Snowy Shabbat

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    What to do about Shabbat plans on a snowy weekend?

    Dear Miriam,

    I have been planning to host a few friends for Shabbat lunch this Saturday, but with the impending snow storm, I'm not sure what to do. I would be disappointed to cancel if everyone would have been able to make it, but I don't want anyone to feel compelled to come out when it's not safe. What should I do?

    Signed,
    Snowy Shabbat


    Dear Snowy,

    I grew up near Buffalo, so my reaction to snow is typically a few feet off from most Philadelphians. However, I've been here long enough to know that, actually, a big storm can really shut down the city and be both difficult and dangerous. I also know that a big storm can be fun and exciting and a great bonding time for friends and neighbors. 

    Looking at the current forecast (and noting that it's changed repeatedly over the past 48 hours and probably will change again before the storm actually arrives), it looks like Saturday is actually going to be terrible. My non-existent meteorological skills tell me that the wind will be the most problematic. You can walk in snow. It can be fun to walk in snow, even the really heavy stuff. It is not fun to walk in a blizzard. It feels like your face is being ripped off, and the only analogy you can make is to Hoth, the ice planet in The Empire Strikes Back

    If you use your phone on Shabbat, you can set up options for communication Saturday morning, but if not, you'll have to rely on the, "if you show up at my front door, I guess we're having lunch," model of things. The most important part of any communication between now and when Shabbat starts is to make sure your guests feel welcomed but not pressured. Hopefully, they'll know their own comfort with snow, wind and ice and will be able to make informed decisions for themselves. Of course, the likely outcome also depends on how far away they live and whether they're walking or driving. 

    I would suggest emailing your prospective Shabbat guests and saying, "I'd love to have you join me for Shabbat lunch this week as planned. However, looking at the forecast, I realize that snow like this makes it hard to plan. I will still be here regardless, and there will be enough food for everyone if you are able to make it. If not, we will reschedule for another less Hoth-like time." If you choose to omit the Star Wars references, you could instead say, "Depending on how bad it gets this weekend, I wanted to gauge whether or not you still think you'd like to try to make it to lunch. Either way is fine with me, and I understand if you'd prefer to reschedule, though I'm happy to host if you feel comfortable getting here." You could also add, "If you want to plan to come, but at the last minute, it seems unsafe, please trust your instincts."

    If you do go ahead with lunch, you may want to make some extra food and perhaps even expect some extra guests, as you never know who may get stranded or stuck. Your original guests may not be able to get home by dinner and may stick around a little longer, or your neighbor who was supposed to be at a friend's wedding out of town may be stuck here without any food in her house. If you know of people within a block or two of your home who are likely to be around, whether they celebrate Shabbat or not, this could be a good excuse to reach out. "I'm making a bunch of food for lunch on Saturday, but I'm not sure if my guests will be able to make it. Feel free to drop by if you want to get out of the house!" Everyone gets stir crazy in these situations, so I'm sure you'll be happy for the company of whoever does venture out, and I'm sure everyone will be grateful both for your hospitality and for your flexibility.

    Stay warm, and be well,
    Miriam