Our adventure of Couchsurfing in Jerusalem brought us to a Jewish Host on a Friday evening. I knew that Friday makes part of the Jewish weekend but I’ve never witnessed a Shabbat Dinner so I didn’t know what to expect. I felt grateful to have this experience and to learn something new about a religion that I don’t have so much knowledge.
First of all, what does Shabbat mean? Shabbat is considered a day of rest, peace, inner harmony and holiness. In Torah, Shabbat commemorates the day when God rested from the creation of the world, literally the word means “he rested”. In Shabbat are included three meals: Friday night dinner, Saturday lunch, and the third meal in the late afternoon. For non-Orthodox Jews, Friday night dinner is the most popular Shabbat meal, this was the case of our host too, he was more an unconventional Jew that didn’t respect the traditions of the book.
We arrived at his place right in time for dinner’s preparation with the other guests that he already was hosting. He welcomed us and very kindly he invited us to help to prepare the dinner and space for it, while we were sharing our traveling experiences. I am not sure that the menu included traditional Jewish dishes because all of us were foreigners but the experience of working together was really nice. I was in charge of preparing the brown rice with vegetables, ginger and eggs, it was an interesting combination and I enjoyed very much to eat it. The other guests were preparing salmon in the oven with vegetables, potatoes and salads.
Because this holiday is a time when families come together, our host invited his mother to have dinner together. While he went to pick up his mother, I was in charge of heating for 5 minutes the bread in the oven. The funny thing was that the fish needed more time to cook so another person raised the temperature and the bread started to burn. I realized in time what was happening but the bread was still burnt, luckily nobody had a problem to serve a bread a little bit black.
We started the Shabbat dinner with praying and after the host blessed the crispy bread (called challah) and the wine. Even it was in Hebrew, he explained to us that he thanked God for the meal: Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. He told us that according with the tradition there are also some songs used for this part of the dinner. We shared the bread and the wine in little special cups and we started to eat. In order to respect the rest day, after each dish, we were cleaning our plates with bread and eating it afterward. In this way at the end, we didn’t have too much to dish-wash. We ended the dinner quite late because it was prolonged by the conversations that we had but after all, I enjoyed the simplicity of that evening and the Jewish hospitality.