Be Our Guest
It's important to make guests feel at home. The Sukkot holiday is a time of guests. Families and friends visit each other's decorated outdoor sukkah booths and we even invite our great ancestors, like Abraham and Moses, to spiritually visit us. A lesson from Sukkot is to give special treatment to guests in our home.
In our story, a kid discovers that a guest can be someone she'd never have guessed.
With the intensity of a fighter pilot on a world-saving mission, Karen was banging away at the buttons of her game boy when the doorbell rang. She'd usually wait for her mom to get it, but she knew her mother was sleeping late this Sunday after an especially hectic week at work.
The doorbell rang again and, with a sigh and the push of her 'pause' button, Karen reluctantly dragged herself to the door.
"Hi! Can I come over now?" It was Jill, the kid from down the block, who Karen vaguely remembered inviting last week to come by today.
Karen shrugged and pointed with her head to the living room where she'd been sitting. Jill followed her and sat down next to her on the couch as Karen promptly ignored her and went back to her game boy.
After a minute or so, Jill cleared her throat. "Aren't we going to play something?
"Yeah, yeah ... in a few minutes," Karen waved her off, annoyed at getting her game concentration disturbed.
With a frown, Jill got up, distractedly looked at some of the books on the shelf, and then walked back to the couch. "It's really hot out. Can I have some water or something?"
"Ooookay," Karen snorted, flipping off her game with obvious irritation and plodding off to the kitchen.
The last thing she expected was the flurry of activity she saw there. Her mother was up and already dressed in her good clothes and was busily setting plates of yummy looking snacks and drinks on nice serving trays.
"I thought you were sleeping in today, Mom. What's going on?" Karen asked.
"I thought so, too," her mother smiled, "but it seems I'm having a guest."
"A guest...?" Karen thought it must be someone very important from out of town for her mother to get up early on her day off and prepare things so nicely. "Who?"
"Mrs. Winkler called and said she wanted to come by this morning and show me pictures of her new grandson."
"Mrs. Winkler? You mean the lady who just lives up the road?"
"If it's just a neighbor coming over, why are you making such a big deal out of it?"
"Well, it is a big deal," Karen's mother said. "When someone comes to visit - whoever it is - that person becomes a guest in our home and it's a great chance to do a big act of kindness by treating her right and making her feel at home. By the way," she asked, "didn't I hear the doorbell ring?"
Karen gulped. She'd forgotten all about Jill!
"Um, Mom, do you think I could take out a few of those snacks and a couple of drinks? I have an important guest waiting in the living room, who I want to make sure feels at home."
Q. How did Karen feel about having Jill over at first?
A. She didn't feel she had to pay her much attention or act nice.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt like she was her guest and wanted to make her feel at home.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Karen learned that day?
A. She hadn't felt any responsibility to treat her friend who came over courteously and was content to just 'do her own thing,' but seeing how much effort her mother was putting in for her visitor gave Karen a new perspective on how to treat a guest.
Q. Why was Karen surprised to see her mother preparing for the woman's visit?
A. She didn't think having a neighbor stop by was important enough to treat as a guest, but she learned that anyone who comes to see us should be treated with special kindness and care.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think if someone comes to see us uninvited, he deserves to be treated as a guest?
A. Anyone who comes to our home for a social or practical purpose is our guest and should be treated kindly.
Q. What are some of the ways we can make a guest 'feel at home'?
A. Our sages teach that it's fitting to offer a guest something to eat, to drink and escort him out even a bit past the door when he leaves.