I, like many observant people often travel and visit shuls in other places far from home. If you are like me, this is what you do: leave a couple of sandwiches, maybe also a salad or a can of tuna in the hotel room as a back-up, then go to shul and secretly hope to get an invitation. Of course we will pretend to refuse, specifying that we have “plenty” of food in our hotel room, but at the second offer we will immediately “give up” and thankfully accept the offer to spend a real Shabbos, with a real dinner and some real nice company.

There are the “Next time, absolutely” kind of Jew

Does it always go that way? Only if we are lucky enough and to meet some “We really love it to have Shabbos guests and my wife is waiting at home with enough food to feed an army” kind of Jew. But of course there are other kinds of Jews, too. Let’s meet them:

The “Next time, absolutely” kind of Jew. They will introduce themselves very friendly, then ask if you have already an invitation (thus raising your expectations). As you say you don’t, they will complain: “You should have let me know and I would have made sure to have more food!”

So how on earth were you supposed to let him know? You didn’t have an idea that he existed! And now it’s your fault! Don’t worry, though, here he comes up with the solution: “I know it’s already Shabbos, so I can’t give you my phone number, but if you are ever in town again you should memorize my email address: that’s, S-2-R-W-D-F-C-4-UNDERSCORE-99-Q-V-C-G-H-T-2-E-F-3, (one word, all lower case), at chiaroscuro sphygmomanometers for hire, (one word, all lower case) dot com. Don’t forget the dot com! So, next time you have no excuse, ok? You absolutely have to let me know you’re going to be in town and you’ll be my guest…. Unless my kids are visiting from Montana. You promise?” Of course, you promise, would you ever miss it?

The “Are you in great shape?” kind of Jew. These Jews will first apologize because they live quite far from the shul, usually three miles, and they will say, “We are used to the walk, but you might not be…but of course you are welcome to walk the three miles (and back) if you want to join us”...

The “How dare you?” kind of Jew. These are the kind who will come over to you in shul, say Shabbat Shalom, inquire where you are from, and quickly disappear. They secretly are thinking: “I grew up in this congregation and you came here tonight for the first time and tomorrow you’ll be called up to the Torah for an aliyah, because we want to prove welcoming. The last time I got an Aliyah was before the fall of the Berlin Wall! You can spend the night alone! BTW, next time you’re on a trip in this town, there’s a nicer shul around the corner. No, I don’t know what corner!” Fortunately these kinds of Jews are a tiny minority.

The “You should join us tomorrow for kiddush” kind of Jew. These ones are not so smart, let’s admit it. They don’t want guests tonight for some unknown reason. They could pretend they didn’t see you, or just quickly introduce themselves and move on. But no, they can’t accept the idea of not displaying some hospitality. So what do they do? They invite you…. To shul! “Please join us tomorrow for the kiddush after the services are over!” Oh thank you, I am deeply moved that you guys won’t kick me out as soon as the shul president finishes his announcements! Can I really have a sip of sweet wine and a mini-bagel in your company?

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. OK, a lot. Like I said, the truth is the most common type of Jews that I’ve come across are the “we’d love to have you over and you can eat as much as you want even if eating everything we’ve made won’t be good for your blood pressure” kind of Jews.

Next time, we’ll talk about the different kinds of Jewish guests. After all, it’s only fair.