We are now in the midst of Sukkot, the ancient Jewish harvest festival.
In English, it would be called the Festival of Booths or Festival of Tabernacles after the huts (Sukkah) observant Jews build for this time. Participants are supposed to dwell in the Sukkah in memory of ancestors who spent 40 years in the desert and in thanks for G-d’s blessings. In modern reality, that means serving meals and observing rituals in the Sukkah though you don’t have to sleep there. This is a happy time when people feast and share hospitality.
One part of Sukkot involves the Ushpizin or holy guests. The holy guests are traditionally the biblical characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. The biblical Ushpizin are honored in various ways during Sukkot to get people thinking about their positive attributes and the lessons they can teach, but as portrayed in the wonderful 2004 Israeli movie “Ushpizin,” even some unlikeable living human beings can serve as Ushpizin. Sukkot is definitely a time of guests and socializing.
In Judiasm, hospitality has always been taken very seriously. This is true in all three Abrahamic religions, although some take it more seriously than others. Hosts owe very important duties to their guests, which teachers have often said are more important than any actual religious observances or proscriptions. One of those duties is a duty to protect. It’s not just one duty. Preserving life is the most important duty a Jew can perform.
In the case of hosts and guests, hosts must protect their guests from any danger or threat, even if the guests are complete strangers. Scriptures contain some harsh examples of this, like Lot offering his virgin daughters to a lustful mob rather than turning over to the mob a pair of strangers he was hosting. Ugly as some biblical examples are, they serve to show how important the duty to protect was and still is.
Today there are better ways than offering to throw girls to a mob. Effective arms are available to all who care enough to learn to use them and care enough about the duty to protect life to be prepared to use them. I ask Jewish antigunners, “How can you consider yourself prepared to protect anybody’s life if you are unprepared and unwilling to use best self defense tools available to you?”