Study and Theory/
Sabbath

Chaya Chagai

Self-Service and Shabbath

1979, Mishmarot

How did the Self-Service in the Dining Room Affect the Shabbat?

For many years we were accustomed to greet the Shabbat while sitting around laid tables, where the dining room was decorated with festivity and the food was served by waiters. This was also the scenario in Kibbutzes in which "Shabbat Welcoming" was not customary prior to the meal.

We were among those who had held a small Shabbat Welcoming ceremony before supper. The Shabbat Welcoming ceremony was then discontinued for several reasons which are unsuitable for this narrative.

Self-Service has become widespread. Some received this with hesitance and doubt and others – with willingness and enthusiasm, yet I don't know if anyone imagined how Friday nights would look when self-service would be practiced in its domain. Had we continued observing the Shabbat Welcoming ceremonies, the application of self-service would require discussion and rethinking about how to preserve the image of Shabbat nights, notwithstanding. When they discontinued, there was no obstacle for enacting self-service on Shabbat eves as well, where the image revealed to us is not one that promotes respect, neither to ourselves nor to the Shabbat.  How would the "mountain patrons carry her shining cloak" of the Shabbat while her children stand on line, each with a tray in hand, some patiently, some impatiently, while their eyes roam over the various self-service trolleys from which they would have to obtain their Shabbat meal, to collect bit by bit of the menu, to add the silverware, until their trays are filled and then to seek a place near the table (in large kibbutzes it's even more complicated, where the food racks are not stationed in a single corner).

Sometimes, when I sit shamefaced near the table on Friday nights (after years of involvement in Shabbat activities), I hear Shabbat the queen whispering in my ear: "In what way have I sinned and committed crimes to the extent that I am being so profoundly disgraced? For many years you have glorified my name, you decorated by head with crowns, you sang many songs to me, I remember them all, one by one, from the pages you had printed and your children would compete on gathering them following the Shabbat Welcoming ceremony and that gave me joy as well. Granted, the food then, was not as abundant as it is nowadays, but you didn't rush and run around from place to place. You would sit calmly near the table, and the Shabbat and the Divine Presence rested in your home". The very ancient Shabbat Queen and the very modern self service find it difficult to live side by side in the same abode.

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