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Lift Your Eyes

12/11/2014 04:28:04 PM


There are few opportunities to engage in pure Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests into our home). What I mean by pure Hachnasat Orchim is opportunity to welcome into our home people we do not know and who were not invited in advance.

Of course, there is a tremendous amount of  hosting that we do in our communities, most of it planned in advance and we often host people we know.

One of the places where we can still exercise pure Hachnasat Orchim is in our synagogues. Our synagogues are often visited by newcomers, folks who know very few people in the congregation and sometimes do not know anyone at all. This is our chance!

Abraham serves as the paradigm for this type of activity as according to Rashi, Abraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent (Gen. 18:1) in order “to see whether there were any passersby whom he would bring into his house.”

The next verse, is the key to understanding how to accomplish Hachnasat Orchim. The Torah  continues: And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him…” (Gen. 18:2)

Simply by lifting his eyes, Abraham identified people in need.

We should do the same in our synagogues - lift our eyes - to see the newcomer, the person sitting alone, the individual struggling to find the correct page, the one who just seems a little uncomfortable.

Interestingly, the text indicates that the three men were actually standing right next to Abraham. He only realized it once he lifted his eyes.

Where did Avraham learn this behaviour from? The answer is found one verse earlier. “Now the Lord appeared to him (Abraham) in the plains of Mamre…”(Gen 18:1)

Abrahams ability to lift his eyes in verse two starts with God appearing to Abraham in verse one. God paid attention to Abraham and in turn, Abraham learned to pay attention to others.*

All we really have to do is lift our eyes and we will no doubt see unfamiliar faces. They are the faces of the three men who Abraham greeted. Sometimes, just like in the case of Abraham, they are sitting right next to us.

Perhaps we can change our patterns a bit and lift our eyes so we can recognize the newcomer , say hello to them, invite them to sit with us and spend some time introducing them to others at kiddush.

Let’s remember that our synagogues are ripe with opportunities to practice Hachnasat Orchim the way Abraham originally modelled the practice for us.

*This connection is made more powerfully when reading the hebrew text as the linguisticx connection between what God does and what Abraham does is obvious from the words used. Of God it says, “Vayeira” (and God appeared - made himself be seen) and of Abraham it says, “Vayar” (and saw).


Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780