It feels so disingenuous to begin telling the story of Passover for the second year in a row with the words “kol dichfin yesei veyochal:” All who are hungry should come and eat. Because we are not having anyone over. As COVID drags on we are all having small seders once again. Not having guests over has created a huge void in my life. I miss having guests so deeply maybe it is a tiny fraction of how our patriarch Abraham felt. After major surgery and advanced in age the pain of not having guests was greater than his physical pain. Abraham as the prototype Jew passed this spiritual gene on to his descendants and we are aching to once again open up our homes.
Through my entertaining experiences, I have had mostly great guests. But sometimes there were guests that challenged me. And in this drought and in this lonely era as I reminisce, I miss even those guests.
We’ve had the newbie to our style of Shabbat sort of guest.
Who brings hostess gifts that according to Jewish law can’t be moved or handled on Shabbat.
Who aren’t sure if you can flush the toilet on Shabbat.
We’ve had guests who have given us unsolicited feedback about our art and window treatments.
We’ve had guests that felt it their duty to make me a more diligent recycler and composter.
We’ve had guests that have taken fruit from our fruit bowl and filled their coat pockets.
We’ve had guests that have wanted to take home glatt-kosher brisket (which is very expensive) for their pets.
And the most memorable of all actually took place during our very first hosting of a community seder, when a guest fell asleep in my bed and then slept through the second half of maggid, rachtzah, motzei matzah, marror, korech, Shulchan aruch, tzafon, barech, hallel. When she woke up I offered her dinner and she said no I’ll wait for everyone else. I then realized she didn’t realize how long she had been out for and thought we were still in maggid.
And I would have them all again. The newbies, the interior decorator, the environmentalist, and the boundary-less. Since I’m more than a decade older since some of these escapades, and hopefully a little wiser, I would probably put some better boundaries in place. But all in all I miss sharing Shabbat and holidays with the diverse and beautiful humans that graced my home. Because they are all created in G-d’s image with a divine spark that makes them worthy of being served like royalty. And they have all enhanced my experiences and have taught me volumes.
As I ponder the topic of guests, a metaphor takes shape. We are actually all guests. Guest of the Creator. You may refer to this power in language that is comfortable for you. For me the language that resonates is Hashem. We are all guests in Hashem’s world. It is Hashem who grants us with life and gives us space and free choice to lead our lives. But ultimately it is Hashem’s world and we are like guests. Be a model guest, bring a gift that speaks your host’s love language, and find out the “house rules”.
May COVID end and may we all be able to host each other again in safety and health. By opening my home I have also opened my heart and broadened my horizons. More than I have given my guests, they have given me. Next year in Jerusalem.