New Program? Or Old Mitzvah?

English: Table set for Shabbat with challah an...

Many of the established Jewish institutions are in a panic right now:  “Where are the young people? We must find the young people! In fact, where are the people? Why is enrollment so low?”  Synagogues want “programs” that will attract people and will engage them in Jewish life.  Membership in many organizations is dropping, and there is a constant drumbeat for new programs, for new ways of doing religious school, for a new Something to Keep Judaism Alive.

Grumpy old Kohelet tells us in Ecclesiastes that “There is nothing new under the sun.” I tend to think he’s mostly right about that. The Internet is a new tool, yes, but most of what we do with it is not really new. We use it to buy and sell, to tell stories (true and false), and to connect with other people.

That leads me to think that the “new program” so many of us are seeking is probably right under our noses: something already in the Jewish tradition.  We just need to update it, or tweak it — or maybe dust it off and start doing it again. You see, I think that the “program” we seek might be a mitzvah we are neglecting.

Recently I invited my Intro students over for a Shabbat dinner at my apartment. I am not a great cook, or even a particularly good cook, so I made a dependable main dish and the rest was potluck. I specified a dairy meal, but told them not to worry about kashrut beyond “no meat or shellfish please.” I cleared my books and computer off the table, spread a nice tablecloth, got out the candlesticks, bought a challah, opened some wine, and voilá: Shabbat dinner! We had fun, they stayed later than I expected, and afterwards I noticed that things had shifted in the group.  Our relationships had changed: we, all of us, were closer.  And all we did was have dinner together, in my home!

These nice students, some of them Jews, some not, were blown away that I invited them into my home.  Then it hit me: the mitzvah we are neglecting is hachnasat orchim, the mitzvah of hospitality.

Right then, I resolved that the doors of my tent needed to be a lot wider.  It was true: when had I last invited guests for Shabbat, or for dinner any other time? When had I opened my home?

Like a lot of other people, I’m not a fancy cook.  I’m not a very good housekeeper, either, and my dinner table doubles as my desk. I have a nice little apartment but it is indeed little. And so I have gotten into the habit of meeting folks elsewhere, because I’m ashamed of my housekeeping and my cooking and all that, and often in my off hours I’m just tired.  And reviewing all that, all I can think to say to myself is “What kind of Jew am I?”  Abraham and Sarah had a tent open on all four sides! Hachnasat orchim is an important mitzvah!

So: here’s my  resolution, my teshuvah for neglecting this important mitzvah: I’m going to start inviting folks over. The place isn’t fancy, but I can keep it tidy. (Really.) The food won’t be fancy (it may be takeout).  The welcome is the thing. I will invite them into my Jewish life, and that of my family, and we’ll have fun. Our relationships will become closer.  It will be good for the Jews.

And that, my friends, is nothing new under the sun. But it’s one heck of a “program.”

Comments are closed.

Cooking with a Wallflower

Cooking. Baking. Crafting. Writing.

ReBlogIt

Great Content from around the web ......

morethanenoughtruth

Words of truth are the bricks and mortar of reality.

From guestwriters

A tiny WordPress.com site based in Belgium

Living ~400lbs

... and believe me I am still alive

Metrowoman

... It can only get better...

Teela Hart

Surviving Domestic Violence

Unload and Unwind

A place to talk about the past, present and thoughts of the future

rabbimarcbelgrad

Website for B'Chavana, a Jewish Community with Intention

Jewish Gems - Anita Silvert

Judaism is a many-faceted thing

Rabbi Neal's Weekly Commentary

Parshat Hashavua from the Heart of the Hudson Valley

Convert Confidential

A Twenty-Something Converts to Judaism

Off the REKord

Ramblings and Reflections of a Reform Rabbi

Sheri de Grom

From the literary and legislative trenches.

Thy Critic Man

I am your superhero. I fight against awful television, terrible movies & horrendous videogames

Craig Lewis - The Lincoln Rabbi

Spirituality Through Rationality

WRITE IN ISRAEL

with JUDY LABENSOHN

Silicon Hutong

China and the World of Business • China Business and the World

Stuart Orme

Historian, Folklorist, Writer, Re-enactor, Museum Professional. Follow me on Twitter: @stuartorme

CaptainAwkward.com

Advice. Staircase Wit. Faux Pas. Movies.

SHEROES of History

Telling the stories of historical heroines

A Palatable Pastime

Let's have fun with food!

asian's cup of moonlight

Nothing beats a kid at heart. Let's travel the universe together. You and me: Together.

Attenti al Lupo

www.attentiallupo2012.com

Grover Anderson

Singer/Songwriter • Oakland, CA

willowdot21

An insight to a heart mind and soul.

Rabbi Audrey Korotkin

AltoonaRav: Reflections from a rural rabbi

Talkin' Reckless

Thoughtful blogging with a renegade twist

cuisinexperiments

adventures in cooking

dogtorbill

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

That Devil History

Historian Jarret Ruminski muses on how the past continues to shape contemporary politics, culture, and society in the United States.

timelychanges

Any major dude with half a mind surely will tell you my friend...

My Jewish Yearning

A great WordPress.com site

My Siyach

שיח Siyach: Hebrew, meaning: to put forth, meditate, muse, commune, speak, complain, ponder, sing

Amsterdam Centraaal

(with triple A)

Eat Bark Hike

Musings on Cooking and Hiking with Pepper

Susan LaDue Writes

The Kristen Maroney Mysteries

sadlyme

این نیز بگذرد‎

Inspiring Jews

A New Conversation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,322 other followers

%d bloggers like this: