A Gift For The Hostess
Question: I am a student at a seminary far away from home and often eat Shabbat meals at the homes of generous hostesses. Is it expected of me to bring a gift as an expression of my gratitude? What is the right thing to do?
Answer: Our experience in inviting guests like yourself and the experience of other such hosts has taught us that families which invite you for a Shabbat meal do so out of a desire to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim hospitality and to enjoy your company. They certainly do not expect a gift but will not be offended if you bring one.
One word of caution. It is forbidden by halacha to give a gift on Shabbat itself. So either bring the gift before Shabbat or make sure it is a food item like wine or goodies that you can enjoy together with your hosts at the meal.