At Berkeley Hillel, we often talk to our students leaders about creating a "radically welcoming" environment. This week's Torah portion, Vayera, offers us an example of what radical welcoming and hospitality can look like, as modeled by Avraham and Sarah.
Our parsha opens with Avraham welcoming three men who arrive at the entrance of his tent. The context is important here: just three days prior, Avraham underwent a circumcision and is recovering when these men arrive. The text also tells us that it is the hottest part of the day, and Avraham presumably does not know these men and understands them to be passing through.
Avraham sees them, runs to them, and bows down to them, asking them to stay and rest for a while. He invites them to rest under a tree, and brings them water to drink and to wash their feet. Avraham hurriedly asks Sarah to provide a meal for them, while he hastily prepares a calf that is described as "tender and good," to serve the guests.
We learn from this brief story that one's tent should always be open to others, and that welcoming is an active process. The verb "run" is used multiple times in this passage to underscore the urgency with which Avraham and Sarah served their guests. The quality of the prepared food tells us that we ought to be generous with others, even (especially?) with those we don't know as well.
We look forward to physically welcoming students into the Hillel building when the time is right; for now, we ask the question, what can we learn from this model of hospitality that we can implement even (especially?) in the time of COVID?