Some years ago, I participated in a program with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality which included silent retreats and mindful eating. I enjoyed the experience of sitting with others for a leisurely meal, concentrating only on the food in front of me. I was completely focused on taking a bite of food, enjoying the texture and flavor, chewing and swallowing and taking a breath before choosing the next spoon- or forkful. When I engage in mindful eating, I eat less and enjoy the food more. It is a physically and emotionally healthier experience than my normal experience of eating. Most often, I grab food while checking email or reading the news, squeezing meal time in between other activities or appointments or errands. If I am alone, I might watch a program to distract myself. If I am with others, I might be involved in conversation and not paying attention to the food I am putting in my mouth.
The goal of the retreat experience was not to convince us that we should take meals alone or in silence in order to eat mindfully. Eating should be an experience that brings people together. Rather, the goal was to teach us the skills and habits of mindful eating and learn how to use those skills even when we are eating in communal settings. With practice, I can remind myself to slow down and enjoy both the food and the people around me mindfully.
I’ve been thinking about food because, as you’ll see elsewhere in the Voice, I am focusing a bit of attention this summer on creating opportunities for us to eat, socialize, and learn together, as well as to cook and do mitzvot together. The pandemic years have been difficult in this respect. We’ve gotten out of the habit of sharing food together. Pre-pandemic, our daily minyanim would have breakfast together each week after the service. It was a time to strengthen and deepen relationships. It was how we welcomed new people to the community, over a copy of coffee and a little food.
This summer, I would like to restore opportunities to socialize with each other. We have reestablished a weekly Thursday morning, 7:15 a.m., minyan with breakfast following. I’d like to see us gather for lunch after Shabbat services once a month, have dinner and study Torah together once a month, and cook together to freeze dinners for later delivery to people such as those who have a new baby in the house, who have been ill, or who are new to town. Please consider supporting our Thursday morning minyan and joining me for lunch or dinner this summer.
In addition, please consider joining me in the kitchen to prepare food for one of these events or for delivery. Cooking can also be an enjoyable way to spend time together. Meal planning, shopping, and preparation is another opportunity to engage in a mindful, deliberate activity of choosing healthy food. Let’s embrace the opportunity to do mitzvot together, to nourish the community and ourselves with food and Torah and prayer and Shabbat. I’m looking forward to spending time with you!