Hachnasat Orachim – Welcoming the stranger
In Judaism this is not merely a nice thing to do – it is a mitzvah – a divine imperative.
Recently I was waiting to take a meeting at a well known Jewish non-profit. It is a massive facility, a lot of people coming and going, with Jewish values literally inscribed upon the walls.
And yet, as I sat there for a half an hour, not one single person who passed bye said hello. Not one. A couple of times I even deliberately made eye contact and waited for them to make the first move, just to test my theory, and never got a reply. They weren’t bad people. They probably weren’t even cold or rude. They were just busy, just used to their routine, just oblivious to the stranger in their midst. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this in my regular settings, we all have done this from time to time. However, each and every time we fail to say hello, to reach out and make someone feel comfortable, we miss an opportunity not simply to be nice but to do a mitzvah, fulfill a commandment and create a warm and beautiful world.
It takes very little to make eye contact, say hello and extend a hand. It’s not even “radical hospitality” (a blog for another day) just ordinary hospitality and hospitality which we all need to reclaim.