Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Hashem’s House Is No Different
“Everything Except ‘Leave’”
(Pesachim 86b)



The Gemara famously says that a guest should listen to everything his host says except “Leave.” But what does that mean? Should a guest really be so audacious as to refuse to leave his host’s home?

In our version of the Gemara, the words “except ‘Leave’” appear in parentheses, implying that they weren’t part of the original text. They don’t appear in Ein Yaakov, and the Meiri writes, “These words were inserted by a prankster who sought to mock the Gemara’s words.”

The Zohar (Pinchas, p. 244), however, does include these puzzling words. What could they mean?

One explanation is that originally an apostrophe appeared in the word so that it read, not “tzei” (leave), but “tz”a” – an abbreviation for “tzad issur” (an element of the forbidden). Thus, we should always fulfill our host’s requests unless he asks us to violate halacha (see Gan Yosef, p. 104, and Ben Yehoyada).


Dispatched on an Errand

The Bach (Orach Chayim 170) writes that a guest should help his host perform various chores around the house if asked. However, he need not leave the house to run an errand. Since he’s probably a stranger in the area, it’s unfair to expect him to find his way among unfamiliar streets.

The Maharsham (Daas Torah, Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) explains, citing his father, that the Gemara is talking about a guest eating the Korban Pesach with a group. The Gemera (99b) says that a group can’t tell one of its members to take his portion of the korban and eat it elsewhere. A guest who has joined a group for the Korban Pesach shouldn’t leave it after the korban has been shechted.

The Sefas Emes explains that the basis of this saying is the tragic incident of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. As a result of a host embarrassing his guest by forcing him to leave, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed. In the wake of this incident, the Sages ruled that a person may not force a guest to leave his home.


Landlord, Tenant

Elsewhere (Arachin 16b), the Gemara tells us that a tenant shouldn’t leave until his landlord hits him or throws out his belongings. Unfortunately, when a person is forced to leave his apartment, the reputations of both the tenant and landlord are impacted. People don’t differentiate; they simply assume that both people don’t know how to interact peacefully. Thus, a tenant shouldn’t leave until he has to.

The Drisha (Orach Chayim 170:3) and Mateh Moshe (290) apply this explanation to our sugya, and their opinion is cited as halacha both by the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 170:10) and Aruch HaShulchan (ibid., 8).


Teshuva Always Accepted

The Reishis Chochma (Shaar HaKedusha, ch. 16), cited by the Shelah and others, offers the following explanation: A person may feel so depressed over his many sins that he doubts that Hashem will accept his teshuvah. After Elisha ben Avuya left the path of Torah observance, a bas kol emanated from Heaven proclaiming, “Return, wayward children – except for [Elisha]” (Chagiga 15a).

However, this proclamation was only a test. Elisha was supposed to ignore the bas kol since we are all guests in Hashem’s world, and even if our Host tells us to leave His service, we mustn’t listen. Teshuvah is always effective, even for the most terrible sins.


Previous articleJerusalem And The New U.S. Administration
Next articleWould You Bring Moshiach If You Were Hashem?
Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.