The Da’at Z’kainim (a compilation of 13th and 14th century writings) explains that the night before Jacob’s confrontation with Esau, Jacob was left by himself. It further elaborates that Jacob’s children behaved inconsiderately in leaving their father by himself; they should have remained with him (even though Jacob had instructed them to go). From this we learn that it is incumbent on us to ensure that we remember to accompany others.
An extension of that mitzvah is the minhag (custom) that when someone leaves your home, you are obligated to accompany them approximately 2 to 3 metres outside your door. You should also show them the way, and warn them of any pitfalls in the road or in the area.
When working in retail many years ago, we had a franchisee who would always walk me all the way back to my car after I visited him, no matter how far away it was. I would tell him that he didn’t have to do that, though it was much appreciated and it gave us a chance to chat more. He would explain that it was
his culture and family’s custom to walk their guests safely to their car or other mode of transport or if your guests had walked to you, to make sure that you walked them to a point where it would be safe for them to continue on their journey alone.
Many of us do this subconsciously anyway, although probably not to that great an extent. How often have you walked a guest to their car, and then said something along the lines of; “the best way for you to go would be along fifth street, and take a left after the bridge”, or “they’re doing roadworks near the
onramp to the motorway, rather go along road x or y”?
We can extend this minhag further by incorporating it in our approach and commitment to building relationships. The message is that in addition to making others feel welcome, we should acknowledge that the process needs to go further than that. If we were guests at someone’s house, and they greeted
us at the door, showed us around, gave us a drink and made sure that we all enjoyed a wonderful meal together, only to say goodbye at the end of the evening as they perhaps turned off the light and went to bed, without first walking us out, what kind of hosts would we consider them to be?
Many communities often talk about how much they welcome people and include everyone from all walks of life, and they “meet them where they are”. Without casting dispersion on those claims, we have seen time and again that it is our actions that will be our true measure. Actions will always speak
louder than words. Why? Because actions demonstrate reality, actions demonstrate the real intent.
Along with many other cultures, Jacob, and many of our ancestors recognised the importance of making sure that when you say goodbye to someone, you do so in a responsible way. Not only is it good manners to walk your guests out of the house, but it shows that you value them and their safety.
Similarly, our focus and commitment to including others and looking after their well-being allows us to invoke the teachings of the Da’at Z’kainim, and promote hospitality and care that we would want to experience, to all people and all times.
Rabbi Sam Zwarenstein