THE MYSTERIOUS GUESTS
A Sukkot Story
by Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrated by Katya Krenina
Eric Kimmel weaves an intriguing tale of two brothers. Ezra, the younger brother, was kind and generous. Ezra means ‘help’ and he lived up to his name. Eben, the elder brother, was rich and selfish. Eben means ‘stone’ and he lived up to his name, too!
The Mysterious Guests is built around the tradition of inviting our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among others, into our sukkahs each year. It is also built around the heart of the principle of hachnasat orchim (the welcoming of guests into one’s home, which is a fundamental Jewish value modeled by Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis). Just like Abraham and Sarah, we are called upon to warmly welcome guests and to provide for them with generosity and joy.
In The Mysterious Guests, we find three visitors looking for a few good menschen (people of integrity, openness, and honor). As these visitors come to each brother’s sukkah, they are welcomed in as ushpizin (guests). The two brothers’ hospitality toward their guests differs greatly, just like the appearance of each of their sukkahs. When taking their leave, the ushpizin bestow a blessing on the brothers which reflects not the beauty and richness of the brothers’ sukkahs, but rather the kindness and generosity – or lack thereof – in each brother’s heart.
The Mysterious Guests emphasizes the truth that giving with a miserly heart not only diminishes the gift, but also the giver. However, giving with a joyful heart enriches both the recipient of the gift and the giver.
This simple tale contains a beautiful message wrapped in the warmth of rich, autumn-toned illustrations.
May our sukkahs and our lives be beautiful both inside and out!