Sharing My Shabbat Table

One of the most empowering things I have done since living on my own as an Orthodox Jewish “single” is hosting Shabbat meals for my friends and people in my community.

Having lived on my own and with roommates for almost eight years, I am incredibly grateful to the many families that have hosted me for meals. I immensely enjoy the company, the food, and the sense of family.

However, not being married, spending time around a family Shabbat table can often feel lonely. It can sometimes be difficult for me to be celebrating Shabbat with families with couples who are married with children and being the “single” that was invited. Watching as the husband sings Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor) to his wife and as the parents bless their children can serve as a reminder of the Jewish life that might be ideal but is one that I have not yet been able to achieve.

In order to combat these experiences, I have made it a point to invite both single and married friends to my apartment for Shabbat and Yom Tov (holiday) meals. Being able to set the menu, shop, cook, and create an invite list that works to bring like minded people together has been an empowering and motivating experience.

Being able to open my home has given me the opportunity to feel like I am an adult, a member of the community. And there is no reason that I should not be: I have lived in a few different apartments, have graduate degrees, and have traveled the world alone. Why should it be that when it comes to Jewish community, people feel reliant on families to host them? Why should it be, that on Shabbat when we are supposed to enjoy our meal and our company, our status as “not being married” is reinforced by those around us?

Hosting Shabbat meals has transformed my Shabbat experience from the passive role of being a guest and recipient to an active role of being a host, being a leader. It has allowed me to feel like an equal part of the meal and not feel like I am “still a child” because I do not have my own family. It has allowed me to connect more meaningfully with Shabbat and the rituals, especially when it is a meal with all women and I have the opportunity to recite Kiddush (prayer over wine) and Hamotzi (prayer over challah) for those around me.

When I lived in Toronto, there was a group of us who hosted each other for meals. It was an opportunity for us to create our own micro-community and to spend Shabbat with friends in a more relaxed environment.

Now that I live in Melbourne, the concept of a single woman hosting Shabbat dinner still seems to be a foreign concept to most people, which will hopefully change soon — especially among many of my friends who do not have close family nearby.

While it might be slightly more expensive and slightly more work to spend the time thinking about the meal, shopping, planning a menu, inviting people, and preparing some interesting conversation topics, it is definitely worthwhile.

And for those of you in the Melbourne area — let me know if you would like to join this Shabbat. There is always room for one more at my table!

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