When I started dating my Jewish boyfriend, my mom joked with me about what great “cultural experiences” I would become subject to. I rolled my eyes and pushed off her comments, completely oblivious to how right she was. So far, my dating experience has brought many surprises and disproved many stereotypes. I consider it only fair to share these experiences with the world.
After a mere five days of dating, I was hit by some unexpected news. Apparently, one of my duties was to attend Shabbat, some sort of Jewish holiday that takes place every Friday at the house of Jewish people. This weekly occurance branches from the belief that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day, he rested. Therefore, Jewish people celebrate a day of rest every Friday to commemorate creation. To be entirely honest—I was less than excited to attend this “day of rest.” But, In order to keep in the family’s good graces, I pushed through my hesitancy and drove to the Jewish household at about 6:30.
Seconds after arriving, I was rushed into the kitchen, where I was assigned to help bake “challah.” I was instructed to use my hands to mold globs of dough into ropes, which were then braided to form a rather fancy loaf of bread. Supposedly, this intricate loaf commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. (However, I only acquired this information through extensive online research. When I asked for the significance of challah, the only answer he could muster was that it was “tradition.”)
I was introduced to more “traditions” after sitting down at the dinner table. I sat in awkward awe as the family of five lit candles, chanted prayers in foreign tongues and passed a ripped piece of challah around the table. I learned that these prayers are prayers of thanks to God– for family, friends, and food– much like the things a Christian would pray for before dinner. After this short awkward phase was over, I was treated to some Jewish delicacies.
The challah was first. It’s braided shape looked really foreign, but after my first bite, I realized it hardly differed from normal bread. Next I was exposed to a truly foreign food– matzah balls. I’m not a fan of strange foods, but after watching these mushy balls float around my bowl of chicken broth for a few minutes, I was forced to bite the bullet, or more appropriately, the matzah ball. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. It sort of tasted like a dumpling, but the whole thing was made of one consistency, rather than meat surrounded by noodle.
All the other foods I consumed that night were on the normal side–chicken, broccoli and potatoes– and they were all delicious. The rumor that Jewish moms are amazing cooks is one stereotype that I can vouch for.
After dinner I was treated to another Jewish tradition: a family viewing of Fiddler on the Roof. I was delighted to sit down on the couch and digest my massive intake of food while watching an intriguing Jewish musical. I made it through about forty minutes of the movie before I fell asleep to a shimmying fat man singing, “If I was a rich man, na na na na na na na na na.”
I woke up to the credits about an hour later, when it was time for me to go. I left to a sea of hugs and a chorus of “Come back any time!” As I drove home, I realized that my night was actually sort of enjoyable. I didn’t expect the family to be so welcoming. While I was an outsider religiously, I was never excluded from conversation.
I realized that Shabbat is a rather intriguing holiday. It’s just a time at the end of the week where a Jewish family can come together, enjoy a delicious meal, and forget the stresses of school or work. I wouldn’t say that Shabbat is going to be a weekly thing for me, but I definitely wouldn’t shy away from attending again some Friday.