Posts Tagged ‘Shabbat guests’

The Table

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Right now, I’m not in Maine.

This Sunday, we hosted an Open House as part of our effort to sell our house in our hometown in the mid-Atlantic US.  Simultaneously, we are selling the entire house contents, a process that has been ongoing for the past year.  This includes pieces of antique furniture, beds, sofas, and our dining room table.

What an amazing table it is!  It is a solid maple table that we’ve had for at least 35 years, bought second hand in Los Angeles.  It came with us when we went to to live in Israel in the 1980s; it returned with us to the US when we moved to the Mid Atlantic.  It is a gate leg table, so it folds down to a mere 24″ width to seat 2, but when fully expanded , it’s 97″ long and can seat 12 – 14.  Its 2 extra leaves are butterflied (hinged in the middle) so they fold and store right in the table – – a clever, space-saving design.

While the table is very sturdy, it is nowhere near in perfect condition.  One side has a long gouge-like scratch from a careless grandchild, and the finish had discolored unevenly due to sunlight exposure from a nearby window.  Hence I was impressed when a young Jewish couple, due to be married in 2 weeks’ time, were not put off by its imperfections, and bought it with the great excitement that comes with the first blush of love, hopes, dreams, and establishing a new home.

Other than a woman’s Sabbath candlesticks, there is perhaps no more important object in a Jewish home than the dining room table and the challah (Sabbath bread) that rests upon it.  It is an object that totally transcends its physicality as it becomes a sanctified gathering place for family Sabbath meals; Jewish and American holidays; guests holy and plain; happy events and sad; heated arguments and intellectual and religious discussion; celebration and mourning.  The source for this is from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem:

One of the central Temple vessels is the golden Table for the Showbread, which stands within the Sanctuary itself, on the north side. This table is constructed of wood overlain with gold, and the specific instructions for its design are described in Exodus Chapter 25.

The priests are commanded to see to it that 12 loaves of bread are constantly displayed on this table before the presence of G-d, hence the name showbread: “And you shall place showbread on the table before Me at all times” (Ex. 25:30).

“These 12 loaves were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones.

It is said that bread is the staff of life, and represents man’s physical sustenance. This is certainly so, and it is important that G-d’s blessing for goodness and bounty be found in the bread which we partake of… for without His munificent blessing, all of man’s efforts would neither satisfy nor satiate. Thus we endeavor to fulfill His will throughout every aspect of our endeavors, and in so doing, we earn His favor and blessing… for each area wherein man fulfills the Holy One’s will becomes a channel receiving Heavenly blessing.

(from The Temple Institute website:  https://www.templeinstitute.org/table_showbread.htm)

As the bride and groom drove away happily with the table in their borrowed 12-seater van, I suddenly imagined a rather unpleasant scenario.  Perhaps their well-meaning family or friends would take the wind out of the couple’s sails and chide them for buying a used table with its imperfections, when they might have bought something new!  And so I texted them this message:

Over the years, we had many important people eat at that table, including HaRav Simcha Wasserman ztz’l, Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rav Meir Chodosh, and Rav Akiva Tatz, plus many more.  I’m not saying this to be a name-dropper but rather, my blessing to you is that as you gather around your table, that you may continue the holiness from its past as you host guests in the spirit of  Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu!

To which he replied,

Wow! That’s amazing! Thank you for telling me!

And to which I wish to add:

Yes, we were privileged to have many “celebrities” from the Jewish world sit, eat, talk, and expound words of Torah at our table. But we also hosted dear friends and neighbors; people who were lonely, abused, sick and bereft; mentally ill or substance abusers; travelers; strangers who became friends and some who didn’t; righteous gentiles; cult members; grandparents and parents and friends no longer in this world; and children and grandchildren, who are our future.

We ate meals there that consisted of little more than a bowl of cold cereal, and multi-course meals that were fit for a king.  We celebrated the pidyon haben (redemption of the first-born) of a grandson at that table on the night before 9/11, along with the sheva brochos (festive post-wedding meal) of our children and friends’ children, including for a newlywed ba’alat tshuva couple I met in a supermarket line only the day before.  We conducted our Passover seder from that table, year after year after year; we kvelled (felt happiness and pride) as the numbers of family members increased and required the table’s full extension, and then the addition of a folding table to accommodate everyone.

Unlike the  table of gold from the Temple, our table was made only of wood.  It carried its imperfections with dignity, like all the people of every stripe who completed it and made it the holy vessel that it is.

For us, our table was golden.

 

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The Flying Chicken

Once in a while, events in one’s life become such a comedy of errors that one can’t make this stuff up if one tried.  Today was that day.

Several months ago my husband bought a high-caliber rifle (he does not hunt but he enjoys target shooting).  He has been wanting to shoot the new rifle for many weeks.  Although we have plenty of room on our property to shoot it safely, our dog is petrified by the sound of gunfire so we avoid shooting practice unless the dog is not around, which is, like, never.

My husband joined a gun club that has a very nice shooting range.  But joining was a story in and of itself.  The gun store in town, whose proprietor is a Member of the Board at the range and is in charge of membership, has irregular hours, and the gun store was never open when my husband could get there, so joining up took many weeks of attempts.  Then, when he wanted to go to the range, something always got in the way:  weather (too hot, too buggy, too rainy), hours incompatible with his work schedule, or people visiting us for the summer, making it difficult for him to excuse himself from the company.

But today was the day!  He planned his work carefully so that he could get off exactly at 5 pm, jump in the car, and reach the range with plenty of time to shoot his rifle before closing time.

As they say:  man plans . . . and G-d laughs.

Today I spent the day cooking and baking.  I have friends coming for Shabbat and they are as picky about food as I am – – meaning, we all love good, home-cooked food made with wholesome, natural ingredients, lots of vegetables, salads, exotic flavors, and whole grains.  That kind of cooking takes a lot longer than convenience-food cooking, but it’s definitely worth it.  There’s nothing quite so wonderful as sharing a hearty meal that’s been carefully prepared with good friends and a few l’chaims.   Also, I don’t like to usher in the Sabbath under pressure with the clock ticking.  So I start cooking 1 – 2 days in advance of Shabbat so I can be relaxed and ready well in advance of my guests’ arrival.

I decided to grill some chicken.  First, I made a wood fire in the campfire area.  Only a few days ago, it had been used for hot dogs, hamburgers and toasted marshmallows, but today, I was going to grill some amazing, quality chicken by searing the skin at high temperature till crisp, then reducing the fire to cook it slowly so it was nice and juicy and tender.  It looked and smelled so good that at the last minute I decided to grill a couple of extra pieces, so I could freeze them and serve them next week.  When the first batch of chicken was done, I put it in the house.  When I pulled the second batch off the fire, I put it in a disposable aluminum pan and rested it on top of my car which was parked alongside my house’s front entry way.  While the chicken cooled down, I was busy cleaning up the grilling tools and the fire pit ashes.

Five o’clock came and my husband quickly put his rifle in the back of the car and off he went.  As I waved goodbye I suddenly remembered:  my chicken was on top of the car!!!

One thing about living in a rural area in the Maine woods, is that cellphone reception is pretty iffy.  And just beyond our driveway on the road, there is no cellphone reception at all.  I tried calling, I tried texting – – to no avail.  The call was not getting through.

Finally I texted:

#STOP THE CAR!  MY PAN OF CHICKEN IS ON TOP OF THE CAR!!!

I was cooling it down.

When my husband finally got cellphone reception and got my text message, he was 5 miles from home.

He stopped the car, but there was no chicken on the roof.

(How he missed seeing a flying chicken, I don’t understand!)

But, to his credit (what a guy!), he turned the car around, and backtracking, he started looking for the chicken on the road.

He found it about a quarter-mile from our house.  And after putting the chicken in the car (other than a little gravel that I washed off, not really worse for the wear; luckily he got to it before it was eaten by a wild animal or run over by a truck), he brought that chicken all the way back home instead of going to the rifle range!

Have you ever said exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time?  Because instead of saying “thank you,” I said,

“Where’s the fork?”

And before I could say another word, he was backing down the driveway and went off to look for that fork!

(He did not find it.)

So that is my story of the Flying Chicken.

Tomorrow my husband is hoping to go to the range.

We are not serving the Flying Chicken to our Shabbat guests.

But my husband and I will eat it.  It’s too good to waste.