Image: An assortment of foods in colorful bowls. (Photo: fotosunny/Shutterstock)
I’m so excited! I love inviting my students to a potluck Shabbat evening, and I’ve sent out invitations for later this month.
I thought I’d share my “to-do” list here, in case any readers are interested in inviting friends for a potluck Shabbat. Hospitality is a mitzvah, remember – this is something you can do that will enrich your life, enrich your Shabbat, and build your community.
If you are thinking, “Oh no, my house is cluttered!” I will share with you that I am a haphazard housekeeper and practically a Queen of Clutter. I have decided not to let that stop me. If some room needs to be off limits, I shut the door. If they see that I’m cluttery, well, that will let them feel better about their own housekeeping!
- Decide who to invite. If you are anxious about entertaining, keep it small. If you are comfortable feeding numbers, go for it. Either way, decide if you are also inviting significant others and children. If your house isn’t baby-proofed, you should warn parents about that.
- Choose a way to send invitations, and how you’ll keep track of numbers. I used Eventbrite, since I was inviting 36 people plus possible family folks. You might choose an online invitation service like Evite, or just do it via email or paper invitations. Or phone calls (for that retro feeling.)
- Plan your menu. I generally make a vegan main dish (black beans and brown rice this month) and have challah, wine, and grape juice. I invite guests to bring a vegetarian side dish, salad, or dessert. I personally do not like to try to track what everyone is bringing, so we get what we get. I usually have a box of cookies ready if no one brings dessert. If you are not a cook, cheese pizza makes a nice main dish.
- Make your grocery list. Be sure to add to it paper napkins and plastic silverware and cups if you will need them. Also butter and/or honey for the challah.
- Check your kiddush cup or other ritual objects well ahead of time. Can you find them? Do they need polishing or de-waxing? Have you got Shabbat candles and matches?
- Got pets? Decide what their situation will be during the evening. Also, warn guests who may be allergic that you’ve got them.
- Have extra serving utensils ready. It’s amazing how many people get here and then realize they didn’t bring forks to serve their salad.
- Decide where people will put the food when they arrive. I have them put it directly on the table. Some people then sit at the table, and if there are more than 12 people (the max I can seat at one table) then I make sure I have chairs for the rest. They’ll spread out in the living room and on the patio.
- Plan some place where people can put coats, etc. I usually have them put them on my bed.
- Make sure you have a bentcher or other text for the blessings. Don’t rely on memory unless you are really sure of it.
- Set the table.
- Have the food ready. Be sure to have wine, grape juice, and water on the table.
- Welcome your guests!
One other thing it’s good to decide ahead of time; do you want help with clean up? What specific jobs can people do to help you with it? That way, when someone offers, you’ll be ready with something for them to do. I usually put a pot of water on the counter for silverware, so it is not piled in with everything else in the sink.
The first time I did hosted Shabbat dinner for friends, it felt like a huge big deal. I was nervous about the house, the food, the everything. And then, as my disabilities became more of a challenge, I quit doing it for a while, until the idea of a potluck occurred to me. Now I look forward to these evenings, which let my students get to know one another in a way they can’t in the classroom.
Shabbat shalom uv’tei avon!
(Peaceful Sabbath and bon appetit!)