Shabbat Hospitality

Once again, Joline has contributed both a description of a lovely Shabbat and  a call to action.  I hope you take her up on her challenge and find ways to welcome people into your home and include new people in your community!

This past Shabbat, we read parshat Vayera. At the beginning of that Torah Portion, Avraham, likely relatively soon after he circumcises himself (ouch!), jumps up to provide a meal for three strangers. Judaism emphasizes this kind of hospitality, welcoming the stranger into your own home. There are those who would say the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger)
is more important than prayer or study. (interesting article link here – thanks Google!).

I spent this past weekend in St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, MN, attending the wedding of a good friend of mine from my year studying at Pardes in Israel. As some readers of this blog know, I also spent a year living in Minneapolis. I spent most shabbat mornings at a modern orthodox synagogue in St. Louis Park (of which my friend’s parents are members), and almost
every time I went, at least two or three community members would ask if I needed a place to go for a meal. As one of very few “young adults” at shul, coming off a year in Jerusalem and aching for Jewish community, I was incredibly touched by these gestures which in many ways gave me a sense of belonging. Ultimately, Minneapolis wasn’t the place for me, and I moved away after less than a year, but I’ve carried with me the model of hospitality I saw at that shul. (and also, as a footnote, at a conservative congregation I attended from time to time in Mendota Heights, MN).

It was extra special for me this past Shabbat to be able to return to the community that so welcomed me when I was a “stranger.” As a part of the wedding weekend, many community members graciously opened their homes to the many out of town guests, allowing friends and relatives from all over to partake in a full weekend of celebrations. There were two big (and
delicious) shabbos meals. Since this is ostensibly a Shabbat food blog, I suppose I will tell you about them. Friday night, we dined on delicious chicken, rice, and vegetables. In addition, the bride’s mother baked enough challah for several large loaves, enough small rolls for 30-40 people, and made some pretty awesome pies as well. Saturday, after an aufruf and a wonderful
kiddush, we had a lovely lunch of create your own deli-meat sandwiches, along with a variety of pasta salads (and more pie). It was a delicious and joyous Shabbat. (I have no recipes from the weekend, but below is an easy berry cobbler recipe (sort of like pie, right?) I made for election night festivities).

I’ve lived a lot of places, and in a lot of Jewish communities, and eaten a fair amount of shabbos meals. In the process, I’ve seen a wide variety of welcoming-ness and warmth. As someone who has been “new” many times, I think it really makes a difference in the warmth of a community. Of course, I’m not perfect, and it often slips my mind to think about inviting new and different folks over when I host Shabbat meals. Between my visit to Minnesota and coordinating Minyan Tikvah’s Home Hospitality meals for this Shabbat, I’ve been thinking about hospitality a lot. I’d like to challenge everyone reading this blog to think about how welcoming of the stranger they’ve been recently. Specifically: how often do you open your home and meals to newcomers at shul, or folks you haven’t had over in a while?

Mixed Berry Cobbler Recipe

Ingredients
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 cups mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a pastry brush, coat the bottom of a 13 x 9 or large oval dish with melted butter. Evenly spread mixed berries on the bottom. Place dish on a lined baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mix butter, sugar, flour, milk, baking powder, salt and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Spoon batter over fruit and spread evenly.

Mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup warm water. Pour evenly over dish. (This creates a golden brown crust and makes the fruit more soft and sweet)

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.

Minnesota really is the land of 10,000 lakes. This is Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

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