Improving My Hospitality

It’s time to outgrow the fantasy.

The biggest barrier to my observance of the mitzvah of hospitality was my conviction that if someone saw my home looking the least bit out of order, something terrible would happen: the sun will explode, a large earthquake will destroy the West Coast, or I will die of embarrassment. I have had a tendency in the past to think that I will invite people over “later,” when things look “nicer.”

The catch is, I am a busy person, and I am also an untidy person. As a result, my House Beautiful fantasy has prevented me from observing the mitzvah of hospitality as often as I might. One of my successes of late has been relaxing that silly fantasy and focusing more on making guests comfortable than on maintaining an image, while at the same time working on the tidiness thing. After all, if this home of mine is my mikdash me’at, my little sanctuary, shouldn’t I keep it tidy?

This past week, I hosted Shabbat dinner at my home for my students. When they arrived, I wasn’t quite done with the frenzy of cleaning, cooking and arranging, and the first guests arrived as I was wrestling the extra leaves into my table. I was embarrassed (but I didn’t die) and nothing else terrible happened. The guests helped me with the final setup: setting the table, and it looked like they had a good time arranging my china and placemats and such.

Read that last sentence again: they had a good time. It had never occurred to me that setting the table could be part of the evening’s entertainment. When I think about the times I’ve been asked to pitch in at other people’s homes, I recall that it actually made me feel more at home. So from now on, that’s part of the evening: “Let’s set the table!”

So, going forward with my growth in this mitzvah, I’m going to experiment with some changes:

  1. Leave the table expanded.
  2. Make the next invitations today.
  3. Find a vegetarian main dish I can prepare the day before.
  4. Look into hiring some weekly assistance with housework.
  5. Put “Shabbat things” on one shelf in the cupboard to make it easy for us to set the table together before the meal.

As I said back in September, a lot of my Jewish learning as a beginner happened as I was invited into Jewish homes to participate in Jewish routines. I really, truly want to pass it on!

What gets in the way of you inviting people into your Jewish home? And, dear readers, does anyone have a great prepare-ahead veggie main dish for summer Shabbat dinners?

Image: Barbie Beach House by DollyKnickers Some Rights Reserved.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

8 thoughts on “Improving My Hospitality”

  1. I too obsess like you, never taking the “easy” way :-).

    I’ve been making vegitarian stuffed bell peppers lately that I developed for a vegitarian couple who visit and they seem to be quite a hit!

    I cook (Trader Joe’s) red quinoa with Better Than Boullion Kosher Vegetarian Base. (I use my rice cooker)

    In a bowl add the cooked quinoa, prepared black beans, small can of corn, shredded mozzarella cheese, Harissa spice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Depending on your vegetarians, you can add 2 eggs to help bind ingredients and to add protein.

    I cut my bells in half so they will lay on their sides and place cleaned halves into a large baking dish, fill them up with the quinoa mix and pour a jar of “Trader Giotto’s” Tomatoe Basil marinara on top (OMGosh, feeling guilty just writing that! 🙂 ) cover with foil and cook at 375 for 20 min. Then I remove foil and add more cheese to the top of each pepper and let it cook until slightly brown.

    Because these peppers are still slightly al dente instead of being over-cooked-to-death as some of us grew up with, they last in the fridge and are easy to heat up the next day. Of course you could also just do all prep and keep quinoa mix in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff and cook. Be prepared, they go fast.


    1. Thank you for the recipe, SWJ, and for your candor about brands, etc! Why is it that we feel guilty about such things, I wonder? I think most guests are happy to be invited, and come to be with other people – they don’t really care if the marinara sauce is from a jar, as long as we’re willing to tell the truth about contents if someone has an allergy.

      I wish you many happy dinners around your table, and many satisfied guests!

      1. You’re welcome! And I think my guilt about the marinara is due to being raised so close to Italians. But my sauce has never tasted like my best friend’s, much less her Grandma Rosie’s! I’m embracing my limitations the older I get! 🙂
        Btw, love, love, love Barbi and her beach house!

  2. While I’m not Jewish, I believe there’s much to be learned from this post. I too hesitate to invite people into our home when it’s less than perfect and really, does anyone have a perfect home everyday of the week. I often believe it’s spontaneous gatherings that are the most memorable of all because we don’t have pre-set expectations.

    1. That’s a great point, Sheri. One of my goals is to let go of as many of those pre-set expectations as I can, so that even the planned events can have that wonderful quality of fun.

      1. I read somewhere that if we were always cleaning and making things perfect, we would be too tired to enjoy our guest and in turn, we wouldn’t be at the top of our game and they wouldn’t enjoy our company as much as usual.

        I’ll be the first to admit my house needs a really deep cleaning, but neither is it a deep or disgusting dirty. A professor of mine once said to me, “Sheri, do you want it to say on your tombstone, her home was always spotless and she baked the best cookies in the world?” That may be the most important thing I learned!

  3. I end up entertaining countless guests in countless restaurants. Why? My home is never perfect. I worry because my backyard isn’t landscaped, whether or not my artwork is sufficient, about my furniture, my placemats, my lack of culinary skills…I can go on and on. My mom and dad were the quintessential charming southern hosts. My mom would clean the house from stem to sterm and both of my parents were amazing cooks. Our entire block would gather at our home for lengendary barbecues, and every holiday our home was filled with family and friends, and so much love. I mean, “How can I ever live up to such a legacy?”

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