people gathered around a big wood
tabletop. If someone brought wine,
they poured glasses for everyone, says
Stewart, who still offers this periodic
gathering with the consent of Dakota's
"My belief is that what you're put-
ting into the food comes out of [it], so
if you're putting in lots of love and
friendship and good vibes, people are
going to feel that," he says. "Before
the Sabbath, you're creating a whole
atmosphere, an aroma of space, in
your home. You're creating that atmos-
phere of welcome."
"There's nothing that unites us like
food," says Bittman, author of How to
Cook Everything and a New York Times
things of life. That's the magic of food
— [it] brings people together and
gives them common memories."
Loren Stewart likes the communal
aspect that comes from baking and
sharing challah. The former owner of
Dakota Bread in West Bloomfield,
Stewart lived for more than 20 years
in a spiritual community in Scotland,
where he prepared food as a way to
After he opened Dakota, Stewart was
inundated by requests for Rosh
Hashanah challah. So he invited people
Max Muchnick, 3, of West Bloomfield
paints e0-0- on his challah.
in to help make the loaves one Thursday
night — and a tradition was born.-
"I saw the shop as a really good
meeting place because it was a Ili*
friendly atmosphere for walk-ins and to
hang out. I tried to get to know every-
body by their name," Stewart says.
"I realized I connect with a lot of
people, but nobody connects with
each other. I used to invite people into
my kitchen [in Scotland], so I
thought, Why don't I invite them
into this kitchen?'"
Bread shop customers signed up
throughout the week to come
Thursday night for kneading and
shaping prepared dough. Motown
music played in the background as
The Mitzvah of Challah
he Torah refers to challah as simply the portion that a baker must sep-
arate from the dough as a gift to God. Here are the specifics of the
commandment, according to Young Israel of Oak Park Rebbetzin
• Challah must be separated when the recipe involves at least 9 cups of flour.
• A blessing is recited only when the recipe includes at least 12 cups of flour.
• When challah needs to be taken, remove one ounce from the batch —
about the size of an olive.
• While anyone over the age of bar or bat mitzvah is obligated to separate a
portion of dough, this is a particularly special mitzvah for women. (It's good
luck to bake challah in the ninth month of pregnancy and give some to child-
• Challah is taken when the dough has already been formed, before it is
shaped into loaves.
• The accompanying blessing is said when taking challah: Baruch atah
Adonai Elohainu melech haolam, asher kidshanu Mnitzvotav vitzivanu l'hafreesh
challah min haesa (Blessed are You, 0 Lord our God, Who has sanctified us
with His commandments and has
commanded us to separate challah
from the dough).
• After reciting the blessing, take
the piece of dough and say, "This
• Wrap the separated piece in
foil and place it in the oven or
broiler until it is charcoal — ined-
ible. (Throw it away afterwards.)
• If you burn the piece in the
oven, don't cook anything else at
the same time.
• The time during this mitzvah
is known as et ratzon, a time of
favor with God. Mrs. Spolter
encourages people to compose a
personal prayer to say during this
.u! cl u now noiq Aq motid
Madeline Feinstein, 2, of West
Bloomfield gets help stirring from
grandma Sylvia Maiseloff of
Most people think of challah as the
sweet, egg-rich braided bread that
Ashkenazi Jews eat on Shabbat and
holidays, but the term "challah" actu-
ally refers to a Torah commandment
to separate a piece of dough as a gift
The commandment to "take chal-
lah" goes way back — it was given to
the Jews when they reached the land
of Israel after wandering in the desert
for 40 years.
During the Exodus,. God provided
manna every day in the desert, plus a
double portion for Shabbat. When the
Jews reached Israel, the manna stopped
coming. They had to provide their own
food, but the Torah gave a command-
ment to separate a portion of the
dough they made and reserve it as a
reminder that God provides everything.
Scripture tells us that there were 12
showbreads on display in the
Tabernacle, and they stayed fresh for a
week, until they were replaced with
new loaves for the next Shabbat.
For religious Jewish women —
who are exempt from time-bound
commandments — baking challah is
one of the three cited specifically for
them. The others involve mikvah (ritu-
al immersion) and candlelighting.
Even today, religious Jews recite one
blessing — the one over bread — to
signify the start of a grand meal. And
it's the one blessing that is followed,
at meal's end, by the longest collec-
tion of closing blessings, signifying its
"Bread is the most important food in
the Jewish diet," says baker and author
Glezer. "Once a meal unto itself and, up
until recently, the main source of daily
calories, bread became the symbol of all
food early in human history and is
often the symbol in the Bible for food.
Jewish law says that as long as bread is
served, the fare constitutes a meal; with-
out it, you have only a snack."
Archaeology Professor Shmuel
Avitsur, in his essay The Way to Bread:
The Example of the Land of Israel, men-
tions three types of breads found in
Israel around the 19th century BCE —
a round or oval bread, a thick-edged
flatbread and a hollow bread. All three
are stilt made tdeltyl
The round one, called raqiq, comes
from Iraq. The Bible refers to raqiqim
as one of the breads on the Temple's
altar; it's considered to be the precur-
sor to Catholic communion wafers.
The thick-edged bread, called noon
in Persian, is found in Central Asia.
The third is ordinary pita.
Braided challah originated in
Germany in the 15th century, but it
wasn't sweet or made with eggs, Glezer
CHALLAR on page 54
Dough is twisted
or braided to