It is early Friday morning.
I am baking challah, following the instructions from a recipe I know by heart, finding contentment in the familiar motions, measuring flour and sugar, stirring in oil and eggs, then yeast dissolved in water heated just so. I marvel as the mixture gradually comes together into a doughy whole, warm to the touch, redolent with yeast with just enough elasticity that promises a rise.
I mound the dough into a plump round, separating a piece to recall divine blessing, place it in a lightly oiled bowl and put it in a warm place to allow it to double in bulk.
There is something so comforting in the prospect of my kitchen filled with the scent of challah baking in the oven, maybe even a chicken stuffed with herbs roasting alongside, the sip of sweet wine and candles suffusing the kitchen with a peaceful glow. Perhaps even a few guests around the table the next week, making the evening ever more festive.
But for this night, just the two of us suffice.
It is our first Shabbos home after an incredible journey to far flung places with breathtaking vistas so different from the views from my kitchen window. We’ve traveled far South to the arresting barrenness of the Antarctic continent, with its shimmering ice scapes and spectacular cloud cover, then on to Patagonia to hike its striking Andes peaks and its gently stepped hills crisscrossed with turquoise glacial waters.
There is still much to process of the trip to the bottom of the world, but for now, it is the simple pleasures of my world that I savor.
There are our two furry Goldens who bound out of the house to greet us on our return. There’s the delight of cooking in my own house, of sleeping in my own bed, of the thunk of a real newspaper delivered to our front door, of the scent of early morning coffee brewing in the kitchen, of the bright red geraniums blooming in the yard. And there are the friends we’ve missed over the past few weeks, the days and weeks ahead to reconnect with them and to renew our ties to our larger community that surely makes this place home. And it is the anticipation of a chunk of warm, eggy bread sprinkled with salt and the lit candles as Shabbos arrives.
It is a privilege to travel to far away places, to encounter spectacular sights, to engage with fascinating people, to enrich life with new perspectives, to expand our world view, but it is always an abiding pleasure to return.
So as I light the candles this evening, I murmur a Shecheyanu, a prayer of thanksgiving, for an incredible journey — and for the sublime comfort of coming home.