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Thanksgiving Challah

Thanksgiving… What??

It has to be said. For a nation that’s so hung up on individuality and originality, Americans are shockingly square when it comes to their Thanksgiving menu.

Say it with me, we all know it.

Turkey, sweet potato stuff, mashed potato stuff, green beans, stuffing stuff, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

And let’s call it a (fat) day.

But if the day is all about gratitude and family (and yes, whatever you may think – those do belong in the same sentence!) then the comfort of a predictable menu makes a lot of sense!It’s nice to know what to expect.

Kind of offsets the general chaos that feels like our world right now.

But here’s the thing. Gratitude is also inherently about giving up control. If we think we are in charge of everything and the cause of all that we do and have—what is there to be grateful for?

To be thankful is to appreciate a Higher Source of our blessings. And what a relief that is as well.

And so, this year, I propose adding a new food on the Thanksgiving dinner menu… Radical girl that I am. I nominate Challah for one and all. (ya, this is my blog, so I get to do whatever I want.)

Challah, kind of like Thanksgiving, is all about recognition of the Source of all blessings and sustenance, the Creator of this world and all the great stuff that’s in it.

The Sages of the Medrash tell us that the mitzvah* of removing the piece of dough (the source of the word challah**) is so powerful that it abolishes idol worship on this earth!

I can see you now, shaking your head sadly. “All that gluten finally got to her…she’s losing it. What is she talking about, idol worship… what?”

Well, I fully agree that I have lost my mind a while back… But this I know to be true regardless.

Idol worship is a lot more common than you might think!

Anytime we separate the gift from its Giver, a blessing from its Source, a creation from its Creator - we are committing some form of idol worship.

Challah — the act of removing a piece of the dough and declaring the dough and indeed all of our sustenance, to be a gift from the Source of all blessing — is the highest form of trust and faith, and the deepest acknowledgment that our sustenance is a blessing from Above.

It’s telling that this mitzvah is entrusted to the woman.

The numerical value of the word ‘Isha/woman’ is equivalent to the first words of the prayer we say upon awakening each morning – Modeh Ani Lefanecha – I am grateful before You.

Woman represents the ultimate receiver. She takes the raw ingredients of life and gives forth something that is alive!

This is the ultimate form of gratitude-to receive in a way that gives back . . . even more than what you were given.

And so, on the national day of gratitude giving, I propose we do a little challah taking, and remember to be hugely grateful for all the blessings in our lives, both miraculous and mundane.They are all magnificent.

For all of the incredible majesty that is creation.

A tune that lifts our heart, and moves us to dance like a crazy person around our living room.

A stranger paying our expired meter, and leaving a smiley face on the new meter ticket.

The shocking full-bellied laugh of a tiny baby.

Deeply warming rays of the sun on a chilly winters day, coming through my kitchen window.

The smells of a challah baking in the house, a freshly bathed little boy, crisp burning leaves.

The list goes on and on . . .I’ll end my list, for expedience’s sake

with… Pumpkin challah.

Yes, you heard me right. Sorry, it’s not that poetic . . . but, pumpkin challah.

It kind of speaks for itself.If it’s going to be a Thanksgiving challah- it should at least be a cinnamony, spicy, and sweet , rich and dense, pumpkin challah, sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds on top, and with a side of cinnamon honey spread, combining the best of our spiritual tradition, with the very best of Americana.

This is my version of what it could look like on a thanksgiving table. I have made it for a very special woman in my life, one who has been a tremendous supporter of my work spreading the challah love around the world! And I can’t wait to give it to her and her family on Thanksgiving. I think it’s a wonderful addition to any table! (and never fear . . . it’s going in the cookbook!)

Here’s to a Thanksgiving day overflowing with gratitude, good food, good will and great challah, of course.

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