Saturday, May 31, 2014

Challah

I happened upon this article about the ritual surrounding challah, a gorgeous Jewish egg bread, and decided I'd better give making it a try. The bread turned out to be amazing (both in looks and in taste), and I've made it a few times since the original in November. But more important than the bread were a number of points in the article:
  • "[It is poignant] that Jewish bread took on the identity of the mitzvah (religious duty) associated with it."
  • "Women, traditionally the bread makers, came to express themselves creatively through two challah-related practices. The first is the very shaping and creation of challah....The second venue for creativity was the writing of prayers, t'chines, for the taking of the challah ritual. T'chine is the Yiddish name for the women's devotional prayers created by and for women among Ashkenazic communities.
    According to Chavah Weissler, in her work, Voices of the Matriarchs many t'chines, evolved around mitzvahs and rituals unique to women, among them, of course, challah baking. Here is a sampling of this most lovely of prayer genres:
    May my challah be accepted as the sacrifice on the altar was accepted. May my mitzvah be accepted just as if I had performed it properly…May the Divine grant that I and my husband and my children be able to nourish ourselves….
    Lord of all worlds, in your hands is all blessing. I come now to honor your holiness, and I pray you to give your blessing on what I bake. Send an angel to guard the baking, so that everything will be well baked, will rise nicely, and will not burn, to honor your holy Sabbath and over which one recites the holy blessing — as you blessed the dough of Sarah and Rebecca, our mothers…
I loved that idea of the Lord accepting my offering, my work, my soul, "just as if I had performed it correctly." I love knowing that my best efforts will inevitably fall short but that the Lord still accepts my imperfect offering if it's made with a perfect heart and perfect effort. This is particularly comforting when my work with my kids seems futile.

The other connection was to Alma 34 where Amulek speaks of praying over our fields, houses, animals, and everything that is important. These prayers over the challah might seem trivial, but the Lord truly cares and wants to hear from us about even these seemingly small things.

Here's the recipe I found. Now go give it a try!
Mmmmmm, bread.

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