An act of hospitality, Hakhnasat Orchim, opens up this week's Torah reading, Parashat Vayera. We read that Abraham:
Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said, "My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on—seeing that you have come your servant's way." They replied, "Do as you have said." (Genesis 18:2 -5)
The midrash in Genesis Rabbah 48:9 adds that the tent was open on all four sides. In providing a purposefully open tent, Abraham signalled to all passersby that he would greet them with an open heart and home. We strive to emulate this openness here at CSI with our Big Tent affiliation. Becoming truly welcoming has gotten harder in today's world. One way we can work towards greater openness is to pursue interfaith work. The Hazzan's Peace Ensemble and everyone who attended and participated was one way to promote this work. Yesterday, I met with colleagues from the Interfaith Clergy Association of Nyack at the Islamic Center of Rockland where we worked on the upcoming Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (coming up on November 24 at the Reform Temple of Rockland). We are lucky in Nyack to have a collaboration with other faiths in the Village with the awareness that it is not always easy.
The Jewish community mourned the death of Richard Lakin this week, an activist and supporter of coexistence in Israel, who taught at the Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel. He died after succumbing to injuries following a violent terrorist attack while he was on a bus in Jerusalem. While he was in the hospital, teachers from the school brought prayers of healing in Hebrew and Arabic.
When I read about Abraham's openness in Parashat Vayera, I yearn for a world where we can be truly welcoming without reservation. Today we can take steps towards collaboration and interfaith dialogue both here and in Israel with programming by overcoming preconceived notions to truly seek out God in all our neighbors.