B’ruchim Habaim, the blessing of welcoming, is based in ancient Judaism and was modeled by Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis. Abraham does four things that exhibit welcoming behavior. As guests arrived at the tent of Abraham and Sarah, they were warmly greeted, made comfortable, offered food, and given attention. Much has changed since the days of Abraham and Sarah, but we are still welcoming others into our tents (homes).
Warm and welcoming behavior should be encouraged at a very young age. Children can understand that when guests come to their home, it is their responsibility to make them feel comfortable and welcome. Children can do this by offering guests something they like to eat or drink, and also by their sharing toys.
Besides modeling welcoming behaviors that we want children to follow, adults should intentionally teach the basic welcoming behaviors. We need to take a little extra time and involve children in the tasks necessary to prepare our homes for guests, such as, choosing foods that guests would enjoy. Encourage, even the little ones, to help clean and prepare the house, showing them that you want your home to look nice for your guests.
Before guests arrive, young children can practice what they should say as their friends arrive. When they come to the door for a party or a playdate, encourage your child to say things such as, “Hi, come in.” “Do you want to play in my room?” Remind children that they can play with their toys anytime, but their friends only have a few hours to play with them.
After a play date or a party is over, let children know that it is important to walk each guest to the door and say, “Thank you for coming.” Remember, at three or four years old, we can’t expect perfection, and practicing a new skill may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first. With practice it will soon feel natural to them. Children also need to learn that there is work to do after guests leave. Cleaning up after guests is part of graciously hosting others. Returning toys to their usual place, throwing away trash, and even writing thank you notes or drawing thank you pictures are important tasks to practice.
The secret to welcoming guests into our busy lives is to keep things simple. Treat guests as you would treat your family. There is no need to cook a gourmet meal. All guests need is comfort, not excess. If your preparations are kept simple, one more person for lunch or dinner will be a joy, and not a chore.
Teaching children to be thoughtful welcoming hosts and hostesses takes a little time and effort, but the investment of time is well worthwhile. If we have homes that are gracious and welcoming, then our children will acquire B’ruchim Habaim, the blessing of welcoming.Jewish values for children
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The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal