Two weeks ago we read about the overly friendly overtures of some neighbors who would walk into their neighboring family’s home whenever the whim would overtake them. The male of this neighborly pair would apparently think nothing of intruding on the privacy of a mother of an infant (and other young children), unnerving her at the most inconvenient of times.
This mother wrote of her anxiety that spills over in her interactions with her own children who vie for their mother’s attention even as she is kept busy entertaining her uninvited guest.
These neighbors are additionally in the habit of bringing over “gifts” of food and other items – mostly for the young missus. This improper openhandedness is especially disconcerting to the husband of the recipient.
In reality (and for the record), it is the giver in such instances who demonstrates feelings of inadequacy; individuals who have the need to shower one with gifts and goodies are in effect “buying” the attention and recognition of the object of their largesse. Of course the act of a married man bestowing uncalled for gifts and favors on a woman other than his wife or mother evokes a totally different connotation. But we will benevolently give the “friendly neighbor” the benefit of the doubt and chalk up his unbecoming behavior to ignorance or immaturity (or both).
Last week’s column advised the flustered and stressed-out young couple to cut their close bond with their gregarious neighbors by courteously leveling with them about their family’s need for privacy. Hopefully, our letter writer and her husband have taken the proffered suggestions to heart and will soon be back in fine form.
Some time ago we featured a letter that centered on the topic of Hachnassas Orchim. The following is an excerpt of that column, being rerun by special request to help this family as well as countless of others discern the true meaning of “hospitality ”
An ore’ach is one who is in need of accommodation, of a place to eat or rest, a person essentially in need of a respite. Such an individual may be an overworked/exhausted mother (and may happen to be your daughter/daughter-in-law/mother/sister/friend/neighbor), a lonely person (single/divorced/widowed), or a ba’al/(as) teshuvah seeking to learn/integrate, etc.
Getting together for meals in each other’s homes for purely the social/entertainment value of being in the company of friends is an indulgence that should not be confused with the true connotation of the mitzvah of Hachnassas Orchim.
A get-together that deprives children of their parents’ attention and/or imposes on another family’s private time, or that results in burdening an already overstressed/overworked wife/mom/homemaker is no mitzvah at all!
Even secular society views dinnertime as conducive to family bonding; consider how much we stand to gain by spending quality family time at the Shabbos table!
Those who are concerned about being deprived of the mitzvah of Hachnassas Orchim can relax. Each Friday night we are privileged to greet the exalted guests who accompany the male members of our family home from shul- yes, the malachim whom we herald and greet with the singing of Shalom Aleichem.
And, ultimately, the dignity and holiness of Shabbos is brought home to us when we welcome our most prominent visitor, the Holy Shechinah, embracing His presence in our midst with the singing of Lechah Dodi. (Can one begin to fathom how much nachas our Father in heaven reaps when He perceives how we treat our own, whom He has entrusted in our care?)
The way we conduct ourselves on Shabbos directly affects our weekday and impacts on our overall shalom bayis. Shabbos is not about having a good time – it is a special interval, a divine gift accorded us as a means of getting in touch with our lofty essence.
This is not to imply in any way that multiple families cannot enjoy a spiritually uplifting Shabbos together. There are many festive occasions that lend special meaning to the holy Sabbath. But to fritter away an ideal time for connecting with one’s own is a shame, if not downright sacrilegious.
As with most everything, moderation is the key. The average family should be able to maintain a healthy balance between having guests over and spending quality family time with one another. Yamim Tovim, it should be said, are ideally suited for extended family visits and for having the less privileged and needy over to join you. The important thing is not to lose sight of who we are, why we’re here, and what Shabbos and Yom Tov are really all about.
Finally… in our zeal to please everyone else, we sometimes tend to neglect our nearest and dearest. An apt reminder would be the mitzvah that everyone is aware of -v’ahavta l’re’acha(to love your friend) kamocha (like yourself). This commandment can be continuously fulfilled in one’s home, between husband and wife – for one’s spouse is about as kamocha as one can get [Sha’ar HaLikutim].
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