I must admit that I can be a bit overzealous with my Shabbos tablescape, insisting that each week the table is perfectly coordinated in color scheme, complete with dishes, flowers, silverware, and sometimes parshah-related extras. Seeing the finished product, my husband’s son often declares that I should become a professional party planner specializing in tablescape. This whole idea started when I was in my early 20s and thought that my table would certainly overshadow the fact that I had no idea how to cook! My logical equation was: horrible chicken soup + Wedgwood china = Shabbos! So during my early years in Kew Gardens Hills, the Shabbos and Yom Tov table was specially set.
Throughout the years, my creative outlets always included the Shabbos table, and thankfully I learned how to be a better cook. My dear friend and party planner extraordinaire, Shevy Shanik of Shevy Shanik Events, is my favorite creative force to follow on Instagram and editorial pieces in Mishpacha Magazine. Her sense of style, elegance, and playfulness is always the main ingredient of her tablescapes. She transforms a table into a dining experience rivaling Buckingham Palace and High Tea at the Dorchester. I wanted to know more about her role as event planner and how it mixed with her religious values of Shabbos, Yom Tov, and faith.
Tobi: Do you think your gift of creativity is G-d-given?
Shevy: One hundred percent of everything I have is from G-d and I thank Him every day for my creativity and being able to channel it to making other people happy.
Tobi: Is there a special reason you feel a certain importance to the Shabbos table decor?
Shevy: Shabbos is the most special day of the week. The whole week we are leading up to and preparing for Shabbos. The Shabbos and Yom Tov dinner table should be beautiful and special in every way, because it’s a reflection of what a holy day it is. I have the fondest memories of my parents’ Shabbos and Yom Tov tables. The table was always set to perfection with all the traditional delicacies.
Tobi: Do you need faith in order to deal with your clients?
Shevy: Faith is needed in every aspect of my life. I see it a lot with work, and that is because in the event-planning world, as in every aspect of life, nothing goes as planned. You can plan the layout and decor elements of a party for three months, only to have to change the layout the day of the event because some furniture didn’t arrive. There is always Plan B, C, and D with many events. I see G-d’s hand in every event, from start to finish!
Tobi: Is there too much importance to the table decor and not enough importance to the purpose of the table?
Shevy: Well, I actually love putting together tablescapes, so for me there is never too much attention being given to setting your table. It goes without saying that once your table feels special, you will create an ambiance where everyone will be enjoying the party they came to celebrate.
What does the Torah have to say about the Shabbos table? Isn’t it a lot more than breaking out your mother’s Herend china and your grandmother’s silverware? Turns out that it’s all part of a royal presentation for the most important Queen and her escorting angels.
According to aish.com’s explanation, “The Shabbat table, therefore, is more than just a utilitarian table upon which food is placed and eaten. In the words of the prophets of Israel, the Shabbat table becomes ‘the table that is placed before the Lord.’ Shabbat itself is an honored ‘guest,’ likened to a queen, in every Jewish home. Therefore, the table set before such an important and beloved guest must reflect the honor, happiness, and satisfaction that the members of the household feel at entertaining such a guest in their home. In all of its beauty and dignity, the carefully set table speaks to us of the greatness and holiness of the Shabbat.”
We all invite two angels into our homes every Erev Shabbos, one good one and bad one. The Talmud (Shabbos 119a) tells that two angels escort us home from the synagogue on Friday night. When they enter our doors to witness the brilliance of Shabbos reflected in the candles, silver, china, challah, and fragrance of foods, the good angel declares that they should find the same on the following week, and the bad angel must respond “Amein.” If our homes are just the same as every other day, the bad angel wishes the same for the next week and the good angel must respond “Amein.” It’s about which angel will be a guest at your table that week.
Chabad goes further with providing an answer to why we sing the Shalom Aleichem hymn at the Friday evening meal. In this song/poem, we wish these angels peace, we welcome them, we ask them to bless us, and then we bid them farewell.
Aside from the fact that we have two discerning angels judging our decor, we have a Queen dining at our table as well. If that is not enough of an issue, there is a visual lesson that can be taught about the importance of Shabbos through the exhibition, care, and taste involved in preparing the Shabbos table. It is a labor of love that can be seen in every tablecloth, napkin, flatware, stemware, challah cover, and Kiddush cup. It’s the Downton Abbey table preparation of the week, and I suggest you open the china cabinet for them!
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.