What kind of traditions are centered around Jewish bread?
The most well-known Jewish bread is challah, the golden braided bread that is baked for the weekly Sabbath and the opening of every holiday. An ancient ritual, stemming from a biblical mandate, called “taking challah” means to char a piece of dough, beyond recognition, in memory of the High Priest in the Jewish Temple. The Temple no longer stands, and this ritual is made to remember the sacrifices that took place there. Many Jews around the world regularly take challah.
How do you decide what kind of bread to eat at dinner?
Meals begin with a blessing, and if bread is included, a long prayer, the birkhat ha’mazon is recited afterwards. But what if you don’t have that kind of time? There’s a little trick you can use. What if you replace the bread with a kind that didn’t rise? If so, you only have to recite the mazonot, a prayer with a quick intro and a faster finale. It’s not as full as a rich and risen bread, but it can tide you over until you get a moment to sit down and have a dinner with all the trimmings.
Bread baking is very important in Jewish life. The tradition is passed down from grandparents to grandchildren and from parents to children. Challah varies, just like the Jewish people themselves. Typically, challah is sweet and braided, topped with either sesame seeds or poppy. Other Jews, those of Spanish or East Asian descent, bake flatbreads.
What other bread rituals are there around Jewish bread?
Other rituals around Jewish bread include sprinkling salt over the cut pieces of challah to serve as a reminder of sadness in happy times. On Rosh Hashanah, challah is often baked in round shapes, filled with raisins and dipped in honey.
For more history of Jewish bread and recipes, check out Lynne Golodner’s The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads.