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Lucky to Have Potluck

Thank you, God, for our dear friends, great food, your Torah, and Shabbat that make this all possible.
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May 8, 2024
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Much of what’s missing these days is the ability for people to talk to each other without exploding. In many instances, it’s become like two barking dogs that only stop when they are dragged away while lunging at each other’s throats. 

I know certain things are impossible to agree on. Abortion will never be a middle ground for many. When it comes to Israel and the Jews, even God can’t convince people. For men who declare they are women and believe they should be allowed in the women’s locker room, there will never be a consensus. Although when it comes to women being allowed to wear nothing but false eyelashes in the men’s locker room, I’m not sure, but I think maybe some men who were adamantly against could be swayed. 

All that aside, for me, there is something terrific, heartwarming, and comforting about people who agree with each other. A breather from dissenting voices is a breath of fresh air. Almost a vacation from the insanity. There are times when I don’t want to argue, defend, or sway a person. I just crave to be with like minds. 

My wife Nancy and I have that. We have belonged to a Shabbat potluck group that’s gone strong for over twenty years. Once a month or so on Shabbat, mostly on Saturday. (We used to do Friday nights, but because of the spike in crime and antisemitism, and the fear of trying to explain to a mugger why we don’t carry money on Shabbat, we meet on Saturday.)

Early in the week a menu is discussed, and each family brings a few dishes. The table is always filled with beautiful flowers, good wine, food and grape juice. There are four families in total. And unless there is an invited outside guest, it’s the same core four except 32% of the time we bring our dog, Leo. 

So after shul, once a month or so, rain or shine, we meet at a different group member’s home. Because many of us go to the same shul, we walk together to that home. During lunch, the conversation circles in 100 different directions. Kids, grandkids, marriage, Israel, a little politics, joke telling, singing, and always both the men and women sharing Torah. Lots of Torah and lots of questions like “What was the rabbi talking about?”   The question I always get is, “Did you stay awake for the speech?”

So friendly, so warm and filled with love. It’s beyond beautiful. Amazingly, lashon hara (evil speech) is almost nonexistent except for you-know-who-you-are. 

When one of the original families recently moved to Florida, we immediately discussed who might fit in and might somewhat agree with our thinking. I understand that except for a cult, there are no two people who agree on everything. And that’s okay. We’re not looking for carbon copies of ourselves. Occasionally a little or a lot of disagreement is fine. But it’s Shabbat and I don’t think any of us want to argue and duke it out. Amazingly in over 20 years, I can’t remember any real fights or explosions. 

When we first started the group, the table was populated with our children and their friends. Lots of spills, and lots of laughs. Chicken strips, ketchup, and threats of no dessert unless you eat three more bites. The kids would pull out their parsha sheet and give over a Divrei Torah (a word of Torah) that always ended with a kiss, hug, smiles, and a yasher koach (may your strength be enriched). And someone saying, “That made that $35,000 in tuition worth it.” We all occasionally miss some of those days.  

One of our married kids is trying to start a group. My wife and I went over to say hi after our last potluck lunch and saw that all the young parents looked exhausted while the kids turned the couch into a trampoline. Ah, the good old days.

There is a trope going around: “The world has gone nuts.” Some, yes, but not ours.  We have wonderful people who populate our lives every day. 

There is a trope going around: “The world has gone nuts.” Some, yes, but not ours. We have wonderful people who populate our lives every day. 

Thank you, God, for our dear friends, great food, your Torah, and Shabbat that make this all possible.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer, and hosts, along with Danny Lobell, the ‘We Think It’s Funny’ podcast. His new book is “Why Not? Lessons on Comedy, Courage and Chutzpah.”

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