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Week 27: "The World is Round, the Challah is Flat!"

Daniel Barash

It’s been 26 Weeks of challah, challah, challah! Combine flour water, yeast, salt, egg, and some honey, knead, wait, shape, bake, give, and enjoy! I hadn’t quite appreciated it, but a rhythm has been established over these last 6 months, a weekly ritual that without fail, I’ve commited to, no matter how busy, no matter how inconvenient.

Until now. For this coming week, I’m instructed to, in fact commanded to…stop! To cease the simple Friday activities that have come to symbolize the end of the week; the slowing down, so to speak, of our busy lives, made all the more easy by the sweet aromas and savory mouthfuls of warm Sabbath bread.

This is not my first Passover, of course; I’ve entered “the land of no bread” dozens and almost dozens of times before, but never in quite the same way. It’s always been as a consumer of bread, never as a maker / baker.

According to our tradition, when the enslaved Israelites finally escaped from Egyptian bondage, they didn’t have time to let their dough rise, and left with flatbread instead. To remember this plight of our ancestors, we now eat flat, unleavened Matzo throughout the duration of our Passover holiday.

Enter Aviva. I need to tell her over the next couple of days that we will not be baking challah this week? “But why?” she will ask. And honestly, I’m not sure what I will tell her. I know we are instructed to tell the Passover story, sharing the story of our people with the children of the next generation;  it’s a story that’s been passed down at Seder tables for a very long time.

And yet…Mark and I feel profoundly unenthusiastic about sharing this narrative with Aviva. Why? Oh just a few troubling things; death of newborn males, forced separation of families (see Moses in a basket), horrific plagues, splitting seas that engulf entire armies, etc.

Yes, it’s only a story, and yes, we can choose to tell her in a developmentally appropriate way. But honestly, how can you tell this narrative in a way that she can grasp, without watering it down (no pun intended) so much that it ceases to be the Passover story?

At four years old, our daughter already has so many questions about life and death (“When will you die?” “Will that crow eat me?”—And these coming from a genuinely happy, well-adjusted {seemingly} child)…do we really need to burden her with all the dysfunction, violence, and morbidity of this story?

Interestingly, one response that comes up for me is the chorus of the “Dayenu” song (in which we acknowledge 15 major Biblical events, proclaiming after each one “It would have been enough!”).

For this year, Dayenu, might it be enough to introduce Passover as a holiday that celebrates the coming of spring, the season in which she was born, and the inspiration for her name?

Next year, Dayenu, might it be enough to celebrate the freedom that we are grateful to have, to live lives full of meaning and nourishment?

In a way, we're already starting to instill some of the seeds of these values within her through the “Challah-it-Forward” endeavor. For even though we couldn’t possibly expect her to understand many of the societal challenges that inspire many of our small actions, by acknowledging that we have enough, and by strenghening the “using your kindness” muscle to share with others, she will hopefully develop the empathy and compassion to assertively and decisively respond to the world's challenges as they come into focus over the coming years.

May all of you have have meaningful Passovers, and if you have thoughts you’d like to share about how you are discussing the holiday with your families, we’re all ears…