Sunday, March 28, 2010

7 Items of Shabbos/Yontiff Ettiquette

I thought I would take a little break from my kitchen flipping to write a bit about bad Shabbos/Yontiff guests. I was actually inspired by a post I recently saw on another blog about bad Shabbos guests. I have some of my own experiences about guests as both a hostess and a guest who sees other guests doing something.


1. Show up. Why do I even have to say this? I have had people that I invited over and they just didn’t show up. You can’t call on Shabbos, so unless something major comes up, you should show up. “I decided to stay home and eat with my grandmother,” is not a good excuse. If you wanted to eat with your grandmother, you shouldn’t have booked a meal with me. I’m waiting for you, even if you told me not to.

2. Be on time. Not as bad as “show up” but, still, if you show up and the meal has already started, chances are, we waited for you and you are REALLY late. A word about when on time is… On Friday night if, a time is not specified, figure 45 minutes to an hour after candle lighting. For lunch, you should daven where the host davens and come straight from shul or at least come straight from your shul. I’ve heard of people going home after shul to take a nap before showing up at the meal. Come on people!

3. Don’t bring food into the host’s bedroom or living room. Some people don’t eat in their bedrooms or living rooms-respect that. I had a girl bring cookies into my bedroom about a month or two before Pesach one year. Even if Pesach wasn’t coming, it’s rude.

4. Table manners: eat with your mouth closed, don’t smack your food or drink or don’t blow your nose at the table.

5. The Jewish religion, while it does encourage hospitality, is not a religion of pity. A BT told me one time that people should invite her because it’s a religion.

6. Don’t harass the other guests. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been a guest and someone else who is a guest crosses a line. This past fall, I had a woman who asked me why I wasn’t at the home of my own family, why was I there.

7. If you can’t remember the hosts name, ask or don’t use it. You’ll look like an idiot if you keep calling her by a different name every time you address her-all of which are not her name. The woman who inspires #6 is the one that did this.

The above actions will cause someone to not be invited again at my house and others would probably not invite someone back.


  1. Why would people even think to do some of these things? Blow your nose(or pick your teeth) at the table? And I wouldn't think to bring food into another room without the host's permission, even in a non-Jewish house.

  2. 1 sometimes occurs due to miscommunications about which meal the person is supposed to show up at. Or a lack of a confirmation of the invite if it was mentioned very casually.

    2 While I agree, sometimes davening at the same place isn't always an option. For example, some mitnagdim don't like davening in chassidic shuls and vice-versa. Similarly, if one has both Conservative and Orthodox guests similar issues may apply.

    3-7 complete agreement except to note that sometimes people confuse arguing with harassing (which obviously in the situation you describe isn't at all relevant).

  3. Well, there was a group of early 20's BTs whose behavior fit much of this list and this is why I stopped inviting them. When asked why they were late or didn't show up it was usually, "oh well you know I ran into this one," or "I decided to stay home." No, YOU asked ME for a meal... don't ask me for a meal if you don't really want one.

    Also, other single girls would actually call me an hour or two before before Shabbos, "whatcha doin for Shabbos?"

  4. What about the hosts? Many, many moons ago I went to a meal once where they served two mini store-bought hallaot, salad from a bag (the lettuce only), and gefilte fish from a jar. That's it. There was that gross red horseradish on the table (still in the jar with crusted horseradish around the top) and a pitcher of water. They invited me. They needed someone to watch their kids after lunch so they could nap.

    Don't abuse your guests. -,-

  5. aml, I agree and I worse stuff for that post. I just ran out of time.

  6. Beautiful.

    I would only add that conversations about felons, child or wife abusers, substance abusers, fraud, sexual dysfunction, sexual predilections, ex spouses or income and spending related issues are somewhat distasteful, to say the least. Arguments justifying or mitigating such behaviors are not tolerated.

    If you are etiquette challenged, watch me and use the eating utensil I do. Yes, there are warm fish forks and cold fish forks.

    Also, let's keep the conversation elevated and pleasant. I don't mind a good and passionate argument but any conversation that results in death threats are not welcome or acceptable.
    That applies to death threats to politicians as well.

    Racial epithets are not welcome, period.

    Discussions about fashion are pointless but most interesting nonetheless. Discussions about sports are interesting but pointless at a shabbos or yom tov dinner table.

    It is also inappropriate to comment on the hosts taste in furniture, decor and artwork. It's a free meal. You can live with the plaid pillows for a couple of hours. Besides, your host never commented on what is your obvious ode to color blind decorating with stripes and paisley.

    Never once have I succumbed and noted that my guests house is done in Early Italian Bordello motif.

    This is way fun. I might come back and write more.

  7. Oh, but, I have something that happened over yontiff. The food was going around and I snatched the hagaddahs off the table and the guy next to me was trying to pass me a very liquidy chicken dish. I said, "can you hold it for a sec?" He said, "yes" but, then he dumped it on my plate and the chicken juice spilled all over my dry-clean only dress. He's at least 45/50 years old and NOT married. Do you wonder why? I don't.

  8. Upon reflecting on your experience, it is clear there are times eating alone is a most pleasant experience.

    A couple of years ago I was invited to a seder by a host who believed a k'zayit of matza was a quantity sufficient enough to fill a carry on bag.

    Sometimes I am convinced I live in the Twilight Zone. Or, I'm a featured cast member of Lost and just don't know it.

  9. Etiquette tip number 8: If your hosts have children, do not interfere with household rules regarding their feeding, sleeping, or discipline.
    I have two very young daughters. Thinking that they would get more out of a full night's sleep than a second Seder (they are still well below the age of chinuch), I put them to bed before the Seder. One of my guests told me to wake my daughters up so that he could see them. They're not ornaments or playthings; they're very tired children who need their sleep!

  10. Aztec, at my second seder, one of the older daughters kept picking up the baby and the parents/grandparents/great grandmother/uncle were telling her not to. I even said, "look, you're ticking off your whole family. You know that's not a toy and she belongs to your mother-not you." I think they agreed but, wouldn't have been so strong in front of a guest. Then I told her mother, "hahah, see how she wants to take care of her next the baby has a poopy diaper." The mother thought that was funny.

  11. Don't abuse your guests, don't abuse your host either. Don't treat the host like a waitress, short-order cook, or maid.

    Don't judge your host by their guests. If they have opened their home to you, do you think they aren't going to open their home to others?

    Don't judge a guest by their cover - I host many people and you would be shocked to hear who are the easy guests and who are the hard guests. and yes, the easy guest is probably the one who dripped the chicken liquid. The hard guest is the one who keeps bringing up one incident that happened with a mentally unbalanced person asking questions.

    and yes, our home is still open to you. Just pointing out the other side of the story.