Friday, March 19, 2010

A Little Unplugging Help

In yesterday's New York Times there was an article about the National Day of Unplugging which begins tonight at sunset and ends tomorrow at sunset. The focus of this day is to turn off technology and reconnect with your family, your environment, and maybe even yourself. We Jews call it Shabbat or the Sabbath and it's not exactly new. Actually, it's at least 3,000 years old. But the concept of slowing down our lives just one day a week is probably even more necessary today as it was when Moses came down from the mountain.
I did not grow up in a household that unplugged or slowed down on Shabbat. This is sort of ironic because as native Hebrew speakers we referred to Saturday as Shabbat but didn't treat it that way. It was as good a day as any to run errands, set up lessons, and take care of all the necessities of life.
When I got married we continued to treat Saturday as just another day of the week. Until a few years ago when we made a conscious decision to change Saturday back into Shabbat. We started to be regular Friday night synagogue attendees and even the occasional Saturday morning. We made a point of having dinner together as a family and including friends at our table. We began lighting candles on Friday night to mark the beginning of Shabbat and, though I'd not grown up baking or watching challah being baked, I started baking two loaves of challah every Friday afternoon.



Nothing helps you take the deep, deep breath that signals Shabbat like walking into a room and smelling fresh, baked challah. But that deep breath would be hollow without the knowledge that tomorrow you're not going to do all the usual stuff. You're not going to check your email, or stress about work, or plan out your retirement. You're just going to be. It's amazingly liberating.



One of my favorite things to do on Shabbat is read...all day. I love having hours of uninterrupted reading, knowing that I don't have to stop at an exciting point in the story because I need get something done. And I like to get started on my all day reading early. I get up before anyone else in the family and eat some of the leftover challah while curled up in a chair with my book. Add some nutella to that challah and...oh man...it just doesn't get any better than that.
So, in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, I'm sharing my challah recipe with you. It's not really mine, but excerpted here from Beth Hensperger's Bread Bible. I should note that in the recipe, the challah loaves pictured are round rather than braided. That's because this recipe is geared toward challah intended for Rosh Hashannah or Jewish New Year. You can shape yours like the ones in the picture or braid them like mine. Either way, they're a perfect accompaniment to an unplugged day.

27 comments:

floribunda... aka Julie said...

what a lovely post -- and the challah looks beautiful, too! I haven't made bread for years but I'm going to have to try that one.

Lesly said...

Great post. Shabbat shalom!

Martys Fiber Musings said...

Thanks for sharing your recipe and traditions and rituals of your faith. Beautiful story and a nice reminder that to unplug on our Sabbath is one way to grow with our faith.

Care said...

Such beautiful bread... I will have to give the recipe a try!

Thanks for sharing the link -- and your lovely and thoughtful post!

Frogdancer said...

One of the women I work with is Jewish and her family keep their Saturdays for resting. We were talking about it last year and it sounded like a really sensible thing to do.

Faith Pray said...

I love your post, and your beautiful loaves. And really good food for thought as well. It becomes so very easy to forget to take breaths in the midst of the continuous demands of life. Thank you sharing your example!

Loco Lindy said...

I enjoyed learning about your beautiful tradition!

Jennifer said...

I babysit for a Jewish family often, though never on Friday nights. :P The last time I was there we had leftover challah with our dinner; it was delicious! It tasted a bit to me like hawaiian bread-- somewhat sweet and very soft.

mary keasler said...

Growing up in a very small, rural community and attending a small Methodist church, my family always "unplugged" on Sundays. As an adult, I didn't continue that habit, but I agree, that it is a good habit to relearn. Thanks for the recipe, I can't wait to try it.

Jenny @ Anything Pretty said...

Just wanted to let you know that this post really made me think about how we spend our weekend and never really feeling refreshed for the week ahead. This is a perfect idea!

Letterpress said...

We've always treated our Sabbath that way as well, even though ours falls on a Sunday. When I was a child, it felt fine to spend it with family and friends in a quieter way. As a youth, I occasionally chafed against it, and my mother wisely gave me a lot of freedom. Now, as an adult, it's so freeing to not have to "do" some things on the Sabbath in order to make room for other things, like--as you say--reading.

I'm going to make some of this bread for our Sabbath tomorrow. Thanks for this post!

l o v e l y d e s i g n said...

What a great post - thank you for it. We aren't jewish but I love the idea of incorporating a family unplugged ritual each week. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for inspiring! xo sharilyn

Emily said...

This is a really wonderful post with a lot of good food for thought. Thanks for sharing!

Andi said...

Beautiful post.
Your challahs look delish!!! I'm off to check out that recipe.
Andi :-)

Ronnie said...

My wife, who is a regular reader, forwarded me your post. Ms. Henspberger's Challah is a bread that we bake often and love to share with friends. It was the one of the very first recipes I baked when I was learning to make bread 15 years ago and one that I now bake with my two young boys - and so it holds a special place in my heart. Glad to see that you enjoy it, too.

I don't know how traditional it is, but it's by far my favorite challah.

Debbie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Malka. I've been reading your blog for a while and I've always wondered about this about you. My family is religious, living in Yerushalayim. Where in Israel are you originally from?

The WoodLand School said...

Thank you for sharing some of your Shabbat with us! I know just how wonderful it feels to make a conscious decision to celebrate each week!

Stephanie said...

I love this! We also try to do this on our Sabbath. Unplugging can be hard but so worth it.

電影 said...

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.............................................

meli B said...

There is nothing better than getting together with my extended family on Friday night for Shabbat. Best thing the Jews ever invented. Everyone needs a day of rest or at least a day to take stock of the week, a time to connect with kids, a time for yourself. We rush along so quickly. Thank you for your blog, I love your stuff and will enjoy exploring your site, Shabbat Shalom

Cheryl Arkison said...

I'm not Jewish, but Shabbat has always struck me as a lovely concept (the religious stuff aside). Being raised Catholic Sunday never seemed that relaxing.
Challah is one of my most favourite foods. I used to buy it from the Jewish Community Centre a short walk from our house. I haven't bought it in ages, but I have become addicted to a cardamom raisin version we've made repeatedly.
http://backseatgourmet.blogspot.com/2009/10/most-fantastic-raisin-bread-ever.html
Not that I expect you to change your recipe!

Chveya said...

Oh man, I think I want to be Jewish. Shabbat sounds so good.

julienmiz said...

I also love to bake (and eat) Challah but I no longer metabolize white flour well. And WW challah isn't my thing. Alas.

Your points about Shabbat are well-taken! I often attend a yoga kirtan on Sunday nights to enjoy a couple of hours of mental nothingness. It's remarkable how relaxing such rituals are.

Happy Pesach!

cynthia said...

i've said it before, and i'll say it again, your challah is beautiful. i love making challah or brioche. or any eggy bread. yum.

i think the idea of a sabbath is so foreign to many Americans it is sad. my whole life i have observed the sabbath, very closely to what you described. no shopping, no work, lots of reading. great post.

Deere Driver said...

We got to have a quiet Easter here enjoying the challah I made as an Easter bread. I sent a few people your way I hope.

http://onthepondfarm.blogspot.com/2010/04/happy-easter.html

Robyn - Coffee and Cotton said...

Thank you for this post and for the recipe.
Have you read the book "The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time" by Judith Shulevitz ?

K said...

Ah. Now I see. Just another thing to like.