So began my little speech at Friday night dinner. There were 17 of us assembled and it was quite the diverse crew. We had Leah, Kate, Sasha and Talya who were getting ready for the upcoming ROI Summit. We had some local Nachlaot spiritual hippy types, denominations from Orthodox to Reform represented, the unaffiliated, Orthodox lesbian activists, right wingers, peace activists including one woman who came on Birthright Israel last summer and then joined Birthright Unplugged in the West Bank – suffice it to say we were a diverse group that came together Friday night, after an eventful week, to enjoy a peaceful and yummy Shabbat dinner. Some of us had just marched in Jerusalem’s Pride Parade on Thursday, and all of us were mindful of the heating up Shabbat Wars related to the municipality’s opening of a parking lot on the Sabbath, much to the consternation (to say the least) of members of the Haredi community.
Our Shabbat dinner table however, was lively but peaceful. Sarah and Leah helped make Matbuchah which we will turn into Shakshuka come Sunday morning. In doing so they learned first hand of the perils of cleaning hot peppers by hand (sorry ladies!) and there was tons of yummy food for all. We went around the table and made introductions and when it was my turn, I quoted the first line of Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers). Rashi commented on the line and wondered if it meant that all of Israel, by mere virtue of being Jewish, had a share in the world to come (or whatever the penultimate goal of Judaism is). That kind of didn’t make sense – why follow the laws then? What’s the incentive to be righteous? The answer was that the sentence isn’t meant to be taken literally. What it means is that when all the Jews are united, only then are they worthy of a portion in the world to come.
Gazing around our table, far from the anger and hatred on the streets of Jerusalem that only further divisiveness, I knew that we were, in some small measure, doing our part to merit inclusion in the world to come. As we sang our Shabbat songs, even those who didn’t know the words joined by tapping a beat on the table and I knew that we had managed to carve out our own slice of Olam Haba around our modest table.