“Where are my keys!?!” I always lost my keys. It was infuriating, created chaos, and meant that when we arrived, we made a late, cranky entrance. This is not how I wanted my life to be. My husband, who is totally the yin to my yang, always hung his keys up by the door anytime he entered the house. I however, was focused on the children - on running to help this one get a snack, or that one get to the bathroom, or who knows what, but my keys would magically disappear from my hand at some point, not to be found again until we had the “lost key fire drill” the next time we needed to leave the house. A few years ago, I decided to take action. I was going to hang up my keys every time I walked into the house. For such a small change, it was amazingly difficult to make, but over time, and with great effort (and encouragement from my family) I no longer have to look for my keys. Not only are we more regularly on time, but my children have learned from my example that they have power in their own lives, that they can choose calm over chaos, and that small actions can lead to significant outcomes.
Actions have meaning, power, and those that become habits can change your life in unexpected ways. Making challah is a small action whose effect can ripple out from your kitchen and across space and time because baking is one of the most ancient traditions of humankind, signifying home, family, and sustenance. It is also an important cornerstone of Jewish tradition - one that engages our senses, frames time, and can be a vehicle for creating memory and meaning.
The magic of challah begins by combining a few humble ingredients. You can smell the yeast as it bubbles. Using your whole body to knead the dough offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness and offer gratitude for the food you are creating (from your own two hands!). While the dough rises, (yes, you can tidy up your kitchen) but you can also prepare a few other things to go with your challah for your family’s shabbat meal. Punching the dough is a fun stress reliever to release any bad feelings you have from the week. Braiding the dough can bring out your creative side to make something beautiful, unique, and special. Baking fills the house with the most amazing smells. Finally, tearing into the challah as a family creates a sense of connection and togetherness.
Baking challah may be the small action that becomes the key to unlocking shabbat in your home. Sitting down together to eat the challah is a special, weekly opportunity to spend time enjoying one another. This action not only connects you to your family but with those who prepare challah each week all over the world and throughout time to all the generations, past and future, who carry on this tradition. Learning to bake challah with a group of girls and women allows us to celebrate unity without uniformity. Everyone brings their own style to the challah and no matter your age, background, or culinary talents, we will practice this tradition together.