Among the phrases of the Mishna (Ketubot 5:9) which are analysed in today’s daf (Ketubot 65b) includes ואוכלת עמו – literally meaning that a wife eats with her husband [on a Friday night].
Admittedly, and as the Gemara proceeds to explain, this phrase may also convey a further meaning. Still, for the purpose of this piece I would like to reflect on the words ואוכלת עמו and, rather than discuss the expectations of a wife to eat alongside her husband, I would like to share a story about the Queen which beautifully reflects the quality of ואוכלת עמו.
Chief Rabbi (Lord) Jakobovits relates how he and his wife Lady Amelie joined the Queen for various events and banquets, and that in response to their request for kosher food, the palace ordered kosher food for them from a kosher restaurant – while the food prepared for the rest of the guests in the royal kitchen duplicated the menu that Lord & Lady Jakobovits received (nb. in the following years, the palace changed its policy and its kitchen was kashered so the food could be cooked there under rabbinic supervision).
The problem, however, was that while the diners had the same food in front of them, the size of the portions provided by the kosher restaurant which were given to Lord and Lady Jakobovits far exceeded those of the palace kitchen – which meant that it took longer for the Jakobovits’ to finish what was on their plate. Yet, as Lord Jakobovits describes (in ‘Lord Jakobovits in Conversation’ p. 88), “the Queen sat next to me and patiently waited until I had finished eating the kosher meal” during which time he had a deeply meaningful conversation with the Queen.
Aside from this story providing a powerful example of the literal meaning of ואוכלת עמו, it also teaches us about the personal qualities of the Queen. We are taught (Avot 4:1): “Who is honoured? One who honours others”, and through beautiful gestures like this and so many others too, we understand why the Queen was honoured by so many – because she honoured others.