Last night, I went with several friends over to the house of a Jewish friend of ours for “Farbrengen”, which as I understand is a term for a ‘gathering of friends’ often celebrated in Hasidic communities on the first night of the Sabbath. Often, a rabbi will use the opportunity of the gathering to share insight into the Torah and Talmud.
The tradition was celebrated in a low key way. With about 20 of us gathered around the kitchen table, Ethan, our friend, recited a blessing in Hebrew and spoke of the significance of Shabbat (all in Hebrew, explaining afterwards the jist of what he said to the non-Hebrew speakers in the room). After the blessing, we all ate a lot of amazing food (pita, hummus, tabouli, crackers, cheese, etc) and drank some Jewish wine (described as “really really ridiculously sweet wine”, which it was) and sat around in their living room sharing stories and talking. The tradition of Farbrengen calls for people to share insights, wisdoms, jokes, songs, etc. with each other to teach, entertain, etc.
When it began storming outside, we sat on his porch and continued talking until early in the morning. At around 1:30 in the morning, we realized how late it was. After being wished “Shabbat Shalom” by Ethan and his family, we walked home in the beautiful moonlit rainstorm.
Other than Ethan and his family, I don’t know if any of the rest of us were Jewish – but it didn’t matter. Ethan simply invited us to share in the rich tradition of his faith, and all throughout the night offered opportunities to question the meaning of different Jewish traditions in a really cool way.
I wish there were more “entry points” into different traditions and worlds that were handled in the same warm and generous manner that we experienced last night for Farbrengen.