In the previous article we discussed the greatness of inviting guests. We
will now define exactly what this mitzva (commandment) entails:
When a person encounters someone who traveling and in need of food and/or
shelter, it is incumbent upon him to supply the traveler with his needs.
This mitzva also applies to people who are poor and do not have enough
food or sufficient shelter. Of course, it is a mitzva to host anyone,
however, the mitzva is greatest when the guests are more in need.
The main components of this mitzva are offering food and drink to the
person and accompanying him out of the house when he leaves and show him
the safest way to return to his place of lodging (this is known as leviya
in hebrew). This accompanying was more important in the past when it was
genuinely dangerous to go out alone in the night. Nowadays, when there is
normally good lighting on the streets and people normally know the way
home, it is not necessary to accompany them all the way home however one
should still accompany them until the exit or a few meters - this gives
the guest a sense of importance.
The host should strive to satisfy all the needs of his guest, including a
place to wash himself and to rest if necessary.
It is advisable if possible to have a spare room available which is set
aside for hosting guests.
Even a poor person should strive to host others if possible, however he
must put himself and his family first and foremost.
This mitzva is highly prevalent in Orthodox circles. Many communities
have organizations or individuals who take it upon themselves to ensure
that visitors have accommodation. People who become more observant are
pleasantly surprised by the extent of having guests in Observant
communities. It is very common that complete strangers will host numerous
people to their house, providing them with lavish meals and offering
accommodation. This is an excellent illustration of the Torah’s approach
to interpersonal relationships. The Torah sees the Jewish people as one
family, and therefore it is only natural that a Jew will gladly invite any
fellow family member to his home.