There was once a very brilliant man who maintained that Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was not truly hospitable. When the three strangers came to visit her, she hurried to the kitchen to prepare cake. A truly hospitable woman would have offered the bread which was the daily fare of the family and thus have made the strangers feel at home. In taking special pains she embarrassed her guests and made them uncomfortable. A hostess who does too much does too little.
This was, of course, the firework display of a clever mind, but withal there is more than a grain of truth hidden in this witticism, a truth which the summer hostess who entertains week-end guests would do well to heed. For the summer hostess is apt to overdo attention to her guests, providing so much entertainment that it becomes burdensome, quite forgetting that an hour or two of solitude is the best means for real
In the end, one wants one’s guest to feel at home. Of course, there is the ill-tempered saying ascribed to a misanthropic husband who exclaims: “There is no place like homeâ€”thank God!” But it is not to such a home that we would invite our friends. The home atmosphere which we would wish to offer them is one where each member finds sympathetic interest, if he desires it, but where he also has the freedom to withdraw, if he chooses, to the solace of his own thoughts and dreams.
Or, to put it more prosaically, leave your guests a bit alone, and don’t feel that you must plan special amusements for them. Let them enter into the life of the family, let them share, actually and intellectually, your daily bread, and do not bake cake as Sarah did. The more simple, the more spontaneous your hospitality, the happier, the more content will be the guest under your roof.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.