A Jewish Value: Hospitality


Subject: Acts of Hospitality

Target: First Grade Students with their Families

Time Frame: One Day

Congregation: United Hebrew

Contributor: Cheryl Whatley


In Jewish theology, hospitality is considered a form of compassion, an act of righteousness (gemilut hasadim) and a legal obligation. In the Torah’s Book of Leviticus (Chapter 19:verse 18), we are instructed: “You shall love your companion as yourself.”   In the Passover seder, we recite, ”Let all who are hungry come and eat…”

The Talmudic rabbis said that we Jews are commanded to: Visit the sick; Comfort mourners; Bury the dead; Bring in the bride in joy; Escort guests.

All these deeds of kindness have no limit—we are to do them wholeheartedly until they are properly dispensed. Tzedakah (the giving of money), on the other hand, is limited by the rabbis of old, not to overly burden oneself financially.


Our homes should be open and welcoming. Children will learn ways to show hospitality:

  • Open the door and be inviting as guests arrive.
  • Make guests comfortable.
  • Generously offer your best food.
  • See to the needs of guests.
  • Assure the safety of guests on their journey.


Children participate in activities that focus on ways to demonstrate hospitality and through these activities, learn the value of hospitality.

Target Population

First Grade Students and their Parents.


This program should be held in an auditorium.

Staff and Specialists

Teachers to present discussions;
Teen Assistant (in costume) to take group into "Abraham's Tent";
Volunteer to assist with group making kefiyahs;
Volunteer to assist with group making welcome signs.


Begin the day in your classroom.  Introduce our Jewish patriarch Abraham and matriarch Sarah.  Explain that we consider Abraham the first Jew.  He and Sarah lived in a place called Ur.  God told them to leave and go to “a place that I will show you.”  They trusted God and traveled from their home to a new place—that we now call Israel.  God also told them that a whole nation would come from their family.  And sure enough, here we are, the Jewish people, who have been around for thousands of years (hard to think about that long ago).  They still didn’t have the 10 Commandments and other laws of the Torah, but they are considered our founding family.

Go to music: Early - 9:30 am; Late - 12:00 noon.

Three groups will be going into the auditorium. The groups will rotate about every 15 minutes. 

Group 1 - will begin by Making Kefiyahs
These are the cloth headwear worn in the desert to protect you from the sun.  In the middle east, to this day, you can see people, even in the city, wearing them.  Sometimes the color or pattern of the kefiyah tells where the person is from.  Look at the sample kefiya or pictures.  Notice the geometric patterns.  When you decorate yours, make large patterns.

Group 2 - will be making Door Handle Welcome Signs
These can be decorated on both sides.  They should say “Welcome” or “Shalom”  and be colorfully decorated with markers or crayons by the families.  Stickers could also be added.  One side might be a general welcome and the other a Shabbat welcome; or one side could welcome family to the home and the other welcome friends to the child’s room.

Group 3 - will be Visiting Abraham's Tent
1-3 Teen assistants will lead the way to Abraham’s tent. (The chupah, covered on top only with colored cloth and with rugs on the floor).  Say something like:  “Come this way; it’s hot out here in the desert; I see shade over there, I wonder if those people are friendly, etc.”

The person dressed as Abraham will come out of the tent and greet the guests, saying something like: “Welcome;  come in and sit out of the heat; let me get you refreshments; oh, you must be so tired, etc.”  Give out cookies, fruit, or whatever as refreshments.

While they sit to eat, the teacher tells the story that we are acting out (see handout): 3 visitors approached the tent of Abraham and Sarah; Abraham ran to greet them; he offered them shade and food.  We learn from Abraham about hospitality—how to treat guests in our home. 

Program Activities

  • Make a camel trail through the desert by taping to the floor pictures of camels or camel tracks.
  • Hang on the wall pictures of sights and sites in a desert, especially the Negev for the travelers to look at as they walk along. (At CAJE in St. Louis we have 3D photos and glasses, from which you can pull out the desert pictures to hang.  Adults and students love them.)
  • Divide the kids and parents into 3 groups

    Group 1 will go to one art table to decorate kefiahs to protect them from the desert sun.

    Group 2 will go to another art table to make welcome signs on doorknob hangers – decorate front and back to say “Welcome” and “Shabbat shalom” and be decorated with markers, crayons, or colored pencils

    Group 3 goes with a teen assistant (in costume – kefiah).  See cue card: this person tells the group that they are in the hot desert.  They see a tent in the distance.  They’ll go there to rest.

  • Then the groups will rotate activities, with the kefiahs on as they make them.
  • In Abraham and Sarah’s tent -- Teen assistant in costume (kefiah) takes Group 3 into the desert, saying how hot it is, etc. (see cue card). When arrive at the tent, Abraham (teen assistant in costume – beard and kefiyah) greets them, welcomes them: See cue card. 
  • Abraham or teacher tells story and gives out food (cookies) about hospitality: See cue card, which says the following:

    In the Book of Genesis (18:1-8) Abraham and Sarah are in their open tent under a tree in the heat when 3 visitors approached [sometimes interpreted as being angels of God.  Abraham sees them and runs to meet them.  He brings water for them to wash their feet [important if you travel in the desert] and offers them a resting place in the shade.  He then told them he would bring “a morsel” of food, but ran off quickly to prepare a big meal of cakes and tender meat.  He stood by as they ate.  In verse 16, when they leave, Abraham went out with them, “to bring them on the way”.

  • Lessons we learn from this Torah portion are as follows:

    1. The tent was open on all sides: Our homes should be open and welcoming. We have windows through which we can watch for our guests to arrive.

    2.  Abraham ran to greet the visitors:  We should offer a warm and eager welcome. Open the door and be inviting as guests arrive.

    3.  Abraham washes their feet and offers a place to rest: Make guests comfortable.

    4.  He hurried to prepare a good meal: Generously offer your best.    

    5.  He stood by as they ate: See to the needs of guests.

    6.  Abraham went out with them:  Assuring safety of guests on their journey was important.  We see our guests out; we wish them a safe drive; we give directions; we sometimes ask that they let us know when they return home safely.



References and Resources