Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jews in Turkey Welcome Guests with a Teaspoon of Apple Jam

We all know that Hachnasat Orchim – welcoming of guests into one’s home – is an important Jewish value dating back to Abraham. The question is how does one go about doing it? Certainly we are not going to wash our guests’ feet as Abraham did. Most of us feel that a gracious verbal welcome suffices. Not so for Turkish Jews. They go out of their way to make guests feel at home by turning their Rosh Hashana custom of eating home-made apple jam into a year-round Hachnasat Orchim practice. When a guest enters their house s/he is first treated to a teaspoon of apple jam and a glass of water. It’s their way of wishing sweetness and happiness to every visitor.

Why do I bring this up? To begin with, it is wonderful to see how one Jewish community reveres our values as much as our holidays. In addition, I believe that Hachnasat Orchim is a value so important that it should be engraved in the psyche of every Jew. When we made Aliyah in 1977 I was overwhelmed by the number of invitations we received. It didn’t take long for us to understand how essential it was to adapt this practice into our own lifestyle. Seven years later, we went to the States on our first Sabbatical. This time I was underwhelmed by the lack of invitations. Over the decades many of our friends and colleagues experienced the same treatment during their sabbatical years. When we were able to muster up enough courage to ask “why”, we couldn’t believe the answer: “It’s not worth our energy to invest in people who won’t be here after a year.” It was not until our last Sabbatical in Providence that we finally came upon a Jewish community that truly understood the meaning of Hachnasat Orchim. By then my expectations were less than low. Thirty-two years after making aliyah, I was once again happily overwhelmed.

Obviously, every community is different, as is every era. Nonetheless, Hachnasat Orchim is a timeless value that should be handed down by parents, as well as taught in the classroom. Turkish Jews have it right. It is so important, it is worthy of a custom.

No comments:

Post a Comment