Welcoming guests is a Jewish value. It is also a mitzvah, a commandment. This value is modeled by Abraham and Sarah, who warmly welcomed three visitors to their tent only to discover that they were angels, messengers of G-d. The virtue of hospitality is not simply about standing at a door and welcoming those who choose to walk through it, but about bringing in all guests or strangers. An important aspect of hospitality is inclusiveness; it is essential that we depend on one another, support one another, and be united together. Being inclusive means bringing people in as part of the larger community — “kehilla.” It is understood that to be inclusive and hospitable, one must bring a welcoming and gracious demeanor.
Jewish tradition teaches us that our personal journeys in life should not take place alone. Our lives are fully enriched by the participation in a sacred kehilla. It is within this community that one feels the warmth of others, develops personal relationships. And caring is at the forefront of the community.
To be part of a kehilla means to have a sense of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and that Judaism can be best lived and experienced through a commitment to be together. We learn from the Torah commentator Rashi that all of the commandments were given to the entire community — men, women and children — because everyone in the community is considered holy. Holiness, then, is a communal effort and cannot be fully accomplished by an individual apart from the community.
The most sacred moments in Jewish life are those experienced with family, friends and other community members. We celebrate Shabbat and holidays with our families and friends; we celebrate life-cycle events, both of joy and of sorrow, together as a community. To be a kehilla is to recognize that we are all created in the image of God — and are therefore obligated to care for one another.
As we plan for a new program year ahead in the fall, I leave you with these questions to think about during the summer, as we try to make our community a better place to be: How can our community be more welcoming and accessible? What can we each do to be more welcoming and hospitable? How can we each participate in our kehilla?
I welcome each of you to take an active part in our Jewish community, whether our Jewish Federation, our synagogues, or our agencies — the Jewish Day School, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Center — and I guarantee you will feel a sense of belonging and feel enriched by the experience. As the Dalai Lama said, “The more we feel concern for others and seek their well-being, the more friends we will have and the more welcome we will feel.”
Wishing you a relaxing and peaceful summer!