Monday, May 27, 2024

Can I Help You Out? Which Way Did You Come In?

Although this column is definitely not the forum for what have come to be called “shvigger jokes,” sometimes, purely to be used as an example for something else of course, it is worthwhile sharing a witticism, in this case heard from R' Yankel Miller. A man opens the door to find his shvigger standing there. He invites her in and politely inquires as to whether she is planning on staying long or not, as he has to leave for a meeting in fifteen minutes.

“I’ll stay as long as I’m wanted,” the shvigger remarked.


“Oh?” the man stops short in middle of filling the kettle. “You mean you won’t even stay for a cup of coffee?”


– – – – –


While virtually every sheva brachos this author ever attended was a beautiful simcha, there was one affair my wife and I attended many years back that we still chuckle about today. It was a catered affair, and though the hour wasn’t particularly late, the waiters were clearly itching to go home already. The waiters roamed the tables, clearing away every plate and portion the second they deemed it finished – if not earlier!


It was the kind of night where you savored a spoonful of soup – before being interrupted by Aunt Tildy, who was shlepping over Great-Uncle Solly, who hadn’t seen you since you were two years old and had chocolate smeared all over your face, a fact you’ve heard about for decades now. You get up to greet Great-Uncle Solly, who pinches your cheek and makes you feel as if you’re still two years old with chocolate smeared all over your face.


After a warm greeting and shared mazel tov wishes, you sit back down to your soup – only to discover that you have no soup. A quick glance upwards reveals a waiter scurrying away with your just-started bowl.


At least there’s still the main course, you figure.


A few bits into the main course, your brother, sitting at the table behind you, taps you on the back and asks whether you might have a pen to spare for a minute. You dig into your jacket pocket, find the pen and turn around to hand it to him. He takes it, signals for you to wait just one moment, jots down a phone number on a scrap of paper, and then returns the pen with thanks. You turn back around to your meal.


Your meal? Wasn’t it just here?


Apparently, the waiter decided it was no longer being eaten and just walked away with it.


Today, we laugh as we remember those eagle-eyed waiters and the alacrity with which they zoomed in on any poor portion left unsupervised for even a second. At the time, though, as the reader can imagine, it was an unsettling and uncomfortable feeling. It’s hard trying to enjoy a simcha when one feels that he’s overstayed his welcome and that he can’t bentch and get out of there soon enough.


– – – – –


Imagine that the Chofetz Chaim was alive and had come to your city for a day. You are shocked – and honored beyond belief – upon learning that because of an old favor your father did for him years ago in a train station, the Chofetz Chaim has agreed to stay in your home for the duration of his short stay in your city. Can we even begin to imagine the preparations and excitement that would be generated already long before his arrival?


Once he’s arrived and is actually in our home, our joy and humble appreciation at this honor would surely be multiplied exponentially. We, and our families, would be wearing our Shabbos best and be waiting on our esteemed guest hand and foot. Would the rovwant a hot drink? A cold one, perhaps? Should we turn the steam up a bit? Down?


We’d take advantage, as well, of every second we can simply bask in the greatness of this man. We’d sit and watch his every move, listen to his every word. Does the rovhave an eitzahfor an issue with this child? Is there something specific he’d advise us to enhance our own lives?


We’d make use of every last exhilarating moment.


Would we get up an hour or two before the rov’sscheduled departure and decide we’ve have enough? Would we dream of beginning to clear away the table and remove his tea, the pitchers and the drinks an hour or so early, since he’s leaving soon anyway? Would we stand with the front door open and his coat in our hands when he’s still sitting in his chair and would clearly still remain for another little bit?


We wouldn’t dream of it.


We’d sit, we’d listen, and we’d take advantage of this amazing and unique opportunity until the very last possible second.


– – – – –


Shabbos is a royal guest that graces our homes once a week. Shabbos is not just any guest, not just any gadol, not just any sort of visiting royalty. Shabbos is Hashem’s one-of-a-kind-gift presented to each of us personally. When the Shabbos Queen comes to visit, we are welcoming the Shechinah itself into our homes. Do we take sufficient advantage of this unique opportunity?


There are so many ways to enjoy and bask in the presence of Shabbos. There are the seudos, the special foods, the songs, family time, personal time, time available for Torah study, time to meet and make friends, time to rest and relax, time to simply enjoy each other and Hashem’s beautiful world. Not all of us are blessed with all these opportunities every week, but do we take advantage of the amazing opportunities we have been blessed with? Moreover, do we utilize our precious opportunity down to the last auspicious moment?


Shabbos has the same kedushah, holiness, during the late-afternoon Shabbos Minchah as it does on Friday night. Also, while this is not a halacha column, it is worth mentioning that seudah shlishis, the third Shabbos meal, is one of theShabbos meals and is a chiyuv for men and women, anyone over bar or bas mitzvah. Women and girls whose husbands and fathers eat the third meal in shul are then exclusive hosts of the Shabbos Queen in their homes at that time. What an amazing opportunity for some special Shabbos time!


We wouldn’t like a restaurant to act like they can’t wait for us to leave, and we’d never want to act remotely that way for the Royalty we host weekly, the Shabbos,compared to which even hosting the Chofetz Chaim in our home is merely a tiny glimpse of its greatness!


A respected maggid shiur recently shared with me how, in seeking to heighten the awareness in his home of the special and exciting qualities of hosting Shabbos each week, he turned melava malka time in his home into a warm and stimulating time of fun, camaraderie, song, food and excitement. One can show his family in the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah (siman 300) where it speaks of spreading a special tablecloth, lighting candles, singing songs and otherwise escorting our special guest in a manner befitting the pleasure we took in hosting our weekly guest. A proper farewell brings into focus the wondrous privilege we’ve been blessed with in the first place.


There are creative families who lay out the napkins in a different, fancy, manner especially for every seudah shlishis meal. There are some who buy a dip, salad or some other extra – just forseudah shlishis. Others bake or create something different with the kids every Motzoei Shabbos for melava malka.


What we do and how we do it may differ from person to person and from family to family. The main thing is to do something concrete to remind us of how exciting Shabbos should be from the start until its very last waning moments. When we appreciate what we have, we’ll surely want to keep its warm glow burning and its excitement pulsating until the very last second – and hopefully even a drop past that!



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