I’ve noticed that Shabbos is very different when you’re a newly-married couple than it is when, like me, you’re… Um… past the point of being newly-married. At least as far as having guests.
Like when you first get married, every Shabbos is an event, and you have to go to someone’s parents or they’ll be offended. As far as you know, both sets of parents are keeping score of Shabbosim.
Grow up. You’re the parents.
And when you don’t go somewhere, you have to have someone over.
But eventually, as you get older, you’re like, “Eh, I’m tired this week. I’ll just make what I always make. There’s always another Shabbos next week. There’s no danger in running out of Shabbosos.”
Shabbos itself doesn’t get any less special, but at some point, you realize that there’s always another Shabbos coming up right behind it. It’s sooner than you think.
The mentality you had as a newly-married couple comes from when you were a kid, and the idea of not having guests for Shabbos was crazy, because it was like not having guests for Pesach. But for kids, time passes in slow motion, and it takes forever to get to Shabbos. Shabbos comes but once a year. Whereas for adults, it’s like, “It’s Shabbos already? I did nothing this week. Whatever happened to, ‘In six days you will do all your work’?”
And it’s not just me. My teenage daughter recently tried inviting herself over to my parents for Shabbos, and my mother said, “I’d like to have a quiet Shabbos this week.” Not that my daughter is so loud. So I told my daughter that she should have asked Bubby if we should take Zaidy off her hands. Though I think my parents kind of earned it. They’ve had plenty of loud Shabbosos over the years, what with all the kids they have, knaineh hara. (They have a decently large number of kids, defined as “a number that is impressive but would not get them on the news.”)
When you first get married, you get to be the guest most of the time. Mostly to your parents, even though a few weeks earlier you were not considered a guest. If your kids ask if you’re having guests for Shabbos and you say, “Yeah; you,” they feel very ripped off.
“Actually, don’t come this week. We want a quiet Shabbos.”
But nowadays, we’re kind of tired. We like the presence of guests on Shabbos itself, but the extra Friday preparation is not always something we’re up for. It depends on how our week is going. During the week, when we’re running around, we’re not thinking, “I can’t wait to have more to do on Friday than usual.”
For example, there are foods that my kids love and specifically request for Shabbos that we’d never serve if we had guests, such as that cake mix that comes in a box and tastes like a color.
“How does the yellow cake taste?”
But if guests come, the food has to be all homemade, with no cheating, because people are going to ask for recipes, and you don’t want to say, “We got it from a box,” or secretly hold the box under the table and start listing ingredients. (“Let’s think: Sodium aluminum phosphate, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, yellow #5…”) So it has to taste like a flavor, not a color.
“How does the cholent taste?”
And even when we don’t have guests, Friday is pretty hectic, especially since I like making my food fresh - right before Shabbos. I’m horrible at freezing foods ahead of time. I know plenty of people like my oldest sister, who we’ll call Raizel, who freeze all their meals in advance and never cook anything for that immediate Shabbos, but I’ve never been able to get my freezer to cooperate that way and not add a special ta’am to the food. And anyway, I figure that if I can make fresh food for weekday suppers, why does Shabbos get to taste like the freezer?
Not to mention that the process of inviting people is a hassle. As the oldest, I have a bunch of siblings that I would call “younger married”, and I enjoy spending time with them, but I only really have time to do this on Shabbos. Unfortunately, I have to invite them during the week. And they don’t make it easy. It’s just one phone call, right? Wrong.
For example, I have one sister who, no matter when I call her, says, “Let me give you the rundown: This Shabbos we’re going to Mommy, next Shabbos we’re going to my in-laws, and the next Shabbos we have a sholom zachor in Lakewood. Then the next Shabbos we’re going to be home, because we won’t have been home in so long.”
And I say, “But you’re home all the days between those Shabbosos, no? It’s not like you’re running home to get more clothes.”
No, I don’t. That won’t get them to come. They’re already making up a sholom zachor in Lakewood.
Instead, I say, “What about after that?”
“After that we’re going back to Mommy.”
Nobody ever goes to Totty, for some reason. They live together.
But younger couples figure they have to go to their parents a lot, to wean the parents off being used to having them around. But I don’t think she knows that on the weeks she’s not there, my mother looks forward to the quiet Shabbosos.
Sometimes I ask about previous Shabbosos, though, I guess in case we can have them over one of those weeks.
“Where were you the past few Shabbosos?”
“Well, let’s see: Mommy, in-laws, Mommy, in-laws… We came to you for a bar mitzvah…”
“Yeah, that was relaxing for us too.”
I can try to push for that Shabbos that they’re not going anywhere, but I can’t really convince them that going away is better than staying home, because if they stay home, they’re cooking for two people, whereas if they go away, they’re packing for three. True, the one that eats the most packs the least, but that third person – the one that doesn’t really eat – does not travel light.
Not to sound like a jealous older brother, but Raizel always seems to have guests. Personally, I think that when she calls a sibling and they say they’re busy, she whips out a calendar and asks them about every Shabbos between now and infinity and gets a commitment from them, even if it’s two years away. Then she immediately cooks for that Shabbos and puts the food in the freezer.
So sure, it’s kind of a hassle to invite guests, but we still want to have them from time to time, especially since we have kids, and as we mentioned, kids love having guests. Even my teenage daughter, who, every time we have guests, has to give up her room and go sleep in the basement where there’s no heat, unless you count the actual boiler.
And despite us always being tired, it turns out that when we don’t have to do the actual inviting, we somehow manage to pull it off. My in-laws invite themselves to our house all the time, and we never say, “Sorry, we wanted a quiet Shabbos.” We just think it. We’re not really old enough to say that. Our kids are all home; we have no quiet Shabbosos.
So our daughter has become our social secretary. It’s her job to get on the phone, if she wants, and invite people for Shabbos. She doesn’t even really have to ask us. She can just let us know, “By the way, I invited those people for Shabbos,” and we say, “Uch; okay.” And then we pull it off.
She just has to check with us to make sure that we aren’t having someone else for Shabbos that we didn’t tell her about. But that’s not likely, unless my in-laws invited themselves. And in fact, my wife and I no longer invite people anymore without checking with our daughter to make sure she didn’t invite anyone.
So that’s what I’d advise – get a social secretary. If you don’t have a teenage girl in your house who loves talking on the phone, you can probably hire one. These teenage girls are always looking to make money, and they don’t all like babysitting. So this would be good for them.
“I’m calling on behalf of the Schmutters. Would you like to come to them for Shabbos?”
“Who are you?”
“The Schmutters hired me.”
“Oh. Who are the Schmutters?”
“I think I have the wrong number. That was close.”
“Oh. Does this mean we’re not invited?”
And then she’d call us and say, “Listen, some family I called by mistake is coming for Shabbos,” and we’ll say, “Uch, fine.”
I do think we should specifically tell people in advance that our daughter is the social secretary, or she should introduce herself that way, because I get the feeling that some people are turning her down because they’re wondering why she’s the one inviting them.
“Do your parents know you’re inviting us?”
“Don’t worry. If you say yes, I’ll tell them.”
Then, when she moves out of our house, she can be in charge of inviting herself.
There are other ideas for inviting people you’re too tired to invite, but we’ll talk about them next week. In the meantime, we’re going to have a quiet Shabbos. I think. I have to check with my daughter.