Daily Archives: September 22, 2009

Challah Recipe


One whole bag or 5lbs  of flour (can do half white, half whole wheat if you want)

1+ cups sugar (add at least ½ cup more if whole wheat flour is used)

2 packs of dry yeast which is equivalent to around 4 tsps.

1 cup of oil

4 cups of warm water (if whole wheat flour is used you might need ½ cup more later)

3 eggs

2 tbsp salt

Lots of love

How to:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Pour the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.  Place dry yeast into well.  Add 1 Tbsp of sugar and 1 cup of warm water and 1 tbsp of flour to the center well.  Let it bubble up for 5 minutes. (the kids love watching this – good chance for chemistry lesson)

Add 2 tbsps of salt around the edges of flour (salt shouldn’t mix with the yeast)

Add 1 cup of sugar to the flour

Add 1 cup of oil to the middle

Add 3 beaten eggs to the middle

Add 3 cups warm water to the middle

Mix all together until its desired consistency, I use my hands once they have been thoroughly washed, knead it for ten minutes and let rise for 20-30 mins. While I am kneading it I like to sprinkle in brachot (blessings) for our family and friends, sometimes I include names of those who need healing, to find a mate etc.

Punch down a 2nd time, knead for another 10 minutes and let rise 20-30 mins.

Take challah with Bracha,  shape into the challah – either braided or round, and let rise again 20-30 mins.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds or poppyseed.

Bake for 30 -40 mins depending on size of challahs.

challahs 004For Cinnamon Babka / Rolls

Set aside a part of the dough, use your fingers to shape and stretch it out to an oblong or square shape. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect. Mix a cup of sugar with a decent helping of ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mix over the dough. You can add raisins too if that floats your boat. Roll up tight. Use sharp knife and cut 1.5 inch sections and place one by one in round pan, until the pan is filled. Let rise 30 minutes and bake 30 minutes. When cooled, drizzle with icing.

My picture shows cinnamon on left, chocolate on right, both un-iced.

challahs 003For Chocolate Babka / Rolls

Same as cinnamon except melt one cup choc chips with ¼ stick of margarine, and spread it out. My kids like me to sprinkle choc chips over it too.

challahs 002For Pull-apart Challahs

Instead of braiding, section off 6-8-12 (depending how big you want the pieces to be and how big baking tin is) identical pieces of dough. Mold into balls, place in pan next to each other, let rise. Coat with egg wash and seeds. Bake. Alternatively, you can belly button them. This means once all pieces are in pan use forefinger to make indent in each roll, and put choc chip / raisins / cinnamon sugar mix in. Rise. Bake.


NOTE: My friend Shoshana taught me how to make challah and shared the recipe with me. I will always be grateful to her for getting me started on my way with this beautiful mitzvah.

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Burials in Judaism

I want to understand this. There are some Jewish burial societies that refuse to allow women to attend burials at their cemeteries. I recently attended the funeral of a lovely woman who had lived a long life, a life full of the joy of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Her daughter, and the deceased’s elderly sister, and all the women in the family were denied “permission” (I cannot even think of a better way to put it right now) to accompany the body from the funeral home, to its final resting place. This was a woman who had lost her mother, a mother who had been a major part of her life for 60 years! She needed to be there to say her final goodbyes. Her sister of almost 90 years, who went through the holocaust with her, lost family members with her, and made a new life here with her, was not allowed this final mitzvah of Halvayat Hamet (accompanying the dead).  If this woman’s burial plot had been in a different but still Jewish cemetery the women would have been allowed to be there.

I have a couple of friends who unfortunately have suffered the heartbreak of losing children and have had to bury their child. I cannot imagine how much worse their pain would have been had they been unable to be at the gravesite. It must have been torture to walk away from the gravesite, to leave their child there, cold, in the dank earth – but somehow it’s known that that is how it is supposed to be. That was the final chapter in this child’s / person’s life. It doesn’t make it easier to walk away, no, but there is a sense of closure.

I know the difference it makes not being at a gravesite. I know how much your heart suffers more when you haven’t had the closure of seeing that coffin lowered into the ground and covered with earth. I was not there to bury my father or my paternal grandparents. I was on the wrong side of the world. We had funerals for them in North America, and buried them in Israel. My maternal grandmother was buried in the UK, I couldn’t make it there in time. Your mind and soul need that finality. It takes so much longer to deal with a loss without it.

I just want to understand. We hurt too. We need to throw that earth on the coffin of our dearly departed relative and friend. How is this even close to being ok? And how is it acceptable in some cemeteries for women to be there, and some not? Are we not all Jews? What is the halacha here?

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Over the weekend we had many interesting discussions. One subject that came up for discussion was how being a Kohen or a Levi was passed through the father, and only through blood. Adopted sons cannot become Kohanim or Leviim.

But here is my question (bear with me, I occasionally get long winded 😉 ). Judaism is passed through the mother. If the mother is Jewish then the child is Jewish. If the father is Jewish and the mother is not, the child is not Jewish, according to the laws of matrilineal descent. What if the father is Jewish AND a Kohen or Levi, mother is not Jewish and the son converts to Judaism when he is older? Does he then become a Kohen or Levi as that is passed through patrilineal descent?

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Rosh Hashannah

Sitting in shul, listening to the awesome chazzan singing his haunting melodies, I was transported back years. Growing up we attended Machzikei Hadas shul in Golders Green, London. Every year Mr David Bakst, may his memory be blessed, was the appointed chazzan for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur davening. He wasn’t a youngster then, but he was always able to still be standing and davenning for the Amud by Neilah on Yom Kippur.

The tunes that he sang are the default yomtov tunes in my head. They are different tunes from those sang here in most North American shuls that I have attended. He davened with such emotion and longing.

When he did the Tefillah Zacah, the prayer before the Mussaf amidah, where the prayer is  about how awesome a responsibility it is that he has been appointed to represent the congregation – his voiced cracked, and the hairs on our arms stood on end. He made us feel the solemnity of the occasion. Even if one had no knowledge of Hebrew or prayer, one would have felt the right emotions through the power of his voice. One really felt he was communing directly with God. Even as a young child his davenning made a huge impact on my soul. He is someone I will never forget.

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