Weekly Chasidic Story #977 (s5776-49 / 11 Menachem-Av 5776)

Hospitality Repercussions

The head of the Rabbinical Court declared that a husband shouldn't bring guests home without permission from his wife, and vice versa.

Seasonal: Av 11-13 (Aug. 15-17, 2016), the 29th annual Klezmer Music Festival in Tsfat



Hospitality Repercussions

When Avraham and Sara were informed by G-d that they were going to be blessed with a child in their old age, they were in the midst of performing the Mitzvah of Hachnassat Orchim--Taking care of guests.

This demonstrates that the Mitzvah of taking care of guests has an essential connection with our lives as Jews, because the child that was born became the father of the whole Jewish people, including every one of us.

Let me share with you a story that happened in 1977. My wife and I were then with Chabad in Buffalo.

As in most cities in America today, in Buffalo there are no more corner stores. If you need to do some shopping, you have to go to the mall. And so, one day, my wife and I got in the car to go to Wegman's, a large supermarket.

A lot of people pass through Buffalo on their way to Niagara Falls, or other places in Canada. Often they call Chabad and ask if there is a place where they can stay for Shabbos. This happens a lot. I remember when I lived in London that it was the same. People were always passing through on their way to other destinations, and needed a place to stay for a day or two.

Just that morning, some people had complained about this kind of behavior. They felt that it wasn't right; people were just taking advantage, and instead of hosting them, we should just direct them to the nearest hotel.

I mentioned this conversation to my wife, and said that it didn't seem right to me. After all, why were we in Buffalo if not to be of help to others? Wasn't that why the Lubavitcher Rebbe had sent us?

We had hardly gone two or three minutes, when I noticed that we needed gas, and turned into the gas station on the corner.

As I got out to open the gas tank, a man in his fifties got out of his car and began walking towards me. I noticed that he reached in his back pocket and pulled out a yarmulke.
"Shalom," he greeted me with a smile. "Do you know where I can find a hotel?"

I could tell from his accent that he was Israeli.

'Dear G-d,' I said to myself. 'Are you testing me? I just finished talking to my wife about this.'

"Just a minute," I replied, turning back to speak to my wife again.

Rabbi Dworkin [the deceased former chief rabbinical authority of Crown Heights - YT] used to say that a husband shouldn't bring guests home without permission from his wife, and vice versa.

"Shulamit," I said, "this man just asked me where he could find a hotel. Can we invite him to stay with us?"

"Absolutely," she agreed at once.

I turned back to him. "Why don't you come and stay with us?" I said.

"Oh no, we couldn't do that," he said. "That's very kind of you, but there are five of us. We couldn't all stay with you. Please just tell me where there is a hotel. We only need to stay one night."

"Just a minute," I said, laughing to myself. 'G-d, are You upping the stakes?'

I turned back to my wife. "He's says there are five of them. Can we handle that?"

"Not a problem," she replied.

Well, it took some convincing to get him to agree, but in the end he did agree, and we turned around and brought the whole lot back to our apartment. We only had two bedrooms, but with a couch and two cots, it worked out fine. One of them had an aunt who lived nearby. And one of them slept on a blanket on the carpet.

What should I say? They were the nicest people. We had a wonderful time together. They were all musicians on their way to perform a concert in Toronto for Yom Ha-Atzme'ut - a father, and two sons, a son-in-law, and a drummer. We talked and talked till the wee hours, late at night. They were full of questions about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and were thirsty to hear stories about him.

I remember telling them an amazing story I had heard from Rabbi Nachman Sudak [the chief emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to England, now deceased --YT] about Arik Sharon and the Rebbe before the Yom Kippur war. And how, when General Sharon came out of his private audience with the Rebbe, he said to the yeshiva students standing there, "Boys, as great as you think your Rebbe is, you don't know even a bit of what he really is."

The next day we all got up early and went to the Chabad House for the morning prayers. They helped make the quorum of 10, and everyone was grateful for that. When we came back for breakfast, the father went out and bought a tricycle at a garage sale for our 2 year old son. During the Blessings-After-a-Meal, they added in a lot of personal blessings for us, and especially for my wife who was in her seventh month.

It was a wonderful experience. We parted on the best of terms.

Six months later I came to New York to be at the big farbrengen for the Chasidic festival of Yud-Tes Kislev. As I stood there, waiting for the farbrengen to start, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the younger brother.

"Do you remember me?" he said. "I live here in Crown Heights now! Yes. I started learning in the Yeshiva [for those without a strong Torah background--YT] Hadar HaTorah. My brother is in Queens, and all the family are getting more involved in Judaism! All because of the night we spent in your house."

After that, Baruch Hashem, their lives developed in a very positive way as they became more and more involved with Chabad and the Rebbe, eventually getting married, and having families.

We remained best of friends till the present day.

In their careers as musicians, they met with great success, and their relationship with Chabad and the Rebbe played a very important role, and has had a powerful influence on Jewish music. Every year on [the intermediate days of the festival of] Sukkot, thousands upon thousands of people rejoice and dance to the joyous music of Yosi & Avi Piamenta.
That's their story. It all started from the mitzvah of hospitality.

For many years, Avi has asked me to write it up. I thought this week [of the Torah reading that features the mitzvah of hospitality, and only a few weeks after Yosi's passing --YT] it would be appropriate.

PIAMENTA BROTHERS in concert--YOSI on electric guitar and AVI playing his power flute. (photo from //ColLive.com)


Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from a Nov. 2015 weekly mailing of Rabbi Dovid-Sholom Pape, editor of "The Moshiach Times" -- a weekly children's magazine, to his personal list.

Editor's note: Yosi Piamenta was known for introducing the electric guitar to Jewish music. He was widely acknowledged by rock critics, including "Rolling Stone," as a guitar virtuoso.

Connections: 1) Elul 8 (this year: Sept 11!) is the first yahrzeit of Yosi Piamenta (November 29, 1951 - August 23, 2015). 2) Taking place in Tsfat this week is its 29th annual 3-day Klezmer Music Festival, at which in previous years the Piementa Brothers occasionally played (and at ASCENT afterwards!)

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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