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July 12, 2011 9:52 am

Tisch: Conversations at a Kiddush

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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The 'tisch'. Photo: Raphaela Hofmann.

Services begin at 9:15 – which is not to say that every member of the congregation is seated at that early hour. The synagogue begins to fill. Most arrive well before the Torah leaves the aron kodesh, and certainly, by the time the Rabbi begins his sermon, the synagogue has reached its Saturday capacity.

The prayers of the Musaf begin, integrating its joyous melodies with the joy of melody. The sounds of the “Yismachu,” whose shoresh (root) is simcha (happiness), resounds through the sanctuary; “They shall rejoice…”  From this point, “the regulars” know it’s not too much longer to Adon Olam.

And then comes kiddush. Whether it’s a simple setting or an elaborate gourmet spread hardly matters.  What is important is the camaraderie of community, the moments of friendship, the snippets of conversation and the tisch, that special place of gathering that has become a wonderful weekly tradition – a short of Shabbat “inner circle.” A group of diverse friends, coming together, enjoying one another’s experiences of the week past, bringing in just enough of the day to day world to spark intriguing dialogue, sharing each one’s anticipation of planned events. Conversations are challenging, political, personal, simple, and complex, Humor (good humor – it is after all Shabbat!)  keeps us balanced and at times, even engenders a good laugh.  We share facts (at least, we think we have the facts) and opinions – some weeks far more of the latter than the former!

Dynamics at the Shabbat tisch are intriguing. Differing viewpoints abound, topical interest is measured by duration of the conversation. No one has to stay – virtually everyone does. Resources are wonderful – a legal opinion here, a medical experience there, recollection of a theatrical moment, a bit of current events, and, sometimes, even a bit of rabbinical commentary.

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Will the world be changed by the exchanges at the table around which we sit? Could some word or thought initiated at our Shabbat midday murmurings change someone or something yet unknown? At least, the experience of this tisch enriches each of us. More, individual horizons are widened, new thoughts instigated.

Ah Shabbat, ahh the tisch.

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