The High Holidays are around the corner, and with them comes an opportunity to share many meals with friends and family. Holidays in general remind me of the importance of taking the relationships that we keep online through social media, offline. We come together face to face and break bread with those that are important in our lives.
The people are a big piece of what makes holiday times special. There is no doubt about it that the food plays a major role in making memories too. I think another more subtle force at play is that, by and large, holiday celebrations take place at someone’s home. When I think of holiday celebrations of the past, I recall the smells, sounds and sights of my Bubbie’s home just as much as I do the taste of her brisket and the faces of those seated at the table.
Judaism considers welcoming guests to be one of the most important mitzvot that we can perform. The custom is said to date back to the time of Abraham, who stood at the entrance of his tent on hot days in the hopes that he might see someone passing by to invite into his home. In today’s world of big city living, I don’t know of many people who would stand on their balconies looking for hungry people to call up to their apartments for lunch, though I have been a part of many communities where organizing meals and potlucks in the homes of friends is the norm.
Many of us regularly meet friends and loved ones for coffee, drinks, or dinner in public places, but the dynamic changes when we meet in someone’s own personal space. Instead of meeting on neutral ground, we are allowing someone to see us in a more vulnerable and intimate space. This creates a more intimate experience, a deeper conversation and a more authentic sharing of what our lives are really like.
For young adult Jews, organizations such as Moishe House and programs such as Birthright NEXT Shabbat have been helping young Jews come together to share in meals. Local synagogues, JCCs and chavurah communities also provide opportunities to bring people together in this way. In my experience, the magic of inviting others into our personal space to share conversation, ideas, thoughts and feelings is the root of the magic formula that makes these ventures so successful.
This year, I invite you to consider being a host to or allow yourself to be hosted by someone new in your life. It is a practice as old as Abraham for making your relationships deeper than any Facebook post would ever allow. May you have a Happy and Sweet New Year!