Hundreds of Guests

(Torah Portion Vayaira ) Hundreds of Guests! 

During the year that our daughter Gitty spent in Israel while attending seminary, she called us after one Shabbat and described her Shabbat experience. Friday evening she along with a few friends went to the Kotel to pray. They were supposed to meet someone who would accompany them to their host for the Friday night meal but for some reason they couldn’t locate their escort. After waiting for a while they began walking back to where they were residing for the weekend hoping to find a family who would have them for dinner.

They began their trek and suddenly it began to rain. Being unprepared for the rain, their hair became ruined and their clothing soaked.
Finally they made it back to their neighborhood and stopped someone in the street asking if they knew of a family who had an open door for guests. The person immediately gave them an address and in a short time they were in the Machlis home.

Gitty described how gracious the host and their children were to her and to the some hundred other guests at their tables. The food was plentiful and the array of guests was interesting. Gitty and her friends felt very welcomed and fortunate to have wound up in such a warm and inviting atmosphere where people from all walks of life converged each Shabbos with the Machlis family who made each guest feel special.

I recall how impressed and intrigued we were how this family was able to pull this off each week.

Sadly, last week, this amazing woman, Henny Machlis, a dear wife, the mother of 14 children, and one who prepared food for all these hundreds of weekly guests for over 35 years, passed away. She was a modern day model of our Matriarch Sarah.

While reading an appreciation written about her life and outlook, I came across something Mrs. Machlis quoted from Rebbe Nachman of Breslav that truly captured her exuberant approach and attitude towards all the intensive work and pressure that comes along with preparing for so many guests. “When you cook, the attitude you use goes into the food. If you cook with anger, you poison people, but if you cook with joy, you give them good health.”

Wow! What a concept and insight! See how much power a woman wields when she is cooking for herself, family and guests!

In truth, this concept can apply to just about anything we do in life. For example: When you relate to another – the energy that you use goes into them. If you speak with anger and resentment, it poisons the relationship, but if you speak with love, care, sensitivity and joy, it creates and maintains healthy relationships!

In last week’s Portion, G-d tells our forefather Avraham, “I will bless those who you bless.” G-d empowered Avraham and his descendants with the unique power of blessing; their expression of blessing will be extremely effective.

I was thinking about this concept and thought it can motivate us to appreciate the blessings we recite over food and various bodily functions.

When we recite blessings – Blessed are You Hashem our G-d King of the universe who…., we are recognizing that all comes from our creator and we are asking permission to partake and indulge in the particular food or thanking G-d for granting us the particular biological gift.

But there is also something else that occurs when we recite a blessing. The words that we recite actually infuse the food with blessed energy – so that when we take into our mouths the food touched and affected by the blessing it enters into our being.

At the Passover Seder, during the recitation of the Magid – story, we are instructed to uncover and expose the Matza. My wife Malki told me that she read that one reason for this is so that the energy given off during the discussion of the wonders of the Exodus by the participants of the Seder should become absorbed in the Matza. Thus, when we eat and ingest the Matza it will contain the inspiration of the Mitzvah of reciting the story of the Exodus as well.

In the beginning of the morning prayer service we recite a series of blessings in which we highlight many of our vital bodily functions that we may otherwise take for granted; our sight, our ability to walk, our ability to stand up straight, that we have clothing to wear, etc.

These blessings bring make us aware that every step of our existence is regulated by G-d. They also produce an atmosphere of blessing that surrounds us and serves to protect us during the course of the day.

Finally, in this week’s Parsha, G-d tells our forefather Avraham, “Through the spiritual standing and devotion of you and your descendants, blessing will be enthused throughout the world! “

Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks