If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week, Miriam Edelman from Wimbledon Synagogue’s ‘Wimshul Cooks’, selects Bereshiet/Genesis 18.
Wimshul Cooks, the group behind the newly published Wimbledon Synagogue Community Cookbook, wouldn’t want to inhabit our desert island without the beginning of Bereshiet/Genesis 18.
Abraham sees three strangers approaching their tent and rushes to meet them, inviting them to stay, to rest, to eat – to be welcome. He offers ‘a morsel of bread’, but he intends to feed his guests properly. He, Sarah, and servants rush to prepare food: “three measures of fine meal” made into cakes, a calf, cheese, and milk (this is pre-kashrut, of course). This is surely an early example of the Jewish over-catering gene in action. No one should be hungry.
The visitors turn out to be messengers, come to tell Sarah that she will bear Isaac, but the beauty of this text is that no one knows this at first. Guests are to be welcomed with food because that is right and proper, regardless of who they are or what they might bring to us. We welcome the stranger because we have been strangers. We prepare our best food for guests, to care for them and honour them. Sharing food is about so much more than sustenance: through food we create relationships and memories.
This text is so important to us that we chose it for a ‘Welcome Shabbat’ for new members, and one of us, the talented Eleri Larkum, even created an edible version of the tent, which you can see on our site (wimshulcooks.wordpress.com).
Perhaps on our desert island, there would be no guests to feed, which would be sad. We’ll keep this text with us anyway. It will help us remember all the lovely food and stories we’ve shared, and it reminds us to be ready for whatever welcome we may yet be called upon to make. So we’ll be cooking, just in case!