Monday, November 08, 2004


As a result of events last week, popular topics of discussion were whether morals and values are one and the same things, and whether the next person’s beliefs are more important or valid than anyone else’s? Perhaps naively so, I still believe that if enough of us just got on with being kind to each other, just for kindness’ sake, the miracle of peace would manifest around us. I chose the word ‘miracle’ specifically, ‘cos right now, it feels like nothing short of a miracle could bring such change about. The following true story from my friend Paul reflects how easy it is to be kind and the impact it can have on the next person's life.

While I also appreciate that the values (or are they morals?) described in this story are not unique to Judaism, this story embodies the pure essence of the heritage from whence I come, and it is with immense pride that I share it. I hope that one day my son will read this, and understand how important it is to do unto others, as he would have them do unto him. I believe it is that simple. Freedom, peace, love and respect start at the dinner table in our own homes, especially if we turn the TV off for a while!

Paul is studying at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

"It was 11:30am on a Friday morning and we still did not have Shabbos (Sabbath) dinner plans. After exhausting what seemed every option, we decided to call the Rabbi who runs the Beginners Program in the Yeshiva to see if he knew of any last minute ‘deals’. Thank G-d he did and he managed to set all 4 of us up for dinner at a home in an area not too far away. He explained the hosts were an old-style Yerushalmi (native of Jerusalem) family that didn’t speak much English but were very sweet and loved having guests. He warned us not to be late though as they ate early.

So as life goes, everybody forgot to bring the directions and we ended-up wandering around lost in this ancient neighbourhood of Jerusalem for 20 minutes, before we finally found somebody who spoke enough English to lead the way to our hosts. We nervously knocked on the door and it immediately swung open to reveal a small elderly woman with a huge smile. Although the family and 6 other guests were already into the soup course, they all welcomed us with hugs and handshakes like we were old friends. And in a scurry of action to reset the table and arrange everything for us, we soon had made our own Kiddush (Blessing) and had caught up to the fourth course in a spread that I kid you not, was fit for a convention of kings.
We eased through the evening with enough broken Hebrew and simple English to enjoy a fantastic Shabbos meal. What we lost in conversation, we made up for with the most spiritual zmiros-singing (typically Sabbath songs) I have experienced to date. This was ‘entertaining’ at its kosher shabbosdik (Sabbath-ish) best.

That Sunday morning upon returning to the grind of the Yeshiva curriculum, we were shining and inspired to greater heights after our amazing Shabbos. When we ran in to the Rav (Rabbi) though, he seemed a little distant and upset. I thanked for setting us up and while trying to tell him about the experience, he stopped me short and asked, “What - are you guys kidding me? Where were you? That family called me on Motzi Shabbos (end of the Sabbath) to ask if everything was okay, because you didn’t show up!”

To this day I have never managed to track down that special family that took us in that Shabbos. Everything looks so different during the week. One thing for sure is, that even though they were not expecting us, these beautiful people welcomed us and made us feel as if we were the guests they had been waiting for, even though they had never even heard of us, let alone invited us. And this is the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim (hospitality to guests) at its very essence."
Have a happy week filled with good deeds!