“In the house of a wise man none is ever slow to perform the duties of hospitality.” ~~ Philo
At Friday Night Services, we recite the prayer “V’Shamru… Et ha Shabbat.” Before we actually sing, I remind everybody that having the Shabbat you want full of significant others, family and friends, you must plan ahead. Shabbat cannot be done last minute. The cliché is, “Lack of Planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” So, too, the High Holidays. Personally, we should start asking others for forgiveness as soon as we realize we have hurt their feelings. Amongst our Sephardic brethren, they have already started their Selichot (Pardon me, G-d) services. Our Selichot Service will be Saturday night September 16.
In 3 weeks, we will celebrate Rosh HaShanah, where many of us will begin formally to ask G-d and each other for forgiveness for our sins. Many of us will begin to prepare for guests to come to us after services and to celebrate and hope for a “Good Year” (the meaning of Shana Tova).
But how many of us have prepared for that Good Year? There is not enough time for us to have the goodness we deserve by waiting for the last minute. Inviting someone to our home takes forethought. We believe it, but few of us do it.
More than merely inviting people into our homes, how many of us create lasting friendships that prepare for others to feel at home in our residences?
When I am looking for examples that help me with my thoughts I often look at the Hebrew language. It is called G-d’s language for a reason and I often see goodness, originality, godliness, in its letters and words.
The Hebrew word for house is Bayyit : Bet, Yod and Tav. Each of these letters has an overhang. In fact, Tav, is like an upside down English U meaning it totally covers you. The meaning then is that a house in all its parts should shelter you. That is why when the ceiling leaks we feel so bad. That, and the expense, even with Insurance.
The Hebrew word for home is Bayyitah, there is an additional letter, a hay. It, too, has an overhang, but it has a vertical part that only goes up halfway, to me, signifying an openness to the outside world.
A house shelters you, a home shelters you but at the same time is open to the outside world.
A further way of looking at the difference between a house and a home is that a home is a house with G-d in it. The letter hay is short for HaShem (the name) which refers to G-d. How does G-d add to a house? We already have protection, so what else is there? After we acknowledge the oneness of G-d, we are told to love G-d. Therefore, a home is a place that gives one shelter but is opens the door to shelter others with love.
We need to go from the personally focused, pardoning, to the external, inviting. If we make people feel welcome in our homes, then we have gone beyond the ‘forgive me for any hurts I have given you’ to the ‘let us share our lives together and together we will make sure that neither of us is hurt.’
This year we are home for High Holidays, let us open ourselves to others and enable them to find shelter, protection, and love with us in our personal homes and, of course, in our Temple Beth Emet home.
B’ahava v’Shana Tova,