That’s always the question when you go away for Shabbos. “What should I bring?” There’s no easy answer. The hosts are providing the food. So, what do you bring? And usually, you’re like, “Oh, I should bring food!”

Of course, you can ask them, “What should I bring?” But then you get, “Oh, just bring yourself.” Which sounds super passive aggressive. Like, “All of a sudden, you’re offering to bring us food? The week we’re feeding you? Where were you all the other weeks?”

One of these times I’m going to show up without a suit.

“What?! You said to just bring myself!”

Anyway, there’s no way I’m not bringing anything. It’s like when your wife says, “No, you don’t have to get me an anniversary present.” No good can come from listening to your wife. In this situation, I mean.

And anyway, asking, “What should we bring?” takes away the surprise.

“Here’s that thing we told you we’d make.”

“Okay, the fridge is over there.”

It’s all a very exciting exchange.


A lot of people buy flowers, which are nice because they get to sit right in the middle of the table so nobody can see each other.

But then the host has to keep them alive at least as long as you’re there. Also, you have to keep them alive. There’s nothing else you have to keep alive all the way to your destination, sometimes in a suitcase on a bus. After all, you’re not bringing them a pet…

So, flowers are an easy decision. You think, “Everyone can use flowers. No one says, “But we already have flowers!” because flowers die.

Okay, what if this is the type of family where the husband buys the wife flowers? Then they have to find a second home for your flowers.

“Well, I’ve been to their house before. The husband doesn’t buy his wife flowers.”

But what if this is the one week that he actually did? Maybe to make an impression on the guests!

And forget surfaces to put the flowers on—who says they have enough vases? Maybe get them a vase!

Make Something For The Seudah

You can bring a kugel or a salad or something. And the nice thing about bringing a salad is that that you can assemble it when you get there. You can’t do that with a kugel.

“I hope your oven isn’t fleishig!”

Though if you’re making part of the seudah, you do have to ask. You can’t just show up with something. Because the seudah can’t have, for example, two soups.

“It’s okay, we’ll have two soup courses; it’ll be fine. You know what? We’ll put them in the same bowl! Or we’ll give people a choice. Put every single person on the spot.”

Also, asking “What dish can we bring?” often puts the host on the spot. They say, “I guess you can make this…”

If they say, “I guess,” you might as well not make it. They are not counting on your thing. I went to my sister the other week and she said, “We don’t really do desserts, so I guess you can bring a cake if you want.” I got to their house, and they had three kinds of cake. I’d brought the fourth.

Candy Platter

If the host has kids, you might want to bring a candy dish. With mechitzahs, so the different candies don’t touch. That way you can be annoyed later when you just want to relax after the seudah and schmooze with the adults, but the kids are still making a racket because of all the candy. And they will probably latch onto you and climb all over you because you’re the one who brought them candy!

Adults like candy, too. Let’s be honest. But if adults like a certain type of candy, they only buy that candy. They don’t buy a dish with six different types of candy of which they will only eat three. Every adult has made peace with the fact that they can’t eat any candy they want, so they decide which candies they will make exceptions for. And you’re bringing six types. You’re playing the odds. You can ask ahead which types of candies they like, but then they’ll just say, “Please don’t bring candy.” So, definitely don’t do that!

Okay, but you’re saying, “Well, I know him, and he likes that kind of candy.”

Yeah, so he probably already has it in the house. See, when he comes to your house, you can put out things he likes because he probably didn’t shlep everything he likes in his suitcase. But if it’s his house, he’s thinking, “Well, I have five pounds of this in my nosh closet, but these twelve pieces have been personally touched by you!”

Anyway, nothing that people really like is going to be in a candy dish. There’s no room in there for sour sticks. Or that string candy that looks like you put your tzitzis in the washing machine.

And once the host finishes the four candies they like, the dish has to stay in their closet forever, in this big container with four empty slots. Or they can dump all the remnants of the various platters into one platter later on and give that away. Which is the other nice thing about candy dishes—you can make your own candy dish.

Most stores won’t tell you this, but every candy dish must have:

  1. Something chewy.
  2. Something sour.
  3. Something chocolate-covered. Is it pretzels? Is it cookies? Is it nuts? I hope no one’s allergic.
  4. Lentils, in case they’re in mourning.
  5. Some kind of candy that is one color on the outside and another color on the inside.
  6. Something you’ve had in your closet forever that you sure were not eating, but maybe they will. Or they’ll pass it on to the next person.

Not every house wants candy. Either their kids have enough of it or the hosts are the kind of parents that end up fighting with their kids about it the entire Shabbos.

“You can only take three pieces.”

“There are six sections!”

“Three pieces. We have to save for the guests.”

“The guests brought it!”

And the parent is thinking, “I didn’t tell the guest to bring six kinds.”

You don’t bring six kinds of wine.


I don’t know much about wine, so I always feel a little weird buying wine for people who actually know their liquor and I show up on their doorstep with something that looked pretty good, but they’re like, “I think your wine is a joke.” And I’m like, “Well, I hosted you the last time and I thought your candy platter was a joke!”

You don’t go to somebody who knows more about a certain item than you and you bring them one of those items. “I know you spent your whole life developing opinions about this, but here’s what I decided on in the five minutes I spent in the store. That the guy helped me find. And he saw me coming a mile away. Add it to your collection!”

“Here’s my $10 wine. Where should I put it? Should I put it in between your $75 bottles, or what?”

To me, the difference between any two wines is not much more than the difference between Coke and Pepsi, where I know there’s a difference, but not enough that if Coke was suddenly $50 more than Pepsi, I would choose the Coke.

The host is thinking, “We wanted to show him what a good wine is, but now we have to drink his stuff.”

I do know that it doesn’t have to be just wine. You can bring whiskey or bourbon or schnapps, or—I’m actually not sure if schnapps is a separate thing. All I know is that some people love one and hate the other. For instance, I have a brother-in-law who’s a bourbon guy, and another one who’s a whisky guy and they’re like, “Ooh, is that single malt?” And I don’t know the science. I don’t know how they make the booze.

“Well, single malt is better.”

In what way? I would think that the more malt the better. If you don’t like malt, don’t drink malt. Is malt an ingredient? Who knows?

Also, if you can only tell how many malts there are because you read the label, you don’t really like it better.

I don’t know what to buy these people. “Do you have a registry at a liquor store?”

If it’s a family that doesn’t drink, you don’t want to buy wine. Maybe a nice sparkling grape juice. There is literally one type of sparkling grape juice and it’s $3. And then they can say, “Ooh, peach!” It’s a nice change, because most wines are grape.

So, overall, I say that maybe as a guest you should bring something you know that you will eat. That way it’s sure to get eaten and you won’t be upset if the host has nothing to eat. Of course, if that’s how it is, it can get insulting.

“I brought my own cholent. I know I don’t like yours…”

“Not insulted. The cholent goes by the guests.”


Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at


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