Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Middas Sdom & The Only Child

(Image courtesy of

Even though I am married, have three children, and it has been almost 17 years since I left my parents home, I am still an only child at heart. My wife has told me that I do not exhibit the classic signs of only child syndrome, yet I know that I am still a 34 year-old only child.

My "only childness" is most apparent in my innate preference not to have guests in my home. Yes, yes, I know all about the importance of hachnosas orchim and have even probably posted quotes here on my blog before as a way to give myself chizuk in this area, nevertheless, my selfish inner only child remains uncomfortable in this area.

As an only child I tend to divide the world into two categories: mine and not mine. I am uncomfortable when someone else touches something that I label as "mine" without first asking permission.

I tend to approach hachnosas orchim with dread because guests sometimes do not know how to be guests. While I certainly make every effort to make a person feel welcome and comfortable when they are in my home, I still want them to behave with a bit of trepidation and not be overly familiar. Quite simply, I want them to be the type of respectful guest that I would be in their home.

By now, you are most certainly thinking to yourself, "I hope I am never invited over to A Simple Jew's house. He sounds like a real head case". Rest assured though, that what I have written is what I keep internally and I would certainly welcome you warmly.

While as an only child I might be more inclined to be a taker, my wife is a giver and it would physically pain her not to do something kind for another person. I have been blessed with a wife who is pure chessed and cannot help but be positively influenced by her.

Through her, I learn how to break this negative trait and redefine what I consider "mine".


At October 24, 2007 at 8:14:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

i'm the oldest of nine.. and i know what you're talking about.. so it can't be just only children who feel like that :)

but the way I see it, you're halfway there.. your mine/not-mine worldview is great the way it is.. now you just need to see your fellow jew as part of yourself and you're set!

re: your quote from the Vitebsker..
i think there's wisdom beyond just the monetary aspect. When having a large number of guests, it becomes a production--every time you think of having guests you have to think of whether you are up for a whole production.. one guest is intimate and is inviting that guest into your world while many guests creates an entirely new space that is jointly theirs and yours.

At October 24, 2007 at 11:29:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

Rabbi Frand writes the following in one of his books on the parsha:
In Europe on Friday night after davening the guests in Shul who needed a place to eat would be allocated to different people. Naturally, the respectable looking ones got taken first.

One week in the Shul where R' Meir Pam (R' Avrohom Pam's father) was Rov there were 2 guests left over. One was a refined looking person dressed like a talmid chochom and the other was a disheveled very large person. The shamash asked Rav Pam to take one of them and he chose the heavy disheveled one and let someone else take the talmid chochom. Rav Pam explained himself: "If I was looking for a chavrusa I would have taked the other man, however I want to do the mitzva of hachnosas orchim, feeding my guests properly and this man looks like he can eat well."

At October 26, 2007 at 12:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

Although not an only child, I do understand your thoughts on this matter.
No, not everyone can be an ideal guest, and in fact, not everyone can be an ideal host. But a host should understand that a guest will (hopefully) not be a guest forever and overstay his welcome...and if a guest doesn't care for his host, he's always free to leave.

BTW, you're welcome to be a guest in our home. I believe it's often easier to host than be a let us be your hosts one day.

At October 26, 2007 at 6:39:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: Thanks for the invitation!!


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