Welcoming Guests Lets You Welcome a Baby
When the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch was married a few years, he was anxious to have a son to carry on his lineage. He expressed his fears of not having a son to his Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezeritch. The response he got was startling. The Maggid quoted a verse from Tehillim (in Chapter 119) that reads “Bameh Yezakh Na’ar Es Orcho Li’Shmar Ki’dvarecha” The literal translation of the verse is, “Through what should a lad create merit in his path; to guard/keep according to Your words.” The Maggid, however, explained the verse differently. He placed the comma in a strategic location, making the verse translate, “through what will he merit a lad? The guest to guard like Your words”. The Maggid said that is how the Baal Shem Tov’s parents merited his birth, even in their old age.
The Baal Shem Tov’s parents were poor but pious people. Hachnasas Orchim was a mitzvah they took great pride in. They would not only host the beggars who came through their town, they would also send them off after their stay with food and money for the way. Still, as they hit their senior years, they were a couple alone, with no children. At this point, their guest-hosting abilities were put to the test. Eliyahu was sent to see how they would react when a guest would show up on Shabbos, clearly desecrating Shabbos. The reaction of the Baal Shem Tov’s parents was total embrace of their guest. They pretended not to notice his desecration of Shabbos, seating him immediately at their Shabbos table. And through that gesture, they merited to have a son.
A few stories from Jerusalem on this theme. First, one of old time Yerushalayim, where the residents were akin to angels. As recounted in the epic book In Every Generation, Rabbi Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch came into this world in the merit of his parents’ Hachnasas Orchim. His parents were on the brink of divorce; his mother deciding that she could not go through what her mother-in-law had gone through. That ordeal was to give birth to ten children all of whom died. That holy woman eventually adopted a foundling…and in that merit finally gave birth to a son who survived. Now that son, too, was losing his children one and then another. His young wife saw she might have the same life path as her mother-in-law, and she decided to opt out, asking her husband for a divorce. The young couple was already divvying up their possessions when they heard a knock on their door. At the door was their regular guest, a simple poor man for whom they had been providing meals and a friendly place to visit. When he saw what the young couple was in the midst of doing, he protested. He promised them that if they stay together they would have a son. And so it was. He was no ordinary beggar, their guest. He was in need of their hospitality, but he was one of the hidden Tzadikim of the generation. Sure enough, through his blessing, and through their open door to a needy alone man, Rabbi Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch came into being.
A more contemporary story, just so you know the sparks of possibility created by Hachnasas Orchim still happen in our day and age. A young couple living in Flatbush was told in no uncertain terms by all the specialists they went to that there was no biological way for them to have children. They were told to forget about such a happening in their lives. With heavy hearts, after close to a decade of going to every specialist possible, they decided to move to Yerushalayim, the Holy City. While there, they went to speak to the saintly Dayan Fischer. As per his instructions, they took into their home and hearts a precious little boy born to a mother who was not well. Straight from the hospital, they brought home the baby…knowing full well that they were to return that child to his home once he was old enough to be cared for by older siblings. The age to return him would be the age of Upsherin. Time flew, they bonded and the time for parting came close. And, yes, they rose to the challenge. They opened their home. They provided the care. And, they then allowed the child to move on to rejoin his biological family. The ending of the story, I am sure you can guess, is that not even a year later they celebrated the birth of the child they couldn’t possibly, according to the medical experts, ever have given birth to.
Not just any child is born through Hachnasas Orchim. Think of the language of the Maggid of Mezeritch, the one used in that verse of Tehillim. Na’ar. That was used to describe Yosef. That term was used to describe Shmuel.
So, my friends, this week’s Spark for you will conclude in Yiddish, “zah nisht kayn na’ar, kenst bekriggen ha’na’ar ” (roughly translated, ‘don’t be a fool, you can receive a son…”) now that you know the secret. Not an easy guest. The harder guest you don’t know what to make of, that might be your ticket to parenthood.