How far should a person go to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim?
And the answer is it depends on the circumstances. If you have to go to work, so your job is hachnasas orchim to your wife and your children. You have to pay rent for them. So you have to weigh one thing against another. And if the orei’ach, the guest you’re considering, happens to be a dangerous person; let’s say you see him walking up your steps mumbling to himself, so watch out. Let him stay in the street. If you want, you can carry something out for him into the street, but make sure to close your door behind you.
So everything depends on the circumstances; how far you should go depends on the situation. If it’s a meshulach from Eretz Yisroel or a chossid from Williamsburg and he’s walking in the hot sun all day long trying to collect a dollar or so for his fourteen children, when he comes to your house try to finagle him to take a glass of water from your kitchen. He wouldn’t eat anything else in your house, I can assure you. He’s afraid that your milk is not cholov Yisroel, he’s afraid that your bread is not kosher. But ask him, “Maybe you want a glass of water? Maybe you want an orange.” Ah, if you can deceive such a man, if you can trick him into taking an apple from you, then you have lived for a purpose that day.
It’s a pity that people don’t understand that. They give him a dollar and let him go on. And he goes farmatert, weary and thirsty, from house to house. This man has a lot of children and he works hard. He works in the factory. But on Sundays he’s off, so Sunday he goes collecting money to pay tuition for his children. That’s what they do. They have to pay tuition. The Satmarer cheder doesn’t give tuition for nothing. And so on Sundays he collects tuition for his children. So if you see him on the street and you give him something, it’s not a bad idea to invite him in for a drink. If you can pour something down his throat, you’re a lucky man. So how far you should go depends on the circumstances; it depends on the giver and on the recipient and on the circumstances.
TAPE #371 (August 1981)