The Power of An Invitation: Opening Our Homes and Hearts for Shabbos and Yom Tov

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Being alone during Yom Tov and Shabbos when you’re single, divorced, widowed, newly moved into a community, or newly married can be incredibly lonely and painful. I vividly remember those Shabboses when I lived alone, spending solitary meals trying to mask the ache of loneliness as the world seemed to carry on without me. A table set for one is one of the loneliest sights. The clink of a single fork on a single plate, the silence that fills the room—it’s a stark reminder of being alone. An invitation from a neighbor or friend would have meant the world—a reminder that I was not alone, that I mattered.

When I was growing up, my parents’ home was a haven of warmth and hospitality. Every single weekend, our doors were open to anyone in need of a welcoming home and, of course, my mother’s delicious food. I don’t recall a weekend we didn’t have guests. Singles, divorcees, widowed individuals, visiting rabbis, or even families who had just arrived from Israel and didn’t speak a word of English were always welcome. It was an unspoken rule that our home was an open home, and it’s one of the most beautiful lessons I learned from my parents. We even had one man, Freddy A’H, who was divorced and whom we adored like family. He would stay with us for weeks at a time and lovingly called my parents’ home the “Lichtenstein Hotel.”

Those experiences have taught me the immense value of opening one’s home and heart to others, especially during festive times. Whether it’s the single friend, the widowed neighbor, or the newly married couple still finding their footing, a warm invitation can be a lifeline, a beacon of hope and belonging. It’s a simple act of kindness that costs nothing, yet its impact is profound and long-lasting.

As we approach Shavuos, let’s make a conscious effort to look beyond our immediate circles. Do what my husband Ben does; he asks our Rabbi Eisenbach if there’s anyone who needs a meal, as we don’t know many people in our neighborhood. Extend a heartfelt invitation to someone who may be struggling with loneliness. You never know how much it could mean to them, just as it would have meant the world to me back then.

In a world that often feels cold and disconnected, the simple act of opening our homes and hearts can make all the difference. It’s a reminder that we are all part of a larger human family and that by extending a hand of kindness, we can create ripples of compassion that touch lives far beyond our own.

So, the next time you’re planning your Shabbos menu, throw in an extra kugel or two—after all, who can say no to a good kugel? And remember, the best part of hosting isn’t the perfectly set table or the gourmet dishes; it’s the warmth and connection shared around it.

Actionable Tips for Hosting

Here are some practical and heartwarming ideas to make hosting more doable and welcoming for everyone:

Keep Freezer Staples: Always have a few kugels, pies, or cold cuts in the freezer for last-minute guests. It’s a simple way to ensure you’re always ready to welcome someone with a delicious meal and not feel overwhelmed. 

Communicate with Your Rabbi: Reach out to your rabbi and ask if they know anyone who might be alone this Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Join Hosting Committees: Get involved in a committee at your shul dedicated to hosting newlyweds or singles. It’s a wonderful way to build a supportive community.

Be Flexible with Invitations: Be open to hosting at the last minute if you hear someone needs a place. Spontaneous invitations can be the most meaningful.

Personalize the Experience: Take the time to get to know your guests’ food preferences and try to accommodate them. A little personal touch goes a long way.

Follow Up: After hosting, check in with your guests to see how they’re doing and offer ongoing support if needed. It shows that your care extends beyond just the meal.

By incorporating these tips, we can make our homes a source of warmth and community for those who need it most.

With love,