Shabbos

Challah: Wrapping Up a Bit of Heaven

wrapping a bit of heavenTraditionally, we bake braided challah for Shabbos.    The Hebrew word, challah, actually means loaf of bread and alludes to the mitzvah (commandment) of challah, the blessing and setting aside of a small piece of bread dough during the bread preparation process.

At our Shabbos meals, after we say the kiddush (blessing on wine), we recite a blessing over two loaves of bread on a tray that are covered.  These braided loaves are referred to as Challah, for their importance in our fulfillment of the mitzvah of  challah.

challah x 2

In Numbers 15:17-19, we are taught that at the time of the Temple, when we bake bread, we were to set aside a small piece of dough and give it to the Kohen (priest) to eat.  Today, when we no longer have the Holy Temple, we separate a piece of dough whenever we bake bread.

 

If we have prepared a large batch of dough (at least five pounds), we make the following blessing:

Hebrew:
ברוך אתה י-י אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה

Transliteration:
Ba-Ruch A-tah A-do-noi Elo-hai-nu Me-lech Ha-O-Lam A-sher Ke-di-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-Haf-rish Cha-lah

Translation:
Blessed are You, our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.

We carefully discard the small piece of challah or we burn it.  We call this mitzvah (commandment)  challah.

challah top and bottom dew.jpg

As our ancestors traveled in the desert, the Maan (manna) fell from heaven to physically sustain them.  Every morning, they would go out and collect the Maan.  On the Friday morning before our very first Shabbos in the desert, two portions of the Maan (manna) fell for each person so that they would not collect the Maan on Shabbos.   To commemorate this double portion of Maan,  we set two loaves of challah at our Shabbos table.  The loaves are set upon a bread tray and covered with a decorative challah cover.  The layers underneath and atop the loaves of challah remind us of the layers of dew sent by G-d to lovingly protect the precious Maan, both on top and bottom.

challah a bit of heaven.jpg

The root of the word challah is chol which means secular or common.  The etymology of its name teaches us much about the challah and our relationship to Shabbos and to the world.   The challah tradition takes a mundane, though rhythmic and beautiful, chol (secular or common) task of baking bread  and elevates it into something extraordinary and holy.  It recreates a physical baking process into a spiritual tradition that provides service and generosity from the baker to the Kohen and ultimately to G-d.

The challah is typically braided with three strands.  The two loaves contain six strands of dough.  This symbolizes the six days of the week preceding Shabbos.  The braids allude to our bringing together the six weekdays of material sustenance into Shabbos, when we create unity and harmony by infusing our lives with spiritual sustenance.

Shabbos and the challah represents unity and spiritual direction.  The six weekdays represent the diverse secular part of our week.   The days, Sunday through Friday, each represent one of the six directions in our secular world: North, South, East, West, upward and downward.  During these weekdays, we move outward as we attempt to master our physical environment.

Shabbos is different.  It points inward, and we attempt to infuse our neshoma (soul) with the gifts of spiritual sustenance.  We try to achieve a sense of peace and unity as we direct the blessings of the week into our homes.   On Shabbos, we greet each other with the words, Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos) as that is the ultimate goal, one of finding great inner peace as we bring ourselves closer to the ones we love and to G-d.

In the past, when I performed the challah tradition, I either burned the challah portion or carefully wrapped it and discarded it according to the letter of the law.  After today’s baking of the challah, I added something else.  I added a pretty bag and a bow to the discarded piece of challah.  If I were to bring it to the Kohen, I would wrap it properly, so certainly, if I am designated this small piece of dough for G-d, I must present it well.  If my weekday recipes must be simple to wow, then certainly my spiritual traditions must be up to par!

Does G-d really care about the external trappings?  Maybe, yes or maybe, no.  But, there are at least two parts of every mitzvah (commandment).  There is the relationship part of the mitzvah that connects a person to G-d.  Then, there is another part of every mitzvah that is at least as important.  It is how that mitzvah cleanses and imprints the soul of the individual performing the mitzvah.  So, wrapping the piece of donated challah with a bow may not affect G-d’s relationship with me, but that special wrapping of the challah donation really imprints me with a greater sensitivity, understanding and yearning to perform the mitzvos (commandments).

 

 

A Dozen Roses Stretched to Fill the Shabbos Table

Don brings home roses every Friday in honor of Shabbos.  The roses are always of wonderful quality and it  a surprise to discover what color roses will adorn our Shabbos table.  Most Fridays, we enjoy all twelve roses in one traditional arrangement.

This week, Don brought home peach color roses, one of my favorites.  Our home is decorated in earth tones and peach works well in our dining room.  The roses were large and robust and I decided to stretch the twelve roses into four different arrangements.

I lined up different vases and spread out the roses.

One arrangement took five roses.

roses in a row

One took a single rose.

rose in single bud vase

One arrangement took two roses and that left four roses.

roses in a pair

The last arrangement was a collection of glass bottles set up in a grid-like formation (Upcycled Glass Jar Floral Arrangement: Simply Stunning).  I placed the last four roses into these vases, adorning them with the ferns that accompanied the dozen roses.

roses in glass bottles

 

Here is how they all look together:

roses-four different ways

 

roses-a dozen in different ways

roses-3 different ways

Good Shabbos!

A Summer Version of Simply the Best Chicken Soup

Many of my friends stop making chicken soup for their Friday night Shabbos (the Jewish sabbath) meal when the weather gets too hot.  Not me.

My children would tell me that it doesn’t feel like Shabbos without the chicken soup.  So, chicken soup graces our Shabbos table, rain or shine, winter or summer.  Somehow, our Shabbos table is so much like the chicken soup itself.

summer chicken soup.jpg

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Simply the best cholent…with low-carb ingredients

Tzippy Respler


Don and I are still on a low-carb diet.  During the week, we try to eliminate carbs almost completely.  On Shabbos, we allow ourselves to enjoy a small amount of challah at each meal, but still try to adhere to the low-carb protocol as much as possible.  Cholent is a challenge, because it is generally prepared using high-carb ingredients like potatoes and barley.  Over the past few months, I have experimented with lots of different ingredients, until I finally have an option that tastes great and is mostly low-carb.

To satisfy the rest of the family, I often put in lentils, barley and some potatoes, but Don and I only choose the vegetables that conform to our diet.  When I do that, I try to leave most of the low-carb vegetables whole or in large chunks, so that Don and I can easily find them.

low-carb cholent

I like to cook a well-marbled roast right in the cholent.  The fat content is important, so that the meat stays moist and does not dry out during the long cooking process. I take the roast out right before serving and place it on a separate plate.  I use two forks to shred the beef, putting them facing each other at the center of the roast and pulling toward the edges.  I  serve the meat on a separate platter from the cholent.

INGREDIENTS

1 zucchini, scrubbed and cut into large slices
1 turnip or kohlrabi, cut into cubes
2 cups whole mushrooms
3 stalks of celery, scrubbed and cut into large slices
2-3 garlic garlic cloves, whole or minced
2 Potatoes, peeled or scrubbed and cut into large pieces (optional)
1-2 cups of cauliflower, riced in food processor (see kosher notes)
1 cup beans, soaked overnight or canned and drained (may omit for gluten-free)
2 small whole onions, peeled
1/2 cup barley (optional)
1/2 cup lentils (optional)

1 generous squirt ketchup  (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
paprika

kishke, wrapped in parchment paper
small brisket, deckel or brick roast

DIRECTIONS

Place vegetables in crockpot Friday morning.  Add rest of ingredients and combine gently.

 Fill crockpot with water until ingredients are completely covered plus 1 inch more of water.  Make sure to leave at least one inch of space between top of water level and top of pot.

Place small brisket on top of cholent, submerging only slightly in cholent liquid.
low-carb cholent with meat
Cover crockpot and turn crockpot on high until right before Shabbos begins (Friday at sundown).  Then, lower crockpot to your favorite Shabbos setting (see notes).  My crockpot stays on high, perhaps yours will need to be on auto or medium setting.
Enjoy this delicious cholent Shabbos morning for lunch.   I remove the meat from the top of the cholent,  placing it on a separate platter.  I take two karge forks and place them with the tines facing each other at the center of the roast.  I pull the meat toward the edges, creaing a shredded beef dish.  I them serve the rest of the cholent in a serving bowl, taking acre to keep the low-carb vegetables whole and esy to find.

VARIATIONS

To create a gluten-free version, replace the barley with brown sushi rice

Add onion powder, zatar, garlic powder, or your favorite spice for a zestier alternative

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of  any whole insects and therefore cauliflower require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, grinding.  Kashrut authorities differ somewhat on the proper checking of cauliflower.  This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using cauliflower.

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Davida’s Easy and Delicious Calzones for a Melave Malka Feast

Melave Malka (Saturday night meal) is the name given to the meal that we eat at the Shabbos has departed.  The literal meaning of the words Melave Malka is “accompaniment of the queen”, referring to our escorting of the Shabbos Queen out of our homes after the spiritually uplifting Shabbos.  The Shabbos is often metaphorically described as a Queen and the purpose of the Melave Malka meal is to figuratively escort the Shabbos away with singing and eating,  much as one would escort a royal guest who is about to leave.

According to Kaballah,  the luz bone at the base of the skull is nourished by the Melave Malkah meal.  The Neshoma Ye’sara (additional soul)  that accompanies a person through the Shabbos does not leave until after the Melave Malka has been enjoyed.  

Aaron used to be our resident Saturday night cook and we always looked forward to his delicious dairy Melave Malka dishes.  He had quite a repertoire of Melave Malka selections like pasta, pizza and all types of popcorn.  Now that Aaron is studying in yeshiva in Israel, Davida has cheerfully taken over this role.  She has become an excellent Saturday night cook and has brought  Melave Malka to a whole new level.

This Motzei Shabbos (Saturday Night), Davida and her friend, Chava, made the most delicious cheese calzones.  She prepared the ingredients and before we knew it, we had delicious warm calzones to enjoy for  our Melave Malka.   I asked her to share the recipe and now I am happy to share it with all of you.

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