First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayera-sacred-guests/
Baal Haturim Genesis: Vayera
A guest never forgets the host who had treated him kindly. -Homer
In some ancient cultures, guests held a sacred and honored role. Once a person entered the tent or home of a host, they were under the host’s protection and cared for in every way.
We see this quite dramatically with Abraham’s wayward nephew, Lot. Lot, apparently attracted to the avarice of the Sodomites, settles his family next to the infamous city. However, he learned at least one thing from Abraham: Hospitality.
When the two disguised angels arrive in Sodom, Lot rushes to greet them and basically forces them to come as guests to his house.
The Baal Haturim on Genesis 18:5 explains that Lot was actually pained when he did not have guests and that the opportunity to host someone gave him great joy.
We see afterwards that Lot takes his hosting responsibility to such an extreme that he is willing to allow his own daughters to be harmed by a mob rather than permit anyone to touch his guests.
I don’t know if we need go to such lengths to make our guests feel comfortable, but there is something special in the bond that is created when people break bread together.
May we have occasion to enjoy both hosting and being hosted by members of our communities.
To Adrian Weiszman for spearheading the initiative of organized regular Shabbat meal hosting in our community. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org