This issue of Sh’ma is devoted to examining what happens at a Jewish table - what we eat, who is invited to sit with us, and what we learn. The word tisch, the Yiddish word for table, is closely associated with a rebbe’s Shabbat gathering. The following essays explore aspects of that gathering: the hierarchical nature of a rebbe’s tisch, the ways in which contemporary Jews might reclaim ecstatic religious passion in an egalitarian setting, the role of the rebbe as charismatic leader, the foods at a Shabbat table, and the women who sustain it.
This issue also explores how the Shulhan Arukh (the Set Table) became a metaphor for Jewish law and tradition, how a kabbalist might understand the pathways of food and spirit, and whether the line from the Haggadah — “Let all who are hungry come and eat” — really means anything today. Beginning on page 12, our “metaphorical tisch” offers a table for learning: on each page a text with a teacher’s interpretation and insight.
As a special supplement to this issue, Sh’ma is hosting its first “virtual tisch.” Go to their website on March 25 at 8 PM EST/5 PM PST to join in the live webcast. Sh’ma has always been committed to fostering real conversation beyond the pages you hold in your hand; we hope this virtual gathering is a significant step forward, with real implications for how technology can radically transform something as intimate and sensory as the Jewish table.