Chatzos and unexpected shabbos guests

I read a remarkable article in the Hamodia about hundreds of travelers to Baltimore on Friday, a week ago, who got stranded with so much traffic they could not make it to Baltimore before Shabbos, and remarkable families opened up their homes to guests off the highway who arrived minutes before Shabbos began. The Jewish people are amazing.

That scenario is not what this post is about. If someone showed up at my door a few minutes before Shabbos with a suitcase in hand, I wouldn’t say, “Sorry, I keep chatzos and I can’t make extra food for you. You’ll have to find another place to stay.” Of course not. Come on in. We’ll slice the fish a bit thinner, no problem.

But what about this scenario which is much more common.

I had my Shabbos menu all planned and this shabbos is a special one for us because my son is home from Israel. Menu planned, food purchased, much of it made, or in process, when on Thursday I learn that a family down the street was impacted by the snowstorm. The mom’s expected flight back was canceled and rescheduled and she wasn’t coming in till late thursday night. So I invited this family to us for friday night to spare them that anxiety and they gratefully accepted.

So of course I could have just told myself, I have enough food and three more guests is no big deal. But I had thursday night to cook so I added to the menu. But chatzos style, I have learned that we don’t need to make as much food as we do and guests are still plenty full. I had already made my chicken soup. I bought two zucchini and some carrots and a carton of chicken broth to add to the soup. I added one additional side dish, and took out from the freezer brownies already made to supplement my planned dessert. That’s it. Some effort, all doable, but not more than needed.

Some people erroneously think that because I keep the chatzos practice, I would not bring guests into my home last minute. This is what I’d say about that:

I have trained the people in my life who know me, and also the regulars in town who sometimes eat by me, that I need to know before Wednesday if they are coming, and even earlier is better. They know that I keep chatzos and am always done cooking by thursday night and they respect it. I have very few last minute guests because I have made it clear – love to have you, just let me know early in the week please. I cook very differently when it’s just me and my husband, or if my married daughters and family are coming so they also know Mommy needs to know in advance when we are coming, at least by Tuesday!

If there are extenuating circumstances, like this week, chatzos actually helps me. Think of it this way. When I learned about the extra guests, I had already largely finished my shabbos preparations. So it wasn’t that big a deal at all to add a bit of food, since much of my shabbos effort was already done and my schedule was not harried and overfill.

Wishing you a peaceful shabbos with plenty of food and if wanted, happy guests at your tables.

Love, Azriela

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