Submitted by Rabbi Susan Abramson of Temple Shalom Emeth
Members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church joined forces with members of Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington not to break bread, but to make it on Friday, December 5.
The Reverend Christopher Wendell and his church members entered the temple’s social hall armed with bowls, bags of flower, measuring cups and large spoons. Church members interspersed with temple members at round tables to engage in the Jewish tradition of baking challah bread for the Sabbath table. Every age group was represented. Children and adults intermingled as they watched yeast explode in their bowls after adding hot water. Children from the temple literally mixed with adults from St. Paul’s as they stirred the flour into the mixture to create the dough.
While the dough was rising, the group gathered to recite the traditional blessings over the candles, wine and challah which Jews recite before indulging in a special Shabbat dinner. Both groups contributed to a delicious pot luck veggie/dairy meal.
Before braiding the dough, we learned a little about the Torah portion for the week, the story of Joseph and his multi-colored coat–a story of boastfulness, jealousy, deceit and misunderstanding. This bit of learning before creating the challah loaves was based on my new book, Challah: A Chewish Guide to the Torah, in which I created challah loaves in the shape of every story in the Five Books of Moses.
Everyone then enjoyed creating their loaves. Some made the traditional three braided challahs. Some made a challah shaped like Joseph, or Joseph’s coat, as in the book. We also had a snowman challah among others.
While the challahs were rising, we adjourned to the temple’s sanctuary for an upbeat music service. One of the temple’s 5th graders regaled the assemblage with an amazing description of the upcoming Hannukkah holiday, including the history behind it and the customs associated with it. We discussed how our participation in this event helped us move beyond the troubling events in the Torah portion as well as the events which took place in Bedford last year. We were all feeling embraced by one coat of many stripes and colors.
By the time the service was over, members of the temple had already begun baking the challahs in the temple ovens. Everyone left with their own personal challah and a huge smile.
It was an evening of experiential learning, friendship, understanding, enjoyment and appreciation none of us will soon forget.