This Is the Table

March 1, 2012
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Ronnie Serr

Ezekiel’s prophesy: “[T]his is the table that is before HaShem” (Ezekiel 41:22).
Our sages expound on this verse, saying that “as long as the Temple existed,
the altar would atone for Israel. Now, [after the Temple has been destroyed], a
person’s table atones for him.” (Berakhot 55a)

Here’s what we learn: Even without a Temple — its sacrifices, prayers, and ceremony — all Jews can atone for their spiritual debts and connect to the holy dwelling by the way they eat and behave around their family tables every single day.

Imagine if all Jews would host poor and hungry guests at their table: poor in wealth and hungry for food, poor in spirit and hungry for company, poor in connection and hungry for holiness, poor in knowledge and hungry for being close to God.

Consider what would be if we ate food that was kosher; if eating was intrinsically connected to representing godliness in this world. How would our lives be different if every food item was checked for its origin and cleanliness; its combination with other food items; its relation to the earth, the environment, and the local ecology; its concealed sparks from the worlds of mineral, vegetable, and animal? What if all our foods were prepared with industrious love and meticulous attention?

Envision families sharing their table, speaking words of Torah, discussing the secrets of creation, penetrating the depths of joy. What if the family, friends, and guests — men and women, adults and children, close and distant — could express opinions fully and be heard and respected by all?

Imagine washing our hands before eating, ritually preparing ourselves for ingesting the nourishment that HaShem prepared especially for us at this moment and at this place.

What if we blessed the gifts of our sustenance before consuming them, acknowledging the source, the offering of sustenance? What if, on a regular basis, we asked permission to consume what we are served, rather than assume our entitlement to be nourished? Imagine offering a blessing after meals with total intention, with gratitude of the heart rather than taking our sustenance for granted.

Suppose we were satiated by the amount of food we ate — that we did not need endless amounts to satisfy our never-satisfied hunger for love. Consider living a life of great gentleness (eden), calm and joy, expressed in everything we do.

This is the table before HaShem; this is our table. If our daily bread were always to be an occasion to appreciate more, to understand more, and to love more, we would be rebuilding the Temple around our tables with every bite, every gesture, and every spoken word, spreading the holiness of our spirits into the matter of our everyday lives.

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Ronnie Serr learns and teaches the love of HaShem, the love of Torah, and the love of Israel.

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