Shabbat Dinners

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Shabbat Dinners by Alex Garrow - Photo by Jade Lowe

I have two younger siblings–a sister and a brother.

My sister. Thirteen years old. Thick golden hair and gaping green eyes. Braced teeth, thin lips, and a splash of freckles on her otherwise clear skin.

My sister is constantly laughing. Contagious giggles erupting from the pit of her stomach and spewing from her lips before the joke leaves her mouth. The definition of likable, despite her uncanny ability to irritate and annoy me, because of her light-hearted nature. Socially adept and never lacking in friends or places to spend the weekend, she usually chooses to stay home, often to spend time with our mom, even if it just means helping out around the house.

My brother. Eleven years old. Hair the color of embers, difficult to contain no matter how much hair gel is applied. Bright blue eyes like the sky contrast with his fiery hair. Aged beyond his years with furrowed brows. Also freckled, yet not in a youthful way. My brother is always contemplating. Brooding and thinking over the complexities of life, searching for answers to the existential questions. Curious to the point that my family has asked him to start writing down his questions in a notebook rather than interrupting those around him for a sufficient response. Around other boys his age, he knows how to hop in the time machine, keeping some thoughts in his head long enough to play sports or video games. Despite his more serious nature, he too has an incredible sense of humor, incorporating references and observations into his comedy in a cynical way that cracks everyone up.

Every Friday night, my family eats dinner all together for Shabbat. My mom has varying work hours and my siblings and I get home at different times depending on extracurricular activities, so during the week we usually eat dinner separately. However, on Friday nights my mom does her best to get home as early as possible to put together a special dinner for all of us. My little brother sets aside Fortnite long enough to set the table, while my younger sister works away in the kitchen cutting vegetables. Most weeks during the preparations I hide in my room behind the facade of homework, then clean up the table and put away dishes after we’ve finished eating.

These moments of conversation at the Friday night dinner table are precious. Growing up with siblings means interrupting and yelling over one another in order to get in our stories and highlights from the week. We learn how to speak without pausing for breath, and when one of us stops to refill our lungs, there’s always a short anecdote to quickly slip into the empty space. We share stories from our week, embellishing for extra laughs to keep the audience entertained.

For my family, Shabbat dinners are a time we come together and spend quality time without distractions. It’s a chance to stop and check in with each other amidst our busy weeks. We always manage to stain the tablecloth with grape juice, cover the floor in challah crumbs, and let the harmonious sounds of our tone-deaf blessings echo off the walls as we welcome in this day of rest from a week of endless activity.

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Alex Garrow
Alex Garrow is a sophomore at Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, California. She is passionate about foreign languages and traveling, and in her spare time enjoys yoga, writing, and spending time with friends.
Accompanying photo by Jade Lowe