Let All Who are Hungry Come and Eat … at the Table!


Image

Israeli, born Romania, 1893-1974
First Seder in Jerusalem
1950
Oil on canvas
129 x 162 cm
Collection of the Rubin Family

You know that piece of furniture in your kitchen, the one with the round or sometimes square flat surface? How many times do you eat at it with all family members present and accounted for?

I’ll fess up: Now that my family is in transition, it’s boiled down to the weekends.

In American culture, the days where families gather at the table to eat dinner on a nightly basis are going the way of Saturday mail delivery.

Eating on the fly, wherever and whenever, has become the norm, right? We eat walking, driving, or even standing up at elevated tables because we didn’t get a table with seats at the mall food court.

We can go on and on in school about nutrition, but often our kids are rushed through their meals at their lunch period, that’s if they HAVE a lunch period.  My high school daughter eats lunch in class nearly every day. She can’t fit in lunch because of her electives.

The proof in the pudding (a food substance I would highly implore be eaten at a table) is a conversation I had with a bunch of my 7th Grade Hebrew school students as we prepared to study the Birkat Hamazon. This is a long Hebrew blessing known as Grace after meals, but it actually translates to: the blessing of nourishment.

I think that hundreds of years ago, those wise rabbis who constructed this prayer were onto something: eating together and then SINGING together at a table gives us nourishment that goes way beyond the physical.

Before we got into the nitty-gritty of the Hebrew vocabulary of the prayer, I asked a general question that can be asked to any kid regardless of their faith:

How often do you eat together as a family?

The general response was, “not much.”

“Everyone has sports so people eat at different times whenever.” 

“My mom doesn’t make dinner so i just grab something from the fridge and eat it in my room.” 

“My dad works late so we eat without him lots of the time.” 

I listened to these honest yet sad confessions just one week after hearing a recent report on National Public Radio of the demise of family time around the table.

On a positive side, because of  Jewish camping,  some of my students were quite familiar with the Birkat Hamazon. And in the summer, they do sit and eat meals with others and then sing this prayer together, complete with all the campy hand motions. Thank you camp!

And even if we ARE around the table, we often bring some kind of electronic device with us to further distract ourselves from the people in our lives who really count.

As Passover and Easter approach, who will be around your table?

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

One response to “Let All Who are Hungry Come and Eat … at the Table!”

  1. auntyuta says :

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying about having meals together as a family. I am 78 and I was brought up around the time of WW II. As I remember pre- war, war-times, and post-war times, we as a family always had meals together. But you are right, these days electronic gadgets can interfere a lot.
    And different time schedules play a part too. This is why it is not always possible to have a meal together.
    I am very interested in Jewish traditions. I was able to glance at some of the traditions while visiting recently the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany. This is an excellent place for becoming more acquainted with Jewish life in Europe over many centuries.
    I am happily married and all our children and grandchildren are constantly busy with their own lives. But on special occasions (Christmas, Easter, Birthdays) we come together – if at all possible – and have a meal together.
    I

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