The holiest location in Judaism is the Shabbat table. Friday night dinner, especially with guests present, creates a unique opportunity to breathe and restore our souls. The week can be challenging. The news is often overwhelming, work demands can be immense, and our families bring us joy but also exact a cost. And so it is easy to slip out of alignment, to feel disconnected and unmoored.
When we feel disconnected, our values no longer guide as they should. We find it more and more difficult to bring our best most caring self into our daily interactions. Instead we feel stressed, overwhelmed, alone.
Shabbat dinner can be a cure even if you don’t serve chicken soup. Shabbat dinner means interacting with others around challah and light. It invites conversations of meaning that value the soul of each person present. It may include song that can restore the soul. It can re-align us and re-connect us with our values, with our community, and with God.
This year I invite you to be a host for Shabbat Across Kol Emeth. We are part of a national initiative to encourage as many people as possible in the United States to have a Shabbat dinner on Feb 28th. To participate, simply invite anyone you like to join you for Shabbat. Perhaps invite a friend from synagogue, or someone at Kol Emeth you want to know better. Alternatively, invite someone from work or another context who you think would enjoy a Shabbat meal and whom you would like to get to know better.
Dinner can be anything. For some, it makes sense to prepare a delicious and elegant meal. For others, take-out pizza is the right choice. In other words, privilege having people over and don’t let anything stop you! Use the ritual that is right for you. Our website has Shabbat resources including kiddush, hamotzi, the grace after meals, and the candle lighting.
Yet this is YOUR meal. You get to decide exactly what and how much you will do. I feel kiddush and hamotzi create a sacred vessel for a meal. I also love engaging in some Torah study and offering thanksgiving at the end of meal. You are the host, so you offer the ritual that feels most meaningful to you.
Our culture discourages spiritual meaning and ritual. Allow yourself to plan out the meal with the meaning you want to offer. It’s okay to stumble a bit over the Hebrew. To this day, I get nervous whenever I say Friday night kiddush. (It’s a strange mental block. My father always used to ask me to lead kiddush when I was a teen. That discomfort and nervousness still linger). It’s okay to tell your guests–and your family–a plan for the evening to elevate a normal dinner to something sacred. I promise you that if invited, nearly everyone will be excited to go along and try something new or to reconnect with something they remember.
Finally, enjoy! And please do let me know if you plan to participate. I am curious to know about your experience!
Rabbi David Booth