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I love the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim

If I were to ever try and thank all those that have ever opened their homes to me, it would probably take years. It would take years to thank every random chabad shaliach, community rabbi, kollel guy, young couple, large family, single girls, etc…who has ever opened their hearts, homes, wallets and refrigerators to me, so I just try and continue the chain of giving. I love hooking people up with places to stay or eat for shabbos, whether it’s in my own home or friends of mine, it makes me feel good to get people, who may have eaten canned tuna fish in their hotel rooms after a conference to get a real shabbos experience.

Non-Jews don’t understand this thing called hachnasas orchim, my co-workers look at me in wonder when I regale to them the events of my past shabbos – “you stayed by someone you never met?” is the common response, I have never thought about it in that way.

Hachnasas orchim exists everywhere, some people are more public about, some folks more private. Despite the fast paced unfriendliness of New Yorkers, I am sure the Jews there are adept at hosting complete strangers in their homes because a friend called to ask that they do. It is one of those rare commandments that foster community, if not for the generous folks in the Bay Area I would have no community, who would I know – if every person I randomly called to invite myself to said “sorry I don’t know you”?

Think about it, odds are that in most communities outside of the large metropolitan areas you will probably get invited by someone you’ve never met – they will see you in shul and think “hmm he’s not from around here” and suddenly you find yourself at a grand or not so grand table of food, drink and company with a bunch of folks you’ve never met – I’m wondering if this happens at Church or Mosque? Are we Jews unique in our amazing hospitality to strangers – either way I love it!

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • OfftheDwannaB December 8, 2010, 11:53 PM

    Ok Heshy now we know you really do like Jews. Now make with the dirt.

    • Heshy Fried December 8, 2010, 11:55 PM

      Of course I love Jews, you either don’t read between the lines or haven’t been reading my stuff long enough to realize this.

      • OfftheDwannaB December 9, 2010, 12:24 AM

        I didn’t mean to offend you, I was trying to make fun of the fact that you put a Jew-positive article up right after the Lashon harah sh!tstorm hit the fan.

  • MC December 9, 2010, 12:04 AM

    Catholics don’t have the practice of inviting people over for the Sunday Dinner. It’s supposed to be family. Most people don’t do an official dinner anymore.

    There are usually over a hundred people at a service, 200 or 300 would not be unusual. New people don’t stand out.

    • MC December 9, 2010, 12:06 AM

      Yes, I think Jews are unique when it comes to hospitality for strangers.

      • Heshy Fried December 9, 2010, 12:08 AM

        I have been at shuls with 500 people and somehow they knew I was a visitor- we also have key judgment things like wandering around looking for a siddur, wearing a different colored yarmulke and other little cues for someone to know we have never been there.

  • Israeli December 9, 2010, 12:42 AM

    Hey Heshy,

    Next time you’re in Israel I would love to have you over for a Shabbos, have you ever spent Shabbos in one of the more charedi settlements here? Should be an interesting experience for you in any event and I am an avid follower of your blog.

  • A. Nuran December 9, 2010, 1:53 AM

    Hospitality is a religious duty for Jews and Muslims. I don’t know about Christians.

    • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 1:06 AM

      As I said elsewhere, in a large number of Bantu languages the word for “Stranger” is the word for “Guest”. Hospitality is assumed.

      In the Eddas the Wanderer makes it clear that hospitality must be given freely and generously.

      In the Kalevala only the most evil creatures are inhospitable.

      In Dante’s Inferno the four lowest and coldest circles of Hell are reserved for those who were treacherous to their kindred, their communities, their guests and their lords. Breaking the laws of guest and host is just two steps up from being gnawed on by Old Nick and worse than betraying your family.

      In Islam, as I said, hospitality is a sacred duty.

      It’s not just Judaism, let alone Ashkenazic Judaism. It’s more common than not traditionally.

      • OfftheDwannaB December 10, 2010, 3:45 AM

        Moral teachings are nice, and I’m sure everyone recognizes the value of hospitality. Action is different- and Jews do it best.

        • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 4:16 AM

          The point is that Jews don’t do it best. It’s very important to a lot of people and has been for a terribly long time. In traditional cultures it’s pretty much universal. And like so much else Jewish hospitality has two tiers – abundant, giving and warm for Jews, much more grudging and “only so they goys won’t cause us trouble” for everyone else.

          You will now split hairs about how everyone treats their own better than anyone else. I don’t know of many ethnicities which make such a stark contrast or have “We’re the Crown of Creation. The rest of you exist for our benefit” burned in on so many levels.

        • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 4:23 AM

          Let’s put it this way, if you are a guest in a village in the backbeyond in Botswana or Java or Nunavut or Morocco or Peru you’re a guest. Anyone from any of those places would understand what that means and how important it is. Guests are made welcome and comfortable, well fed, seen to and protected. End of discussion.

          So stop patting yourself on the back before you sprain your arm. We aren’t any better than others. And in this case we are worse than many because we make a sharp distinction between “our kind” of Jewish guests, other Jewish guests and Gentile guests.

          • OfftheDwannaB December 10, 2010, 4:43 AM

            “You will now split hairs about how everyone treats their own better than anyone else.”
            You know, being the most interesting man in the world doesn’t give you mind-reading abilities.
            You brought proofs from third-world societies and not modern societies for a reason- we’re the only tribe that exists in the modern world, and has done so for thousands of years. And we have all the benefits and detriments that go along with it. Hachnosas Orchim is one of the benefits- and to paraphrase our host here, “It rocks”.

            • Geoff December 10, 2010, 7:28 AM

              I think the takeaway is that this has been a universal human value since forever, and only due to relatively recent changes in economics and social organization has it become possible for people to travel and be quite comfortable without any form of hospitality beyond what you pay for. The Jewish community, as one of the most persistently traditional groups that manage to exist in modern societies, have retained this practice, in large part due to the “special needs” they have, while less traditional and more “frei” elements of modern societies have not done so.

              • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 3:35 PM

                And it’s still customary and practiced assiduously in many parts of the world. By non-Jews. To guests of all religions.

                Once again, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back too hard. We’re not the “light unto the nations” that our pride tells us we are.

  • Yid Vicious December 9, 2010, 3:40 AM

    Great post about a great topic, but I gotta call bullshit on one thing. There is now way that ” ‘you stayed by someone you never met?’ is the common response” among non-Jews. It is only a subsection of Ashkenazim who (mis-)use “by” that way in English. That comes straight from Yiddish, where “bai” can mean such things as “by” or “at” or “with” or “according to,” depending on the context.

    • Yid Vicious December 9, 2010, 3:40 AM


    • Yochanan December 9, 2010, 12:31 PM

      In non-Jewish English, “to stay by someone” sounds like they were sick and bedridden and you were keeping a vigil.

    • Daniel December 9, 2010, 2:48 PM

      I don’t think you are correct. In English, you can use “by” in a preposition to mean “at”.
      ex. stop by the bakery.

      • Geoff December 9, 2010, 2:57 PM

        Ooh, grammar wars! Awesome!

        I think the distinction here is that “stop by,” as well as “swing by the store on the way home,” “why don’t you come by,” “drop on by when you’re around,” etc. all involve motion. Standard English usage does NOT use “by” when there is no motion, as in “stay by someone for Shabbos.” However, as a previous commenter noted, one could say that “I will stay by your side,” and I think this is because the word “by” is being used specifically to indicate the absence of motion. When you “stay by” someone for Shabbos, though, you are indicating the location only, and not the nature of a motion.

        • Heshy Fried December 9, 2010, 9:32 PM

          I don;t even know how to use the frummy form of “by” but whenever someone non-Jewish or Jewish asks me where I stayed they say “who did you stay by” not “who did you stay at” that sounds a bit wiggerish to me.

          • Yid Vicious December 10, 2010, 3:59 AM

            Heshy, that’s hilarious! The frummy form of “by” is the one that YOU use. Listen more carefully the next time a non-(frum-)Jew asks you where you were for Shabbos. There is not even the most remote possibility that such a person would say “who did you stay by?” “Where/with whom/at whose house did you spend the weekend?” is the way the question will be phrased. “By” as in “stay by” (other than in the “vigil” exception that Yochanan points out) is 100% pure Yiddish-English. Ever hear a non-Ashkenazi ask, “How’s by you?” Of course not.

          • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 4:30 AM

            “Where did you stay by?” and “Where did you stop by? are definitely not common English usage. “Where did you stay at?” and “Where did you stop at?” aren’t either.

            “I stayed by” isn’t either unless it’s something like “I stayed by the door in case the after dinner speaker was boring”, not “I stayed by the Rubensteins’.”

            “I stayed at”, “I stopped at”, “I dropped in at”, “I stopped by at” and “I stopped by” are.

            English is strange. As Heinlein said it’s the result of French soldiers trying to get dates with Saxon barmaids and no more legitimate than any of the other results.

    • Mike December 10, 2010, 12:13 PM

      Yid you got to take the cake for the must anal commenter on this blog 🙂 Who gives a rats … if it is “by” or “at” and if is ashkenazic sephardic or whatever.

  • Frumsatire Fan December 9, 2010, 10:41 AM

    Someone told me there’s a website for hooking up with Shabbat hosts/guests almost anywhere in the world. Anyone knows what it’s called?

    In my experience, Christians spend part of the service agonizing over having to shake hands with strangers – and the thought of asking random people in church to lunch is totally not on their radars.

    • Gordon Davidescu December 9, 2010, 11:27 AM


  • Geoff December 9, 2010, 11:05 AM

    The unique religious requirements of O Jews in particular plays a lot into this. Christians, secular people, etc. don’t spend shabbos sitting in a hotel room eating tuna fish from a can–they go out to restaurants. They may appreciate guidance as to which are the best restaurants, but they don’t need special info to find the one kosher restaurant in town in order to have a hot meal. They don’t worry about finding a place to stay within walking distance of shul–if they go to church, they can drive.

    It’s a mitzvah to host guests, but the negative mitzvos make it so that Jews really NEED hospitality more than other people. And I agree, it’s pretty cool, at least when it works out.

  • Post FFB December 9, 2010, 11:29 AM

    I think there should be a Jewish (None labeled) couchsurfing.org-esque website for people to celebrate hacknasat orhim

    • Yochanan December 9, 2010, 12:35 PM

      Shabbat.com, if I recall correctly, was inspired by couchsurfing.

    • Heshy Fried December 9, 2010, 9:33 PM

      It’s called chabad or facebook

  • MonseyMan December 9, 2010, 4:28 PM

    In my younger and single days (many moons ago) I davened at the Young Israel of Brookline (Boston). It was full of college students. There was a fellow, who every Friday night went around and asked “Do you need a place to eat tonight?”. He had a list of families who would set one or more extra places every week in anticipation. As a New Yorker, this was eye opening and made a real impression on me. These people really know how to do Hachnosas Orachim and I was the recipient of their kindness.

  • Ripley December 9, 2010, 11:17 PM

    You are more fortunate than most. The fact is that the host benefits as much as the guest.

  • A. Nuran December 10, 2010, 12:51 AM

    Now that I think about it, where my wife grew up the word for “Stranger” in all the local languages was the word for “Guest”. It’s not just Jews or Muslims. It’s a traditional culture thing which we have lost in recent generations.

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