Ethiopian Birthday Bash
by Avi T., Associate Pastor, Tents of Mercy Network

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer ... and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:42, 46).

It is said that the "family that eats together stays together". This is true of a spiritual family as well. Just as we at Tents of Mercy devote time to feeding and being fed spiritually from week to week, we also take an occasional break from our weekly service on Saturday and meet on Friday night (Erev Shabbat) instead. These evenings are a special opportunity to enjoy an extended time of fellowship and to celebrate community life by sharing an Erev Shabbat meal. This quarterly celebration helps us appreciate the weekly service by "breaking the routine" and gives families an opportunity for some much needed rest on our one-day Israeli weekend, which is usually filled with the busyness of getting to and from Shabbat Services.

We are a tapestry community, made up of numerous cultures - Russian, American, native Israeli, Ethiopian and more. This can sometimes create a challenge when planning food for congregational events. Over the years we have employed various food formats - catering, pot lucks, and bring-your-own-picnic. Recently, however, we have come upon an idea which is culinarily and spiritually inspired. Each cultural group takes a turn preparing their native cuisine to serve to the rest of the community. We employed this idea for the second time in early December as we gathered to eat an Erev Shabbat meal together and incidentally celebrate the congregation's 18th birthday.

The special thing about this night was the chosen cuisine ~ Ethiopian food. Although a minority in number, the Ethiopian families in the congregation volunteered to prepare the meal. The planning and preparation that went into the evening were considerable - Ethiopians are very serious about their cuisine Large quantities of vegetables and meat were chopped, and the stews were put on the stove to simmer for hours. Batter for the injera was painstakingly prepared and set aside to be made just before the meal. (Injera is a yeast-risen flatbread that is a national dish and a favorite in Ethiopian cooking.)

Injera at Ohalei

As word went out what menu had been chosen for the evening, excitement spread. Some had eaten Ethiopian food before. Some even loved it already, but most of our members had never tasted it. That Friday night, families began to arrive at the fellowship hall - salads, desserts and kids in tow. The deep and distinctive aromas of hot red pepper, garlic, ginger and loving service wafted from the kitchen. Anticipation was tangible in the air.

Blessings were said over the wine and the delicious homemade Ethiopian dabo bread. As people ate the beautiful meal prepared with so much love, it was as if all of us were Ethiopian for the night ~ guests in King Solomon's court when the Queen of Sheba came from Ethiopia. And what was said with humor that evening felt true: while Russians and Americans were busy racing each other to land on the moon, Ethiopians were busy perfecting the art of blending spices into the deep red and yellow stews that delight the tongue and join hearts in fellowship.

What an appropriate way to commemorate the 18th birthday of the congregation ~ Happy Birthday Tents of Mercy!!

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