HomeJanuary 2014Building a Jewish Home

Building a Jewish Home

Jewish tradition associates Shabbat and holidays with food.  We are fortunate as Jews to be able to use this time on a weekly basis to build family relationships, solidify friendships, and to bond with new people in our lives. We invite friends, relatives, and sometimes strangers to share our meals; we light our candles, make a bracha over challah and wine, and eat together.  Sharing food breaks down barriers, crossing all social, ethnic, and cultural boundaries.  It builds warm memories and enhances traditions.  Most important of all, it teaches our children to cherish their Judaism.
By extension, when we invite people into our homes to celebrate Shabbat or one of the holidays, we model welcoming and hosting guests for our children.  They watch us feed our visitors and ensure their comfort before we eat ourselves.  Our children learn about taking care of and nurturing relationships, even if it is around food.  This is the mitzvah of Hakhnasat Orekhim (welcoming guests). This tradition has its roots in the stories of Abraham welcoming guests into his tents.  He would wash their feet, provide a meal consisting of the finest foods he could access, and ensure the guests were comfortable.
The Torah takes an even greater step and commands us to feed our animals before we eat ourselves. There are many interpretations of this but as we look at it through a contemporary lens, it provides us the perfect means to model caring and compassion, for others, to our children.  The only way our pets can eat is if we feed them.  By teaching our children to feed our pets before we eat, we encourage them to think about taking care of others before themselves. This tradition also dates back to the Torah.  Isaac married Rebecca because she had offered to water Abraham’s camels when providing water to his fellow travelers. Her thoughtfulness was noticed and embraced.
If we use Shabbat and Holidays as a time for sharing meals with special people in out lives, our children will learn to associate Judaism with friends and family.   If we use our mealtimes as a reminder for our children to feed their pets, they will learn to associate taking care of others with food.   We weave tradition, Torah and mitzvot into everyday rituals – feeding our pets and inviting guests into our homes. This way, we build memories, community, identity and future.   ✿


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