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I've put together huge Shabbat dinners, and then thought, 'It might be nice to have guests, if I wanted to share my food.' Personally, I love leftovers, so guests don't really matter. The crockpot chicken is for Shabbat, Sunday and Tuesday. Other people enjoy company more than food. I'm too religious for that. I'm focused on the Tzimis. For those who want to share, be sure you invite people correctly.
Invite People and Get Confirmation
For those fancy people who like to host, and cook for immediate dinners only, be sure to invite before you portion the meal. If you know there's only five people at dinner, you don't need the industrial size potato kugel.
Whatever amount confirm, double those numbers if you invite single people. Somehow, their friends will find out there's free food, and that means your home for dinner.
If you text them, make sure they know to respond. It's always very awkward to welcome Shlomo and Rivkah at the door with an 'I didn't know you were coming.' The only thing worse than that is preemptively not inviting them with a text saying 'please don't come to the dinner, just in case you heard about it. It's only for close friends.'
Don't use email to invite people. It's too formal. They will think it was a 'save the date' and they won't show. A letter is not necessary, unless if you are inviting people for Shabbat dinner three months down the road. If that's the case, you should also have place cards.
Though the in-person invite after Friday night services is always very personal, it doesn't help those who make precise portions. Nonetheless, there is no better way to let your guest know that you weren't thinking of them.
Choose Guests Wisely
Depending on what type of dinner you're going for, you want to make sure you have the right guests. There are different methods for choosing:
You have the friendly method, where you invite people with a smile that you don't enjoy talking to. You act friendly, and try real hard for two hours, so your spouse can say they are decent members of the shul, who care.
You have the friend method, where you only invite your friends, and then you talk about the people you are friendly to.
There's the Chesed method, where you invite lonely people, like singles, who have no hope. That can be written off as part of your tithe, for charity.
The entertaining invite, where you make sure to invite a professional entertainer for the kids. They come and run some games of Simon Says. The kids are happy, and you saved a lot of money on entertainment. By the time she leaves, she hasn't had time to touch her plate, and because of your kind invite, you saved three-hundred dollars. For the grownups, you may want to invite a singer as well. Many people love opera. You ask them to sing at the dinner, they have to, and now you don't have to go see Les Miserables.
You have the family method, where you invite family and definitely don't get a dinner gift. For those dinners, you have to buy the wine.
The other family method, where you invite them because they are family and you have to.
There's the out of town method, where people from out of town join you for dinner and take over the kids' room for sleep. There's no reason to cut the meal short with these people. They're going to be around no matter what. For some reason, of Jewish communal connectedness, they didn't want to rent rooms at the hotel, or pay for dinner. They are good Jews who believe in Hachnasat Orchim, and they're helping you get the Mitzvah of hosting.
The guests you will get something in return for method, where you invite people that will bring the dinner or an amazing dish. Your dinner turns into their dinner. These are usually people who don't get invited out often, and they are not used to trusting other people with decent food. They might even bring a picnic basket, just in case you don't have a table for them to eat at. If they ever get used to being invited out for dinner, stop inviting them. If they ever stop flipping the bill at the restaurant, don't go out with them anymore.
The religious invite, where you invite people more religious than you that won't eat your food. They come as a statement that you're not as religious as them. You don't have to worry about cooking decent for them, as they will make it a point to not eat your food. Enjoy the leftovers.
The new method is the Kiruv method, where you invite people who are less religious than you and feed them gefilte fish, choolante and kugel, in hopes that they will become closer to God. Those meals take the most energy, as you have to pretend that you're happy about being Jewish the whole time.
The singles invite, where you invite singles in hopes that they will get married and start paying dues. Expect nothing in return from the singles. Single people will give you nothing. If you're lucky, they'll bring a bottle of Manischewitz. They won't invite you either.
The new person invite. This works when you're new, or when new people join the community. When you're new to the community, you realize that nobody is happy about your decision, so you invite the locals to your place; the locals whose moving truck already showed, that have the necessary cookware to invite people. When you have a new member in your community, you invite them so that they can see what it would be like if another member of the community ever invited them again.
The work invite, where you invite coworkers in hopes that you'll get a raise. This can also be used to offset how annoyed they are that you took off for every Chag. This will hopefully save you some Sundays.
Political dinner, where you invite people who have really strong political opinions, to see how angry they make the other people who have really strong political opinions. You do this when the entertainer is out of town for Shabbat.
You can always just be a decent person with an open home. It takes a while for your open home reputation to get out there. But once your reputation gets out there, the felons will show, and you will have Shabbat guests.
Whatever method you choose, understand that they are all judging you. They will judge how good your food is. If the choolante is off, word will get out that you're not religious. Some may even judge your presentation. Those are the non-religious ones who may even be happy being served plated, as they've been rationed food their whole lives. They eat in portions and believe in eating healthy. They've never been to a Tisch, where you have to fight for your kishka.
Whoever you invite, they will be annoying. Enjoy it. It's Shabbat.
Next time, we will focus on table seating at your Simchas, for how to anger your guests.
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How do you daven in shul with an infant? You need to get a baby siddur.
You get it? Babysitter. Baby Siddur. It sounds the same. A Siddur is a prayer book. Babysitters take care of kids. Brilliant and practical.
What parents do to get a cute nursery school graduation picture. It's wrong. It should be Asur.