This Family Hosts Sixty Guests For Shabbat Every Single Week

Although my knowledge of Spanish does not exceed the vocabulary used in Dora the Explorer, this past Friday afternoon, when we arrived at Rabbi Bentzion Klatzko’s house for Shabbos and he told me, “Mi casa es su casa,” even I knew what he was talking about.

Though “mi casa es su casa” is not a Hebrew phrase, it very much expresses the Jewish sentiment of hachnasis orchim (hospitality), especially when it comes to a family like the Klatzkos. After their house burnt down over a year ago, they rebuilt it with an extra large dining room and a custom made table that splits into two thinner tables and can seat around 60 guests (which was the approximate number of people at their house this past Shabbos).

Besides the 60 people who ate all three Shabbos meals at the house, a third of them also slept at there, while the rest stayed with neighbors and came in and out of the Klatzko’s revolving front door as they pleased.

As if this tremendous contribution to the Jewish people wasn’t enough, (they do this every week) Rabbi Klatzko recently launched a site called Shabbat.com so that Jews throughout the world can experience the magic of Shabbos and Sabbath observing Jews can take the Klatzko’s lead in opening up their homes to these guests.

But back to the “mi casa es su casa” thing – if it’s such a Jewish idea, I wondered, do we Jews have an equivilent expression? After some thought, I realized that we do, and it’s found in the book Ethics of the Fathers, though in the Jewish example, not only do we say that “mine is yours” we also weigh in about whether or not yours should be mine.

According to our sages, there are four different ways to look at your stuff versus my stuff. The most greedy way is to say “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours in mine.” The next level, “What’s mine is mine and what’s your is yours,” though not greedy, certainly doesn’t encourage sharing.

The level after that says, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine,” and the first time I came across this passage, I assumed that it was the highest level since reciprocity seems to be a beautiful idea. If we all just openly gave to each other, wouldn’t it be a perfect world?

Apparently not, according to our sages. Because they go on to say that the level that we should be aspiring to is, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours,” meaning that we should give freely of our possessions while simultaneously allowing others to give at their own pace.

Now this obviously shouldn’t be practiced with people who would want to abuse you or take advantage of your generosity (we’re not supposed to give to the point of endangering ourselves). But the lesson here is a very poignant one. Many times we give in hopes of getting something in return – a gift or favor back or at least the gratitude or respect we might think goes along with what we did or gave.

But our rabbis caution us to not fall into such thinking, for giving freely is not enough. We must give with no strings attached or thoughts of what we might gain, just as the Klatzko’s give to their guests every week.

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  • Avatar photo Elle says on July 15, 2010

    I’ve really been enjoying your posts lately. lots of good things to think of. I often try to teach my children some thing that I myself and trying to learn “do unto others as you want them to do to you”. but perhaps you are right… and it should be “do unto others even if they don’t do it unto you”

    thanks for the reminder.

  • Avatar photo Allison says on July 15, 2010

    Thanks, Elle. I would say like this – “do unto others as you’d want them to do to you” is basically “love your neighbor as yourself” which is one of the foundations of Jewish thought and it’s important to know how we’d like to be treated because it helps us to know how to treat others.

    I think what the “mine is yours and yours is yours” idea means is that when we give to others we should try our best to do so without the hopes or expectations of getting something in return. We should give only for the sake of giving. So basically – you can teach both ideas to them!

  • Avatar photo Benzion Klatzko says on July 16, 2010

    It was easy to have you and your lovely family as guests!! With cute kids, a wise husband, and a superstar wife who dazzled all the other guests with her wisdom and insight into life, Mi Casa really became Su Casa!!

    Cant wait for the next shabbat we share together. And thanks for telling everyone about shabbat.com. Paying a mitzva forward is so “Jew in the City” like.

  • Avatar photo Tova Nordhaus says on July 16, 2010

    I met you at the Shores in Lakewood about 2 years ago and once in a while I read your very inspiring and entertaining posts. May you have much success in all you do.. Shabbat Shalom 🙂

  • Avatar photo Galina says on July 19, 2010

    I love this post. I agree that your posts have been truly fabulous lately.You are definately on a roll with sharing these pieces of your life’s journey with us. Thank you. I hope that I get to spend Shabbat with such an amazing family as this Rabbi and his wife.

  • Avatar photo flora says on February 22, 2011

    Hi. While I find this way of viewing possessions, whether material or energetic etc., works well in jewish circles, I have tried it in the “regular world” and it really became so draining. I eventually realized that the people i was around were thrilled to take take take. I just had no concept of behaving that way.
    Or others would just be turned off by generosity. And that did not feel good either.
    I wish I could find a way to be more giving but really I have just bent to the mine is mine, yours is yours thing out of self protection. I…miss being more giving. Sure, I can find safe ways to give, but…when all around me was a jewish world, i could just give and, without counting or being exact about any of it, find myself still nourished and cared for along the way.
    But my life with my family is not thus and — it was such a bad experience — i cannot picture how I could ever healthfully go back to such ways of being.
    I remember as a child being at a beduin camp in the sinai (my uncle was a pilot and his best friend a tracker of beduin peoples). The beduinim wanted to kill a goat in our honor to make a feast. And we could not look at any item in their camp without them trying to gift it to us. We had to be very delicate about managing to leave them with their much needed supplies on hand and still be respectful to them. Sigh. I long for something like that, an experience like that. It is so different out in society at large.
    thanks for your works.


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