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The Table as Altar

Two weeks ago I went to a Shabbat dinner at the home of my good friend who is also a rabbi.  On occasion she will invite her “women of faith” friends to celebrate this welcoming in of the Sabbath so central to Jewish life and ritual.  There we were, one Jewish rabbi, one Benedictine Oblate, two ordained Methodist ministers, and two Tibetan Buddhists (one of whom has taken robes).

We gathered around the table lighting the Shabbat candles while singing a Buddhist mantra.  We read the prayers in Hebrew, washed our hands, and broke the challah bread and drank wine.  As my friend introduced the hand washing ritual, she said in Jewish tradition because the temple and priests are no more, the table has become the altar and we are all the celebrants.  Yes, my heart said.  This is the way it is supposed to be.  The table at home is the altar where we gather friends and strangers together, are nourished in body by the gifts of the earth and in soul by the conversation and care shared by those who have gathered, and slowly there are strangers no more.

I was in the midst of a Jewish Shabbat service, but I knew in that moment that this was also my act of holy communion.  With everyone at that table, we became one body.

Shabbat Shalom my friends. May you discover the experience of true communion around your table.  May you be nourished in body and soul.

** ADDED — in a nice bit of synchronicity, Jan Richardson offers a beautiful collage and blessing on sharing sacred meals and Laure at Weaving the Hours has a lovely post on the same theme as well. **

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(photo taken in a synagogue in Vienna)

** Come back on Monday for our 25th Poetry Party! **

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9 Responses

  1. What a rich image for your readers to feast on! And what a rich experience for you to partake of! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. tracking with you christine. wrote on the same subject today. don’t think it ever came up but i am jewish. peaceful weekend to you.

  3. Thanks Rebecca.

    lucy, I would even have invited you to come along but you were off doing your good work, So we will have to make up for it soon . . . :-)

  4. i felt a little twinge of envy as i read of your gathering. what a beautiful image you have given us and i am so grateful that you have such friends to gather alongside around the table. oh that the world would take on this model!!!

    i look forward to breaking bread with you in the near future! xoxoxo