arrived home with no time to prepare for the holiday.
  • Single parents whose children are with their other parent.
  • Empty nesters.
  • The family whose child is in rehab.
  • The family with an elderly parent in the hospital.
  • Converts and people in the conversion process, especially if they don’t yet have Jewish family.
  • Older synagogue members who live in nursing homes.
  • New parents who have forgotten what day it is, what holiday it is, and where the grocery store is.
  • Homeless families who don't need to be figuring out how to manage a holiday meal in a motel room.
  • People who’ve hinted before that they need a place to go.  Chances are that it wasn’t a one-time need.
  • Anyone else who’s falling through the cracks and spending Shabbat and holiday meals alone when they’d rather be invited to your house.

These same people will thank us, and may be in a position to look at our facebook pix without sadness.

May your next holidays be even more fulfilling.