views updated Jun 11 2018


HOSPITALITY . The word hospitality is a translation of the Latin noun hospitium (or the adjective hospitalis ), which in turn derives from hospes, meaning both "guest" and "host." Behind this double connotation is the Greek concept of the xenos, the stranger who receives a welcome or, less frequently, acts as a welcomer of others. A great many cultures attach religious and ethical value to the establishment of friendly exchanges between those who view one another as differentin rank, race, or tribeand, therefore, potentially dangerous. In order to provide a focus for interpreting the diverse traditions that relate to this subject, the present entry concentrates upon the prescribed behaviors for guests and hosts, particularly at meals, and the reasons (whether stated or implied) for these mores.

Pictures of hospitality abound in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Indeed, the practice of hospitality can be perceived as a cardinal virtue among the Homeric characters. Odysseus, the great wanderer, is praised for his exemplary hosting (Homer, Odyssey 1.176). In both epics hospitality represents that aspect of fearing the gods that creates a readiness for reciprocal relationships with strangers. Those who do not attain such openness are deemed barbarians (Odyssey 6.120ff.). Conversely, a single act of welcoming on the part of one family group toward another, usually by means of a meal, can result in a bond of friendship that lasts for generations (Iliad 6.215ff.). Thus, hospitality is an eminently practical virtue; through gift exchanges and the sharing of food or shelter, peace and harmony are achieved in what would otherwise be a chaotic world.

In Greek epic tradition, the gods themselves sometimes put on human disguises and assume the role of guests. On those occasions when they are welcomed, they respond with good news (Odyssey 1.180ff.) or extraordinary gifts (Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.678ff.). In this reciprocity there exists a link with the ancient bedouin tradition concerning Abraham's gracious reception of three strangers by the Oaks of Mamre (Gn. 18:1ff.). The strangers are variously understood to be human messengers, angels, or, in later Christian thought, the Trinity. Thus, icons of the orthodox churches depict Abraham's philoxeny, or love of strangers, as the believer's enjoyment of communion with the divine presence. In the biblical story, Abraham's guests respond to the lavish banquet that he and Sarah have prepared for them with the miraculous news that Sarah, advanced in years like her husband, will soon bear a son, Isaac. It is not surprising that in rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and Islam, Abraham becomes a kind of patron saint of hosts. Enmeshed in this tradition is the premise that hospitality merits a reward from God and must therefore be encouraged. One version of the premise occurs in Matthew 25:33ff., where Jesus appears as the judge of all nations and announces that hospitable acts performed for the least of his brothers and sisters have actually been done for him and that, moreover, the end result of these acts is the opening up of God's kingdom to those who have undertaken them. The special vocation of Christian monastics to care for strangers and the needy, in part through the founding of hospitals, may be understood as an attempt to embody this teaching.

Rabbinic Judaism sometimes employs hospitality as a metaphor for the teaching and learning of Torah ("Let thy house be a place of meeting for the wise, and dust thyself with the dust of their feet and drink their words with thirst"; Avot 1.4). Sometimes hospitality is thought to be blessed by the bestowal of God's presence ("Three who have eaten at one table and have said over it words of Torah are as if they had eaten from the table of God"; Avot 3.4). Similar thoughts occur in New Testament stories where Jesus and Paul receive material hospitality as guests but then demonstrate by their words and actions that they are agents of God's kingdom, blessing their hosts with divine gifts. (Luke 24:2835; Acts 20:612; 28:79).

Jesus in particular is seen as one who welcomes sinners and marginal people (Matt. 11:19; Luke 15:12); typically the gospels picture him doing this at meals to which he has been invited as a guest (Mark 2:15ff.; Luke 7:3650;19:110). The major exception is what Christians have come to call the last supper, a meal during the week of Passover, just before Jesus' death, when he initiates a guest-meal for his disciples. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus blesses bread and wine at this meal with words relating them to his body and blood. For Christians, this event is usually seen as the institution or forerunner of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, which often functions today as a welcoming ritual but also, in some branches of the church, as a means of self-definition that excludes nonmembers. According to the Fourth Gospel, the last supper featured a special act of hospitality by Jesus: the humble washing of his disciples' feet followed by an exhortation to perform this act for one another (John 13:114).

In Islam, the fundamental notion underlying the theory and practice of hospitality is protection. This is expressed in the Arabic term djiwar, which denotes neighborliness or the granting of refuge to wayfaring strangers and resident visitors who are not members of one's own tribe. Such practices could have their origin in the bedouin conviction that guest and host alike (the Arabic word dayf, like xenos, refers to both) stand at the mercy of a hostile environment and must adhere to firm rules for the sharing of necessities to ensure their common survival. Foremost among these rules is a custom according to which travelers may count on receiving food and lodging from a given host for three days. At the end of this period, they are expected to continue their journey unless unusual circumstances intervene (see also the early Christian writing Didachē 1112). From this fundamental rule, refinements of hospitality evolve. Hosts who are especially virtuous prevail upon their guests to stay longer, and they emerge from their tents to welcome passing strangers. Some hosts furnish provisions for their guests when they resume their journeys and even escort them on their way.

Articulations of hospitality that are explicitly religious occur with regularity. For example, proximity to a sacred place is thought to confer protection; and it is said that when one becomes a Muslim, one is henceforth God's djar (protected neighbor). Perhaps it is this trust in God's care that stimulates Islamic practitioners of hospitality to extend such largess to their guests. H. R. P. Dickson reported that in the 1920s he was greeted by a number of Saudi Arabian hosts with this couplet: "O Guest of ours, though you have come, though you have visited us, and though you have honored our dwellings / we verily are the real guests, and you are the Lord of this house" (Dickson, 1951, p. 118). A story from about this same period concerns the German diplomat Leopold Weiss who is reputed to have converted to Islam as a result of reflection on a guest-meal. When a poor bedouin traveling with him aboard a merchant ship brought out his millet bread and olive oil and insisted on sharing half of it with Weiss, he was overcome with the man's generosity and wanted to know more about his religious convictions (Islamic Voice, November 2000). Whether intended or not, the practice of hospitality often becomes a missionary gesture.

In Hinduism of the classical period and, to a lesser extent, Hinduism today, practices of hospitality are shaped primarily by the caste system and the fourfold stages of life through which an individual (i.e., student, householder, hermit, or homeless wanderer) passes. According to some of Hinduism's oldest sacred texts, members of one caste may not interdine with those of another. Under this constraint the basic foundation for mutuality between strangers, utilized by most cultures, is eliminated. Nevertheless, Hinduism recognizes an alternate code of hospitality whereby the brahman (Skt., brāhmaa ), or member of the priestly caste, accepts food from members of other castes (under carefully prescribed conditions) in return for spiritual services, especially the reciting of the Vedas. Moreover, brahmans are enjoined to be generous hosts to members of other castes, albeit at separate tables and after their fellow brahmans have been provided for (Laws of Manu 34). The lowest caste, the śūdra, is understood to be servant to the other three, although the higher castes must see to the basic material needs of the lowest (Mahābhārata 12). In general, brahmans are to assume the task of hosting the gods on behalf of other castes by offering sacrifices of food.

With regard to the fourfold stages of life, householders and hermits are the chief host figures, while students and homeless wanderers typically play the role of guests. In all encounters between individuals an exchange of spiritual and material gifts is expected, although not necessarily at large common meals. All gifts are reproductive to the donor; that is, they bring an increase during one's present life and/or in subsequent reincarnations. Gifts of food in particular exercise special influence over an individual's karman. Indeed, "one is reborn in the other world with the nature of those whose food one accepts, or of those whose food is in one's stomach, or with the nature of the food itself" (Mauss, 1954, p. 126). Today some of Hinduism's ancient societal barriers no longer prevail, and a number of castes that had traditionally maintained strict separation from one another practice interdining when it is perceived to be in their common social and economic interests.

Tradition has it that as the Buddha lay dying at the home of Cunda the smith, who had served him poisonous mushrooms by mistake, he ordered his disciples to tell the grieving host that he must not feel guilty about the demise of his guest. On the contrary, said Gautama, Cunda's meal had granted him final passage to nirvāa and therefore ought to be praised. In addition to portraying Gautama's extraordinary compassion, this story illustrates a constant theme in Buddhist depictions of hospitality: whenever hosts share food with guests, especially when the guests are monks or revered teachers, merit accumulates for all parties.

In Theravāda Buddhism, no ritual acts as such are prescribed. In the canonical texts, however, two public occasions of a religious nature are presupposed: the feeding of monks and preaching. In Sri Lanka, these are often combined in an event called the pinkama ("act of merit"), during the course of which a dāné (gift-meal) is provided, usually by laypeople, and baa (preaching) or pirit (recitation of sacred texts) is contributed by the monks. These events may be large festal gatherings at temples, private visits by monks to the households of laypeople, or funeral meals attended by families and friends. The common feature of all of them, however, is the transferring of merit, which is accomplished when a host expresses his wish that the benefits of the food and drink being served might accrue to others who are not visibly present. Normally, gods, dead relatives, or preta s (homeless, hungry spirits) are named, but in the popular understanding merit transferred at a pinkama also contributes toward the enlightenment of its ordinary human guests. Indeed, according to the "perfection of donation" tradition in Mahāyāna Buddhism, a bodhisattva may reassign the merit produced by his giving so that it benefits every living creature. The merit itself is then conceived of as food, for the bodhisattva vows: "I turn over into full enlightenment the meritorious work founded on jubilation. May it feed the full enlightenment (of myself and of all beings)" (Aasāhasrikā 6.138; trans. Conze, 1954). In effect, the bodhisattva becomes host to the entire universe.

One sees in this vow a conviction that everyone associated with feeding events will experience spiritual gain. Sometimes the gain is equated with a convivial happiness among the guests, which earns them even more merit than that achieved by the host. Thus, Richard F. Gombrich reports that a priest in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), who had spent five thousand rupees on a pinkama, told him how any villager responding to this meritorious act with sympathetic joy could accumulate more merit than the priestand without spending any money (Gombrich, 1971, p. 226). One may conclude then that for Buddhists hospitality in the form of the guest-meal typically functions to extend compassion; through the meal an endless process toward universal enlightenment is initiated.

In Confucian thought and practice, represented by documents dating from the Zhou dynasty (c. 1150 bce to 256 bce), gatherings for the sharing of food and drink are occasions that honor the natural distinctions between individuals or groups and at the same time provide opportunities for a decent, orderly communion among all the participants. When those involved follow the prescribed rites, harmony is achieved, and this harmony has cosmic as well as societal implications. According to Marcel Granet's reconstruction of the ancient Ba Zha agricultural festival, all those present were divided into two groups, one acting as hosts, the other as guests. These two groups embodied all the opposing forces of the universe (e.g., yin and yang ), which produce great blessings when they meet under the proper conditions. Similar types of ritual meetings for the sake of harmony are the community drinking ceremony, as pictured in Xunzi's description; the elaborate protocols for state visits and feasts transmitted by the authors of the Yili (Book of etiquette and ceremonial) and the family ancestor festivals, during which the living and the dead are united through offerings of food. By means of such offerings, the dead are aided in their journey to the Western Heaven of Happiness, and the living are enabled to appropriate their merit. Thus, everyone benefits from the common feast.

The potlatch assemblies of the American Indians of the Northwest Coast appear to be altogether different from Confucian ceremonies in character and purpose, for their chief visible feature is an almost orgiastic competition in gift giving, which obligates guests to hosts and virtually enforces role reversals at future meals for fear of losing face. Tribal and individual statuses are determined by the ability to give everything away in ritual acts of consumption or destruction. Nevertheless, as Marcel Mauss has shown in his classic work on gift exchanges among archaic peoples, even the radical potlatch (the literal meaning of which is both "nourish" and "consume") becomes a form of acting out natural laws, according to which a reciprocal flow of giving and receiving between those of different ranks must occur in order to preserve society. Guests and hosts are seen to be deeply linked with each other in a cosmic order that requires them to change their roles periodically so as to ensure proper redistributions of wealth and value (Mauss, 1967, pp. 3145). However much the potlatch differs from its Chinese counterparts in matters of decorum, it resembles them in embodying a basic harmony. For potlatch societies, however, that harmony is one of great flux.

All guest-host events within the life of religious communities involve a certain degree of ritual activity, even when spontaneity is prized. Sometimes the rituals evolve into elaborate liturgies, as in celebrations of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper among members of the more catholic branches of Christianity. Even more stylized forms of hospitality are found in practices associated with the Japanese tea ceremony or chanoyu, the origin of which can be traced to ancient China. The sharing of tea by sages is recounted in an old legend concerning the Daoist master Laozi. Upon accepting an invitation to tea from a mountain hermit, the former rewards his host with a copy of the Dao de jing. Here again hospitality functions to promote gift exchanges, as well as a certain degree of equality. While Confucian officials used tea ceremonies to solidify status and hierarchical order in society through insuring that only those recognized as the greatest could be hosts, more egalitarian practices prevailed among Chinese Buddhists, especially those of the Chan group. These apparently involved rituals in which monks drank out of a common bowl before the image of Bodhidharma, the order's Indian founder.

The Way of Tea or chado reached Japan in the ninth century ce through the monk Eichu, who returned to his homeland after studying with Chinese Buddhists. Later, Zen Buddhists added most of the distinctive features of the ceremony as we know it today, including the philosophy of hospitality underlying it. The sixteenth-century Zen master Sen Rikyū is reputed to have stated that "through concentrating on chanoyu both guests and hosts can obtain salvation," by which he probably meant satori (Anderson, 1991, p. 53). Indeed, Rikyū gave a privileged place to the tea ceremony as a vehicle by which all participants could attain enlightenment. In performing the intricate duties prescribed for them, guests and hosts are thought to disclose and even create personal tranquility and harmony with nature. Today many practitioners hold that when the ceremony is done well, everyone present is able to "participate fully in a cooperative act of ritual world maintenance" (Anderson, 1991, p. 8).

By way of summary, it may be noted that in virtually all the cultures and traditions examined above, hospitality, especially when it takes the form of the guest-meal, is marked by exchanges of spiritual goods along with the sharing of food and drink. These exchanges frequently have the effect of multiplying blessings or merit for the participants beyond the sum total of resources brought by the guests and hosts. Indeed, some cosmic progress is effected. Often gods, dead relatives or founding figures, and forces of nature are thought to be present at the meal. When this happens, their influence is felt, typically as a communion or productive alliance with the deeper forces of the universe. In many ways hospitality shows itself to be a universal force for good, at least when it is practiced without guile. In the wide variety of cultures studied here, guest-host events nearly always serve to promote an honoring of the "other," even when that other seems strange or hostile. Host figures are generally perceived to be both powerful and magnanimous, while guests are often expected to be bearers of gifts and, in some cultures, divine messengers (Heb. 13:2). One can even speak of hospitality as a catalyst for virtues. Generosity, gratitude, humility, and openness to peaceful relationships among parties otherwise suspicious of one another characterize many guest-host events.

See Also

Gift Giving; Potlatch.


Perhaps the best overall work for understanding hospitality as a religious phenomenon remains Marcel Mauss's The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, translated by Ian Cunnison (Glencoe, Ill., 1954; New York, 1967). Originally published in 1925, Mauss's seminal essay gives considerable attention to the roles of guests and hosts at meals and to the religious conceptualizations of these in a number of cultures. For an understanding of Buddhist views on hospitality, particularly as they occur in present-day Theravāda Buddhism, Richard F. Gombrich's field-based work, Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon (Oxford, 1971), proves invaluable. Also useful are the texts and interpretations provided in Buddhist Texts through the Ages, edited by Edward Conze, I. B. Horner, David Snellgrove, and Arthur Waley (New York, 1954). With regard to Hinduism, the collected papers of Louis Dumont, published as Religion, Politics, and History in India: Collected Papers in Indian Sociology (Paris, 1971), furnish a helpful sociological perspective on guest-host relationships. John Koenig's New Testament Hospitality: Partnership with Strangers as Promise and Mission (Minneapolis, 1985; Eugene, Ore., 2001) contains information on spiritual conceptualizations of hospitality in early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. For Islamic practices of hospitality, especially those based on bedouin traditions, one may consult H. R. P. Dickson's sharp-eyed account of his experiences in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, The Arab of the Desert, 2d ed. (London, 1951). The story of Leopold Weiss's encounter with Islamic hospitality occurs in the editorial "Living Islam," in Islamic Voice, vol. 14-11, no. 167. Two works on Chinese religion, Marcel Granet's Festivals and Songs of Ancient China, translated by E. D. Edwards (New York, 1932), and Francis L. K. Hsu's Under the Ancestors' Shadow (New York, 1948), deal specifically with the transcendent aspects of meals. An Introduction to Japanese Tea Ritual by Jennifer L. Anderson (Albany, N.Y., 1991) is an accessible source for the history, practice, and ideology of the ritual in its various forms.

John Koenig (1987 and 2005)


views updated May 18 2018


Almost all of the religious traditions of the world regard hospitality as a universal value and obligation. In ancient Greek mythology, the gods sometimes appeared on Earth disguised as humans who rewarded humans who offered them hospitality. For example, by offering hospitality to Zeus and Hermes in their human form, Baucis and Philemon were saved from the flood. In the Hindu tradition, hospitality is one of the five obligatory offerings required of all Hindus. In Buddhism, offering hospitality to monks is regarded as a virtuous deed with favorable karmic consequences. In the Qurān, hospitality toward strangers and the unfortunate is one of the principal ethical duties of all Muslims. Islamic hospitality is patterned upon the hospitality that the inhabitants of Medina showered upon the prophet Muammad when he was fleeing from his enemies in Mecca. These ideals are also found in Jewish and Christian understandings of hospitality.

In the OT the patriarchs are cited as models (Gn 19.2; 24.1733; 43.24, etc.) particularly since the visit of Yahweh to Abraham (Gn 18.28) left a religious mark upon Jewish hospitality that was further emphasized by Dt 10.1819. In the NT hospitality is connected with the Christian's earthly condition as a pilgrim (Heb 11.13). It is a charism from heaven (1 Pt 4.9), assimilates man to angels (3 Jn 8), and was recommended by Christ (Lk 11.58; 14.1215) who set an example (Mk 6.4145;8.69; Lk 22.27; Jn 13.117) and gave Himself to His guests (Mk 14.22). Hospitality is a function of charity (Lk 10.3337) whose practice is decisive for eternal life, when the Son of Man comes in His glory (Mt 25.3542). In a NT exhortation the guest is identified with Christ Himself (Mt 10.42; 25.3544), and this explains the frequency with which it is mentioned (Acts 10.6; 10.23;18.12; 21.16; 28.23; Rom 16.23; 1 Cor 16.19; Gal 4.14; 3 Jn 5, 910). However its practice was not without limitation since Christ Himself drew up rules for the Apostles (Mt 10.914; Mk 6.1011) and Disciples (Lk 10.511) in accepting hospitality; and St. Paul cautioned the Thessalonians against vagabonds and those living in idleness (2 Th 3.615) or consorting with excommunicated Christians (1 Cor 5.1112), while St. John outlawed the company of heretics (2 Jn 10).

In the post-Apostolic times, the letter of clement i of Rome (1 Clem. 1.2) praised Corinthian hospitality, and aristides credited all Christians with similar virtues (Apol. 15.7). Missionaries, bishops and priests visiting a neighborhood community, deacons serving as messengers, and simple Christians working in another village were given hospitality (Didache 11.110; 13.14; Hermas, Shepherd 8.10.3; 9.27.2). ignatius of antioch insisted on the presence of Christ in guests (Ad Eph. 6.1) and lauded hospitality as gratitude to Christ. origen devoted two homilies to hospitality (In Gen. hom. 45) and St. cyprian appointed a priest to take over the care of poor foreigners during his absence (Epist. 7), while St. john chrysostom boasted that the community of Antioch took care of 3,000 widows, foreigners, and patients daily (Hom. in Mt. 66.3). By the 4th century special buildings (xenodochia ) were constructed for the lodging of pilgrims and strangers, as well as for foundlings, orphans, aged people, and the sick. Most impressive was the village near Caesarea, founded by St. basil for such indigents (Epist. 94). Hospitality was a special duty of the bishop (Didasc. 2.58.6; Synod of Elvira, c.25; of Arles, c.9; of Antioch, c.9) who delegated this task often to the deacons or the diaconia. Gradually, hospitality became the duty of the monks and was subsequently incorporated in St. Benedict's Rule (ch. 53).

Bibliography: d. w. riddle, "Early Christian Hospitality," Journal of Biblical Literature 57 (1938) 141154. j. marty, "Sur le devoir chreátien de l'hospitaliteá aux trois premiers siècles," Revue d'histoire et de philosophie religieuses 19 (1939) 288295. d. gorce, Les Voyages, l'hospitalité dans le monde chrétien des IV e et V e siècles (Paris 1925). e. von severus, Fremde beher-bergen (Hamburg 1947). m. dhavamony, "Hindu Hospitality and Tolerance: Hindu Attitude to Foreigners, Strangers and Immigrants," Studia Missionalia 39 (1990) 303320. d. b. gowler, "Hospitality and Characterization in Luke 11:3754: A Socio-Narratological Approach," Semeia 64 (1994) 213251. j. koenig, New Testament Hospitality: Partnership with Strangers as Promise and Mission (Philadelphia 1985).

[j. van paassen]


views updated May 17 2018


In ancient Israel, hospitality was not merely a question of good manners, but a moral institution which grew out of the harsh desert and nomadic existence led by the people of Israel. The biblical customs of welcoming the weary traveler and of receiving the stranger in one's midst was the matrix out of which hospitality and all its tributary aspects developed into a highly esteemed virtue in Jewish tradition. Biblical law specifically sanctified hospitality toward the ger ("stranger") who was to be made particularly welcome "for you were strangers in a strange land" (Lev. 19:34 and see Ex. 12:49). Foreign travelers, although not protected by law (Deut. 15:3; 23:21), could count on the custom of hospitality. It was also the duty of the elders of the *cities of refuge to succor, as well as to protect, the unwitting killer who sought refuge in their cities until the death of the high priest (Num. 35:9–34). Isaiah states that one of the duties of the pious is to "deal thy bread to the hungry," and to "bring the poor that are cast out to thy house" (Isa. 58:7). The Bible is replete with examples of pious hospitality. As soon as Abraham saw the three men of Mamre "from afar," he hurried to invite them into his house, ministered to their physical comfort, and served them lavishly (Gen. 18). Similarly, Laban was eager to welcome Abraham's servant (Gen. 24:28–32) while Rebekah attended to the comfort of his camels. Jethro the Midianite was particularly disappointed at being deprived of the opportunity to extend hospitality to Moses (Ex. 2:20). Manoah did not allow the angel to depart before he had partaken of his hospitality (Judg. 13:15), and the Shunammite woman had a special room prepared for the prophet Elisha (ii Kings 4:8–11). The extreme to which hospitality was taken is shown by the stories of Lot and the old man of Gibeah who were prepared to sacrifice the honor of their daughters in order to protect their guests, who were to them complete strangers (Gen. 19:4–8 and Judg. 19:23–24). Some acts of hospitality had specific rewards. Rahab, who had harbored Joshua's two spies, was granted protection when Jericho fell (Josh. 2), and David repaid a courtesy which Barzillai had extended to his men (ii Sam. 17:27–29), with a courtesy to Barzillai's servant Chimham (ii Sam. 19:32–40). Breaches of hospitality, on the other hand, were punished. Gideon castigated the elders of Succoth and Penuel for their parsimony (Judg. 8:5–9); the men of Israel made war on the Benjamites for their breach of hospitality (Judg. 19:22, 20:17); and Nabal's death was seen as punishment for having failed to offer hospitality to David's men (i Sam. 25:2–38). The killing of Sisera by Jael is the only breach of hospitality praised in the Bible (Judg. 4:18–24, 5:24–27). One of Job's claims is that "the stranger did not lodge in the street, but I opened my doors to the traveler" (Job 31:32).

Rabbinic literature widened the scope of the virtue of hospitality, which it called hakhnasat oreḥim (lit. "bringingin of guests"). It was considered a great mitzvah, an expression of gemilut ḥasadim ("kindness"), especially when it was extended to the poor (Shab. 127a–b; Maim., Yad, Evel 14:1–2). One of the virtues for which one enjoys the fruits in this world and obtains the principal reward in the world to come, hospitality is, according to R. Johanan, even more important than prayer or, according to R. Judah, than receiving the divine presence (Shab. ibid.). A person who extends hospitality to a rabbinic student is regarded as if he had offered a daily sacrifice (Ber. 10b, and see also Ber. 63b; Kid 76b). The rabbis also sought to inculcate the virtue through a gloss on certain biblical figures: Abraham and Job were said to have left the doors of their homes open on all four sides, so that strangers might have easy access (arn2 14). The Midrash (Lam. R. 4:13) relates that even at the height of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem, mothers would deprive their children of the last crust in order to grant hospitality to a mourner. R. *Huna attempted to set an example by publicly proclaiming his meal times as a sign of open invitation to the stranger (Ta'an. 20b), and his saying "Kol dikhfin yeitei ve-yeikhul" ("Let all the hungry enter and eat") is used during the *seder service. In Jerusalem, it was customary to indicate that a meal was in progress by displaying a flag (bb 93b; Lam. R. 4:4). Children were taught to be hospitable by instructing them to invite guests to dine when they answered the door (arn1 7). The rabbis considered women to be more adept than men at extending hospitality to strangers (Ber 10b), but to be less generous (bm 87a; but cf. der 6:2). On the other hand, the rabbis denounced the parasitical guest, especially if he was a scholar (Pes. 49a). Two extremes were avoided through a clear definition of the duties of host and of guest: the host was forbidden to make his guest uncomfortable either by appearing miserable (dez 9:6), or by watching his guest too attentively (Maim., Yad, Berakhot 7:6), or by neglecting to serve his guest himself (Kid. 32b). The guest was instructed to show gratitude (Ber. 58a), to recite a special blessing for his host in the *Grace after Meals (Ber. 46a; Maim., Yad, Berakhot 2:7 and 7:2; Sh. Ar., oḤ 201:1), to leave some food on the plate (Er. 53b; der 6:3; Sefer Ḥasidim, ed. J. Wistinetzki and J. Freimann (19242), 872–3), and to comply with his host's wishes (Pes. 86b; der 6:1). The guest was forbidden to give food to others without his host's consent (Ḥul. 94a; der 9:4). Several centuries earlier, *Ben Sira (second century b.c.e.) had already defined the table manners which were to be practiced by the guest (Ecclus. 31:21–26), and had condemned the parasite who took advantage of hospitality (ibid. 29:23–28; 40:28–30).

The tradition of hospitality was particularly apparent among Jewish communities in the Middle Ages and a separate charitable association called Ḥevra Hakhnasat Oreḥim was established for that purpose. Medieval European Jewish communities instituted a system of pletten ("meal tickets") for travelers and itinerant scholars, and in the 15th century, established battei baḥurim ("student hostels"). Nor was individual hospitality neglected; Nathan Hannover (17th century) states: "Many wealthy members of the congregation considered it an honor to have the student and his charges as guests at their table, although the congregation sufficiently provided for their support" (Yeven Meẓulah, ed. by J. Fishman and J. Halpern (1966), 83). Among Polish communities, it was also the custom to billet students with members of the community for their daily meals (Nathan Hannover, ibid.). This custom, known as essen-teg, later spread to Germany. In modern times, charitable institutions have assumed most of the responsibility for communal hospitality.


E.A. Frisch, A Historical Survey of Jewish Philanthropy (1924); idem, Jewish Philanthropy in the Biblical Era; A. Cronbach, Philanthropy in Rabbinical Literature; idem, Philanthropic Institutions in the Middle Ages; Baron, Community, 2 (1942), 319–25; Vaux, Anc Isr, 10; I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia (1943), 250f.; C.G. Montefiore and H. Loewe (eds.), Rabbinic Anthology (1939), ch. 18.


views updated Jun 11 2018

338. Hospitality

  1. Abigail undoes husbands unneighborliness with fare for Davids troops. [O.T.: I Samuel 25:2327]
  2. Abraham graciously receives and treats three wayfarers. [O.T.: Genesis 18:115]
  3. Acestes Sicilian king; entertains Aeneas. [Rom. Lit.: Aeneid ]
  4. Alcandre Polybus wife; entertains Helen and Menelaus on their way home from Troy. [Gk. Lit.: Odyssey ]
  5. Bailley, Harry Mr. Congeniality. [Br. Lit.: Canterbury Tales ]
  6. Boniface jovial innkeeper; name became generic for restaurateur. [Br. Drama: The Beaux Stratagem; Espy, 129]
  7. fatted calf, the best calf killed for feast to celebrate return of prodigal son. [N.T.: Luke 15:13]
  8. Gatsby, Jay character who serves nothing but the best to his guests. [Am. Lit.: The Great Gatsby ]
  9. Glorious Appollers, the known for their cordiality and sociability. [Br. Lit.: Old Curiosity Shop ]
  10. Julian the Hospitaler set up famed hospice for weary travelers. [Medieval Romance: Hall, 181]
  11. Lot treated and feted two disguised angels. [O.T.: Genesis, 19:13]
  12. Lycus by hospitably entertaining Hercules, earned his gratitude and military assistance. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 156]
  13. oak symbol of graciousness. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
  14. Phaeacians island people befriend and aid both Odysseus and the Argonauts. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 780]
  15. Philemon and Baucis poor couple welcomes disguised gods refused by rich households. [Rom. Lit.: Metamorphoses ]


views updated May 17 2018

hos·pi·tal·i·ty / ˌhäspiˈtalitē/ • n. the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.• adj. denoting a suite or room in a hotel where visitors are entertained, typically at a convention: liquor flowed most freely in the hospitality suites of thirteen candidates. ∎  relating to or denoting the business of housing or entertaining visitors: the hospitality industry.

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