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Holy Coffee Camaraderie

Friday, 6 November, 2020 - 3:04 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Earlier this week a simple encounter helped me comprehend a deep truth.

Here is the teaching from the Talmud that I am referring to.

‘Hosting guests is greater than receiving the Divine presence’.

This is the ordinary commonplace encounter that got me thinking.

I walked into the synagogue for morning services and saw that EM had already arrived and was sipping a coffee in the Synagogue waiting for the prayers to begin.

AM walked in and greeted EM with a jovial good morning. AM called out to EM ‘if were here early why didn’t you stop by my home for coffee?’.

I wanted to understand the context of the question. Why would he expect EM to join him for coffee, so I interjected and asked AM, ‘do you regularly host people for coffee in the morning before prayers’?

AM told me that indeed every morning he has other fellow Jewish guests who comes by to drink coffee and have a chat. (Most of them, including the host, come to the Synagogue to pray the morning prayers. One of them almost never join the prayers but after drinking coffee heads off to his nearby place of employment).

I was exhilarated when I heard about this routine.

This is fantastic. Not just do we have prayers in the morning which is an encounter with the Divine, we also have hospitality and camaraderie between the community members which the Torah teaches us is even greater.

I was especially inspired by the timing of this encounter. It was Divine Providence that I overheard this conversation this week out of all weeks.

Amazingly, the above-mentioned teaching about the greatness of hospitality even when compared to a Divine Encounter is from this week’s Parsha.

Avraham was visited by G-d and noticed three strangers in the distances. He excused himself from his meeting with G-d and ran to welcome the guests and give them hospitality.

From this our sages derived that ‘hospitality of guests is greater even than communion with G-d’.

Tzedakah is always good. Especially before praying. King David said in Psalms, ‘I come to see G-d with tzedakah’ which teaches us the great power of giving tzedakah before praying. Click here for more on this.

Based on this Talmudic passage, I told AM that his prayers after hosting guests for coffee must be very powerful. The Torah emphasizes the great importance and holiness of the mitzvah of hospitality. Turning to G-d in prayer after doing hospitality is powerful.

Hospitality is different than ‘standard’ tzedakah. Giving someone coffee if he can afford to buy his own, is not ‘tzedakah’ in the sense of helping someone destitute. Yet, hosting someone for coffee is certainly an act of benevolent kindness that is G-dly.

Hospitality is a form of kindness that is very deep. Bringing someone into the safe space of your own home is a great gift to the guest. Giving a monetary gift is important if someone is in need. But giving the warmth and ‘heimish’ (‘homey’ in Yiddish) feeling is priceless.

Click here for more on this specialness of ‘hachnasat orchim’.

 

That is why hospitality is the mitzvah that is emphasized as being even greater than engaging in a communion with G-d.

You see, an encounter with the Divine is the most exquisite spiritual pleasure imaginable. But it is centered on ‘me’. It is a self-centered delight, albeit pristine and holy.

Hashem wants us to look beyond ourselves, even beyond our spiritual enrapturement and act benevolently with each other.

What point is it to be speaking to G-d and ignoring G-d’s children?

The outcome of speaking to G-d should be to do what G-d wants.

What does he want?

Let’s start by saying what he DOESN’T want.

Almighty G-d does not want us to fight and be divisive.

And deep down we all know what He DOES want.

Hashem wants us to be kind to each other.

Ah, I realized that AM has the best of both worlds!!!

He hosts for coffee and then goes to speak to G-d.

Here is a link to a beautiful Chassidic story… The Inhospitable Leaseholder.

Do you need any more convincing?

I do not. I got the point. And it caused me a sense of nostalgic yearning. For the things we once had and perhaps took for granted.

You see, one of the things that have been curtailed during this past time period is hospitality.

Between all of our locations in Thailand we hosted well over a thousand guests every Friday night.

Now, our borders are closed.

Hospitality always gave me a special and inspired feeling. But now I think, that when please G-d it comes back I will appreciate it even more.

I realize that this limitation is not just here. All over the world, hospitality has been greatly limited during the last many months.

Perhaps by sharing this message, we will all yearn more for the great mitzvah. And subsequently embrace hospitality with a renewed sense of vigor and enjoyment once we can restart.

As well, it reminded me that we have to cherish every opportunity that we do have. For every single hosting interaction even to one solitary guest, is a holy and special interaction.

Even greater than having a Divine Encounter.

Here is the thing though.

You really have to start with a relationship with the Divine. Otherwise you will be totally stuck into self-centeredness or even worse descend into hedonistic and self-indulgent behavior

To get this virtuous way of thinking, where you put benevolence to others before yourself, you can’t rely on ‘conventional wisdom’.

You first need to have a meaningful encounter with the  Divine source of wisdom, the Torah.

Study some Torah.

When you learn Torah your eyes will be opened to G-dly values.

You will become educated and aware about the centrality and importance of being kind to others and loving your fellow as yourself.

If we get better at that, Moshiach comes right away. AMEN!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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