Why Friday Nights?

This is the first of a two part reflection from Jessica Minnen, OneTable’s Resident Rabbi, about finding a way to Friday.

People often ask me why we do what we do at OneTable. Friday night dinner? Isn’t that a pretty narrow focus? Maybe. But the narrowest bridge is often the most difficult to cross. The great Persian poet and mystic Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Sitting down with intention at the end of the week with good food, good wine, and good people is good for you. Period. Full stop. It’s a good idea, a good practice, whether you’re secular or religious, Jewish or not. Work is hard, relationships are complicated, and life, as I’m sure you know, can suck sometimes. You can’t always change life. But on Friday night, you have the ability to change yourself.

I’m not only talking about the observance of Shabbat in a religious sense, although there’s good there, and I’m happy to discuss it with you if you’re interested. I’m talking about something particular, and in its way, far more universal.

When you sit down and break bread with the Other, they are Other no more. I don’t mean to overstate the matter, but I believe that ending the week with an intentional meal can change the world. I have aFriday night dinner practice not because it makes me better at being a rabbi or better at being a Jew. I have a Friday night dinner practice because it makes me better at being Jess Minnen. And that makes for a better world.

What that takes is a shift in culture, a subtle but meaningful shift in the way you think about your life and the way you live it. It means planning ahead, and asking yourself on Wednesday what you’re doing on Friday. It means taking a risk, and going to a dinner at someone else’s home. It means taking a chance, and welcoming others into your home. Friday night dinner? Isn’t that a pretty narrow focus? Sure is. Narrow and fantastic and scary and wondrous. The great teacher and mystic Rebbe Nachman said, “The whole world is a narrow bridge. The main thing is to not be afraid.”

This is an invitation. It’s an invitation to take a risk and attend a OneTable dinner. It’s an invitation to take a chance and host a dinner with support from OneTable. It might feel foreign or familiar, outside yourself or as much a part of your being as breathing. It will be different for you than it is for me because there’s not One Way to do this thing. Shabbat dinner might not change the world. But it just might change you.

Welcome to a new way to Friday.

Rabbi Jessica Minnen is the Resident Rabbi and Cities Director at OneTable. She loves learning, coffee, and Spaceballs. You can reach her at jessica@onetable.org.

Rabbi in Residence & Director of Program | Lover of outdoor concert venues, words that sound like what they mean, and my noodle poodle Lucy.

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