The dinner table is a great place for eating, conversation, and in some families, lots of shenanigans. Regardless, dinner should be a social experience when you are not eating alone, and this is one thing, of many, that I really enjoy about communal meals when I am on campus, such as NU JOT lunches and הלל (Hillel) dinners. Not just the friends that I get to see, but the holistic social experience.
In my family, when dinners start to get a little raucous, songs are often included. My favorite examples include when we all belted out “Bohemian Rhapsody” in one instance of dinner, or when Levi and I did a duo on “500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be).” Sometimes, I think it’s more fun to sing when you are NOT an expert, since there is no pressure for quality.
At some meal tables where people are religious, there may be invocations or benedictions before and/or after the meal. At a Jewish table, this may consist of קידוש (Kiddush) on שבת\יום טוב (Shabbat or a holiday), etc. There may also be “grace” said after the meal, and this is ברכת המזון (“Blessing of the food”) in Judaism. There is a somewhat fixed text for this, and it is frequently sung.
When I first got to Northwestern, people frequently stuck around the dinner table on Friday nights at הלל, not only to bentsch (i.e. say ברכת המזון) but also to sing זמירות (songs). These became one of my favorite parts of the meal, but it seemed that in my third and fourth years, this was not done on a regular basis, as many people deserted the table after dinner in order to leave or just to go to the lobby in order to have conversations, play board games, or go to other places. Go figure! The high-energy singing of the זמירות was one of the parts that made כוח קלה (KOACH Kallah) such a powerful experience for me when it was at Northwestern in 2011.
In the last few weeks, הלל at Northwestern has added סעודת שלישית (the third Shabbat meal) to its programming. This is a time for not only conversation and learning, but also in the end, before ברכת המזון, the זמירות seem to be of a more subdued and serious-ish nature. This is because these are the beginning of ushering in the “ordinary days” of the coming week. Even so, getting to sing in a group is something that I really enjoy. It could be that I enjoy it so much due to never having done it before and thus it was not drilled into me, or perhaps the tunes are just that catchy and meaningful to me.
This could easily lead to another topic about how my perspective of זכור שבת (enjoying the sabbath) has changed over time, but the focus on this post was on the singing at the table.
Today is the eleventh day of MAPLE–that makes one week and four days.
היום ששה וארבעים יום, שהם ששה שבועות וארבעה ימים לעמר
And yes, I used the auto-post timer on this post. I would not have sent it from הלל. (I actually wrote this post on Friday afternoon.)