Monday, September 27, 2010

Experiments in applied zymurgy.

We had our Pear Tree removed right before the High Holidays, and the arborist left the fruit for us on tarps, and so, on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, some friends came over, and helped us grind and press the fruit. We pasteurized the raw cider, because the fruit was not in perfect shape, and we cooled it, transferred it to to a fermenter and pitched some English Cider Yeast. We left the fermenter - a three gallon carboy with an airlock - in a cool, dark closet until the day of Erev Sukkot, at which point we bottled directly from the fermenter.

The Cider was good; but that's not what this story is about.

This story is about what happened when the baker in me saw all that yeast at the bottom of the fermenter. The thought that it would be a shame to let it go to waste occurred simultaneously with the thought to which, according to Terry Pratchett, most human made disasters can be attributed: "I wonder what happens if I do this?"

"This," in this case, was to use the yeast that was in the fermenter to make bread.

The wife was skeptical. Cider yeast is not bread yeast, she warned me. The results might not taste good, or might be explosive, or it might not rise at all. Nonetheless, I transferred the yeast into a small jar, fed it a bit of flour, sugar and water, and stuck it in the fridge, and then sanitized and put away the fermenting tools.

When I made my Challah, I used the last of my bread yeast, and I still wanted to bake for a sukkah party we were having. And there was my jar of English cider yeast, waiting patiently in the unemployment line for their next project after having fermented our Sukkot Cider (5771). I told the wife that the worst case scenario is that we end up picking up something at Breadsmith for the party guests, and proceeded to run a batch of something I call "simple bread" in the bread machine using the dough cycle. I looked in on it, and it was far too sticky, so I added flour and re-ran the mixing/kneading cycle, and let it complete.

The dough was still stickier than I wanted to work with, but this was attributable to my failure to consider the liquid that came in with the yeast as part of the total liquid. I sucked it up and shaped the stuff into two boules and a tasting roll, gave it a second rise, and popped it in the oven.

18 minutes later it came out, and apart from a few painful mishaps getting it to the cooling racks, all went well. The tasting roll met with my wife's approval - though I was afraid I was allergic to it. My lips were swelling. Could I be allergic to the cider yeast? Would I be allergic to both the bread and the Cider.

I then rubbed my eye and realized, painfully, that it was not the bread I was reacting to - I had merely forgotten to wash up between seeding a hot pepper for dinner and splitting the roll. Wife had gotten the half that had not been in the pepper hand.

When I served the Boules, they were greeted enthusiastically. It had a crumb similar to most sour dough boules I tasted, but tasted like . . . . cider. It's olive oil mopping powers were widely acclaimed, and of course it paired very well with the cider which had been fermented by the same yeast.

The jar of yeast lives in my fridge, I expect it will slowly develop a sour over the generations, as wild yeast join the colony, but I would call this a success.

The challenge now, as with any chance discovery, is to achieve repeatability.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dvar Pinchas 5770

Morgan and I spent a week in Jerusalem last year, and we have since lamented getting on the plane back on multiple occasions. For the most part I felt safer there than I ever do in Minnesota. Like New York, Jerusalem lacks the small town duplicity on which Garrison Keillor and Howard Mohr have built their careers. But I did have one moment of great apprehension when I was there.

It was in the cool of the evening, and I was headed for the Kotel with Chaim Stern’s Paths of Faith tucked underneath my arm. It was a beautiful walk, and I could smell pretzels baking just outside Robinson’s Arch. I passed easily through security and onto the plaza. Yeshivot tower over the Kotel, and everywhere were bochurs davvening ma’ariv out of the Artscroll siddurs that positively littered the place, and as for me I pulled out Stern, and I too davenned ma’ariv. With the matriarchs. In editing “Paths” Rabbi Stern zt”l did not miss a chance to pair the word “avot” with “imahot.” And I knew that if I was overheard uttering them, well, things would not necessarily go well for me. This did not stop me from praying aloud, even in this place of zealots, because I believe that our willingness to utter prayer aloud and put it into the world is one of the things that makes it efficacious. What I felt was a sacred fear, a quiet certainty that this recognition of the personhood of half of humanity was a necessary thing to bring to the men’s side of the Kotel.

And so we come to the verse which gives this week’s Parsha its name.

פִּֽינְחָס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־אַֽהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת־חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת־קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹֽא־כִלִּיתִי אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִֽי:

Pinchas son of El’azar, son of Aaron the priest has diverted my anger from upon the children of Israel; by his zeal [turned] my zeal from among them so I have not made an end of the children of Israel in my jealousy(Num 25:11).

Pinchas had it easy. When the Shimonite Zimri brought the Midianite Cozbi into the tent, Pinchas knew he was looking at a capital crime for which a verdict and a sentence had been handed down. By acting upon it, he saved the people from annihilation. Whether the crime was “cohabiting with a heathen woman,” as is suggested in the Talmud (BT Sanh. 81b-82a), or the violation of the tabernacle, as Richard Elliott Friedman suggests(Friedman, 513), Pinchas knew what action he had to take, and that he took that action for the sake of saving the Israelites is argued by R. Aharon Kotler:

Pinchas actually performed a kindness resembling the merciful deeds of his father Aaron. By slaying Zimri, he rescued the entire people from death at the hands of Heaven, for they were all guilty of tolerating evil in their midst.(Weissman, 358)

It’s a nice drash, the sort that one comes up with when one feels that something reprehensible has taken place, but the event has been condoned by God. It has the feel of rationalization, because this extra-judicial killing is very disconcerting to a tradition that prides itself on the difficulty with which it can arrive at a death penalty. Our sages of blessed memory struggle with this. The Mishnah states:


But what we find in the Gemara would appear to render this a descriptive rather than a prescriptive statement, for

Rabbah b. Bar Hana said in R. Johanan's name: If [a zealot] comes to take counsel [whether to punish the transgressors enumerated in the Mishnah], we do not instruct him to do so. What is more, had Zimri forsaken his mistress and Phinehas slain him, Phinehas would have been executed on his account; and had Zimri turned upon Phinehas and slain him, he would not have been executed, since Phinehas was a pursuer [seeking to take his life].(BT Sanh. 82a)

In other words, if a zealot acts, it will be without the consent of the sages. The Mishnah, thus, is prevented from rising to the level of practical law. Moreover, unless the act the zealot is responding to remains uninterrupted, the zealot runs the risk of execution by order of the Sanhedrin, but the transgressor does not. In the case where the transgressor is not “punished by zealots,” however the Gemara provides a prooftext from Malachi that God will deal with it:

The Lord will cut off the men that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 2:12).

The overall impression is that the sages would prefer that those who commit the transgressions described in the Mishnah receive their punishment from God rather than man. This solution, however, does not address the anxiety, expressed by Rav Kotler above, that God’s punishment might prove to be communal rather than individual. The problem is that, all too often, communal punishment from heaven is truly in the eye of the beholder, and such differences in perception lead to infighting within the Jewish community. This kind of tension can be seen when Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, says in a shiur

[A woman] needs to take care not to lay tefillin. There are stupid women who come to the Western Wall, don tallit and pray. They are idiots, they want equality, their desire is not for the sake of heaven. It is necessary to denounce them and to be wary(אטינגר, my translation).

Rav Yosef’s language seems to compare the Women of the Wall to Korach and his company, alluding to that controversy which is not for the sake of heaven. What’s worse, is there may even be in here an actual call to violence. The word in his speech which I have here rendered as “denounce” is “להוקיע.” To an audience that is literate in both Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew, it is a dangerous double entendre, being the very same verb that is used to describe the punishment that is to be meted out to the communal leaders who had attached themselves to Baal Peor, as is written:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה קַח אֶת־כָּל־רָאשֵׁי הָעָם וְהוֹקַע אוֹתָם לַיהוָֹה נֶגֶד הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְיָשֹׁב חֲרוֹן אַף־יְהוָֹה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל
Adonai said to Moses, take all the heads of the people and hang (הוֹקַע) them for Adonai opposite the sun so the fury of Adonai’s anger will be averted from Israel. (Num. 25:4)

Brown, Driver and Briggs state that הוקע, the hif’il imperative of יקע is “some solemn form of execution, but mng uncertain.” In Numbers Rabbah on this verse, however, Rabban Judan is quite certain of the meaning, explaining the punishment using the word תלה, meaning hung(Numbers R. 20:23).

Given an audience who would not only recognize the biblical meaning of the word, but would also understand it as an allusion to this very event in which all Israel was endangered, and saved by a zealot, we can see clearly how this utterance can result first in the arrest of Nofrat Frenkel for - I forget, was it leining from a sefer torah, or intent to lein from a sefer Torah? - to the assault of Noa Raz at a Beer Sheva bus stop for sporting strap marks from having laid tefillin.

The reward for zealotry that our parsha opens with strikes me not so much as troubling as ambiguous. Pinchas is essentially assigned the position of warrior-priest, chaplain to the army that will avenge the matter of Baal peor, and the only Levite to serve in this campaign. It is as if the Holy Blessed One looked upon him and said, “this is how you want to be, let’s put you where you can channel that energy.” It is a matching of talent to career more than it is a reward. It is also an expression by God that Pinchas, and the behavior he exhibits, must be taken out of the mainstream and sanctified within the priesthood, in order to contain this sort of recklessness.

And yet, we cannot let ourselves off the hook this easily, for there is another story that is told about Pinchas in the Talmud: that while Moses and the Elders were standing around debating whether Zimri and Cozbi were committing a capital offense, it was then that Pinchas took up his spear and acted(Sanh. 82a). With too much talk, too much deliberation, the leaders of the people stood idly by while a zealot made history committing what should have been a capital crime. There are moments in life where it is absolutely vital that we act in accordance with our consciences, because if we spend too much time on the sidelines of history second guessing ourselves, we will let the Pinchases of the world write our history.

Works Cited

Brown, Francis The Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Friedman, Richard. Commentary on the Torah. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.

Kantrowitz, David, Judaic Classics. Davka Corporation: 2004 (All references to Babylonian Talmud and Midrash Rabbah)

Weissman, Moshe, The Midrash Says: The Narrative of the Weekly Torah-portion in the Perspective of Our Sages (Bamidbar). Benei Yakov Publications, 1980.

אטינגר, יאיר. 'הרב עובדיה יוסף: נשים המתעטפות בטלית ומניחות תפילין הן "טיפשות."' הערץ Online פורסם ב
- . 23:25 7, Nov 09

The words of Ovadiah Yosef cited from Ettinger:

"תפילין היא צריכה להיזהר לא לשים. יש טיפשות שבאות לכותל המערבי, שמות טלית ומתפללות. אלו שוטים. רוצות שוויון, לא רוצים שם שמיים, צריך להוקיע אותן ולהיזהר", אמר הרב.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

D'var Bo 5770: Kick My People Out

Kick My People Out: The Challenge of Choosing Freedom
Dvar on Parshat Bo 5770, Rich Furman
Delivered at Beth Jacob Congregation 23 January 2010

Whenever I read the story of the Exodus in the Torah, I think about the phrase “let my people go.” We’ve grown up hearing it, we watched Charlton Heston deliver it to Yul Brynner in that film whose storyboard was received by Moses at Sinai and transmitted by the chain of tradition to Cecil B. DeMille - The Ten Commandments. Many of us sing it in the spiritual “Go Down Moses” around the Seder Table each year. It conjures up images of a people yearning to be free, held back only by the hard heart of Pharaoh. There’s only one problem: It’s not completely clear that this is what the text says, even if the JPS translation in our pew Chumash would have us believe otherwise. “Let my people go” is not the only possible rendering of ".שלח את עמי" The word שלח here is the pi’el imperative of the root ש'ל'ח' which means “send.” However, in the pi’el binyan, it does not merely mean send, but rather, “dismiss,” “send away,” or even “cast out”(BDB 1018-1019). The words that Moses brings from God to Pharaoh thus may be a bit more forceful than “Let my people go;” perhaps more on the order of “kick my people out.”

Back in Parshat Shemot God responds to Moshe’s complaint that his first attempt to get Pharaoh to release the Israelites was rebuffed by telling Moshe “עתה תראה אשר אעשה לפרעה כי ביד חזקה ישלחם וביד חזקה יגרשם מארצו:” “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh so with a strong hand he will dismiss them and with a strong hand he will expel them from his land”(Ex. 6:1). Rashi comments on this verse saying “He will drive them out against their will so that they will not have a chance to prepare provisions [for the journey]. And so it is said: ‘The Egyptians pressed the people - to hurry and send them away.’(Ex. 12:33)”(Rashi on Ex. 6:1). The miracle of the Exodus is not that God persuaded Pharaoh to release a people that was longing for freedom, but rather that God compelled Pharaoh to expel the Israelites from Egypt. One would think that given the oppression the Israelites were experiencing at the hands of the Egyptians, such that their groans rose before the heavenly throne, they would be chomping at the bit to get out, but this was not the case.

On the phrase “סבלת מצרים, the burdens of Egypt” at Ex. 6:6, Simchah Bunem of Przysucha comments:

Even though the slavery was hard and crushing, nevertheless they became accustomed to the bitterness and bore the burden and the distress patiently [punning on the similarity of the words for patience (סבלנות) and burdens (סבלות)]. They regarded their situation as natural. Said the Holy One, “Since already they are not healthy, nor do they sense the bitterness of their lot, the danger would be great to detain the redemption any longer.” (Kushner and Olitzky, 71)

What Rav Bunem is noting here is that the Israelites have come to regard as acceptable, as par for the course, conditions to which no human being should be subject. How one arrives at such an acceptance of such conditions we can learn by examining how learned helplessness is acquired.

Andrew Solomon, in his book on Depression, The Noonday Demon, writes that:

Learned helplessness, studied in the animal world, occurs when an animal is subjected to a painful stimulus in a situation in which neither fight nor flight is possible. The animal will enter a docile state that greatly resembles human depression. The same thing happens to people with little volition. . .(Solomon, 348)

The harsh labors of Egypt, and the fact that the first attempt at getting Pharaoh to release them ended disastrously, shows that the Israelites are in precisely a position where they are subjected to painful stimulus and can neither fight nor flee. In such a position, strength of will to just get from day to day is all that is left, and Solomon goes on to describe how this plays out among the depressed poor in America, using language that is startlingly similar to Rav Bunem’s:

Strength of will is often the best bulwark against depression and in this population the will to go on, the tolerance of trauma, is often quite extraordinary. Many among the indigent depressed have personalities so passive that they are free of aspirations, and such people may be difficult to help.(ibid, 355)

The Israelites’ passivity is, in some ways, the biggest obstacle God must address to effect the Exodus. If there is no intrinsic motivation among the Israelites to leave, if there is no perception among them that a better life is available to them, then an extrinsic motivation must be applied. This is why God said to Moses at the beginning of Parshat Va’era “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh so with a strong hand he will dismiss them and with a strong hand he will expel them from his land,” because with the progression of the ten plagues, God has been goading Pharaoh into action. The plagues have been getting progressively more intense, and here in Parshat Bo, God makes good on the promise that Pharaoh will expel them. I want, in particular to focus on the last two plagues, darkness and the slaying of the firstborn and what happens between them.

The plague of darkness is described thus:

לא־ראו איש את־אחיו ולא־קמו איש מתחתיו שלשת ימים ולכל־בני ישראל היה אור במושבתם

I’m going to render this a bit colloquially as

a man could not see his brother and a man could not get up off his tuchus for three days, but all the children of Israel had light in their settlements. (Ex 10:23).

The first thing to notice here in the Hebrew is that the verbs “ראו” and “קמו” are in the plural while the subject, in each case, is singular. This comes to teach us that in all the households of Egypt (hence the plural verb), each individual member was subject to personal isolation and paralysis of the will (hence the singular subject). Rabbi Michael Gold, understands this to be symptomatic of depression:

The darkness was not simply a lack of light. That could be solved by lighting lamps. Rather it was an inability for anyone to see or interact with any fellow human being for three days. It was as if a thick depression fell on everybody, leaving them entirely alone. People were cut off from people, as if they were in some kind of solitary confinement. There was a blackness of despair, of being entirely alone in the world (Gold).

That the Egyptians would be subject to depression can be easily understood as a middah-k’neged-middah, measure for measure, punishment. As the labors imposed by the Egyptians reduced the Israelites to a state of depression, so too the plagues inflicted by the Blessed Holy One upon the Egyptians, have likewise depressed them. But there is a crucial difference: The Egyptians have the luxury of the depressive breakdown. The Israelite who had succumbed to his depression so as not to get off his tuchus would have been killed for slacking, but the Egyptian who finds himself too despairing to move is free to not move.

The second half of the verse “but all of the children of Israel had light in their settlements” shows us a significant contrast: The Israelites are beginning to have hope, and with the Egyptians incapacitated, are enjoying a freedom of movement and a connection with one another that they had not been able to. We find a similar verse in Esther - appearing also in the Havdallah ceremony - ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששן ויקר - the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. It is in this light that we need to understand what happens between the plagues of Darkness and Slaying of the first born.

After the plague of darkness, but before the slaying of the first born, God instructs Moses to gather the elders of the children of Israel together and give them some instructions: to sacrifice a lamb, to paint the lintel and the doorposts, left and right, with its blood, to eat it with matzah and maror while packed and ready to leave, and to mark the occasion eternally with an annual festival commemorating the event: that God would see the blood on the doorposts and protect the Israelites.

This is one of those “what’s bothering Rashi” moments in the Passover story: why would God need to see blood on the doorposts to discern between the Israelite and the Egyptian? Rashi answers this question thus:

הכל גלוי לפניו, אלא אמר הקב"ה נותן אני את עיני לראות שאתם עסוקים במצותי, ופוסח אני עליכם

All is revealed before Him, however the Holy Blessed One said “I am letting my eyes see that you are engaging in my commandments, and so I pass over you.” (Rashi on ex. 12:13, my translation).

In other words, although God can discern between Israelites and Egyptians, the Israelites need to be taking action of some kind in order to effect their redemption. God commands the Israelites to put the blood on the doorposts because doing so demonstrates to the Israelites their willingness to take action on their own behalf. This is an essential exercise in the restoration of their crushed spirits, as David Burns notes in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy:

In my practice I find that the great majority of the depressed patients referred to me improve substantially if they try to help themselves. Sometimes it hardly seems to matter what you do as long as you do something with the attitude of self-help. . . . And yet many depressed individuals will go through a phase in which they stubbornly refuse to do anything to help themselves. The moment this crucial motivational problem has been solved, the depression typically begins to diminish. You can therefore understand why much of our research has been directed to locating the cause of this paralysis of the will. (Burns, 82).

Over the course of the nine plagues so far, we have seen a reversal between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The paralysis of the will which was at first present among the Israelites is now present among the Egyptians; one “painful stimulus” after another, which they could neither fight nor flee has taught them the helplessness with which the Israelites contended back at the start of Va’era.

The Israelites, on the other hand, are being invited into a world where volition matters, where actions have results. With the commandments concerning the passover offering including the marking of the door posts and lintels, God is not merely giving the Israelites busy work to do “with an attitude of self help,” but is going further, giving them an invitation to enter into a covenantal relationship, that is, a relationship in which each party does something for the other and gets something back in exchange. Whereas with Pharaoh they would work and work and their reward was drowned sons and pogroms, God is offering a relationship where if the Israelites perform a particular act, God will protect them from the Destroyer.

As the tenth plague comes upon the land, the slaying of the firstborn, the Israelites have the opportunity to see this play out, to hear the cries as the firstborn of Egypt died while their own lived. The Israelites, by following the instructions given to them are able to save themselves. The lesson here is that whereas the life of a slave in Egypt was a life of completely arbitrary punishments by a capricious ruler, there is another mode of relationship - a covenantal relationship in which actions matter, and that by commanding the Israelites, God is inviting them into that kind of relationship, and that by following those commandments, the Israelites are accepting that invitation.

And yet, it is one thing to accept the invitation and another to show up at the event. With the tenth plague, the slaying of the first-born, God pushes Pharaoh to the breaking point. At verse 11:1, God has told Moses:

עוד נגע אחד אביא על־פרעה ועל־מצרים אחרי־כן ישלח אתכם מזה כשלחו כלה גרש יגרש אתכם מזה
One more plague (touch) I will bring upon Egypt after which he will dismiss you from here; when he finally kicks you out, he will utterly expel (גרש יגרש) you from here.

When the Israelites are out, and camping at Sukkot, the first station on their way, it is written:

ויאפו את־הבצק אשר הוציאו ממצרים עגת מצות כי לא חמץ כי־גרשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה וגם־צדה לא־עשו להם

They baked the dough they brought from Egypt: cakes of Matzah because it was unleavened, for they were expelled (גרשו) from Egypt and could not tarry or make preparations for themselves (Ex. 12:39)

From God’s declaration to Moses in verse 6:1 at the beginning of Va’era to this moment after Pharaoh has expelled the Israelites we see another word besides ש'ל'ח, and that is ג'ר'ש'. This is the same word used to describe mankind’s expulsion from Eden. That they occur in tandem at both moments when God speaks to Moses regarding what He will drive Pharaoh to do, suggests very strongly that God is not merely giving freedom to “huddled masses yearning to be free.” God, understanding the fragility of the Israelites volition, is seeking to do this in a way that prevents the Israelites from going back to Egypt. This becomes perfectly apparent at the start of next weeks parsha, when God avoids leading the Israelites by the Philistine road “lest they stop when they see war and return to Egypt”(13:17).

It takes God, Pharaoh, Moses, the Egyptians and the Israelites themselves to collectively muster the force it takes to overcome the Israelite’s collective depression, learned helplessness and inertia. When Rabbi Bunem notes that the Israelites “regarded their situation as natural,” he is noting that there is a learned helplessness among the Israelites. In Eden, Adam and Eve were helpless because all their needs were met; only with their expulsion could human history begin; likewise, in Egypt the Israelites helpless because nothing they could do could improve their state, and only with their expulsion could the history of the Jewish people - our history - begin.

Works Cited

Brown, Francis The Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Burns, David. Feeling Good. New York: Avon books, 1992.

Davis, Avrohom. Metsudah Chumash/Rashi. Ktav Pub Inc, 1999.

Gold, Rabbi Michael. Parshat Bo (5764): Darkness. viewed on 10 Jan 2010.

Kushner, Lawrence and Kerry Olitzky. Sparks beneath the Surface. Northvale: Jason Aronson, 1993.

Solomon, Andrew. The Noonday Demon. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sent to Ambassador Michael Oren

Dear Ambassador Oren:

I am writing to you regarding the situation at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The arrest of Nofrat Frenkel and the interrogation of Anat Hoffman, while alarming, are merely a symptom of a far deeper problem: namely that Israel is a country which offers freedom of religion to everyone but the Jew, and that the religion that the Jew is free to practice is increasingly a bizarre aberration from the Judaism that most American Jews, from Reform to Right Wing Modern Orthodox, would recognize as the faith of their fathers. It is a Judaism which, by reversing conversions violates the Torah's injunction not to wrong the stranger; it is a Judaism which wrongs the widow, telling her she is an agunah even after when she had been told she was free to marry. It is a Judaism that commits the idolatry of offering prayers to dead "g'dolim" to intercede on their behalf with the heavenly court. It is a Judaism that cleaves to the sorcery of segulot. And with each of these sins, it creates a chillul HaShem that distances American Jews from Israel, and Israeli Jews from any sort of Judaism at all - one yored I know refuses on principle to wear a kippah.

So, I am not going to simply ask that the Women of the Wall be allowed to pray and read Torah at the wall unharrassed, nice as that would be. I am going to ask that the Ministry of Antiquities give serious reconsideration to any sort of religious oversight of the wall. I am going to ask that the site which has been the longing of all Jews since the days of Bar Kochba be redeemed from the captivity of an Israeli Rabbinate that increasingly claims it as the exclusive heritage of a heretical minority and restored to all klal Yisrael as their eternal inheritance.


Rich Furman

Sunday, January 03, 2010


I like to make home baked challah for Erev Shabbat whenever feasible. The use of a bread machine for creating the dough has been a tremendous boon in this, because it means that once I get the ingredients in and the doughball to the right consistency, I can pay attention to other things. This recipe has been working pretty well for me, though I find the crumb can be a bit dry the day after it comes out of the oven. I wonder if more oil can fix that. Advice would be appreciated.

Anyway, here is the Recipe as it stands:


1: Sponge

1C Warm Water
2tbsp Sugar
2tbsp Flour

2.5tsp Yeast

Combine and let floof for ~20min

2: The Bread Machine.

Put in the sponge, three eggs, 1.25tsp Salt, 2tbsp Honey, 1/3C Olive or Grapeseed Oil

Measure out 3.25C, including 2tbsp. gluten, flour by pouring the flour into the cup to avoid packing. (One day I will weigh this out so that this won't be a worry, but now I don't have a scale.) Add to Bread machine. Run the dough cycle. Add flour/water as necessary for proper dough ball consistency.

3: Shape and proof.

Set a skillet with water on the stove to boil while you shape the dough

Remove completed dough and punch down. Divide into however many strands you want and braid. Put on a floured baking sheet.

Remove skillet of steaming water to bottom of oven. I have an oven with a pilot light which keeps the water steaming. Put the loaf on the middle rack and let proof in the humid ofen for ~40 minutes.

4: Brush and bake

Remove loaf and water-pan from oven. Preheat to 450 Degrees.

Brush with an egg wash comprising a half cup water and an egg. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seed.

Bake for 20 Minutes.

It comes out looking very much like this:

And it goes quite nicely with my Simple Shakshuka, shown here garnished with asparagus and chiffonade of basil.