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Guests for Shabbos?

Esther Teichtal

Hosting Shabbos guests is a quintessential Jewish trait going all the way back to Avraham Avinu, but what about the couples who host the crowds?

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

shabbos

Photo: Shutterstock

Hosting Shabbos guests is a quintessential Jewish trait going all the way back to Avraham Avinu, but what about the couples who host Shabbos crowds? These families, who regularly have a few dozen or more around their table each week, say it’s their privilege, and all that shopping and cooking won’t make them trade their special mitzvah.

The table was set, the family was gathered around, and everyone waited for Ima to join the Shabbos feast. Instead, she stood at the front door and peered out into the night. In her minuscule Yerushalmi apartment, she was but three steps away from the dining room. But she may as well have been in another city. 

“Abba,” she called out, concern filling her voice. “No guests?” Abba explained that there had been no one in shul. Lieba fell silent for a moment. “Perhaps we can send the kinderlach down to see if there is anyone out in the streets,” she suggested. And that’s what they did. Abba and Ima waited with the malachim while the kids went scouting for guests. 

For my grandparents, Moshe Dovid and Lieba Tenenbaum, Shabbos was so synonymous with hachnassas orchim that it was simply inconceivable to make Kiddush without someone — anyone — gracing their home. 

Reading months ago about Henny Machlis a”h, who passed away this year, and the family’s legendary Shabbos hospitality, was both inspirational and frustrating. Here is someone who took the mitzvah of hachnassas orchim and made it her own. She invested in it. She acquired it fully — she made it her life business. One can barely begin to imagine the Celestial splendor of the table over which Henny presides for eternity. At the same time, the scale of her hospitality produces a visceral tug. Can anyone else ever come close?

Photo: Shutterstock

There are those who try. We went in search of people who regularly host 30 or more every Shabbos. The great surprise was how many families fit the bill. Less surprising, and just as inspiring, were that many of the qualified candidates refused to be interviewed. As one person put it: “I invest too much into this mitzvah to lose out by going public.” 

How do these families do it? What gives them the impetus to host week in, week out? And — above all — what can we come away with that will help us expand our own Shabbos table?

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