Why aren’t you going to sleep?

Friday, 30 October, 2015 - 6:26 am


“The guests last night stayed on and on… It took so long for them to leave!” I hear this sentence a lot, from a great many people; sometimes from myself as well…

I always answer by saying that when guests don’t seem interested in leaving, one should say to them: “My dear guests, I’m not going to sleep because I have guests. But, for G-d’s sake, why aren’t you going to sleep?”

Our first forefather gave us a special legacy in this week’s Parasha: the special mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim – being hospitable. This is a very nice mitzvah. It’s fun to entertain guests; it’s pleasant to be there for someone who needs you, and only you. We sing and are happy, until we are left alone at 11:00 pm with the dirty dishes and the dish-soap…

The Rebbe explains that Avraham Avinu’s Hachnasat Orchim was above logic. The Gemara in Tractate Sotah says that besides having a tent that was open to all, offering sleeping arrangements and good, healthy food, Avraham Avinu planted a grove of fruit trees in the desert, so that his guests could enjoy sweet, fresh fruit. The Midrash adds that he even provided a magistrate, to help people work out whatever disagreements they had.

The average person’s common sense, even if he is a good person, says that one should tend to guests and give them food and drink if possible, and maybe even a place to sleep. But to make sure they have extras and legal help? Why? What’s the connection between that and Hachnasat Orchim?

All of Avraham Avinu’s conduct was above nature. He was “Ivri”, because he was always on the other side – the other “Ever” of the river. He was not willing to bow to social conventions. He was Avraham Ha’Ivri, because he always did more – in everything – than the world thought necessary.

In a talk to public activists and Yeshiva principals in Cheshvan, 5719 (1958), the Rebbe explained that Avraham Avinu’s above-logic behavior regarding Hachnasat Orchim had a great influence on his son Yitzchak. Children see everything, as we know, and he saw his father giving guests more than was necessary or even sensible. Yizchak understood that the Jew’s service of his Creator is not dependent on one’s intellect or on social conventions; it is dependent on the soul’s connection with Hashem.

The behavior of Yitzchak’s father influenced Yitzchak so much, that when he was requested to come and be slaughtered for the sake of Hashem, he simply went happily, even though he was an adult, 37 years old. He was simply used to the fact that in his home, the home of “Avinu”, one did things that were not necessarily normal.

The message to parents wherever they are, said the Rebbe, is that when parents entertain guests and do it happily (even when faced with the dishes at 11:00 pm), it instills in the children the idea of “Ivri” behavior – doing more than necessary, more than is commonly done.


I think it is worthwhile to try to emulate this kind of behavior.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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