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Week 14: "To Life, To Life, L'Chaim"

Daniel Barash

To life, to life, l’chaim,
L’chaim, l’chaim, to life!

This tune from “Fiddler on the Roof” that is sung every Friday night at our own dinner table was sung last Friday by 16 members of my extended family; we were all gathered in La Jolla, CA, to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. 50 years! (What we didn’t know at the time was that “Fiddler” is also celebrating its 50th anniversary, as it opened on Broadway in September of 1964.)

The Shabbat Table

The Shabbat Table

For as long as I can remember, this singing tradition (and its accompaning dancing mayhem) has been part of my family’s Friday nignt ritual; after the blessing over the wine and the first ceremonial drink, my parents make a Sabbath toast: remembering ancestors who are no longer alive; thinking about family members living too far away to be present; hoping for sustenance for all individuals; wishing for peace in our own country and around the world; and finally “But most importantly, ‘To Life, to Life, L’Chaim.’”

While our current lives are certainly very different from those portrayed in the classic musical, the passage of time has indeed created some interesting parallels, for we have all grown up, found life partners, moved away from the family nest (some nearer and some farther), and created families of our own. Thus, how wonderful to be able to gather to celebrate the matriarch and patriarch of this mishpucha!

A big part of the week was filled with tributes, some formal and others spontaneous, in which my brothers and I recounted the countless ways that our parents gave to both us and the wider community throughout the years. It was truly by example that we learned, and we pledged, in the presense of our own children, to pass on the values that were indelibly imparted to us.

Hanging out at the beach with the cousins!

Hanging out at the beach with the cousins!

Perhaps the greatest gifts were those of time and space; it is so rare for all of us, including the next generation of cousins, to gather and spend quality, unhurried time together. For our daughter Aviva, who according to her own calculations is “three and a half and a month and a week old” [all true], this provided such an incredible opportunity for her to really get to know the extended family of which she is now the youngest member.

Ellen from "So Other's May Eat, Inc.," picking up challahs on Friday afternoon.

Ellen from "So Other's May Eat, Inc.," picking up challahs on Friday afternoon.

Wanting to continue the “Challah it Forward” tradition, even while away from home, I had contacted an organization in La Jolla called “So Others May Eat, Inc.,” which provides weekly meals for those in need in San Diego’s coastal communities. On Friday morning, Sabbath loaves were baked (with help from cousin Abe—remember him from my father’s Guest Challah Bloggah column, when he was just three years old?). And on Friday afternoon, Ellen from S.O.M.E stopped by our house and picked up one of our loaves and one of my brothers loaves, which had been baked (and frozen) in Philadelphia (all the way across the country!) just days before. She served those loaves on Monday evening. It is my hope that some of the spirit that went into the making of those challahs (literally from coast to coast) was able to sustain and nourish those that partook.

A wonderful New Year to all!