Last Tuesday I was preparing challot for the Shavuot holiday, a bit concerned that my dough wouldn’t rise since the yeast wasn’t fermenting well. I prepared the dough, left it in the sun and went to the pool.

When I returned the dough had overflowed my Tupperware container (still ticking after 36 years of aliya. I know, I mixed it up with Timex but at some point a ‘commercial break’ started to mean that I hum ‘Anticipation’ when I use Heinz Ketchup). Anyhow, I took challah, made the blessing with the usual emotions and started to shape the loaves. It occurred to me what a simple act this was that connected me to my ancestors. When the Temple stood you needed to bring two loaves of bread on Shavuot. The reason as I understand it was that on Passover they threw away their starter. Yes, none of this selling your chametz to a non-Jewish business. It was so authentic and a deep act of faith. The starter is everything for sourdough; the flavor, the ability to rise. (On a visit years ago to San Francisco and a tour of the famous sourdough factory they told us that they grabbed their starter during the 1906 earthquake before they saved their kids. Not sure why they thought that was normal but it left an impression. Wonder how their kids felt.)

Chametz literally means fermented; that’s why the Karaites don’t have wine at Seder because for them it’s all literal Torah. We now think of it as bread but that’s not how it was then. No yogurt, vinegar, or pickles either. Meaning – the act of bringing two loaves to the Temple symbolized much more than it looks – it proves that the starter came back. The seven-week ‘Omer’ weather went from rainy to warm – we say bring the dew, not the rain and hence the heat and environment renewed the starter. Bread, the basic food, was back for the baker in antiquity.

So here I was, in my kitchen in Efrat across from Bet Lechem, rejoicing just as they would have that my challah rose. No Temple, though. Still have a way to go. Simple acts of faith and gratitude, appreciating the little moments in the cacophonous chaos that I can’t begin to control.

Connecting with my foremothers in a once again independent Jewish country.

I did picture Ruth and Naomi in the valley beneath my window, in the fields of grain and the society of chessed the megilla describes that we’re striving to reclaim.

It’s a process.

In the hope that by next Shabbat the rest of the hostages are home, our soldiers are safe and healed and the enemy is vanquished.

In shared grief with those whose loved ones were killed so that we might celebrate receiving our Torah and the harvest season in our Land. Never forget the price we’re paying.

ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד

Shabbat Shalom from the hills of Judea.

Eve Harow

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