Setting the Table with Gratitude

This blog post was written in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic by Lianne, M.A. LCAT, ATR-BC, and former employee of OneTable. We’ve condensed the article for your enjoyment during this season! 

Shabbat doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be stressful. But it should be intentional. In Judaism, the practice of intention is called kavanah, and it’s all about meaning-making. It’s about thinking before your dinner about how you want to feel, and how you want your guests to feel. What kind of space are you trying to create? How can your decor and food and conversation all contribute to that space? 

There’s evidence to suggest that a practice of gratitude can rewire your brain and provide long-term benefits. We hope that the resources below will give you permission to explore Shabbat as a means of self-care. 

Setting the Table With Gratitude: A Guide

Gratitude-filled Shabbat rituals, conversation starters & more. 

Getting Creative + Therapeutic on Friday Night

Whether you’re Shabbating with a group of new friends or old friends, creating together can be magical and help frame the dinner from beginning to end. If you’re aiming for more of a Shabbat vibe in solitude, these can be completed individually, too. Regardless of with who or what you create, taking time to decompress with art making is good for you!

Worry/Gratitude Stones

Hold your Shabbat moments close to you; using a smooth pebble, collage materials and/or paint markers, create a representation of that impactful moment. Carry it with you during the week, use it as a paperweight/napkin holder, or create individual stones with shared moments as “place cards” for your guests, with an extra for them to create of their own. 

Letter Writing

Write a letter (to send or not) to someone who made an impact on your life, whether it was a grocery clerk who went out of their way to help, a fleeting moment between you and a stranger, or that teacher who never gave up on your struggles in Math class.

Gratitude Journal

There are endless ways to journal about gratitude, but here are a few to get you started:

Gratitude Jar 

Create using a recycled mason jar with your choice of materials. Make a “stained glass” jar using tissue paper and ModPodge (or glue + water), or get trendy using hot glue + gemstones, paint, stickers or washi tape, sharpies or glitter glue. The opportunities are truly endless. 

Once your jar is dry, set it in a place that you’ll see frequently: on the kitchen counter, on the dinner table, or wherever you’re hosting your guests. Invite your guests to create their own to bring, or ask them to help you fill the jar with notes of gratitude each week. If you’d rather collect moments of gratitude every day throughout the month, you can plan to dive in to read on a certain date solo. If you’re feeling motivated, adding a note of gratitude each day will leave you with 365 memories to reflect upon at the close of each year. 

Collaborative Gratitude Tree Centerpiece

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to share moments of gratitude with your guests at the dinner table, this centerpiece is perfect inspo.

Gratitude Scrapbook (or Collage)

Share your theme of gratitude in advance, and ask your guests to bring some of their fave printed photos to create individual pages for a Gratitude scrapbook of their own, or an individual collage they can take home with them. Old magazines are the best for creating, so hang on to them! 

Roses and Thorns

Each person is asked to take three pieces of paper, and write down a “rose” (a highlight of the week/moment of gratitude/etc), a “bud” (something in progress/something they’re excited about in the future), and a “thorn” (a frustration, setback, worst part of their week, etc). 

First, folks can share their thorn (as they feel comfortable) and when they’ve finished sharing, they are encouraged to rip it up and throw it away as a symbol/action of leaving it behind and starting fresh for Shabbat. Depending on your location/logistics, it can be a really nice experience to burn it or throw it into a fire. After, guests can share their “rose” and their “bud” as a way to look towards the new week with gratitude.

OneTable empowers people who don’t yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to build one that feels authentic, sustainable, and valuable. The OneTable community is funded to support people (21-39ish), not in undergraduate studies, and without an existing weekly Shabbat practice, looking to find and share this powerful experience.

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