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Taking Your Time

Tuesday, 5 January 2010
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Think about the best meal that you have ever eaten. Chances are pretty good that you enjoyed that meal with others.

There is much to be said about eating in community. Friendships and family bonds can be strengthened when we sit down together at the table. Our Tradition encourages this behaviour. For example, when three people eat together, the Birkat HaMazon(Grace After Meals) is preceded with zimun. Zimun is the term used for both the group of three or more as well as for the introductory invitation prior to the core blessings of the Birkat HaMazon. In fact, if two people eat together, we are taught (Mishnah Berurah 193:7) that it is great mitzvah to find a third to join the meal! The Talmud bases the teaching of eating in community on a line from Proverbs (14:28) which states “In a greater number of people there is glory of the Sovereign”. Should ten or more individuals eat together, the word Eloheinu (“our God”) is added to several of the lines of the zimun.

In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the beauty of slow and storied meals. One cannot have a storied meal alone. It requires other individuals. By lingering over a meal, savouring the tastes and textures while sharing histories, memories, and stories, we deepen the experience. Much in the way we do yearly at the Pesach Seder. [A comparison drawn by Pollan himself!]

And much in the way we do weekly at the Shabbat table. Or, rather, much in the way we ought to do weekly at the Shabbat table. How rapidly the week slips past us. Friday rolls around again only to find us unprepared to relax. For relaxation does take preparation. And for many of our families, making Shabbat can seem like just one more item on a never-ending to-do list.

Like many shul communities, we get together for a monthly Shabbat dinner. We hope that it will allow more and more people to experience Shabbat. To enjoy the company of old friends and new as we eat together, sing together, and share Torah together. As it is written, “But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God.” (Pirkei Avot 3:4).

What are you doing to enjoy food in the company of others?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 6 January 2010 12:30 am

    Besides the usual family or company over meals, my girlfriends and I have a tradition we call GNI – Girls’ Night IN. Every six or eight weeks we get together at someone’s house and share a meal. We used to actually cook together first but after a few too many 11pm meals we now have everyone bring their dish ready (or nearly ready) to eat. Much more personal than just going out to eat, and cheaper too.

  2. Wednesday, 6 January 2010 5:17 pm

    I love this. I was laughing as i read, though, because I was eating a snack at my desk as I read your post….so much for communal eating.

  3. Saturday, 16 January 2010 10:49 pm

    Thinking about it…
    When thinking of a great meal, the food is less important than the company.

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