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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
I just had the oddest houseguest ever

She's the friend of a friend, who needed a place to sleep this Shabbos so she could attend her fiance's aufruf (when a groom is called to the Torah, and mazel tov is shouted and people throw candy.) Usually brides don't do this because the aufruf is usually the Shabbos before the wedding and traditionally brides and grooms don't see each other the week before the wedding. However, this wedding will be in three weeks - if they had the aufruf at the traditional time, it would have conflicted with Shavuot.

So, she arrived a couple of hours before Shabbat, to drop off a bag and pick up one of my sets of Shabbos keys. And then she left - her boyfriend was waiting for her in his car. She came back around midnight, when we were asleep, or pretty much there (her arrival woke me up but I didn't let her know.) She left around 8:30 AM and didn't show up again untiil a half hour ago, when she picked up her bag and dropped off the keys (and didn't wait for me to say good-night.)

Very odd indeed.

(Other oddity - we'd be asked to host someone for lunch - someone we've had over before. I emailed him to confirm, but he never emailed back. However, we asked two other guys to also come. G never showed up, either at shul or at the house. We had a nice lunch with T and Z, so all was well. But, still. Odd.)


I'm trying to parse this question. I'm a trifle confused.

Let's take it clause by clause.

I get the feeling this is something that is coordinated by the congregation for some halachic purpose.

Hospitality is a mitzvah no matter when but it's doubly one on Shabbat and holidays, when the meals themselves are mitzvot. So, yes, there is a halachic purpose - it enables me to do a mitzvah and enables me to help others do a mitzvah. Also, it enhances one's Shabbat to have guests, which is also a mitzvah. In my shul, it's not the congregation but my friend Hindi, who pretty much knows who needs a place to go, and knows who is willing to host them. In other shuls, there are more official people or committees who do this, often on an emergency basis.

Is it because otherwise someone might have to go too far for a meal on Shabbas?If that would be the case, they'd need overnight accomodations, too. Which, as you can see, can be provided. It's also so they would have a meal in general - they might otherwise go without or have to be by themselves.

(I assume you live within an eruv.) I'm not sure of the relevance of this.

Are these people always travellers who don't have family, or are they members of your community? Most of the time, they're singles from the community or known to Hindi. In G's case, he's new to the area and, as a single guy who is also fairly new to being religious, he needs places to go. In T and Z's case - they're single men we have over fairly often.

Larger synagogues will place travelers on short notice - we've found hospitality committees ourselves - but ours is small and hard to find.

Sorry about the confusion. What I meant was, is the hosting done so everyone in the congregation can experience the mitzvah of Shabbat hospitality, or are these people who might otherwise miss meals because they had nowhere else to eat within the eruv.

Your answer pretty much covers it. I had noticed that back during High Holidays you seemed to have more guests who were strangers to you, and it wasn't clear if that was due to an even higher emphasis on the mitzvah of hospitality during Yom Tov, or if there were more people then who were transient and needed a kosher place to eat.

For many years now we've done something very similar, hosting a dinner (on Saturday night, in our case) to which friends have a standing invitation, but we also will "round up" stray singles. It's particularly nice because the male half of the couple we invite most is a serious wine buyer, whose motto is "Finding a Great Bottle of Wine for $9.99 or Less", so we rarely buy wine, we just cook.

The usual guests in these situations are (a) travelers, or (b) singles (though there are definitely other possibilities). In either case, an eruv has no relevance to their being a guest, since it is not necessary for them to be carrying anything to the meal. So theoretically, even if there is an eruv, a host may live outside the area, and would still be able to host, as long as the guests didn't include a child young enough that it couldn't walk there itself.

Still not sure about the relevance of an eruv - the same situation would exist whether one existed or not. Are you thinking about Shabbos distance? If you are, that only applies outside city limits - one can walk as far as one wishes within the boundaries of a city, even if there is no eruv. And one can certainly have guests who live outside the boundaries of an eruv, or within a different one - I have a friend who stays with relatives in Boro Park and walks to us when he's in town.

It's not all that deep - single people who don't cook or have room for guests will seek to have Shabbos hospitality because those are not meals you want to have alone - I've done it at conventions when I was the only Orthodox Jew in attendance and it's very difficult and sad. For that matter, those times that Jonathan or I have to be away, the other always makes arrangements with friends for Shabbos meals. And that's also true for the lesser mitzvah of yom tov meals. Plus for those of us doing the hosting, it adds to our own enjoyment.

(People travel for Yom Tov, but usually to either family or, in the case of Passover, to resorts. If they can avoid traveling for business, they do. This means fewer transients needing hospitality.)

one can walk as far as one wishes within the boundaries of a city, even if there is no eruv

I didn't know that -- comes of living in the suburbs, I suppose.

single people who don't cook or have room for guests will seek to have Shabbos hospitality because those are not meals you want to have alone

That makes sense -- I wasn't sure if there was an active *commandment* to host/guest for Shabbos, or if it's just a mitzvah.

Ah, language.

In colloquial English, mitzvah = good deed.

In Hebrew and in religious language, mitzvah means commandment - as in something Gd has told to do or to not do.

In this case, it's NOT a mitzvah to host someone on specifically the Sabbath (it IS a mitzvah to be hospitable but that's for all time.) It is, however, a good deed. Having Shabbos meals at all, btw, ARE mitzvot. In that case - if a person otherwise would not have a Shabbos meal, one would be enabling a mitzvah, and that, too, is a mitzvah. However, most of our guests could have one on their own, so that's not a factor here.

The comment above was from me, logged in as someone else by accident. *headdesk*