Rabbi Lyon’s recipe for a Shalom Bayyit, a peaceful house, this season

Rabbi Lyon’s recipe for a Shalom Bayyit, a peaceful house, this season

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Rabbi Lyon’s recipe for a Shalom Bayyit, a peaceful house, this season


Getting ready for the holidays requires more than stocking the refrigerator and tidying up the guest room. It’s been said that holidays are times when you leave the ones you love to spend time with your family.  It sounds cynical, but it can be true. We spend many more hours every day with co-workers and friends than we do with family members who might live many miles away. If it’s the case that you’re going to spend more time with family this season, then maybe it’s time to prepare for the experience. Take special note of these preparations for the sake of a Shalom Bayyit, a peaceful house:

1) Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Resist the urge to make the conversation about you. Ask your family members about themselves. Show interest and avoid judgment. They’ll be impressed by your interest in them and they’ll enjoy your company that much more.

2) Pay them a compliment. Compliment your host’s home, the accommodations, the meal they prepared, and even their jokes and opinions. Everybody likes a compliment. Say it with a sincere smile.

3) Use supporting language. Don’t say, “You’re a ____ for doing that.” Instead, say, “When you do that it makes me feel ____.” Labeling others creates friction as they struggle to remove the label you put on them. It’s better to identify a feeling that you both can address. And, when you can’t be certain about a family member’s intentions, say, “Help me understand what you’re trying to accomplish when you do/say that.” Don’t jump to conclusions, and if you must agree to disagree, do it respectfully.

4) Please and thank you. Manners count at any age. If you’re among family, manners matter even more than they do between friends. Lead by example and set the tone you want to enjoy with your family.

5) Bring a small gift and send a short thank-you note. This needs no added emphasis. Bring a token of your thanks to the home you’re visiting, and send a short thank-you note to express your gratitude for their hospitality.

The goal is to achieve a “Shalom Bayyit,” a peaceful house. Holidays don’t last forever. They’re a day or two you spend with others who share your name or family tree. Make the most of it and aim to be remembered as the one whose company is so easy to enjoy. The likelihood is that you’ll be in a class of your own. Even if it’s a home you visit only once each year, it’s important to leave a positive impression. Returning next year will be that much easier to do.

One home that will always welcome you back is Congregation Beth Israel. It’s surely a peaceful home and one that has lots of room for family and friends. Mark your calendars now for Shabbat after Thanksgiving on November 23rd, and for our Shabbat Chanukah Family Service on December 7th, at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary. We’ll light the Maltz Menorah, sing Chanukah songs, hear a great story, and eat delicious foods for Chanukah.  As the holiday season beings, take note and make peace.


Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM every Sunday at 6:45am CST, and he is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights, 2011) available on Amazon.com.