In a recent NLEResources.com post (see here) we discussed what makes a “good guest.” This time I would like to discuss what makes a “good host.” As a rabbi, I am often a sounding board for disgruntled guests who come complaining about their hosts.
Therefore, over the years I have compiled the following list of “do’s and (mostly) don’ts” for anyone interested in being a five-star host.
I will divide the list into two parts: The first is conversation points addressing how the good host should relate to their guest with regard to conversation. The second relates to the food served at the meal.
- Remember, you are supposed to be hosting your guest to a hot meal and a pleasant experience. Therefore, never subject your guest to “the third-degree” through constant and persistent questioning of his past experiences and/or his present situation. Numerous guests have informed me how humiliated they were as their guests placed them on the witness
stand and proceeded to cross-examine them as to their choice of profession, spouse and even who their chavrusa was! You can ask and inquire; however, never interrogate your guest – no one wants to be part of an “inquisition.”
- Even when making small talk, such as, “What do you do for a living?” Or, “Where did you grow up?” If the guest seems to stammer or hesitate while answering, quickly change the subject and don’t press for details. Many guests have told me how embarrassed they were when their host pressed them for specifics as to ‘what they did for a living’ when at the time they were unemployed and were not in the mood of broadcasting this fact while eating potato kugel! One guest related to me how embarrassed they were when their host quizzed them as to the size of the Orthodox community of Bear Dance, Montana (population 275). The guest was mortified when their host asked, “So which Shteibel did you daven in when you lived there?” How were they supposed to tell the host that they were not even Jewish when they lived there and at the time they had no idea what a Shteibel was!
The second subject is food – after all, you did them over to eat!
- Never, ever pressure your guests to “just try it.” I know of at least two guests who are still in therapy and are suffering from PTSD after their host compelled them to “just try” P’tcha. When they found out it was “calves foot jelly” they almost ran to the pharmacy after Shabbos to purchase a large bottle of Ipecac! Bottom line: never make anyone try something they don’t want to.
- Never look at the plate of the guest to gauge how little or how much they are eating. Guests have confided in me that their hosts have sometimes – in a not too discreet fashion – remarked, “You know if you keep on stuffing yourself with Chulent, soon you’ll have to get yourself a new suit; why not have some salad and leave the Chulent for others?” One guest admitted that their host kept looking at their plate and said, “I see you only took a half of a piece of chicken, is there something wrong with it? Look around, everyone else took a full piece?” Remember, you are their host, not their mother! Your job is to make your guest feel comfortable and satiated. Anything more should be immediately “taken off the table!”
By following these simple rules you will find that you guests will become regulars at your table and you won’t have to wonder why is it that every time you attempt to re-invite someone they are already taken by others!