"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!!