Anat Ishai

I thought I was making challah, but challah made me

Challah Mom

It was the start of the pandemic, and sourdough starters were in full force. I decided to make challah more regularly instead. Today, being Jewish informs how I live my life everyday, and making challah is no exception.

Braiding my challah I’m reminded of how G-d braiding Chava’s hair in the garden of Eden. I’m acutely aware that for every thread I weave around the next I’m infusing beauty in the soul food we call challah. It seems so simple, take some random ingredients, mix them together and make some bread….what’s the big deal? Well, as a person who was intimidated by the though of kneading and braiding dough, and having challahs come out hard, undercooked, no shape or worse yet, no taste….I get the intimidation.

I have a golden rule. I don’t make challah when I’m angry, lack gratitude or any other state other than calm and peace. Without fail, when I’ve gone against my own rule my challahs some out horribly. Ultimately challah is made up of 7 key ingredients, (flour, oil, yeast, water, sugar, salt, egg) but the most important ingredient is YOU. When you have the right intentions, the right frame of mind, the heart, the prayers and the peace to make something from nothing…that’s when you get a show stopper challah!

When everything was going wrong in my house, I knew if I focused, my challah would go right. When life felt uncertain in business, health or finances, I knew with the right determination my challah would rise. When I felt hopeless and lost and felt little connection to myself, my community and the world, I connected with G-d and my challahs gained air and rose up high like my prayers.

Making bread, especially challah is taking the physical and elevating it to the spiritual. It’s taking something mundane and ordinary like bread…and braiding it, blessing it and giving it a special place at the Friday night table…that’s challah! That’s Jewish!

Most of life is mundane tasks and chores, but as Jews were are instructed to elevate all physical acts and behave G-d like in this world. Just like G-d took care of us with the manna that fell from the sky while we wandered the dessert, I can emulate G-d and provide sustenance to my family with holy bread, holy challah. Just like I know that working hard will yield positive results if I stick it out long enough, I know that the real blessing of success comes from above. In making challah, I say a blessing and remove a piece of dough and acknowledge….it’s all from above….every grain…every droplet of water….every harvest… every molecule…it’s all a miracle that has made its way to my table….to my challah.

Making challah is taking something ordinary and making something extraordinary. It’s taking something physical and making it spiritual. It’s taking something mundane and making it holy. All this time I thought I was making challah…..but the challah was making me, molding me and helping me rise to become who I am today.

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