Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5759 - Feb 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly

















Home and Family
Hachnossas Orchim
by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein

With Pesach and summertime coming up, it is worthwhile reviewing some guidelines for having guests, for what to talk about with them, and for ways to make them, and ourselves and our families, feel more comfortable while exercising this important mitzva.

The first item to remember is who is coming. Young seminary girls and/or yeshiva boys, and neighborhood people who are widowed or divorced, are two completely different types of guests, and usually have completely different needs.

The widow/er or divorcee [and don't forget them - take an initiative, they need it most] is probably coming to our home for companionship and a sense that somebody in the world cares. The seminary girl or yeshiva boy, on the other hand, is probably primarily looking for a homecooked meal.

Thus, for example, when the meal is over, the boys/girls may be happy to just get up and go about their business, while a neighborhood widow or divorcee may easily feel brushed off or rejected by a quick `Shabbat Shalom' at the door.

Being aware of and sensitive to the needs of our guests is a vital part of hospitality!

As we all know, the seminaries and yeshivos in Israel are constantly calling on local residents to host their students for holidays and Shabbosim. Our yom tov tables therefore tend to be filled with these student guests. On the other hand, I have never heard of anyone calling to `place' neighborhood lone people for meals, and they often get forgotten in the holiday rush and must ask for accommodations.

The young students are far from home, many for the first time. Their unique needs and outlooks need to be taken into consideration when you are hosting them, so that both hosts and guests feel comfortable and happy that they have come.

I thus offer a few ideas:

IDEAS FOR YOU, THE Understand that these students probably feel a little uncomfortable coming to eat and sleep in a stranger's home, even if they act as if it is normal. On the other hand, they might easily think that your hosting them was included in the package deal for which their parents paid a year's tuition and board. I'm not sure that all seminaries make it clear to parents that tuition does not include all Shabbos meals, which are usually provided and paid for by local families (often living on a much lower standard).

* Offer these student guests a drink and a piece of cake or kugel if they arrive more than 20 minutes before the beginning of Shabbos or chag. They will probably be embarrassed to ask on their own for anything to eat or drink, and the chances are high that lunch, if served, was missed at the school, and it is a long time from candle-lighting to kiddush for someone who is hungry or thirsty. [They tell of the Chofetz Chaim, I think, who once made kiddush before singing the entire sholom aleichem, seeing that his beggar guest looked starving.]

* Let the girls set the table, make a salad or put out the gefilte fish. They will feel more at ease being able to do something, and there is no reason why they shouldn't make it a little easier for you. But be careful: it is not fair to ask them to change little Moishele's diaper or to play with little Sorele if she is sticky and drippy. Not everyone thinks that is cute.

* During dinner, DO ask the girls to help serve and clear up food and dirty dishes. You are not running a hotel. There is no reason for three girls to sit at your table while you and the children run back and forth. [Ed. Tzivia suggests that boys help, too. In our family, the boys only help at the end of the meal; they clear up so as to avoid traffic. If male guests wish to pitch in then, let them.]

In addition, remember that it is not particularly modest for girls to be sitting and talking among themselves or with your husband when you are not in the room as well. They may feel uncomfortable being left there, besides. If some girls remain sitting and only some come into the kitchen to help, call the other ones into the kitchen, too. There is no need for you to feel embarrassed, even if they only stand in the kitchen. And they should be sensitive to this issue. (I speak in the plural since most seminaries send girls in groups of three or four to a family. This has its advantages and disadvantages.)

* If you find yourself becoming nervous and edgy with more than two guests, perhaps you should set your own limits. No matter how unpleasant it is to say `no' when the seminaries call to place students, your priority must be your family and your own mental and physical health. And your Shabbos atmosphere.

* In the same vein, we all know, but somehow do not always remember to practice, the fact that socializing with our guests should not be at the expense of our children. Though it is nice to make guests feel comfortable and at home by getting them to speak about themselves, never forget that six- year- old Yossi and twelve-year-old Rivky couldn't care less about adult mutual interests, and it is their Shabbos table, too, and your job to make them enjoy and look forward to it. In fact, the memories of and attitudes towards these family occasions are being created just at these very times. It is more important to ensure that your children enjoy the seuda and feel the joy and pleasure of the Shabbos spirit. For a Shabbos table to degenerate into a test of your child's patience and/or boredom level is a desecration of the holy day.

Generally, guests will be just as happy to watch on the sidelines as children feature as the stars and center of attention, especially when they are not exposed to children close up during their week. They may even feel more comfortable this way.

Next week: Setting up guests for overnight etc. and Ideas for the Guests!


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