If you are unfamiliar with Jewish culture, it might be that you are unaware of just how significant the table is. In the heart of a Jewish home, the table represents far more than just a place to sit and eat dinner. It is instead an amalgamation of Jewish history and values, all of which are astutely combined into finely made (and often delicious) savory and desert-based dishes. Judaism is about togetherness, a shared history, and a shared trauma; represented not just by those around the table but the dishes that are sitting on top of it.
There Is A Depth To Jewish Cooking Culture
Within the religion of Judaism, there have always been foods that calm the mind and reinvigorate the soul. Challah, for instance. A yeast, oiled bread enriched with eggs, presented upon the table with an intricately braided top, made to represent the steady weaving of our mentality into the Shabbat stream of consciousness. There are foods to retell the Exodus. Haroset, for instance, is a concoction of apples, nuts, and wines that symbolize the struggles of Jewish slaves. There are hamantaschen, shaped and molded to represent the hat of Haman and there are latkes, representing the miracle of Hanukkah. These are just some of the foods and desserts which can tell a story of triumph or pain, love and grief, and most importantly, the message of the Hebrew Bible.
Why has the table become significant over the years?
It is fair to say that the significance of the table was originally formed around the dietary laws which exist in Jewish culture. Jews in Europe, of course, had to keep kosher until the beginning of the nineteenth century. This would mean that meat and dairy could not be mixed (it says in the Torah ‘do not boil a kid in mother’s milk), and any meat eaten must have been fed on grass and religiously slaughtered for halal and kosher meat. Since the Jewish communities were separated, many do not necessarily abide by strict kosher laws and have felt less connected to their Judaism as a result. The table, then, is a way for them to remember their history and gain that connection once again.
Even now, it is easy to see how the table remains at the heart of Jewish culture. Halal and Kosher shops are easy to find on the high street, whereas online websites like Nadavart Judaica are dedicated to providing décor that revolves around the symbol that the table represents. There’s an undeniable depth to Jewish history. With communities now spread out across the globe, it might be easy to forget this history and subsequently the key traits and values of Judaism itself, but the table brings that history back into one place. It is a hub. A mass of historical and biblical stories told in shapes, tastes, and smells, each one doing its job to re-ignite the passion of the greater Jewish community in remembrance and respect. This is why the table remains the beating heart of Jewish culture.