Archive for November, 2011
According to tradition, it was Abraham Aveinu, Our Father Abraham, who started the mitzvah of Welcoming Guests/Hachnasat Orchim when he arose from the spot where he was resting following his circumcision and greeted Adonai and two angels offering to “fetch a morsel of bread” that they might refresh themselves (Genesis 18: 1-5). With that simple statement, he sets in motion the production of a feast that any Jewish mother would be proud of. He orders Sarah to prepare a mountain of bread and cakes, while he slaughters a choice calf and prepares curds and milk – in other words, he makes enough food for an army. Digging deeper, however, a lovely piece of midrash reveals:
“All the days in which Sarah lived, the doors of the entrance [to her tent] were open to the wind (ruah)…. And all the days in which Sarah lived, there was a blessing sent through the dough [with which she baked]…. All the days in which Sarah lived, there was a light burning from one Shabbat evening to the next Shabbat evening….” (Genesis Rabbah 80:16 on Genesis 24:67).
So it seems that Adonai and the angels may not have been the first visitors to the tent of Abraham and Sarah, certainly they were not the last. The midrash continues that when Isaac took Rebekkah as his wife, these same mystical rituals continued.
Welcoming Guests/Hachnasat Orchim is a wonderful mitzvah that allows us to meet new people and share our traditions with others. This time of year, with Hanukkah beginning on the evening of December 20, provides a perfect opportunity to practice this mitzvah with family, friends and neighbors.
The following books are wonderful examples of this delightful mitzvah:
Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives. Written by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Arthur Howard, ©2004. Harcourt, Inc. Ages 3-6. In five short, simple chapters, Bubbaville becomes abuzz with the imminent arrival of the relatives. The house must be rearranged. All the best dishes must be cooked. There is no escape, even when Bubba and Beau try to hide in their favorite mud hole. What are a baby and her buddy dog supposed to do?
The Snow Blew Inn. Written by Dian Curtis Regan. Illustrated by Doug Cushman, ©2011. Holiday House. Ages 3-6. Emma has made plans to have a sleep over with her cousin, Abby. But a snow storm arrives before Abby, bringing with it stranded travelers who need a place to stay for the night. Every space in the tiny inn is taken – even Emma’s bedroom! Will there be room for Abby and her mother if they arrive?
The Paper Crane. Written and Illustrated By Molly Bang, ©1985. William Morrow & Company. Ages 5-8. A hectic, award winning restaurant sat on a busy road, until one day a new highway was built that bypassed the restaurant. No one came anymore, and the restaurant was empty most of the time. One day an old man stopped in for food. The restaurant owner, delighted to see a customer at last, fed him generously, even though the stranger had no money. In payment, the old man folded a paper napkin into the shape of a crane. With this simple gift, the restaurant’s future changed.
A Song for Lena. Written by Hilary Horder Hippely. Illustrated by Leslie Baker, ©1996. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-8. Lena’s Grandma makes delicious apple strudel. While she makes it, she hums a beautiful song to remind her of her childhood. As Lena helps her make the strudel, Grandma tells her the story of a traveler, of hospitality and of a special unexpected gift.
The Stranger. Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Houghton Mifflin Company, © 1986 Ages 7-10. In late summer, early fall, Farmer Bailey accidently hits a man with his truck. The man is unable to speak and does not know who he is. He stays with the family for a few weeks until he suddenly remembers who he is.
Skellig. By David Almond. Laurel Leaf Books, © 1998. Ages 9-12. When Michael moves into a new house in a new neighborhood he hopes that life for him and his family will change for the better, his ailing baby sister will get well and he will do better in school. Nothing like that happens, until he finds a strange person/creature/thing in his dilapidated garage.
The Arrival. Written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine Books, © 2006. Ages 11-15. In this graphic novel, a man must leave his wife and young daughter to emigrate to a new country, find a job and start a new life before sending for them..
I try to keep the “walls of my tent” open as much as possible. Whether serving my family of four or a house full of guests, I take joy in each moment. Each individual has a story to tell, an experience to share and all together my life has been made richer by each encounter. As you read these books, discuss them with your children using the “Speak Volumes” guide, the questions and activities will provide you with many opportunities to welcome guests during this special holiday-filled month.
©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
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I am honored and thrilled to have been invited by Sarah Aronson, author of Beyond Lucky, to moderate a panel of Jewish writers on November 17 at the Wellesley Free Library. We will be joined by Liz Suneby, author of The Mitzvah Project, Jane Kohuth, author of Estie the Mensch, and Susan Meyer, author of Black Radishes, for a program entitled “Not Just for Sunday School: Jewish Books for Kids.” This exciting event is sponsored by Wellesley Books, my local Independent Book Store in support of National Jewish Book Month which runs from November 21- December 21, 2011.
©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.