Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ushpizin: Abraham

Shalom:
The sage Maimonides admonished that "anyone who sits comfortably with his family within his own walls and does not share with the poor is performing a mitzvah not for joy but for the stomach."
As with all of the Feast of HaShem, we extend personal invitations to the needy amoung us to share our Sukkot meal. Sadly, because we still have no home of our own, we have no Sukkat to invite our friends and family to share our table.
During Sukkot we perform a short ceremony to welcome the Ushpizin, which is aramaic for guest. It
We perform a short ceremony to welcome the ushpizin (Aramaic for "guests"). The full text for the invitation that they join us, including prayers that our fulfillment of the mitzvah of sukkah will be worthy of Divine favour, is printed in a full daily/festival siddur (prayer book). Then, on the first day we say, "I invite to my meal the exalted guests, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. May it please you, Abraham, my exalted guest, that all the other exalted guests dwell with me and with you - Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David." On each day, a different one of the seven is singled out, in order. There are many Torah Observers who believe that these men of old truly come from heaven and enjoy the Holy Days with us. Others believe that it just a lovely tradition and from each we can learn lessons about showing kindness to others.

 Abraham would sit outside waiting for the opportunity to invite dusty wayfarers into the shade of his tent, and then run to prepare a meal of the choicest ingredients. (A midrash based on the apocryphal Book of Jubilees claims that the first booth, on which the holiday Sukkot is based, was built by Abraham when he greeted the three Angels who came to tell him his wife Sarah would at last bear a child [Genesis 18:1-10]. Jubilees [16:21] traces other observances of Sukkot to Abraham's tents in Beer-sheva, where he erected an altar and circled it while praying.)
From Abraham and Sarah we see two people who's tent doors were open to all, looking for people to share their table and their G-d with all.

"And do not forget kindness to strangers, for by this, some who, while they were unaware, were worthy to receive Angels." Hebrews 13: 1-2
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English
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