Motzi at the Christmas table

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (   Joel Iskiwitch and John DeMott, authors of the  “What can you do?”  sidebar, are congregants at TE.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Picture this. It is Dec. 25 and we have just sat down for dinner with dear friends. The wife is a devout Catholic and the husband, an atheist. A brother and his friend who was originally from Scotland are visiting from Australia. A church family is also at the table. Everyone is ready for the Christmas feast of roasted duck and too many side dishes. (I have a cheese pizza for my son and myself).

Someone announces that we need to say grace. There was a pause when the eighty year old woman from Scotland says, “Let the rabbi do a prayer.” I politely decline. Does anyone REALLY want the rabbi to lead the prayer before eating on Christmas Day?

Someone asks if there is a traditional blessing we do. I look to either side of me where my husband and son are sitting and we decide to sing our version of the motzi. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the friend from church cross herself.

We sing the English/Hebrew version and I briefly explain the meaning in case it was lost in my out of tune singing. Dinner is served.

I was completely surprised by this invitation. Except for our friends whom we met about six years ago, no one else had met a rabbi before that evening. Two of the individuals spent much of their childhood in Lebanon. Certainly, I am not what is pictured as a rabbi. This was a memorable Christmas Day for all of us.