Three days after performing brit mila on himself, Avraham is visited by
Make Yourself at Home!
"And behold! Three men were standing over him!” (18:2)
There are some people who look like they are giving but they’re really taking. And there are some people who look like they are taking when they’re really giving.
Anyone who buys a $5,000-a-plate charity dinner is giving a lot of charity, but he’s also getting a lot of status mixed in with his sushi.
On the other hand, there are people who look like they’re takers but they are really giving.
Once there was a Jewish traveling salesman who found himself in a largely non-Jewish town on a Friday afternoon. His business had delayed him way beyond his expectations, and there was now no way he could get home for Shabbat. He had heard that there was just one Orthodox family in town where he could spend Shabbat, and as the sun was starting to set he made his way there.
The owner of the house opened the door to him and showed him into the living room. "May I stay here for Shabbat?" asked the traveling salesman. "If you like," replied the host. "The price is $200." "$200!" exclaimed the traveling salesman. "That’s more than a first-class hotel!" "Suit yourself," replied the host.
Realizing that he had no option, the salesman reluctantly agreed. In the short time left before Shabbat the host showed the salesman his room, the kitchen and the other facilities for his Shabbat stay.
As soon as the host left the room the salesman sat down and thought to himself: "Well, if this is going to cost me $200, I’m going to get my money’s worth." During the entire Shabbat he availed himself unstintingly of the house’s considerable facilities. He helped himself to the delicious food in the fridge. He had a long luxurious shower both before and after Shabbat. He really made himself “at home”.
After Shabbat, when he had showered and packed, he made his way downstairs and plunked two crisp $100 bills down on the table in front of his host.
"What’s this?" inquired the host. "That’s the money I owe you," replied the salesman. "You don’t owe me anything. Do you really think I would take money from a fellow Jew for the miztvah of hospitality?" "But you told me that Shabbat here costs $200!"
"I only told you that to be sure that you would make yourself at home."
When a guest comes to your home, his natural feeling is one of embarrassment. No one likes being a taker. When a guest brings a present the worst thing you can say is "You shouldn’t have done that!" Rather, take the bottle of wine (or whatever it is), open it up and put it in the middle of the table and say, "Thank you so much!" By allowing him to contribute to the meal you will mitigate his feeling of being a taker and you will have done the mitzvah of hospitality to a higher degree.
The mitzvah of hospitality is greater than receiving the Divine Presence. We learn this from the beginning of this week’s Torah portion.
Hospitality is greater than receiving the Divine Presence.
- Sources: Rashi, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler and others