May 15, 2020
Do you remember March? I mean the part of March before we went into lockdown. It seems so long ago. Tonight will mark our ninth Shabbat in isolation. For eight of those weeks I have baked my own challah, and it has become one of my most fulfilling new weekly rituals. As with most Jewish customs, the underlying benefits are so much more meaningful than the act itself. With the help of the following famous quotes, I want to share with you three life lessons this Shabbat ritual has taught me, giving me perspective beyond baking bread.
“All great achievements require time.” – Maya Angelou Baking challah takes time and requires patience. Each Friday morning when I take out the Friedman family recipe, I have to ensure I have everything I need, including time, to create bread that will bring our Shabbat in with sweetness and joy. So much of the week is spent rushing as I try to do things as efficiently as possible, but baking challah requires me to slow down. Patience is needed when kneading the dough, when waiting for it to rise three times, and especially when waiting to eat it after the candles have been lit, rather than straight out of the oven. The sacred act of baking challah is a reminder that all achievements – both big and small – take time.
“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark TwainIt took me a few weeks to get the recipe right, but now that I have, I am finding such joy in sharing our challah. Each week I choose one or two new people to bake challah for. I love having the challah for our own small table, but the joy of baking and preparing for Shabbat is amplified by giving it away. Somehow sharing the challah, baked with patience in my kitchen, is a different type of joy than giving a gift or delivering flowers. A new found beauty in Shabbat is the way I can stretch Shabbat joy and ritual beyond my own home.
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.” – Vernon HowardEach week I am learning more about the challah process. I have improved, but not perfected it – and I don’t know that I ever will. I keep returning to the process, remembering the lessons from the week before, iterating from what I have learned and testing the result. I view this as a helpful life lesson and a good reminder at the end of each week. What did I learn this week that I can bring into next week? What can I tweak a bit to make next week a bit better? Where the challah is concerned, my most recent lesson is the double egg wash – try it -it makes a big difference!
As we enter week ten of quarantine, and perhaps begin to integrate new opportunities into our lives, what have you learned from the last ten weeks that you want to keep with you? For me, the lessons from the challah – patience, spreading joy and continuing to learn and iterate, are lessons I want to hold close and continue to think about and work with as we continue to move through this global experience of lockdown.