May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I like having guests for Shabbos. Especially in the winter. Not just because of the long Friday nights, but also because, unlike in the summer, I don’t spend the entire seudah sitting right under the noisy air conditioner for all the conversations where I’m just nodding along and smiling but also missing all of it, and no one has any idea.

The issue is that these days, my wife and I are too tired during the week to think about running around extra on Friday. Shabbos itself is nice, but Friday is a mad rush of extra cooking, plus we have to clean the bathrooms, plus sometimes it’s the type of guest who thinks they’re being helpful if they show up super early so that you have to have the guest room ready and entertain them while you cook.

“Um… here. Clean the bathrooms.”

Plus, no matter how tired I am, I’m not one of those guys who will openly fall asleep on the couch in front of his guests. So if guests are coming, it’s a lot of work. I have to stay awake until I go to bed, which is unheard of. Have you heard of it? Me neither.

Plus I have to start thinking about whether I’m going to be awake enough for Shabbos early enough in the week to actually invite someone. Like on a Monday or something. I feel like Yosef Mokir Shabbos.

Does Monday make sense? I find that no matter when I call certain people, it’s either too early or too late. If we call on Monday, they tell us it’s still too early in the week to decide. If we call on Thursday, we just missed their decision. “Yeah, we already decided to stay home.”

There’s no reversing that. The judgment was sealed.

Baruch Hashem, though, we have a teenage daughter who loves, loves, loves talking on the phone, so now she’s our social secretary. She doesn’t even have to ask us if she can invite someone. She just does it, and if they say yes, she lets us know. I highly recommend this. That’s one way to deal with inviting people as you get older and more tired: Have a teenager. They’re the reason you’re tired.

And anyway, I can’t speak for my wife, but it happens to be that I’m not good on the phone. My goal when I’m on the phone—and I make this abundantly clear—is to get the other person off the phone as quickly as possible. Especially if they agree to come for Shabbos. If I invite someone and they say yes, that’s it. I don’t want to have any more conversation with them, because what will we talk about on Shabbos? They’re all like, “What should we bring?” and I’m like, “You can ask me on Shabbos.”

“Is it cold in your house?”

“You can ask me on Shabbos.”

“What if you can’t hear me over the air conditioner?”

That’s how we deal with balancing our desire to have guests with the fact that we’re too tired to invite anybody. The other way people motivate themselves to keep having guests is that they become the type of people who always have a million guests at their table, so that when they don’t, they accidentally make way too much food and the whole Shabbos feels weird. I have an aunt like that. For years, she told us, “Just invite yourselves,” and we told her, “Our family is too big to just invite ourselves at this point.”

I don’t know why we say this. She knows how big our family is. She was offering anyway.

So finally, one slow Shabbos, she just straight-up invited us. It was just her family, our family, her divorced friend, two kids of another friend who was in Israel at the time, the bochur who lives in their basement, a special-needs kid that my cousin works with, and an elderly non-religious friend who runs a workout class down the block. And my aunt turns to us on Shabbos afternoon and says, “We invited you guys this week specifically because it’s a pretty quiet Shabbos.” Her husband would have agreed, but he was off on a Hatzalah call.

And meanwhile, I won’t invite two families over for the same Shabbos meal, because I’m wondering, “Do they know each other? What will we all talk about?” I don’t think that coming up with all the conversation topics should be my job. I did the cooking.

Listen, I don’t need you to show up with a wine. I want you to show up with some conversation topics. Bring a stack of index cards, and leave them in a corner before Shabbos. I think of article topics every week; the last thing I want to do is think of more topics on Shabbos for free. This is why I have a social secretary.

My aunt and uncle get a kick out of mixing and matching guests, often with hilarious results. Whereas I’m like, “What will they talk about?”

But I don’t think you’re supposed to know in advance. I think the idea of inviting people you know who don’t know each other is good for generating conversation topics.

“So who are you again?”

“Wait, you don’t live here?”

And you can be off in the kitchen prepping the food and not miss any information that you don’t already know. Or you can sit under the air conditioner.


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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