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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Good the Bad and the Bogus

As you may recall last Shabbos I decided to take it easy.
This Shabbos however I pulled out all the stops. We had lots of guests, the house was sparkling (or as close to sparkling as a 100 year old house full of secondhand furniture can look) I baked challah, made loads of good food, and set the table with our best dishes and silverware.
"Wow" my oldest said "It looks great in here! We should do this EVERY Shabbos!"
"Well" I said "I like it this way too, but it's a lot of work you know, if I had a little help from you and your sister it would be a lot easier..."
"Because you know" my daughter continued ignoring me entirely "every Shabbos two malachim (angels) come to your house a good malach and a bad malach..."
"What?" I asked "I've heard about the two angels but I never knew one was bad..."
"So these angels they come to your house and see what's going on and it's really nice like today the good one says 'It should be like this every week!' and the bad one has to say Amen. But if lets say you serve chicken from the STORE on PAPER PLATES then the bad malach says 'HA HA! it should be like this every week!' and the good malach has to say Amen. So then it's going to keep being like that."
"It's true!" my younger daughter chimed in "I learned that too!"

I learned a lot of things from that exchange. I learned that my children really appreciate the difference between a fancy shabbos and a plain one and that they like the fancy one better (which is not necessarily what I would have expected.) That being the case, I've learned that it's time that they had specific erev Shabbos chores for which they are responsible. Everyone will appreciate Shabbos more if we work together to make it special - me most of all.
I learned that I'm being judged all the time, by my kids, by the school, and by good and bad angels. I've also learned that just because my children aren't in nursery school anymore it doesn't mean they aren't still taking all the little "morah stories" (medrashim etc...) as seriously as chumash or history. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me as usual.

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13 Comments:

At 11:06 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Can't comment on the veracity of the angel story, but I can confirm that it makes a BIG difference to EVERYONE if you do Shabbos right.

For many years we shunned guests. Oh, we had our friends, but most shabboses we ate alone and did not do much to make the table or the house Shabbostic, as they say.

There were many reasons for this. When we moved here, there was no eruv, and we had small kids. So we were never invited out. And we didn't invite families with kids over.

By the time an eruv was constructed, we had gotten used to our quickie shabbos meals and the extra time that gave us for reading or sleeping or playing. So we didn't go looking for guests.

It also didn't help that on the rare occasions that we accepted invitations to eat out, we had to endure long, drawn out meals and came home at 3pm, with no time for shluffing.

And of course, I work long hours and so does the Mrs, and we're just plain POOPED by Friday night and not in the mood for entertainin.

However

This resulted in us putting minimal effort into Shabbos, eating in the kitchen instead of the dining room, kids abandoning the table very early in the meal, eating in shabbos robes instead of dressing up, etc.

I came to discover that we were lacking in much of the Shabbos spirit.

So this year I decided that we were going to make an effort to have guests as much as feasible. It's a lot more work for everyone, especially the wife (since I work until right before shabbos anyway), but I think we've all noticed the difference.

I can't say that it's made a difference with respect to the one other reason we didn't have guests, which is that we're antisocial and hate everybody. But hey, I'm willing to give it time.

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger RaggedyMom said...

Shifra, this is a great post and really speaks to the things that I feel like Ann (3.5) is starting to notice.

There are lots of weeks where we prefer to minimize some of the Shabbos effort, and we know when we need one (or several) of those weeks.

However, my kids are usually so excited when we have guests and when the food is a little more appealing. Not to mention more leftovers = less weeknight cooking of suppers.

One conscious decision I have had to make that makes the guest situation more manageable is to focus less on inviting our friends and more on inviting singles and others in the community outside our regular social sphere. The original reason for this was somewhat selfish.

As our friends' families are growing larger, it becomes less feasible and less enjoyable to have lots of kids age 5 and under running wild in our apartment. There's only so much room for that many kids to play, and I was getting frustrated that parents weren't as strict with their kids' behavior, and that my house looked like a wreck afterward.

But diversifying our guest profile has added a really nice element to the meals as well. For one, it's nice for me to talk to women about things other than labor and toilet training!

An area where we have made a considerable effort is to try to get more into singing zemiros at the Shabbos meals. Since my grandfather died last year, I have felt much more of a pull toward singing at the Shabbos table, since he (and his haunting, beautiful singing) was a strong influence in my life early on. His and my grandmother's Shabbos table was my first impression of a real Shabbos experience for many years.

RaggedyDad is not a big singing guy, but we both enjoy the ambience it creates and are pretty amazed that our kids are growing up with this and joining in on the lyrics at such a young age.

Every now and then, though, freezer leftovers on paper plates and straight to shluf works well to recharge us too!

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger rivkayael said...

One other thing--if people offer to bring something/help, let them, and give defined instructions! If it works out, your guest will be even happier, bonding will take place, etc. My perspective as a single grad student who is thrilled to be invited out for Shabbos.

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Rabbi Dr. said...

The story about the angels is from Tractate Shabbat 118b. Your kids quoted it pretty acurately. Obviously, it is not supposed to be taken so literally, but I don't know that the full depth of the talmudic passage can be understood by children (or adults for that matter). The basic gist of it is that mitzvah goreret mitzvah and aveirah goreret aveirah.

 
At 5:54 AM, Blogger almost_frei said...

And I am glad to learn that the Malachim did not say that eating on paper plates will ruin your daughter's future shidduchim prospects.. PHEW!

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I want to be there when the malach says "This Shabbos is Bogus dude."

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger Miriam said...

The problem is, with my house, we're never quite sure which malach is giving us the brocha! Especially, when, say, it's much better than the week before, but way not up to "sparkling."

But anyway, hope you have more luck getting your children to actually do their erev Shabbos chores than I do!

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Sort of related. I used to eat at the house of a wonderful family and one week she had new dishes that I thought were very attractive (white with a bright teal border that had a floral design). She told me she liked them too but that her (older)children complained they were not appropriate for Shabbat because they weren't white! I'd heard about white table clothes, but dishes?!?

I wrote about Shabbat Guests recently. We like to make a nice Shabbat regularly with wonderful foods and the whole bit. But, sometimes we make a one dish meal too because of the circumstances of the week. Shalom Bayit is more important than doing it right IMO.

My kids are little, but I try to give tasks starting on Tuesday when we go shopping. And, after doing it all as a newlywed, I had a chage of course and my wonderful husband is in charge of setting the table, bathing our son, and sweeping the floor. Our kids are little, but there is still a lot they can do. Peeling carrots is what we are working on introducing. Other tasks include helping set the table (less expensive china makes that a possibility), baking Challah, and getting ingredients from the kitchen while I cook. Obviously, it is easier if I were to do those tasks myself, but I think the payoff is worth the extra effort.

 
At 1:45 PM, Blogger Miriam said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we will share meals with really good friends who have kids similar aged kids. Weve done it this way for years so the kids get along real well. It does it make it fun and sharing food, expense and cleaning makes it easier for all of us working moms and dads.

 
At 7:59 PM, Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

malachim don't stop by my home anymore, ever since I insisted on stopping to sing Shalom Aleichem. Personally, sometimes a lowkey shabbat is exactly what I need. We quickly eat, and plop on the couch and fall to sleep.

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me as usual.

Right. And how much do you pay tuition, only to have to re-educate them back at home.

 
At 12:15 AM, Anonymous woodrow said...

I think it is absolutely horrifying that your children's teachers are sowing dissension like this- you need to send your kids to a new school (or at least give a firm talking to to SOMEBODY at the school)! What an outrage!

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous SeeBee said...

Now I AM really shocked!! (I've just written a comment to the previous post). Please please please don't let all these people judge you!! This is terrible. Everyone should prepare shabbos together: it's hard work but you should tell your kids that shabbos has a better ta'am if you ALL help prepare it. In fact preparation is the soul of most mitzvot so they's better start practising right now. Anyway gotta go and finish preparing shabbos...Talk about brainwashing!

 

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