I recently saw an amusing quote from an American website saying, ”I’m Jewish. I do thanksgiving dinner every Friday!”. Even if we don’t celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving in the UK, it did inspire me to write a post. At first, I dismissed the quote as a (very) funny little novelty. No more, no less. Then after I found myself repeating it, I started to think about what it meant. And the truth is, it means a lot. Many Jewish families, and indeed Chabad houses, are on shoestring budgets. Lots of couples have more than five children, and many families are low icome. The cost of living is high, and yet these frum families don’t fail to give a tenth of their earnings to tzedekah, and to perform one other beautiful mitzvah in the name of thankfulness: Friday night dinner.
You might wonder how laying a table with one’s best crockery, and gorging oneself on sumptuous food is a mitzvah. Believe it or not, it is. It’s a mitzvah for both the woman who labours over the dinner all day, and it’s a mitzvah for those who partake in it. Why? It falls under the category of ‘honouring shabbes’, honouring the holiday day. When we do something l’kvod shabbes, we’re bringing down kedushah and infusing our lives with it. Now if that’s not a mitzvah, then what is?!
Just as a thanksgiving dinner in America is an occasion to bring the family together, to rejoice, and to give thanks, so is shabbes dinner. Being with one’s family, friends and community on shabbes is the ideal way to spend the day, because it’s a commandment to enjoy it. This means that we don’t just abstain from working, but we do things which are genuinely pleasant. And friday night dinner is one of these. Every week, we give thanks to our Creator. We thank Him for bringing us here. For sustaining us. And for allowing us to enjoy His Holy day.
Disclaimer: I actually hate friday night dinners. Take this all with a pinch of salt.