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Poetry Friday: Baking for Shabbat

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This week’s Poetry Friday host is Books 4 Learning. Please stop by for the poetry link-up.

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying something old/something new on Fridays. No — no one’s getting married. I’ve caught a very special baking bug.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my lovely sister-in-law Lisa in Orlando. She asked if I wanted to come with her for a women’s night out … baking challah.

Challah is the bread Jewish families bake and eat for Friday night Sabbath. Because I grew up in an interfaith home, sometimes we made a Shabbat dinner with prayers over challah, wine, and candles, and sometimes we didn’t. But, since I love Lisa and love to bake, I said, “Sure!” Little did I know that my plane would be delayed several hours and I’d be scrambling to get to the Challah Club on time.

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We made the dough at the Challah Club, pinched off a small piece to say a prayer over and discard, then took the braided bread home for baking.

The short version: I had a great time with Lisa and the other members of the Orlando Challah Club. Although I’ve continued to bake on special occasions over the years, it’s usually cake (for birthdays) or muffins (for house guests), but I’d fallen away from the practice of making bread from scratch. And this challah was delicious.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been making my own challah. I’m reminded how much I’ve  missed kneading dough, watching it rise. If you care for and feed yeast it will, in turn, care for and feed you and your family.

I’ve asked my dear friend, poet Dennis Kirschbaum, to share his challah poem with us today. Dennis has been baking challah for many years. I love the braiding together of joy and tradition in this poem. Shabbat shalom!

Challah
by Dennis M. Kirschbaum

After thousands, the seven
ingredients– water, salt,
yeast, oil, honey, eggs, flour–
still promise to keep and remember
the Sabbath, a sixtieth of eternity.
Six strands, six days
become one. Rest
before the blast,
the bloom and swell,
sharp inhale before death.
Welcome cry for the angels–
tune of the second soul.
Bright loaves, clouds of rain and earth,
braided sunlight of golden breath.
And Shabbat too, a kind of death,
a dissolution of those selves
I have tried to be and failed.
The baking air is full of song.

Dennis Kirschbaum is the author of the chapbook CLATTERING EAST from Finishing Line Press. He has a website of the same name.

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The finished product!