Friday night. The candles are lit, the house tidied, the table beautifully set for ten persons. I’m waiting for my husband to come home from synagogue, while putting finishing touches here and there; I add another set of cutlery, take out the drinks, pour iced lemonade into my lovely new glass pitcher. The guests – a local family we are friendly with – are due to arrive any moment.
They come. After the meal begins and everyone had had something to eat, the six kids we have among us progress to play and get the house good and discombobulated. We adults linger around the table. The conversation flows. Different subjects are discussed, but not work, or household projects; no plans are made. The Shabbat encloses us all in a beautiful, magical circle, temporarily shutting out the cares and worries of the world, allowing us to be duly refreshed.
Then our friends are gone, with a tired baby sound asleep in her stroller. The table is cleared, the children tucked in, dishes are being washed. I reflect with satisfaction on an evening well spent.
Why, then, was I a little reluctant to go through with it in the first place?
Well, there’s the extra work having people over requires of me, of course. A larger variety of dishes is expected when there are guests (also, as a rule, around here people usually bring something with them as well). The table needs to be opened, extra chairs fetched, the cutlery drawer almost emptied, nearly all my dishes used up. Then all of it needs to be washed. And Friday is a day usually spent, for me, in hectic activity, and rather a lot of washing up as it is. I’m tired by the time evening rolls on.
However, there is nothing like the gathering of people around a common table. It gladdens my heart. It forges special ties. I know I want this, for my family. I also know that with no pregnancy, new baby or illness, I can reasonably do a lot of things that would otherwise be stretching. I am stepping out of my comfort zone, if only a bit. And that is worth it.