“[Abraham] was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said, “My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on—seeing that you have come your servant’s way” (Genesis 18 1-5).
If you continue reading the passage, you’ll find that Abraham does not simply provide a “morsel of bread,” but rather enough food to feed the fire department, as my family would say! With that meal, Abraham establishes the mitzvah of Welcoming Guests/Hachnasat Orchim.
With plenty of holiday entertaining plans coming up this month, it’s a great opportunity to introduce this Jewish value to your children and show them how you’d like guests to be treated in your home. I, for one, have a desire to make sure guests have whatever they need when they visit my family; whether it’s a single friend in town for an overnight visit, Thanksgiving dinner with my family or a Chanukah party for more than a hundred friends, I go out of my way to welcome guests and strangers into my home and make sure they feel comfortable and enjoy a good meal.
The following books provide wonderful examples of graciously welcoming guests. You could read them with your children and discuss the lesson from Abraham as you prepare for your holiday visits.
“Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives” by Kathi Appelt. Ages 3-6. In five short, simple chapters, Bubbaville becomes abuzz with the imminent arrival of the relatives. The house must be rearranged. All the best dishes must be cooked. There’s no escape, even when Bubba and Beau try to hide in their favorite mud hole. What is a baby and her buddy dog supposed to do?
- How do we prepare for guests at our house?
- How do we welcome our guests?
- What’s your favorite family meal?
- Can you remember a time when you were very young and the relatives came? What happened when they passed you around, hugging and kissing you?
“The Snow Blew Inn” by Dian Curtis Regan. Ages 3-6. Emma has made plans to have a sleepover with her cousin, Abby. But a snowstorm arrives before Abby, bringing with it stranded travelers who need a place to stay for the night. Every space in the tiny inn is taken—even Emma’s bedroom! Will there be room for Abby and her mother if they arrive?
- How might you make family or friends feel welcome when they stay at our home?
- Why do you think Mama was proud of Emma after the Fox family arrives?
- What kinds of things have you done to welcome guests to a sleepover at our house?
- How might you help friends or family stranded during a storm?