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What gift can I bring to my Shabbat meal hosts?

What gift can I bring to my Shabbat meal hosts?

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Question:

I have been invited over to a Chabad rabbi's home for a Friday night Shabbat meal. Is it proper for me to bring flowers, a bottle of wine, or some other sort of gift? I really don't want to turn up empty handed...

Answer:

How thoughtful of you!

It is indeed nice to bring a gift. Since kosher wine is tricky (see Wine and Grape Products), I would advise you to stick to other ideas -- flowers make for a great gift! Other ideas: kosher non-dairy chocolate; a present for the children; a decorative dish, bowl, or vase; or anything you know they may need!

Bear in mind that carrying in the public domain is forbidden on Shabbat (click here for more on this topic). It is therefore common to bring gifts before nightfall and then return later for the meal (or better yet, come right before sunset and just stick around until the meal). I know this may feel funny if you are not used to it but it is perfectly acceptable in religious circles. 1

Enjoy the meal!

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.

Bringing gifts on Shabbat (after sunset of Friday night) can also be problematic in other ways. Examples include the fact that flowers may not be put in water on the Shabbat, and that we are only allowed to give gifts for actual Shabbat use.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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Sylvia U.K. November 20, 2015

Thank you Very good question. This has helped me along with the answers. Reply

Worcester San Francisco May 29, 2014

Have the flowers sent on Thursday. Reply

Lin Sweden March 11, 2013

Delivery? Why not have the flowers delivered a few hours in advance? You can book a a delivery even some days ahead and will not need to carry anything. Also, the hosts have plenty of time to arrange the flowers before guests arrive. Reply

Menachem Posner Montreal February 14, 2013

RE: Flowers on Shabbat Planting is one of the 39 archetypal acts we may not do on Shabbat, and placing flowers in water, which will nourish them and cause them to bloom, is forbidden as a form of planting. Reply

Jack Klein Australia February 13, 2013

Flowers on Shabbat. Why are we not permitted to put flowers in water on Shabbat. Reply