Our first Holy Habit of Eating Together and our conversations in groups and at church bring up a lot of memories of meals shared.
One of the most special meals that I have been invited to was in Israel: my flatmate invited me to her family meal for Passover, to her grandparents’ house, who were survivors of the Shoah. I felt very nervous beforehand, and they must have felt so too, inviting a descendant of Nazi Germany into their home for their most holy meal.
When I arrived, they were very friendly, though all of us quite unsure. There was the heavy weight of history, a lot of unspoken questions and stories untold, and the holiness of the interfaith occasion: I had never been invited to a Pesach Seder (Passover meal), the meal that Jesus shared with his friends on the last day of his life.
I will never forget this. How they were so very welcoming. How the old tradition (the special set Passover liturgy, the order) of the meal took me in as well and, by sharing the old words and songs of the Jewish people, by sharing the special foods that go with each reading and the special cups of wine that go with each section, how this meal made me, a German and Christian guest, part of them.
t made me part of their story, and my story part of theirs. By inviting me and sharing this meal, we were able to grow together for this time, grow over and across the horrors of history and be together in God-time.
The meal laid the ground for what happened then: the grandfather started talking. About his time in Auschwitz. And how he managed to escape over the fence. How, by escaping, he had to leave his wife and children behind, knowing that they would be murdered. How he joined the partisans in the woods. How after the war he made to Switzerland, and how he there met his wife of now, got married to make sure life continued, and went to Israel.
Everybody was listening, spellbound. You could have heard a needle drop. Every now and then his wife, who was busying herself in the kitchen, came around wanting him to stop talking. But he wouldn’t. He wanted me to hear.
Later, my friend told me how rarely grandpa spoke about the past, and that her parents have never been allowed to hear these stories. I knew that in most survivors’ families, the children are left in the dark; only the grandchildren are allowed to ask questions.
Without the meal, this time of precious sharing of stories, of truth, of naked memories would not have been possible.
Without the bravery of my friend’s grandparents, deciding to open their home for me, none of this would have happened.
This was big, God-filled time. But even in the small, amazing contact can happen. Even in the small, over a cup of tea, offered in one of our homes to someone who has not been there before, God-filled time can happen. Stories can be told, hearts can feel a little bit happier, less alone, more encouraged.
This is good. Together we can do this!”
If they were able to open their home to me, how much more should we be able to open our homes to someone we know and who is not even an enemy. Have a cup of tea, maybe some nibbles can be found, and if not, it does not matter.
May God bless us in this time of practicing the holy habit of Eating Together.
Yours, in Christ