This law turns us outward to our environment. Before, everything was about looking inward to grow and learn. Now, we turn outward toward others. The law basically is fulfilled when we walk the talk and, at the same, serve the greater good of humanity. How we do that is totally up to us. The important piece is the state of mind — giving and hospitality is selfless.
Without the selflessness of giving and hospitality, it is almost impossible to evolve. Yes, the evolution of self comes from serving something that does not include the self.
To accomplish this, the overall idea is our behavior should match our thoughts and actions. We should live by the values we hold dear. It is not enough to talk about patience, caring and honesty while acting from impatience, selfishness or gossiping.
In Israel, there are two sides of an extraordinary fence that you straddle. Israel is a very intense place to live due to the constant threat of injury or even death that follows you daily. Whether it is the bus stop where someone can show up with the intention of blowing themselves up or the train station where people leave packages that might blow up — or the mall, or the movie theater, or that restaurant or local coffee place on the street, or the market.
I have had approximately two close calls in my own life in Israel where I turned the corner after buying something in Ben Yehuda market in Jerusalem and the bomb went off; or I was at the bus stop but was in a hurry and jumped into a “sheroot” (shared vehicle) and we got 100 yards away and the bus was blown up. I was actually sitting at that stop moments before. Or the countless times, too many to even name, I saw a bomb squad come in and blow up someone’s groceries they mistakenly left behind at the train station. Yes, Israel can be intense. People serve in reserve duty yearly until age 45 — every man and woman over age 18 is part of the defense forces. People are trained to be “suspicious” of what is going on around them.
So, what does this all have to do with the law of giving and hospitality? It polarizes it into two opposites. On one hand, you have a lot of people who are very self-absorbed, and each has his or her own agenda they pursue relentlessly. Business is very cut-throat, and people are stressed, rushed and determined. On the other hand – due to this intensity, you have the most open, welcoming, helpful, kind, caring and cohesive people I have ever met. The men who volunteer to pick up pieces of people blown up by the bombs, the neighbors that take you in because you cannot go home due to rockets firing in your backyard, the open homes during the holidays that embrace all who have no family. My family, every year, would have our home open to all of the people we knew who had no family and we would gather, eat, sing songs and be happy.
So, the fence they saddle is the intensity of some people who are very willing to see an opportunity and grab it for their benefit no matter what the cost; on the other side is a very spiritual people who live to serve humanity and the greater good of all. A very interesting and impactful society, to say the least. It’s never boring in Israel. To this day, I miss so many things about living there but also remember so many challenges I faced living there.
Israel, for sure, happens to be the place where my very soul was taught the importance of those tangential things that make life truly worth living as well as the unimportance of materialism and ego pursuits. When your life is a moment-by-moment venture and you do not know what tomorrow will bring, you definitely learn a new perspective. In the States, what? Canada would bomb and attack us? I think that’s only in a South Park episode.
Music concerts in the middle of the desert under the stars, fireworks blooming in the skies above all cities on Independence Day, campfires from all corners of all neighborhoods on Lag b’Omer. Tel Aviv never stops — late-night pubs and fun dance clubs with street vendors on every corner selling hot bread and corn. Open air markets with sights and sounds to delight the soul. All this and more, every day, all day long. Going to an Israeli home, it is customary to feed your guest. Walk through the door of any Israel home and the law of giving and hospitality is the first thing you will experience. The table is quickly laden with all sorts of things from olives and salads to cookies and cakes. I have never left a visit without feeling “stuffed” from all the foods ready and waiting at any given moment for the next guest to arrive.
The law of giving and hospitality is how we “pay it forward” and anonymously help others.
Every day do one random act of kindness … and see how long you can do it without breaking it. This will make your soul sing as well as someone else’s. What a joyous thing in the world and what better way to feel this law in action.
Lori Gordon-Michaeli LCSW