I have found this to be true in my own Chavurah, which starts with a meal (usually brisket and chicken), and is followed by a Shabbat Mincha service, and then Havdalah. Attendance has grown and there is a real sense of community and love, even though we don’t have much in the way of music, because the food provides the atmosphere in which community happens.
The importance of food is not limited to an Oneg. When we sit “shiva,” – the mourning period following the death of a loved one, it is customary to bring or send food. Christians have the same tradition following a funeral. The reason for this, is that food ministers. It comforts, especially if it is good food. When you feed people, It tells them you care.
We live in a jaded society that considers words and arguments as so much talk and opinion. Much of what we say is not taken seriously. This is especially true of holocaust survivors. They often don’t trust what people say, and for good reason. They suffered and lost. Words for them communicated hatred. Actions against them were horrific. Talking about love doesn’t mean much to them. To really communicate love, there needs to be action. This is why we feed people. We want them to understand that someone really cares about them, no matter what they believe.
When I first started visiting our soup kitchens in Ukraine, the head of one of our larger kitchens showed us around and asked if we wanted something to eat. I was very hesitant, because I didn’t know what kind of food they were serving, and I’m fairly picky anyway, but I couldn’t refuse so we sat down. They brought us some food and I was shocked to discover the food was really good. It was delicious! I asked some of the people if this was something special or if they got this type of food all the time and they told me they got it all the time. It made me so happy to know that our soup kitchens weren’t trying to give the bare minimum, but went out of their way to feed people with high standards and make it enjoyable for them. The soup kitchen director explained that we want to be the hands of God to these people, and when God feeds you, it’s going to be delicious. When we communicate the love of God, we should always seek to do so with excellence.
If you want to help us feed elderly Jews in the Former Soviet Union, please donate at http://www.feedrussianjews.com