By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, February 26, 2009

Achsania is the talmudic term for lodgings. It derives from the Greek ephonia, which means the quarters designated for troops.

The Talmud offers many pointers on how to treat your achsania. For example, one should always begin any speech with shevah shel achsania — praise for the hosts (the owners of the lodgings). In modern Hebrew, shevah shel achsania is an expression for the obligatory words of tribute one must say in order not to come off as a boor.

The Talmud also tells us that one should always inquire as to the well being of one’s achsania — here referring to one’s spouse. For this reason, the angels ask Abraham, “Where is Sara, your wife?”

Another tip we learn from Abraham is that if one should stay loyal to one’s achsania. On his return journey from Egypt, Abraham found lodgings at the same places he used on the way down. This is a matter of etiquette for the Talmud.

In addition to referring to lodgings and hosts, achsania also refers to guests. In ancient times, people were expected to provide food and quarters for soldiers. The Talmud discusses what types of food you may give to soldiers lodging (achsanaim) in your home.

Hillel the Elder was once walking with his students when he told them he was off to feed the achsania in his home. His students asked if he always had guests. Hillel replied, “Is not the soul a guest (achsania) within the body?”

Last updated: 12:46pm, March 6 2009