Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Vayeira / 14 Cheshvan 5775
Genesis 18: 1-18:33 / II Kings 4:1-37  

This Shabbat, Tamar Selch shares
Friday Night:


For me, Shabbat will always be known as "Friday Night." While some of my (few) Jewish friends growing up in Bogotá, Colombia had Shabbat dinner, in my family, it was simply known as Friday night dinner-la comida del viernes por la noche. I don't know why it was never known as Shabbat dinner. Perhaps it was my grandmother's way of wanting to be a part of the country where she was born - born to Polish and Romanian immigrants, and married to a Russian immigrant. Maybe it was a way of rejecting some of her traditions and starting new ones, connecting with the language of her country. Even though her parents raised her in Yiddish, she spoke Spanish in her house. Yiddish was only spoken as a secret language, when she and my grandfather didn't want the children-my mother and her two brothers-to understand what they were saying. When she became a grandmother, she rejected the traditional "bubbe" all her peers used, and asked that I call her by her first name, Lia, creating her new and own tradition.

But Friday night dinner was an ongoing tradition, that she brought from her parents' home and claimed as her own. Friday wasn't Friday without dinner at her house. An amazing hostess, she would set a beautiful table, with a crisp tablecloth and elegant china. Not the best china, mind you, as that (the one with the gold rim and the matching gold-plated flatware) was kept for special occasions. In the middle of the table were candles that she had lit earlier, in the kitchen, on her own. She never said a blessing. I still wonder if she said anything in her mind while lighting them. Sometimes my grandfather would go to services, but as he started aging and they moved away from the synagogue, it didn't happen that often. The children and their children would come. Sometimes there would be guests. This was their night to entertain. We'd sit in the living room, eating hors d'oeuvres, often Colombian food like empanadas or pandeyucas. Then we'd move into the dining room. The challah was on the table, already sliced. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure it was ever blessed. Wine, certainly wasn't. My grandfather drank whiskey, not wine. But the candles were there, reminding us of the reason we were there.

As an adult living in the Jewish Diaspora, after living in Israel for so many years as a chiloni (secular) Jew, I look back at the traditions I grew up with. We never kept kosher. In fact, after some empanadas or a little bit of chopped liver, we'd move to the table for a meal that often consisted of a cheese soufflé as an appetizer, followed by the most delicious beef tenderloin you could possibly think of. And, of course, there was a butter dish for the challah. As for dessert? Chocolate mousse was a popular one, as was a caramel torte. Food was my grandmother's way of starting her own traditions in her own home, moving away from her mother's home, where you had chicken soup with kreplach and stuffed cabbage leaves, and where dessert was probably Mandelbrot or some sort of apple cake.

But it was that Shabbat dinner, with meat and dairy, without blessings, but always with candles, that became a constant presence in my life. Ahad Ha'am talks about the Shabbat keeping the Jewish people; my grandmother's Friday night dinner kept the family.

Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Tamar Selch moved to Israel in 1989, where she became an archaeologist and art historian, a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Haifa University, as well as a curator at the Israel Museum's department of archaeology, While there, she also participated in several archaeological excavations. She now lives in Evanston with her husband, Zach, and their children, Jordan, Lila, and Thalia. They have been members of Beth Emet since moving to Evanston in 2006.

Each Friday during 5775, we will be featuring writings from you, our congregants, sharing reflections on Shabbat. We hope you will be inspired to share your reflections with the community. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Stacey Zisook Robinson
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, November 7
5:45 p.m. 

6:00 p.m. 
Third Grade Family Potluck Shabbat Dinner in the Weiner Room 

6:30 p.m. 
Kabbalat Shabbat Services including Torah reading in Meturgaman-style. Vayeira: A Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Exploration of Hagar and Sarah. Explore Hagar and Sarah from three religious perspectives:
Zayikkah Elamin, storyteller, theatre director and puppeteer from Muslim community

Jane Stenson, storyteller, author and educator from Christian community

Marilyn Price, storyteller, puppeteer and educator from Jewish community

Saturday, November 8
9:30 a.m.
Kahal Worship in the Weiner Room with Torah Reader Michael Orenstein and Torah Discussion Leader Rabbi Peter Knobel.
Shabbat Minyan in Room 208

10:30 a.m.

Zach Oliver Bar Mitzvah in the Sanctuary.

3:30 p.m.
Beyond Om: Spiritual Practice for the Jewish Soul at Rabbi London's Home

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