Covid Made Me Appreciate Hosting Guests.
Suddenly the very thing we took for granted (and sometimes complained about) was taken away from us.
Our forefather Abraham is sitting in the doorway of his tent recovering from being circumcised at age 99. God makes the day very hot to discourage travelers. He knows that if guests come anywhere near Abraham, he'll jump up to serve them, ignoring his own needs. In order to spare him, the Almighty sets the stage for a quiet convalescence.
But things didn't quite work out that way. It seems that Abraham was in greater pain when he wasn’t able to give, when he wasn’t able to do the mitzvah of entertaining guests. So God reversed His strategy and instead sent three hungry nomads who suddenly appear in the distance. And Abraham greets them and serves them a feast.
Reading that story, I think many of us are left wondering: Wasn’t it nice to take a break from hosting? As much as we enjoy it, we don’t mind a Shabbat off now and then or to be invited out. Was it really so painful not to have guests?
I think that our Covid experience helped us to have greater empathy for Abraham. All of the sudden, we couldn’t have any guests. Not just for days. Not just for weeks. Not even just for months… Suddenly the very thing we took for granted (and sometimes complained about) was taken away from us. And, being the kind of stereotypical human beings that we all are, now we missed it. Now we wanted it back. Now we would make the most gourmet meal if only someone would join us.
My husband and I were very lucky during most of the pandemic to have family with us and not to be in that lonely predicament of so many others. We are very grateful for that. And I kept reminding myself of that fact when my (fully vaccinated) husband got Covid recently and all our Shabbat guests (who happen to be some of our very own children and grandchildren) cancelled.
#While I am definitely not comparing myself to Abraham, I now see how difficult just one Shabbat without guests is for me.
I don’t blame them for not coming; it was the prudent choice. But I wanted guests. While I am definitely not comparing myself to Abraham, especially since there are times when I need a break and I probably would have welcomed that hot sun with the empty desert in front of me, I see how difficult just one Shabbat without guests is for me. For me Shabbat is inextricably intertwined with hosting others. It’s part of the very definition of the day.
But the Almighty had other plans and other lessons to teach. Perhaps I now appreciate the opportunity to host even more. Perhaps I have greater empathy for all those who had to endure such long and enforced separation during corona. Perhaps I understand slightly better the character of our forefather Abraham.
I am more appreciative for the company I did have during the most intense part of the pandemic and I learned from the experience of others how much alone we can endure if we need to and how much I don’t want to! Even if I sometimes get tired, I say, “Bring it on!” Let me do that mitzvah of inviting and hosting guests.