I'm a recent convert to Judaism, and one of the things that impresses me the most about the Jewish community is the way people have so generously opened their homes to me as a guest for Shabbat and holiday meals. Where does this idea stem from?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Hachnasat Orchim, welcoming guests, is one of the key ways of "emulating God." In describing the mitzvah to walk in God's ways, the Talmud says: "Just as He is merciful, so you be merciful. Just as He is kind, so you be kind." One example of God's kindness includes feeding the hungry, as God did by providing the manna bread to the Jews wandering in the desert (Exodus 16:4).
Abraham emulated God by performing endless acts of kindness. In Genesis (Chapter 18), we find God talking to Abraham. When Abraham sees three strangers approaching from afar, he suddenly jumps up to offer them food and drink. Abraham treats the guests royally and serves the finest foods, and involves his whole family in the mitzvah.
On what basis did Abraham prioritize the helping of strangers over talking with God?!
The answer is that even greater than talking to God, is to be like God. God is a giver. We are created in the image of God; thus giving is our greatest form of spiritual expression. Abraham achieved great spiritual levels because he emulated God by welcoming guests into his home.
Hachnasat Orchim is one of the mitzvot described in the Talmud (Shabbat 127a), for which we receive the rewards both in this world and in the world to come.