By Mordechai Schmutter
This article might sound a little snippy, but that’s because I just put together a sheva berachos in four hours.
My wife and I are not normally this “last minute.” We offered the chassan (my wife’s brother) a sheva berachos party the minute he got engaged.
“I’m engaged,” he said.
“Mazel tov!” my wife said. “Sheva berachos?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Let me get married first.”
So we asked the kallah. And she said, “No, you don’t have to. We don’t know anyone in New York anyway.”
So they had a plan: The wedding was in Lakewood on Sunday, after which my in-laws would drive back to their home in Massachusetts. The chassan and kallah would then fly up to Massachusetts on Tuesday night, getting there shortly after my in-laws, who would then make them a daytime sheva berachos on Wednesday. They would then fly down to the kallah’s parents in Philly on Thursday for another 21 to 28 berachos.
But then the weather reports said there’d be snow on Thursday, and their flight got canceled, and when it snows in Massachusetts, you can no longer find your car. So my in-laws and the new couple decided to tear out of Massachusetts on Wednesday, after their sheva berachos, so they wouldn’t get snowed in and miss their Shabbos sheva berachos, which would be far worse than when I went to Massachusetts for my Shabbos sheva berachos and forgot to bring pants. And when my in-laws head south, we’re their hotel.
So they decided, once they were in the car, that maybe they should call us to let us know that they were staying at our house for the night, and also that we were making sheva berachos. In a region where they didn’t know anyone.
Thanks for the heads-up.
We’re generally pretty last minute, but we’re never this last minute. Except when it comes to sheva berachos. Frequent readers of my column will remember that a similar thing has happened before. My wife’s sister got married on a Sunday, the day before Hurricane Sandy. We drove all the way home after the wedding, just so we could lose power the next day and sit in the dark for a week. And somehow, over the course of that week, make sheva berachos. We’d actually been on top of things—we’d offered to make Thursday night’s sheva berachos, we invited people, started planning a menu, and then we were hit by a bunch of days when we couldn’t open our fridge and were afraid of what we’d find if we did. Plus, the one kosher supermarket had lost power, none of the restaurants had power, there was no gas to get out of town, and everyone was raiding the regular supermarkets for anything they could find that was kosher, especially close to Shabbos. And we couldn’t buy anything before Thursday, because we had no fridge.
So we were hoping to get out of sheva berachos, but then the couple told us, on Wednesday night, that they had a flight out of New Jersey on Friday morning that they couldn’t cancel, so they were coming on Thursday. So we had 24 hours to make a sheva berachos with an all-new menu, the theme being: “Things We Found in the Store.”
The only thing my wife found in the store was skinless chicken breasts on the bone, which, thanks to our lack of oven, I had to cook on the stove. I was basically ripping raw chicken off bones all day, as fast as I could, by candlelight.
Safety Tip: You do not work quickly by candlelight.
My wife, meanwhile, was on the phone. She was on our one corded landline tied to one specific spot in the living room, and she was trying to find:
1. guests, as all our original guests had suddenly canceled,
2. somewhere for the couple to sleep that had heat,
3. somewhere to keep the food warm,
4. a place to hold the sheva berachos, because the one we’d booked had no light, and
5. a dentist who’d be willing to perform an emergency root canal on her husband, and who hopefully had power and would not be using one of those hand-operated drills.
Because, yes, I needed a root canal. I ended up getting one two hours before the sheva berachos. And then I had to give a speech like that.
This time, though, my in-laws informed us, from the car, that they wanted a “simple” sheva berachos. I don’t know what that means. To me, simple means “one course.” You can’t just put out one course. How do people know when to stop eating?
But they wanted to make it easier for us. “Look,” they said. “We’re in the car, eating leftovers from lunch. So when we get to you, we’re not going to eat anyway. How about you just serve dessert?”
So I said, “I don’t want to serve dessert. If we just serve dessert, it has to be fancy. You know how long it takes to make a fancy dessert? I’d have to spend the rest of the week cutting fruit! I was going to make chocolate cake. I can do that in ten minutes, but it’s not fancy. I’m not going to invite people that none of you know to a sheva berachos at the last minute to give them cake. And then what? We have to wash. So it’s plain rolls and then cake? Why? Because you just want dessert? You don’t even eat dessert!”
No, dessert doesn’t make things easier. You know what makes things easier? Having no dessert! If I’m making supper on a regular night, do I say, “I don’t really feel like cooking. Let’s just have dessert!”?
No, I say, “Let’s have sandwiches.” So that’s what we did. We had sandwiches. And wraps. And chocolate cake.
Where was my wife, you ask? She was at the dentist, having a crown put in. Apparently, this is how we do it. Last minute, bad weather, dentist. That’s our checklist.
This isn’t a bad way to do sheva berachos, though. No one has any expectations, so whatever you do in four hours is impressive. I actually prefer it this way, because I don’t know that if they’d called me with 24 hours’ notice it would have been six times as good.
The problem was getting a minyan. This isn’t as easy as you’d think. If you want to know who your friends really are, try making a sheva berachos in four hours. Especially in a town where the chassan and kallah, quote, “don’t know anyone anyway.”
They all had excuses. One of my friends said, “I don’t have work tonight, so I was going to go out to eat with my wife.”
So I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. You can come out to eat. With your wife.”
So he said, “No, we want privacy, so we can talk.”
So I said, “I guarantee that whatever restaurant you go to will have other people.”
So he said, “Why do you always call when I want to spend time with my wife?”
So I said, “Well, what evenings do you not spend with your wife?”
“The nights that I’m working!”
“So should I call you on the nights that you’re working?”
“No, because then I’m working!”
He was not like this when we were in yeshiva.
Also, most of the people we called were legitimately offended that we asked them last minute.
To be fair, not everyone said no. Some people said maybe, and then just didn’t show up. So that was helpful. In my experience, people say maybe because it’s less confrontational than saying no.
Also, a lot of people said, “Maybe I’ll come for dessert.” That’s just a fancy maybe. How do you know what time dessert is going to be? I don’t even know! Are you going to guess? Because we’re having sandwiches, and then we’re having dessert, and there might not be speeches. You might as well come on time. “I just want dessert”? You sound like my kids. What are you, eight years old?
To be fair, my in-laws said the same thing.
So in the end, we had me, my father-in-law, the chassan, three relatives my wife was able to contact, the guy whose house it was in, who had just come home from Eretz Yisrael a few hours earlier and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep, another guy who used to live in the town where the chassan and kallah live, which is nice, because they could talk about whether things are still where he remembers them, someone we actually had to call when we started dessert, and another friend who showed up with an appetizer, which made it three courses, which is no longer a simple meal. Plus it felt like a soup day. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.