The Shabbat Leftover Leap

Are you ready for Leap Shabbat?

It’s been 28 years since our “extra” day, February 29, fell on Shabbat. And I think it raises a possibility for a unique family experience.

I didn’t realize when writing my last blog, raising the issue of food waste in Israel, that this year is a leap year. When I glanced at the calendar I started daydreaming, thinking: “Imagine if the Leap Day phenomenon could be food neutral.”

In other words, we could collectively say that we’ll power ourselves through this “extra” day entirely on leftovers, and not buy or make anything new for February 29. We’ll keep our “food footprint” the same in a 29-day February as in a 28-day February.

We’re all leftover-averse today. Restaurants are packed on Saturday nights, even though we often have refrigerators-full of Sabbath leftovers. Many of us constantly cook despite the fact we have food in our freezers, remains of some meal or other.

So here’s our challenge. Don’t cook anything new for this Saturday. Dive into your freezer and find the leftovers you froze previously. If you aren’t the freezing type, then simply eat the leftovers from your Friday night dinner, which there always are.

Some will say it’s a nice idea but nisht Shabes geredt — it’s not appropriate for Shabbat. I disagree. We need a weekend Leftovers Day when the family is together, home from work and school, and expecting one of the best meals of the week.

The only way we’ll make a dent in the level of food waste in homes is if we can show our families that eating leftovers isn’t miserly or miserable, but rather that good food remains good food on it’s second (or third or fourth) serving.

We need a cultural shift, and there’s no better way than laying the table beautifully and enjoying a great family occasion as we let our taste buds do the talking. The family’s attitude to leftovers will change when it dawns that the food tastes surprisingly good.

Of course February 29 is just a quirk of our calendar, not an “extra” day in any real sense. But psychologically it feels like one, so I say let’s do what we humans do best, and give it significance.

About the Author
Joseph Gitler is the founder and chairman of Leket Israel -- The National Food Bank, the leading food rescue non-profit organization that rescues fresh, perishable food, working with 195 non-profits throughout the country to distribute nutritious food to over 175,000 Israelis weekly.
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