May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Quick, how do you convince people to move to the town you’re living in? I need to know, because they’re coming for Shabbat.

See, I have a friend from yeshiva who moved to Brooklyn shortly after he got married, and now he’s considering moving to Passaic, where I live. Not because of me, as far as I know. Until just now, we haven’t actually spoken since he moved to Brooklyn, because we’re both pretty antisocial, which I guess is why we’re friends.

Does that make sense?

But I guess wherever you live, there’s someone in your life who at some point will consider moving there, unless you’re a totally unlikeable person. And they’ll ask you to host them for Shabbat.

What do I even do to convince my friend to move here? Do I mention all the other guys who live in town, whom we went to yeshiva with, whom he hasn’t spoken to in 15 years?

My wife has been taking a more proactive approach, prepping our neighbors to speak to our guests over the course of Shabbat. The idea is that you want your friend to meet as many people as possible so he gets a well-rounded argument about why he should live here. But what if that friend is antisocial? Then he walks away saying, “Shabbat was exhausting. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 15 years and I’ve never spoken to as many new people on a Shabbat as I have this week. Forget this!”

Not that my friend is even loving the idea of moving out of Brooklyn, as it’s a big adjustment for him. For example, he and his wife are excited that they’d finally have a lawn that the kids could run around on, but on the other hand, he’s saying, “I’d have to mow that lawn.” Because otherwise the kids will get lost. This worries him, because in all the years he’s lived in Brooklyn, he’s never owned a lawnmower.

So I said, “Yeah, well, there are upsides to living here, too.” For example, in New Jersey, when you go somewhere, you can sometimes just park right in front of that place. On the other hand, no one wants to hear about it. You come inside and you say, “I got a parking spot RIGHT in front. Can you imagine? I took pictures!”—and nobody cares. It’s not even something you talk about. It’s like living in the city and talking about what you almost sat in on the subway. “Who cares? We all sat in it.”

While I’m cleaning, though, I should really hide all those articles where I talk about how run-down the houses are in Passaic.

Wait. Should we even hide the bad things about Passaic, or should we let them make a balanced decision? On the one hand, we’re friends, so we want them to move here so they can have all the same issues that we have, because shared hardships bind people together. But on the other hand, I think they expect their friends to be honest. Isn’t that why they’re coming?

Wait. Why ARE they coming? It’s just something people do, right? I’m not sure that they even know what they want from this Shabbat. They’ve seen the town before, when they stopped by to apply for schools and probably get pizza, and they can ask us anything they want over the phone…

“Yeah, but what’s it like on Shabbat?”

That’s what’s important.

“The rest of the week I’m working, so how much does it matter where I am, exactly?” Why is visiting someone for a Shabbat something you do when you’re trying to decide whether to move somewhere? Is this how you make all major decisions now—you go to someone else’s house and see what they do?

Maybe they want to see what guest rooms are like in Passaic.

Or maybe they want to hear my kids answer parsha questions so they know if the schools here work.

Because that’s definitely one of their concerns, obviously—they want to know about the schools. (You can’t just ask the schools about the schools.) So we have these schools that we’re always complaining about to our neighbors who also have kids in those schools, but now we’re trying to find something nice to say about the schools to convince our friends that they’re OK. So before we introduce our guests to other people, we have to prep those people:

“Don’t say anything bad about the schools.”

“I thought we don’t love the schools.”

“Today we do. Try to keep up.”

Or maybe going to someone for Shabbat gives you pretexts to make multiple phone calls for the random questions that suddenly occur to you that may not be worth a whole phone call. Like first you call to find out if you can come for a Shabbat in the first place, and then you call again to figure out which Shabbat. Then you speak again to find out what you can bring, and so they can ask if anyone’s allergic to anything, and then there’s another phone call after Shabbat because you left some stuff there, followed by another phone call to ask if you left anything else because there are things you can’t find. And then there are some more phone calls to arrange to get the stuff back to you, and “How about you just move here, and then we can give you all the stuff that you left!” And then you move. Because it’s just easier.

So I’m not even sure what’s expected of me. My plan is to have a good time over Shabbat, and just relax about the whole thing, because unlike with other Shabbat guests, it’s up to them to come up with all our conversation topics. And that’s a huge relief.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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