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30. Chapter 8o: Jewish Geography: Shabbos: Common Sense Tips & How to Get Invited Back

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          Common Sense Tips & How to Get Invited Back

          While the custom of hachnosas orchim (hospitality) is very much present in the Jewish world, making Shabbos invitations plentiful and easily obtainable, be advised that a guest who proves to be difficult will find them quite scarce.

          Now that you're prepared for what to expect from Shabbos and from your host, it’s fitting that you take note of what is expected from you.  Don't get nervous; these expectations are minimal and can probably be summed up with a concept you're probably acquainted with, even if the term sounds foreign - "derech eretz" i.e. common courtesy.

          This is an extraordinarily important concept to be familiar with and to practice; not only on Shabbos and not only in someone else's home, but always and in every facet of life.  Exercising derech eretz means to conduct yourself politely, pleasantly, and with consideration to others.  In Yiddish this is called acting like a Mentsch.

          As a Shabbos guest, your behavior should be similar to that which would be expected in most social situations: be polite and complimentary, try to be helpful and don't impose or attempt to run the show.

          Remember every Shabbos table is different: some sing a lot, some speak about the Torah portion, and some will discuss Jewish community issues.  Try to adapt yourself to your host’s style.  Allow your host to lead - you follow!

          The expression:  "When in Rome, do like as the Romans do," is most appropriate for a Shabbos guest to keep in mind.  This even applies to customs like standing or sitting during Kiddush.  Unless it's halachically inappropriate, one should do as his host does.  (If it is halachically inappropriate, one probably should not be there in the first place!)

          A word about children:  Chances are great that your hosts are going to have some.  Try to enjoy them - where that's not really possible, at least be patient and tolerate them.  Remember they are the pride and joy of your hosts.  Just as you wouldn't say the soup is awful, so you shouldn't express anything disparaging about the children.  The truth is they are not only a big part of the Shabbos experience (parents getting time to be with children) but they are also a most treasured and prominent part of Jewish life.  If you don't already, learn to like them.

          Leave nothing to chance regarding your arrangements.  As mentioned previously, Shabbos invitations generally include meals and lodging if you’re coming from outside the host’s neighborhood; make sure you've coordinated these plans before your arrival.

          Advise your host ahead of time of any specials needs you may have (especially dietary).  Most hosts would much prefer (and some even welcome the opportunity) to accommodate your needs than to have you sitting at their table unable to partake in the elaborately prepared meal as you politely attempt to assure them that "salad is plenty".

          As we mentioned earlier, try to time your arrival to be between thirty to sixty minutes prior to candle lighting.  Given the customary erev Shabbos pandemonium, you should arrive already showered and dressed.

          Many guests feel obliged to bring a small gift.  This is not at all necessary, although it is a nice gesture.  The most common gifts are flowers for the Shabbos table or a bottle of wine.  Be certain that if you bring the latter it is certified kosher, as should be the case with any other food items you choose to bring.  Be sure to present them with the gift before Shabbos to avoid any halachic complications.

          While these tips are intended to prevent some possible Shabbos faux pas, try not to be overly apprehensive.  Many newcomers consider Shabbos with trepidation, conjuring up a day rife with mysterious strictures and halachic booby traps set to trip at the merest wrong move.  Indeed, the laws of Shabbos are complex but nobody expects the beginner to be fluent with them.  Don't feel intimidated; a host family will certainly be indulgent towards the "classic" mistakes and should you happen to accidentally switch off the bathroom light, they will manage to endure.  In fact - and get ready for a real shocker – sometimes even a veteran Shabbos observer can also inadvertently slip up.  All that is expected of a guest is to make a polite earnest effort, not halachic expertise.

          It shouldn't take too long before you start to develop a real love and appreciation for Shabbos yourself.  You'll begin to understand how it really is one of the foundations of Jewish life and a source of great pleasure.

          If you didn’t enjoy this Shabbos experience, it’s possible the fit with the synagogue or the host family was just not right. We urge you to try to be placed in other communities and with other families. If after several attempts (where you have made a serious and genuine effort) you still don’t find Shabbos an enjoyable experience, your future as an observant Jew is pretty "iffy".  Most likely though, you'll start to wonder how you were ever able to live without it.

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COM_EASYBLOG_GUEST Saturday, 21 October 2017
Last updated on: 10/21/2017
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