Rosh Hoshanah begins this Wednesday evening. It is the beginning of our High Holiday Days and a time of thoughtful introspection. We pray and eat and during this holiday like Shabbat and other holidays, Jewish people observe the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim or showing hospitality to a stranger. It falls under the category of mitzvahs called “gemilut hasadim” or acts of loving kindness. There were even some Jewish sages that said that welcoming a stranger to our homes holds a higher level of holiness than welcoming the Divine Presence. Wow, now that presents us with a pretty good mitzvah opportunity, doesn’t it?
When I was in college I was the happy beneficiary of this mitzvah on numerous occasions. I attended college across the country from my family so going home for holidays was rather difficult. Often a friend’s family would invite me to join them to celebrate the holidays. It was wonderful celebrating holidays with other families and also an opportunity to discover new customs and family recipes as well.
This mitzvah of welcoming and showing hospitality to a stranger can start anywhere, it can pertain to showing hospitality to a newcomer at a religious service, a meeting or inviting them to your home to help celebrate a holiday meal.
If you have space this week at your holiday table perhaps there is a stranger in your midst that might like to join you. And if it doesn’t work out for this week’s holiday there are several more coming up in the next few weeks and months.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and sweet New Year.