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Week 18: "Monkey Mash-Ups and Milestones"

Daniel Barash

Photo by Gabees/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Gabees/iStock / Getty Images

Monkey Mash-Ups

Once upon a time, there was a man who was traveling from village to village, balancing hats on his head and yelling ‘Caps for Sale, Caps for Sale!

Many of us are familiar with this classic tale of monkey mimicry by Esphyr Slobodkina. Delighting children since it was first published over 70 years ago, it tells the story of a cap seller who must outwit a band of monkeys that steal all of his caps while he is resting in the shade of a tree. We’ve read and retold this story to Aviva for a long time, but this week it took an unusual twist, a mash-up, of sorts. For soon after I began retelling it, the main character and her wares were changed:

“No Abba, Aviva is now the man (in the story), and I am going to Challah-it-Forward challahs on my head to Lucia and Lena, my two friends.”

And just like that, the story was turned on its head, literally. From selling to giving, from caps to challahs. We had such a fun time imagining her balancing all of those challahs on her head. And when the monkeys stole them, we had to get them all back before they were eaten. In the end, challahs were raining down from the tree as Aviva expertly caught each one and placed them on her Keppe!

In addition to some hearty laughs, this mash-up illustrated a couple of things for me. First, despite some of the serious intention that underlies the “Challah-it-Forward” endeavor, there is levity and a sense of humor associated with it as well. I think that at Aviva’s age, both of these ingredients are essential for long-term, active engagement. Second, it illustrated that even when she protests and doesn’t want to participate (see Week 15), the underlying messages and values are still present, as evidenced by the fact that she is incorporating the central values of “Challah-it-Forward” into the imaginitive play that makes up most of her day.


We’ve turned 18—weeks that is! Yes, this little project has chugged along for almost four months now! During this time, new recipes have been tried, new discoveries about our neighborhood have been made, new connections to community have been forged, and lots of mouth-watering challahs have been eaten.

In the Jewish tradition, the number “18” has special significance; according to Gematria, the spiritual interpretation of numbers, meaning is given to the combined number value of letters within a word. In “chai,” the Hebrew word for life, the “chet” is the 8th letter of the aleph-bet, and the “yud” is the 10th. When you combine them, you get…18! It is in this spirit that I toast the journey we’ve been on, and the journey that awaits. L’chaim!