We have our basic ingredients: flour, eggs, yeast, water, oil, sugar, and salt. We can even add chocolate chips, raisins, sprinkles, or food coloring — the options are limitless.
But there’s more to a challah than her ingredients. There’s time: the time it takes to mix the ingredients, for the yeast to rise, and to knead the dough. There’s the time it takes to let the dough rise, and there’s the time it takes to braid the dough into a beautiful pattern. There’s the time it takes to bake the challah, and then, there’s everyone’s favorite part, the time it takes to eat the challah!
More than time, there are the hands it takes to crack the eggs, the eyes it takes to measure the ingredients, and the taste buds it takes to decide whether or not we made a good batch.
More than the senses, there is a spirituality to the challah. We’re making the challah for someone: for ourselves, for our family, or our friends. We’re thinking about who we have made challah with or cooked with in the past, people we might not be able to cook with anymore. We’re thinking about the last time we smelled challah in our home and the memories that the scent evokes.
Though the challah that we bake will be physically nourishing to those who join us for a Shabbat dinner, we are also nourishing them spiritually with the simple recitation of our blessing for bread at the start of the meal:
Baruch atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Source of Eternity, Who brings forth bread from the earth.
In this blessing, we recognize a Higher Power that nourishes our soul, and we acknowledge the holy work done by so many people to bring the key ingredients into our grocery stores and into our homes: the farmers, the truck drivers, and the store aisle stockers. The bread is more than her ingredients: She is a memory, she is spiritual and physical nourishment, she is a part of our tradition, intertwined like her bread, that makes us feel connected to ourselves, our families, and the world.
Shabbat Shalom and may you all have a chance to make your own challah very soon.