Rabbi Alexander Kress
Sharing Meals, Sharing Stories
A great King once traveled through a small Jewish shtetl near dusk. He stopped at a random house that belonged to a scholar named Nehemiah. Before the King could explain himself, Nehemiah welcomed him in to
join in the Sabbath meal. The King enjoyed the food so much that he asked Nehemiah for the recipes. The King has the best chefs in the land - surely they could replicate Nehemiah’s modest chicken soup, kugel, and challah.
After Shabbat ended, the King began his journey home. When he arrived, he immediately assigned the royal chefs to replicate Nehemiah’s recipes exactly. The King was so excited for dinner that night, but after one bite,
he knew something was wrong. The chicken soup, the kugel, the challah – it alltasted different than it had at Nehemiah’s Shabbat table. Trembling, one of thechefs suggests that the King ask Nehemiah what might be missing. The King agrees and invites Nehemiah to his palace to taste the recipes and find the problem. After a taste of challah, Nehemiah nods his head. After a slurp of chicken soup, he smiles. After a forkful of kugel, he tells the king, “Your chef had all the right ingredients
and prepared it just as I told you. The food is simply missing the most important ingredient: Shabbat itself.”
Anyone that has enjoyed a long, leisurely Shabbat dinner knows that special ingredient: the aroma of good conversation, the texture of old friendship and deep love, the flavor of sacred time. In a world of incessant
busyness, a meal with our loved ones – sans phones and with nowhere to be except at that table – is a luxury. Growing up, I didn’t know that this luxury extended to Saturday. I thought these meals happened on Friday
night and Friday night only, but I discovered another Shabbat world while living in Israel. This world of Saturday Shabbat meals had the same special ingredient as those Friday night dinners, and I fell in love. That experience,
in large part, is why I am so excited about our new Shabbat AM experience. As always, we will have our morning prayers (9:00am) and our Shabbat Torah study (10:45am). New, however, is a weekly block of time to break
bread together (10:30am).
Zionist Ahad Ha’am famously wrote, “More than the Jewish People have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish People.” A big part of Shabbat being that glue for the Jewish people is sharing meals and sharing stories.
I look forward to doing both with you this year!
Love & Challah,
Rabbi Alex Kress