Challah | Issue 1 | Oct 2020 | Tishrei 5781

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October 2020 | Tishrei 5781

‫תשרי תשפ״א‬


Dina, Batsheva and the ambiguity of the unspoken by Jade Isaacs

Rites, Rhythms and Heresy by Hugo Billen

Tragedy, Hope and what lies in-between by Eliav Cohen Benchabo

fusing cultural heritage, spirituality, and contemporary Jewish experiences

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In this issue 03

Welcome from our Founder


A Word from the Editors


Makkot 24b


Dina, Batsheva and the Ambiguity of the Unspoken






Until Further Notice


'and he saw the place from afar...'




Cancel Culture and Accounting of the Soul TALIA MISAN


D'ror Yikra: Rites, Rythms and Heresy HUGO BILLEN


D'ror Yikra: Musical Annotation




Challah Recipie: 'The Classic'




© 2020, Challah Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

with thanks Founder & Creative Director YAFFA JUDAH Editors ESTHER OFFENBERG & TALIA MISAN Artistic Director NAOMI COHEN BENCHABO Design & Photography NAOMI COHEN BENCHABO & YAFFA JUDAH We are grateful for the support of our peers, members of the wider community, and anonymous benefactors within the British Jewish community who backed the making of challah.

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Welcome from our founder Welcome to the first portion of challah, the cultural and spiritual magazine created for young Jews, by young Jews. In a secular world, turning to religion and spirituality can be seen as regressive, practices are considered limiting, and beliefs heretical. It seems to me that talking openly about spirituality and Jewish culture would put my perspective across as outdated or ‘too religious’ for most. Until recently, the dread of these labels stifled my overt Jewish expression and I felt I needed to downplay my relationship with Judaism even within the Jewish community. Between what the modern world has to offer and the tenure of Jewish values, we can find ourselves stuck in a conundrum of reasoning and justifying one for the other. Judaism is the anchor in my life, a respite from the daily grind, and a valuable opportunity to learn from and to emulate ageold insight. challah was inspired by my distinct and wonderful encounters with connected young Jews over the last few years; through it, we aim to unmute the inward looking voices of our Jewish peers who acknowledge centuries of Jewish thought, and choose to look at the world through a mindful lens. We humbly present a new read on Jewish life looking at independent explorations of our shared culture and heritage to start new conversations and facilitate insight between peers and across disciplines. Our work has only just begun, so tuck in to our first issue, we hope it’ll leave you hungry for more!

Yaffa Judah |3

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

A WORD FROM THE EDITORS At Arvit for Rosh Hashana we sang

May the year and it’s curses end… ...‫תכלה שנה וקללותיה‬ ...May the (new) year and it’s blessings begin ‫תחל שנה וברכותיה‬... rhythmic styles still used today (p.27), through to our modern day classical musician Eliorah Goodman, experimenting with fusing Ashkenazi and Arabic tonal arrangements (p. 29). We also have the juxtaposition of Shimon Rabim’s psychogeographical whirlwind read of ancestral memory (p.16), with Moses Seitler’s candid scuffle with tuning into the read things that divine frequency (p.13).

Defensive word wars online and in the press, spotlighting divisiveness and young Jews are spending more time protecting their identity than learning about it. In our own humble way, we have created this space for sharing and learning about Judaism across its magnificent spectrum with no filters or caveats.

For us, the exciting thing " you will about challah is hopefully seeing it become a might take you by surprise, or springboard for kavanah simply make your soul smile." We had the pleasure of collaborating with 8 (intention of the heart) brilliant contributors and and a glimpse into the infinite well of Judaism. We acknowledge we feel privileged to publish their intimate the wealth of existing resources that provide perspectives on Jewish life. Curating this an authoritative voice on Halachic, political, issue has taken us on an incredible and unexpected journey and we hope that you and cultural matters for our community; in a hectic, compartmentalised media landscape, will enjoy these pearls of wisdom from our contributors that we have curated into the we want this publication to be an oasis. Somewhere you will read things that might form of challah. This is only the start and we take you by surprise, or simply make your are excited for what the future will bring. soul smile. We are inspired by our ancient history and equally how contemporary life can be infused with Jewish wisdom. This issue sees some wonderful time-spanning parallels, Hugo Billen’s passionate recounting of a biblical rock-star rivalry that established Sephardic

Shana Tova everyone!

Esther and Talia |5

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makkot 24b | :‫מכות כב‬ Reflections on Tish B'av, tragedy, and Makkot 24:2-4b; from the Talmud to the Titanic.


Makkot (Lashes) is a tractate of laws and teachings dealing (mostly) with punishments. 24b:2-4 is the last passage in Makkot. 24b is a story. It begins with four Rabbis (Rabbi Gamliel Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Akiva) overlooking a ruined Jerusalem. A fox emerges from the rubble of the Holy of Holies. This causes them to weep. Except Rabbi Akiva, who laughs. “Why do you laugh?” They ask. “Why do you weep? This used to be a place only the high priest could worship and live, and now foxes roam; shall we not weep?” Rabbi Akiva answers: “just as prophecy that Jerusalem would be destroyed was fulfilled (Uriah), so too the prophecy that the Temple will be rebuilt shall be fulfilled (Zachariah)”. The Rabbis declare “You have consoled us! You have consoled us!”

particular films on Tisha B'Av. Well, perhaps ‘tradition’ is a bit strong, maybe it is better described as a widespread custom. In any case, I know I am not the only one who does this. It is typically cinema in the vein of Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful and The Pianist. Something aptly tragic, usually holocaust related, which (despite their subject matter) almost always end with the unmistakeable appeal to Hope. For me, it started with Titanic. Spoilers ahead.

"you have consoled us!"

The first time I watched Titanic I was 7 years old. It was my first introduction to “Tragedy” and it was Tisha B'Av. It is something of a tradition amongst some Jews to watch

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Titanic film begins with presentday treasure hunters. They are retrieving artefacts from the sunken vessel. Rose, a (fictional) 101-yearold survivor of the sinking, is invited to identify the artefacts. At one point, a scientist explains, with the help of a CGI reconstruction, the sequence of events which led to the sinking of the transatlantic voyager. Rose takes a moment and replies, somewhat condescendingly, “Thank you for that fine forensic analysis, Mr. Bodine. Of course, the experience of it was somewhat less clinical.” It always surprised me how clearly that

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CGI sequence stays with you throughout the 3-hour runtime. As a framing device, it works beautifully and effectively, becoming almost a spectral presence as you become entangled in the narrative. Like the narrator in a Shakespearean tragedy, we are presented with a broad-stroke view of events. Their outcome (if there was ever any doubt) is made explicit. We are told exactly why and how the Titanic sank, who survived, and who didn’t. So, the drama tethers itself not to the fact that it will sink, but by trying to make an audience care that it did. And in this sense Titanic doesn’t hold back: Scenes of biblical deluge in a ballroom; a captain spending his final moments on the bridge of his ship, distraught and alone; a violinist playing a final goodbye; a mother singing her children softly to sleep for last time.

"Titanic asks us to see in the murky footage of underwater wreckage, the realities of people’s hopes"

These are the death throes of the Titanic. Brief, punctuated, vignettes of tragedy. Titanic asks us to see in the murky footage of underwater wreckage, the realities of people’s hopes. It compels us, like it compelled greedy treasure hunters, to set aside ‘forensic analysis’ and recognise for a moment our moral duty to reflect, when looking back at tragedy, on people, and their shattered lives. Despite its flaws, Titanic never shied away from demanding genuine emotion from its audience, Tisha B'Av demands of us the same. Tisha B'Av is a day constructed around the emotions of loss. The destruction of the Temple, the squandering of Jewish unity, the weight of persecution, find expression in feelings of abandonment, grief, isolation, despair. It is Jewish practice at its least cerebral. You are not implored to question, like on Pesach. It is not about you, like on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the days of profound personal introspection. It is not even about retelling historical events, like on Purim and Hanukkah. The Megillah of Tisha B'Av, Eikha (Lamentations), is a series of poems expressing desolation, each in more harrowing terms than the last. But at no point do we recount the siege |7

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However much it may have consoled his fellow sages, Rabbi Akiva’s laughter was in truth the hope of a captain on a half sunken ship. of Jerusalem, the infighting amongst Jewish factions, the successive Roman conquest of Jewish cities, or the Bar Kokhba Revolts. On Tisha B'Av, we are forbidden to learn Torah. We sit on the floor. Many stop greeting one another. Some practice taanit dibur- a fast of speech. The point is simply, for a day, to feel the necessary emotions of collective misery. So, what to make of Rabbi Akiva and his laugh? Many take his laughter as a lesson in hope. As a man who decided to become a scholar at the age of 40, Rabbi Akiva certainly had a gift for hope. During the Bar Kokhba revolt, he immediately saw in Bar Kokhba the messiah of redemption, never doubting Jerusalem would be rebuilt in his lifetime. When sentenced to death by Roman soldiers for his refusal to submit to foreign idols, he expressed satisfaction at finally being able to fulfil a mitzvah “with all his soul” (Berachot 61b). But we know how Rabbi Akiva’s story ends. It ends in violence. Though his laughter was real, so was his tragedy. And whilst in the uncertain moments of our lives, we may take lessons from this gift, I am not so sure the same is true when reflecting upon his. Lindsay Ellis states “a well told tragedy appeals to the human desire to hope”. It is this appeal which is highlighted by much of holocaust filmography and is similarly highlighted by those who see Makkot 24b as underscoring

a certain duty, as Jews, to hope. Come Tisha B'Av, however, our responsibility is different. However much it may have consoled his fellow sages, Rabbi Akiva’s laughter was in truth the hope of a captain on a half sunken ship. Poet and activist Clint Smith (if he was interested in Rabbi Akiva and his foxes) might suggest the following sentiment: “whenever people say ‘we have been through worse before’ all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones of those who did not make it”. I think this even more true of those who, although they did not make it, never lost hope they would. Tisha B'Av is for them. More than anything, Rabbi Akiva serves as a reminder that if our collective story is a tragic one, it is foremost because it is littered with unrequited hopes. In short, Tisha B'Av is important because it gives us space to be bitter at the divine slights of hand and spare a day to mourn the unfulfilled hope of those who did not make it. |9

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D I N A H , B AT S H E VA AND THE AMBIGUITY OF THE UNSPOKEN Jade listens out for the silence in the Tanach and finds her own voice in the text.


What is left unspoken will always remain ambiguous. Engaging with ambiguity is fundamental to textual interpretation, particularly of religious texts. Without considering what has not been said, it is difficult to imagine how exegesis is possible. However, if we are truly reading between the lines, there must be an examination of who is being written out of the narrative. I did not speak about the rape of Dinah at my Bat Mitzvah, despite it appearing in my parashah. I only realised later how this absence reflected the story itself. In Parashat Vayishlach, the Prince of Shechem sees Dinah and we are told, “he took her, lay with her, and violated her” (Bereishit 34: 2). Shechem then falls in love with Dinah 10 | challah.

and sends his father Hamor to ask Jacob for his permission to marry her. Jacob’s sons decide to take revenge for what they see as the violation of their sister and tell Hamor that he must have every male in his city circumcised before they agree to the marriage. The brothers enter the city while the men are still healing, destroy their property and kill them. For the extent of the destruction that is supposedly on Dinah’s behalf, it is notable that her perspective is absent. The voices and actions of men are central but Dinah is silent. I began to recognise the significance of this erasure a year ago, when I read the novel The Red Tent and saw the opera Song of Dina. Both works retell Dinah’s life from her own perspective and, crucially, reframe Dinah’s

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‘rape’ as a consensual act. The gaps in the text where Dinah’s voice is lost open up the possibility that her victimisation lies not in the hands of Shechem but with the men in her own family. Their violent desire to suppress any sense of Dinah’s agency- sexual or otherwise- manifests itself in their physical violence against the people of Shechem. I was compelled by a vision of Dinah and Biblical women more broadly as active subjects, with rich inner lives full of passion, grief and lust. However, in encountering both these forms of modern feminist midrashim, I was confronted most by my frustration towards the silencing of Dinah in the official narrative. Whether or not Dinah was raped, we will never truly know her side of the story.

the Zoom class, some argued that Batsheva was never able to consent to sleeping with King David because of the power imbalance between them. Others characterised Batsheva as clever and calculating, using her social position to her advantage by sleeping with David to achieve access to power. Biblical scholars Sara Koenig and Gale Yee both argue that the literary ambiguity in the story of Batsheva involves the reader more actively in processes of meaning-making and moral judgement. In the absence of a woman’s voice, the way we fill in the gaps is particularly revealing. The stories of Biblical women, including recent feminist reimaginings, show that their interpretation acutely reflects our own perspectives on women and what we want them to be.

This feeling of frustration was brought back to me this year when I took an online class Reading Bat Sheva as Woman, Wife, and Warrior at the Conservative Yeshiva. 2 Samuel 11- where Batsheva first appears in the Tanach is known for its ambiguity, even in the context of Biblical narratives. The aspect of Batsheva best known in popular culture is captured in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the lyric “You saw her bathing on the roof”. However, this reference to King David seeing Batsheva is a misinterpretation. In fact, a closer reading of the original text shows it was David on the roof, looking at Batsheva below. This literal change in viewpoint brings with it a more profound perspective shift, as we are pushed to consider our presumption of a woman as an object on display. This is reinforced by the narrator’s observation, “And the woman was very good-looking” (2 Samuel 11: 2).

Ironically, through these narratives involving the erasure of the female voice, I have been able to find my own. Dinah’s story and the exploration of female sexual desire in The Red Tent inspired a monologue that I wrote on the intersection of religion and sexuality. The play in which it was performed allowed me and other women to articulate our experiences on our own terms. I also thought that the process of Jewish learning that studying Batsheva’s story formed part of would get my voice taken seriously, using my new knowledge to be heard in Jewish spaces. However, both in writing my monologue and in engaging with my Judaism, I was confronted again with ambiguity. Writing involved a continual questioning of what I wanted to disclose and an awareness of what language could hide, as well as reveal. Textual study pushed me to read critically, never settling for my first impression. The stories of Dinah and Batsheva did not teach me to use my voice to avoid ambiguity. Instead, they helped me to recognise the ambiguities within the tradition I have inherited and within myself. The power lies in the ability to express them in ways that these women were never able to.

"interpretation acutely reflects our own perspectives on women and what we want them to be "

Another moment of ambiguity in Batsheva’s story lies in the line “he took her and she came to him and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11: 4). Batsheva’s willingness to participate in this act with King David is made unclear through reciprocal structuring. The debates about consent that this sparked led me to draw the parallel with Dinah’s story. During


Many thanks to Bex Stern Rosenblatt for her exceptional teaching of the Reading Bat Sheva as Woman, Wife, and Warrior class. Diamant, A. (1997). The Red Tent. New York: Picador. Koenig, S. (2019). “Bathsheba between the lines and beneath the surface,” in Characters and Characterization in the Book of Kings. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Nicol, G. (1997). "The alleged rape of Bathsheba: Some observations on ambiguity in biblical narrative." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 22(73), pp. 43-54. Samuels, D and Chernick, M. (2018). Song of Dina. [St James Church, London. 10 April 2019]. Shemesh, Y. (2007). ‘Rape is rape is rape: the story of Dina and Shechem (Genesis 34)’. Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wisssensschaft 119, pp. 2-21. |11

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l further notice... Moses grapples with the loss of spiritual connection and yearns for religious intimacy amidst the social distance


“This moment of history has somehow married fixedness with flux.”

It seems an age away since we received the email about the closure of synagogues. It made sense, but the words popped out of the newsletter: 'closed until further notice'. You are probably reading this as we approach a looming second wave, so I thought I’d share some experiences of navigating the strange spiritual terrain. And I hope another article about this dreadful virus isn’t a drudgery. It’s supposed to be novel, after all. Spiritual practice in the Covid-context was always going to be strange. This moment of history has somehow married fixedness with flux. Lockdown has ground everything to a halt, but in so doing has proven how quickly change can come. The scaffolding of society is adjusting with such speed, and yet we have watched it shift while sitting stationary from inside our homes. One of the worst symptoms of a virus which moves frighteningly quickly is an uncomfortable unmoving. In some it is a permanent stillness. Perhaps the only silver lining of this stillness would be an opportunity to connect with Hashem on a more individual level. Reprieved from shul politics and the temptation to peer over the mechitzah in search for a life partner, “lockdown” |13

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would be a misnomer: a chance not to lock down but to rise up in connectedness and be free from physical diversions. Unfortunately I found Spirituality-fromhome to be dislodging and uncomfortable. I had always assumed that because the divine isn’t limited to time and space, my spirituality would be able to withstand this physical adjustment. But in truth, I never realised how important communal singing was to me – and without access to shul (or stadia), I am lost. My voice lags on Zoom – my dodgy Wifi connection interrupts the divine signal. My attempt to bless and petition the Lord felt more like I was making claims to a window than anything else. The home may well be the nucleus of Judaism, but it certainly didn’t feel that way during lockdown.

to the Exodus and to the creation of the universe. They felt further away than ever. My blockage was resolved by the clearing of the Chazan’s throat. He removed his facemask and my prayer was infused by the momentousness of the process which was taking place. The community returned to collective service. I looked around and saw the same old faces, some of which were as they always were, others worryingly haggard by the virus. The smell of sterility was overwhelmed by the ‘Am Yisroel Chai’ factor. Thousands of our brethren have passed, and many more have suffered. But the tension and tentativeness which defines Covid security was washed away by God’s presence, the overwhelming power of his capacity to save and his decisions to not. For the first time, Ashrei hit me right in the chest plate - ‫סומך ה’ לכל־הנפלים וזוקף לכל־הכפופים‬ - May the Eternal one lift up the fallen and bring uprightness to those who are bent down. Quite right. It was the most powerful moment I have experienced in shul since my eight year old self stood behind the sorely missed Rabbi Mordechei Fachler z’l when he belted out Kaddish at the end of Neilah, so loudly and with such vigour that I thought the heavens would open up there and then.

"My spiritual scuffle during lockdown was made easier by Judaism’s selfawareness that life isn’t perfect."

Perhaps the synagogue could nourish my spirit, which was waning. I donned the facemask as if it was a religious obligation, but even the reality that I was participating in a moment of history didn’t help. Everything felt wrong. For a start, my attire embodied a conflict. My surgical face covering the essence of which is the prevention of transmission- sat below my Tefillin, which was designed to promote transmission, of the self to the multitudes of Judaism, to our history, to our Covenant, to the rabbis,

My spiritual scuffle during lockdown was made easier by Judaism’s self-awareness that life isn’t perfect. The Torah is filled with Jews

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struggling with their own spirituality – their doubt in the desert a symbol of the perennial struggle to notice ultimate Kingship, even (and especially) when it is blindingly obvious. The gentle warning at the heart of the shema - ‫ השמרו לכם פן יפתה לבבכם‬- to take care lest we are lured away, presumes a natural distance between humans and their creator. The concept of halachic safeguarding is, amongst other things, a kindness which assumes our natural tendency to waver, to doubt and to disconnect, pandemic or no pandemic.

"even the man in the corner with whom I have never had a conversation is the fulcrum of my frumkite."

This permission has made the religious journey more than bearable and shone a light on the fuel of my spirituality. My unphysical is bound by the physical, and the need for placed conduits of spirituality is not shameful. Sterile synagogues, random community members and those little acts of friendliness which softened the pandemic have been my medicine during lockdown. For all the qualms I have about the Jewish community, I know now how important it is to my own practice, how even the man in the corner with whom I have never had a conversation is the fulcrum of my frumkite. The infectiousness of collective spirit is not to be sniffed at. My hope, if we are away from the Aron Hakodesh over the Yomin Noarim, is that we can understand it as a moment in growth rather than a pain in the back-side, an opportunity to strengthen our bonds with one another in light of the pain of social distance, and as another hurdle in our ageold development of spiritual herd immunity.

‫סומך ה’ ל‬ ‫וזוקף לכל־ה‬ |15

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'and he saw the place from afar' Shimon peers through the looking glass at an abstracted biblical landscape SHIMON HAYIM RABIM PHOTOGRAPHY BY NAOMI COHEN BENCHABO

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... ‫מלא כל הארץ כבודו‬ Mordechai paces, is pacing the gates of the palace and waiting for news on whether to mourn, and Noach is washing up slowly on Ararat, Devorah sitting under her palm tree, and there is a lover loving and flailing and falling across the streets of Jerusalem calling to anyone who might ever listen and she looks for her lover, yes, the search goes on in Jerusalem too, and I am sitting at a desk in front of a window overlooking a street. This is not about wanderlust, this is not about diaspora. This is as much about Jerusalem as it is the Garden of Eden. I can’t say that it isn’t about exile but it definitely isn’t about the exile.

I am wandering, I mean wondering, whether Chana would have changed her words if she had been praying anywhere other than Shiloh, what the Arizal would have revealed if his feet had dangled at any other river than the Nile, and how often, if ever, Moshe Rabbeinu thought back to his time in Ethiopia, despite better judgement. But in this respect, I am not Moshe. I have not spent my life moving towards a land that I will only look at and then die. I am not Idit, frozen forever looking over my shoulder at a place I’ve now outlived by thousands of years. I am sat at my desk and there’s a street outside my window with terraced houses and bikes chained to lampposts. At once, I can think of the Costa where I had my first date, and the picture of the Maldives in my childhood Atlas, I can think of a day out to Chichester and picture my walk home from the job I never got in Norwich, I am here with Doreen Massey in Kilburn, where every shop means something different to someone else, where roads are new roads everyday and still the same roads they always were before, and I am here with William Blake as well, declaring, in the dark Satanic mills, that yes! Let Jerusalem look like this too.

"as for me, I left Nazareth for the M25..."

You leave the Co-Op, you couldn’t find the crisps that you wanted and you are stuck in a park waiting, your mate still isn’t good with punctuality, yes, all these years later. You have the time of your life in someone else’s kitchen. You sit out the front of a pub and you stare at the post office, and you know you’re on a bench, and you know you’ve got a double whiskey and diet coke, but that’s not enough to say that you’re outside the pub and not outside the post office, and whether or not someone once thought the same in Lublin years before me.

As for me, I left Nazareth for the M25, travelling backwards, getting pilgrimage wrong. |17

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smaller ambition than converting the Pope, I want to be in Tzfat, falling on the tomb and instead of the tragedy of persuading him of R’ Shlomo Alkabetz, watching him nothing, you see nothing of Rome but the write Lecha Dodi and stopping him prison. Then once you’ve burst forth to the as he gets to the 8th verse - “you will left and to the right, and considered Hashem burst forth right and left, and venerate in every possible nominal permutation, Hashem” - and say “yes, okay, but why!”. you live out your last years on an island off And what happens if Malta, all alone and writing, I go right and what with all your faith intact, the "I wasn’t that happens if I go left and Tribes still over the river, the impressed, or shall we which shall I take or can new Pope still in the Vatican I take both and if I can, waiting for somebody else, say interested, in the in what order, and what and you’ve tried your best. Splitting Of The Sea, if I stay put right where I am, do I still venerate Heretically, apologetically, until I heard that Bnei Hashem, and is there an I wasn’t that impressed, Yisrael were singing ultimate synthesis, or do or shall we say interested, before they’d even I keep turning right and in the Splitting Of The left and right and left all Sea, until I heard that reached the other side..." my life, trying my best. Bnei Yisrael were singing before they’d even reached The clouds move North, the phone lines the other side. Now I know I don’t have shake in the wind, I would like to be Abulafia, to really be anywhere yet to be happy I’m trying to make it to the Sambation River to there, or that at some point I might be. find the Ten Lost Tribes, and instead of the tragedy of finding it nowhere, you never The sun is setting across the houses now and get further inland than Akko. So you set I am not Moshe, I am the poet, awoken by your sights instead of the Vatican with no music at midnight, King David, singing of

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Temples he won’t see in his lifetime, demanding of the stars that it’s time they praise God, rivers clapping hands, mountains dancing, and one minute, God is lying you down in idyllic meadows and the next minute with you walking in the valley of the shadow of death, and with one simple opening line, you confuse all future generations, as you sit in your Jerusalem palace and you write yourself mourning and weeping, exiled, and unable to sing the very song that you’re singing, by the rivers of Babylon that you didn’t see.

"it's not that the world is God's place, but that God is the place of the world."

As written in the Yalkut Shimoni, it’s not that the world is God’s place, but that God is the place of the world. I don’t need to be at my desk anymore. I sit here and write as I walk along beaches, long outstretched beaches that go on and on, my bare feet in the water, and the high-rise blocks reflecting the sun.

‫ברוך כבוד ה' ממקומו‬ |19

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Cancel Culture and

Cheshbon HaNefesh

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TALIA MISAN Talia shares a toolkit for taking steps back in order to take the right steps forward. Cheshbon HaNefesh is the introspective spiritual practice of taking stock of oneself, the literal translation being ‘accounting of the soul’. Conceptually, this is what we are doing throughout Elul and the subsequent holidays, but the systematic method was first written down by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Leffin during the time of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and published in Lvov, Ukraine in 18121. Today you can find many step-by-step guides for executing this, but since challah enjoys a contemporary spin, I hope you don’t mind this topical segue. The cancel culture phenomenon came into mainstream consciousness initially in reaction to celebrities' abhorrent behaviour coming to light, subsequently losing hordes of support and good graces. In many such cases we see the power firmly and justly in the hands of the people. But has cancel culture spun out of control? Former US President Barack Obama even felt compelled to call it out for “purity” and “judgmentalism” during an interview about youth activism, putting it simply at one point “The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” 2 It can be honourable jumping in defence of what we believe. But what hope do we have for humanity if we lose sight of our

ability to better ourselves and learn from our mistakes? Where remorse is expressed and there is a genuine desire to grow, it is important to nurture this. We must enable and champion efforts to evolve and improve after sinking to dark places. Of course, this is not to say we shouldn’t speak out against wrongdoing, but we must employ the collective intelligence and knowledge of what is good, to create a space for repentance. Though known for its effect on grander scales, we also see this manifest on a much smaller interpersonal landscape. Cancel culture takes the ‘grudge’ and inflates it to the point where it pushes out any empathy or mercy. I’m sure we are all guilty of this here and there, which is why it could be worth reflecting on where we may have jumped the gun on people in our lives. On the day of Judgement, we stand bare in the knowledge that we will not be defined by our worst moments. We fast and focus so intently on this atonement, in the hope that our renewed blank slate will endure. We know that it won't. We rely on the presence of that bodiless hug of forgiveness to endure throughout the year.

‫חשבון הנפ‬ 1

2 2020. Learning From My Teacher Accounting Of The Soul | Sefaria. 2020. Obama On Call-Out Culture: ‘That’s Not Activism’. |21

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...continued Through Tishrei, the month of balance, we channel the energy for harvesting the fruits of our emotional labour. We know all too well the weight of the eternal balancing act of care, love and respect for the self and for others. The exercises mapped out on this page aim to provide a humble dose of restorative justice for both sides of the scale. Without taking away from the traditional

prompts that are customary to Cheshbon HaNefesh, I have put together a toolkit to be as universal as possible. If this is a practice you are familiar with, you may already have long notes of soul accounting to act upon. In the interest of activating those who are not so familiar, I suggest starting with a small number (even if it is just one thing) that you promise yourself you will action in the year to come.

Think about where you were this time last year compared to now. How has your decision making and behaviour changed? Where have you improved? Where have you worsened? How have your wants and needs changed? You are looking for patterns here. Don’t forget that memory is selective and when we reflect we must notice, catch and let go of the biases in our minds if we want to truly benefit from this exercise. Take your time reflecting on narratives of your memory.

Think of three (or more) people from whom you want to ask for forgiveness and write them a message - the means of delivery is totally up to you. It could be someone you speak to every day, or maybe it is someone you haven't spoken to in years. The important thing is not to sound like you are checking off a box. By doing this work, quieting the ego and speaking about it with the other party involved, you lay the foundations to prevent repeating these patterns in the future.

Give yourself one new actionable behaviour to implement in your routine in order to improve on your most crucial fault. Make sure this is realistic and attainable. This ‘action’ could be in what you decide not to do anymore. But something you can tangibly hold yourself to e.g. I will not make fun of my partner for XYZ anymore.

Not everyone asks us for our forgiveness. There are beautiful lessons of compassion in forgiving others. Why should we be robbed of the power of letting go? Who are you ready to forgive?

NB: Asking for forgiveness does not have to come from a self-deprecating place. Quite the contrary, you are showing yourself the standards you want to hold yourself to and taking a proactive step in the direction towards your highest self.

In the act of forgiving others 22 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

s, we teach our subconscious mind to also forgive ourselves. |23

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D’ror Yikra

‫דרור‬ ‫יק ר א‬

RITES, RHYTHMS AND HERESY HUGO BILLEN Trace the sound of Shabbat zemirot from Fez to the Spanish mountains MUSICAL SCORE BY ADEE LIFSHITZ

D’ror yikra is one of the essential Shabbat songs in many Jewish homes. The poem, which is now sung with many tunes, is a plea to God to protect the Jewish people, destroy their enemies and bring peace and redemption to the world. The poem is unusual for its time as its language is entirely Biblical, rather than a mixture of Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew. However, what I want to talk about is the fascinating historical context that surrounds that poem, and more specifically the life and work of its author, Dunash ben Labrat. Dunash was born in the Moroccan city of Fes, between 920 and 925 AD. He was a member of the Tobashim, the original Jewish population of Morocco, who later were outnumbered by the Megorashim, the refugees of the Spanish Inquisition. As a young man he moved to Baghdad in Iraq where he studied with Hacham Saadia Gaon, one of the leading Talmudic scholars of the time. He later returned to Morocco where he

“Poets were the medieval equivalent of contemporary movie stars."

24 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

started teaching Hebrew grammar and poetry. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, a Jewish ambassador for the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman, invited Dunash ben Labrat to the Spanish city of Cordoba, the centre of art and culture in the Islamic world. After he moved, Dunash met Menachem ben Saruq (920-970), the personal secretary of Haidai ibn Shaprut, fellow grammarian and poet, primarily remembered nowadays for writing the first complete dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, the Mahberet. This meeting led to the greatest controversy in Jewish arts.

as a minor event, with two grammarians arguing back and forth about counting vowels in a verse, but this event was really significant at the time. Poetry was very important to both the social and cultural life of Sephardic Jewry. Sephardim truly loved poetry, it was common at that time to have poetry gatherings where poems were shared and recited. Poets were the medieval equivalent of contemporary movie stars. So when the controversy between Dunash ben Labrat and Menachem ben Saruq emerged, the poetry-savvy Sephardim quickly chose a side to support. The controversy reached its peak when followers of Dunash ben Labrat and Menachem ben Saruq would have poetry competitions, what we know nowadays as rap battles, that would often end in fist fights.

What made Dunash ben Labrat a great poet of his era, and why he is remembered today, was his novel approach to Hebrew poetry. While all Hebrew poetry that preceded Dunash followed strict The hostilities ended when rules inherited from “this dispute is Dunash ben Labrat accused ancient times, he decided Menachem ben Saruq of to incorporate the Hazaj representative of many being a secret Karaite, a Arabic-Persian meter into other disputes that Jewish heretic that does traditional Hebrew poetry not recognize the authority to create a new Hebrew occurred in Jewish of the Talmud. The meter. All subsequent history: how much validity of this accusation medieval Hebrew poetry remains debated today, was based on this meter. change is acceptable in but Hasdai ibn Shaprut For those who are not well Jewish traditions?” (presented previously) versed in poetry, a metre is believed this accusation the basic rhythmic structure and exiled Menachem ben Saruq out of a verse. The Hazaj metre structures verses of Cordoba, to northern Spain, and his on a repeated rhythm of one short syllable influence on Sephardic poetry vanished. followed by three long syllables. Dunash’s Dunash ben Labrat on the other hand innovation was to consider the Hebrew Sheva continued a very successful life as a poet vowel and Hataf vowels as the equivalent of and grammarian until he passed away in 990. Arabic short vowels. For example, in order to preserve the rhythmic structure, the second A lot can be learned from that event. First, verse of D’ror Yikra reads as “N’im shimchem I am amazed how much incredible history velo yushbat” despite the fact that “N’im” is hidden in seemingly trivial Jewish is grammatically incorrect in traditional practices. Behind a song sung every week Hebrew, and should be pronounced hides a major controversy that shaped the “Na’im” (Many publishers edit the poem Hebrew language. But more importantly, to fit traditional Hebrew grammar rules). this dispute is representative of many other disputes that occurred in Jewish history: Although many welcomed this novel form of how much change is acceptable in Jewish Hebrew poetry, others were not pleased at traditions? To what extent can or should all with this development. The leading voice foreign ideas and practices be incorporated of opposition was Menachem ben Saruq, in our beliefs and rituals? These questions presented earlier. He thought that Dunash remain very controversial to this day. was corrupting the Hebrew language by Some claim that the Judaism they practice introducing Arabic forms, and changing the is of the purest form: eternal, unchanged traditional Biblical styles to conform to the and not influenced by anything foreign. Arabic meter and rhyming schemes. This Yet behind this veneer of purity lies criticism led to a major dispute between a Judaism shaped by centuries of Dunash ben Labrat and Menachem ben Saruq. growth and strife, bringing to the world a rite that sings in many melodies. Now it may be seen from our perspective |25

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‫דר ו ר‬ ‫יקרא‬ ‫ ְויִנְ צָ ְרכֶ ם כְ ּמֹו בָ בַ ת‬,‫דּרֹור ִי ְק ָרא לְ בֵ ן ִעם בַ ּת‬,ְ ‫ ְשׁבּו ְונֽ ּוחּו ְבּיֹום ַשׁבָ ּת‬,‫נְ ִעים ִש ְׁמ כֶ ם ְו ל ֹא י ְֻשׁבַ ּת‬.

‫ֽשׁע ֲע ֵשׂה ִע ִמּי‬ ַ ‫ ְואֹות ֶי‬,‫דּרֹוׁש ָנ ִוי ְואּו ל ִָמי‬,ְ ‫ ְשׁעֵ ה ַשׁ ְו עַ ת ְבּנֵי עַ ִמּי‬,‫ׂשֹור ק ְבּתֹוְך כַ ְּר ִמי‬ ֵ ‫נְ טַ ע‬.

D’ROR YIKRA He grants release to lad and lass: As His eye's apple safe, they play. Their​ innocence​ shall never pass: Then take your ease this Sabbath day. O seek in love my martyred shrine And to mine eyes salvation​ show. In Zion's vineyard plant her vine And hear my people's cry of woe.

‫ ְו ַגם בָ ּבֶ ל אֲ ֶשׁר ָג ְּב ָרה‬,‫ּפּורה ְבּתֹוְך בָ ּצְ ָרה‬ ָ ‫דּרֹוְך‬,ְ ‫ ְשׁמַ ע קֹולִ י ְבּיֹום אֶ ְק ָרא‬,‫נְ תֹוץ צָ ַרי ְבּאַ ף ְו עֶ ְב ָרה‬.

On Bozrah's sin tread deep Thy press, That Thy fair world be pure once more. 'Gain​s t Babel's full-grow​n wickednes​s This day Thy safeguard​I implore.

‫ הֲ ַדס ִשׁטָ ּה ְבּרֹוׁש ִת ְּדהָ ר‬,‫ֹלהים תֵ ּן בַ ִּמ ְּדבָ ּר הַ ר‬ ִ ֱ‫א‬, ‫ׁלֹומים תֵ ּן כְ ּמֵ י נָהָ ר‬ ִ ‫ ְש‬,‫ ְו לַמַ ּזְ ִהיר ְו לַנִ ּזְ הָ ר‬.

On desert hill Thy garden rear, Make bloom the myrtle, fir and pine. Teach​e rs and taught-Th​y saplings dearNurtu​re with streams of peace divine.

‫ ְבּמֹוג לֵבָ ב ּובַ ְמּגִ ָנּה‬,‫הֲ דֹוְך קָ מַ י אֵ ל קַ ָנּא‬, ‫ לְ ׁשֹונֵנּו לְ ָך ִר ָנּה‬,‫ ְונ ְַר ִחיב פֶ ּה ּונְ מַ ּֽ ֶלא נָה‬.

Our foemen rage in wrath and pride : O turn their hearts, contrite,​ to Thee. Then shall our mouths in song be wide, Our tongues, with them in unity.

‫ֹאשָׁך‬ ֽ ֶ ‫ ְו ִהיא ֶ ֽכ תֶ ר לְ ר‬,‫דּעֵ ה חָ כְ מָ ה לְ נ ְַפ ֶ ֽשָׁך‬,ְ ‫ ְשׁמֹור ַשׁבַ ּת קָ ְד ֶ ֽשָׁך‬,‫דֹושָׁך‬ ֽ ֶ ‫נְ צֹור ִמצְ וַת ְק‬.

By wisdom crowned, in regal state Let quest of wisdom be your goal. As you each Sabbath consecrat​​e May Sabbath consecrat​​e your soul.

26 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

Dror Yikra

# 4 & #4 œ D ‫ד‬


ror ‫רור‬

œ œ œ

yi - kra ‫ י‬- ‫קר א‬

# &# œ œ œ œ œ


™™ œ

yin - tz - or - chem ‫ ינ‬- ‫ צ‬- ‫ ר‬- ‫כ ם‬

# &# Ó


# &# œ



ke ‫כ‬


mo ‫מו‬

ve ‫ו‬

œ œ œ

œ œ

Sh ‫ש‬

ve - nu - chu ‫ ו‬- ‫ נו‬- ‫חו‬

vu ‫בו‬


Sh - vu ‫ ש‬- ‫בו‬

ve - nu - chu ‫ ו‬- ‫ נו‬- ‫חו‬


lo ‫לא‬



be ‫ב‬

œ œ œ œ œ

ven ‫בן‬

im ‫עם‬

œ œ œ œ ˙

be ‫ב‬


ve ‫ ו‬-



D ‫ד‬

j œ™ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ™ œ J

yu - sh - bat ‫ י‬- ‫ ש‬- ‫בת‬

œ œ ˙

œœ ˙ -


bat ‫בת‬

bavat ‫ב בת‬


Ne - im shi - m - chem ‫ נ‬- ‫ ש עי ם‬- ‫ מ‬- ‫כ ם‬



# & # œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ™


le ‫ל‬

Œ œœ œœœ œ ˙


œ œ ˙



Dunash Ben Labrat


yom ‫יו ם‬

yom ‫יו ם‬

œ œ œ œ Shabbat ‫ש בת‬

œ œ œ œ w Shabbat ‫ש בת‬

D'rosh navi ve'ulami Ve'ot yesha aseh imi (x2) Net'a sorek betoch karmi She'e shav'at benei ami She'e shav'at benei ami

. ‫ִמ י‬ ‫ָל‬ ‫ְו א וּ‬ ‫ִו י‬ ָ ‫ְדּ ר וֹ שׁ נ‬ . ‫ִמּ י‬ ‫ִע‬ ‫ֵשׂ ה‬ ‫ֲע‬ ‫ַשׁ ע‬ ֶ ‫ְו א וֹת י‬ . ‫ִמ י‬ ‫ְר‬ ‫ַכּ‬ � ‫ְבּת וֹ‬ ‫ֵר ק‬ ‫ַט ע שׂ וֹ‬ ְ ‫נ‬ : ‫ִמּ י‬ ‫ַע‬ ‫ֵי‬ ‫ְבּנ‬ ‫ַעת‬ ‫ְו‬ ‫ַשׁ‬ ‫ֵע ה‬ ‫ְשׁ‬

Elohim ten bamidbar (har) Hadas shitah b'rosh tidhar (x2) Velamazhir velanizhar Shlomim ten k'mei nahar Shlomim ten k'mei nahar

. ‫ַה ר‬ ‫ָבּ ר‬ ‫ְד‬ ‫ִמּ‬ ‫ַבּ‬ ‫ֵתּ ן‬ ‫ֱא� ק י ם‬ . ‫ָה ר‬ ‫ְד‬ ‫ִתּ‬ ‫ְבּ ר וֹ שׁ‬ ‫ָטּ ה‬ ‫ִשׁ‬ ‫ַד ס‬ ‫ֲה‬ . ‫ָה ר‬ ְ ‫ִז‬ ‫ַלנּ‬ ‫ְו‬ ‫ִה י ר‬ ְ ‫ַמּ ז‬ ‫ַל‬ ‫ְו‬ : ‫ָה ר‬ ָ ‫ֵמ י נ‬ ‫ְכּ‬ ‫ֵתּ ן‬ ‫ִמ י ם‬ ‫ְשׁל וֹ‬ |27

Issue 001




28 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781


Diverse musical aditions give access to new forms of communication


When the two Farsi words ‘avaz’ and ‘azadi’ are merged, a new concept is formed... one that exists only in the language of music. ‘Avazad’, the’ song’ of ‘freedom’, or the ‘freedom’ of ‘song’. The word ‘Avaz’ (‘song’) is also used to describe a Persian musical form, which is characterised by a free-style improvisatory melody. It is unmetered, and follows the rhythm of the text so that the musicality and meaning of the words is expressed to its full potential. When I first discovered this music, I was spell-bound. I had enrolled on to a Masters course in Composition at the University of Manchester where I met the santour* player Atefeh Einali. A graduate from the University of Art in Teheran, Einali is an experienced performer and composer with specialist knowledge in classical Persian music. From our mutual respect for our different religious and ethnic backgrounds we developed a close friendship, and a unique musical relationship. We started out messing around on our instruments in the basement practice rooms, meeting regularly to experiment combining new sounds and making new arrangements of Persian and Jewish repertoire - even playing in the fire escape or empty |29

Issue 001

seminar rooms when all the rooms were taken! After having played and performed together for many weeks, we developed a deep understanding of each other’s culture and musical heritage, and founded the Avazad Fusion Duo, an ensemble that combines Jewish and Persian musical traditions to form something unique, and deeply meaningful. The name represents the freedom to express oneself with full conviction, and fully embrace difference, acknowledging one’s own independent sense of identity. As a duo, we encourage the idea that one does not have to change to fit in to one’s surroundings. This allows for the possibility of different worlds to overlap in new and fascinating ways, without fear of having to conform to any particular social, religious or secular standard. As an orthodox musician I often struggle to meet the demands of the secular world, constantly having to decline performance opportunities on Saturdays or during religious festivals. However, the more I stand for my principles, the more secure I feel in my beliefs, and my colleagues and friends have developed respect and understanding for my life choices. In the Avazad Duo, this sense of shameless pride and confidence is something we wish

to share with our listeners, and with the artists and musicians that collaborate with us. From many of the brief encounters I made with Jews from Iraq, Iran and Morocco, I discovered another dimension to Judaism, which I had previously not appreciated. I had been interested in Middle Eastern culture for some time, having played music with musicians from Syria and Kurdistan. It really amazed me how music can give you the courage to transcend cultural barriers, and explore the unfamiliar. This is something I came to appreciate whilst I was playing music with refugees, many of whom struggled to communicate in English. It was an encounter which, from my experience was sadly lacking in Jewish culture in the UK: a creative crosscultural form of communication which enriches our lives on a spiritual and material level.

"music can give you the courage to transcend cultural barriers, and explore the unfamiliar"

After much experimentation fusing klezmer modes (the Ashkenazi tonal system) with Arabic maquamat or Persian dastgahs, and trying to arrange western music for oriental instruments (and vice versa), I began to realise that my efforts were to a certain extent arbitrary. I found that it is the players themselves that shape the music. The collaborative efforts of different people,

*a traditional Persian instrument, similar to the dulcimer

30 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

playing together in the creation of music itself. This was enough to express the vitality of multiculturalism, and respect for one another. Since a young age, the beauty of non-verbal communication is something that I have become almost dependent on. Having for most of my life felt somewhat an outcast in the Anglo-Jewish community - musical interaction has offered an alternative, nonjudgmental form of communication. Within the rather compartmentalised cultural scene in London, I personally was never exposed to any form of creative exchange between Ashkenazim or Sephardim – nor had I experienced any significant interaction with other religious denominations such as liberal, masorti, or reform communities. It seemed to me that people with different backgrounds or levels of religiosity do not mix; we have our own synagogues, and even our own schools, and I never imagined I would ever encounter such rich diversity in Judaism, until I moved to Manchester and experienced the multicultural environment of student life. This has made me curious to explore more about Jews from around the world, drawing musical inspiration from various religious and secular traditions, and bringing them together as a symbol of unity and love.

my connection to Judaism. Whilst I draw creative inspiration from Jewish life, it is also through music that my sense of Jewish identity is characterised. Being a musician suggests to me a life of spirituality; the constant sharing and exchanging of creative ideas, thoughts and feelings, and a devotion towards the expression of the sublime. Playing in the fusion ensemble has made me proud to be Jewish, and this pride is partly fostered by the act of exploring the world outside of the Jewish community, providing a more nuanced view of life. This is how I feel that music has helped me to connect to Judaism, and I hope that the Avazad Duo will inspire others in the same way.

"Being a musician suggests to me a life of spirituality."

Having played the flute for more than half my life, I have come to realise how my musical pursuits have played an essential role in |31

Issue 001

‫ן הארץ‬ 32 | challah.

October 2020 | Tishre 5781



Charlie is a final year medical student at the University of Manchester, with a strong passion for food. Always looking for an excuse to try and new recipe or cook his friends a three-course meal, his dual Ashkenazi and Sephardi heritage influences the dishes he creates. Check out his page @chaimaintainancefoodie on Instagram.

Your grandma has her recipe, the Rabbi’s wife has her recipe, the bakery around the corner has their recipe; this is my recipe. The quintessential ‘classic’ challah we all know and love. No bells, no whistles, just a braided, dairy free, enriched bread topped with egg wash and seeds. This is thought to be most similar to the breads made by Ashkenazi Jews in the 15th century; its braided form inspired by other breads made in eastern Europe at the time (e.g. mazanec or kozunak). Before exploring other weird and wonderful variations or the breads that other communities know as challah, let’s nail the basic, popular form that first springs to mind to most Jews in the UK.

INGREDIENTS 567g 9g 57g 1 (7g) 1

Strong White Flour Salt Sugar Sachet instant yeast Egg, beaten and divided in half


Sunflower / Vegetable / Canola Oil


Lukewarm Water

‫המוציא לחם מן‬ |33

Issue 001

1 3

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, except the yeast.

Add the yeast and mix. Make a well in the middle and add the oil and one half of the beaten egg. Slowly add the water, stirring as you do so with a spoon. Add enough water to form a soft dough, picking up all the flour on the sides of the bowl.

Taike the dough out of the bowl onto a clean worktop, and knead for 10-15mins, or until you get a positive windowpane test*. Feel free to add water as you go if the dough feels especially tough or dry. It should be soft, but not sticky.

BRAIDING GUIDE: Split your ball of dough into balls to equal the number of strands (use a scale if you want to be precise). Roll each into a long strand, and join them together at one end. In your head, number each one left to right. Each time you braid/move a strand, renumber them. For example, if I move strand 1 across past strand 6 (if making a 6 strand challah), strand 6 now becomes strand 5, and strand one becomes strand 6.

4 Strand 1 between 3 & 4 3 under 2 4 between 1 & 2 2 under 3 repeat 34 | challah.


6 Strand 6 between 3 &4 2 over 6 1 between 3 & 4 5 over 1 repeat

*This is to check if you’ve done enough gluten development, and you dough is ready to rise. Take off a golfball sized piece of dough, and gently spread it out in your hands. Hold it towards the light. If you can spread it out thin enough to clearly see light through it without it tearing, then it is ready. If not, back to kneading!

October 2020 | Tishre 5781

5 7

Gather the dough into a ball, and leave inside the bowl, tightly covered in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. This will take longer the colder you kitchen is.


Tip dough onto your work surface, divide into two, and shape both loaves. Place onto a greased baking tray for 45 mins-1 hour to proof.

Using the remaining half an egg, brush onto the proofed loaves. Sprinkle with seeds if you wish and bake in a preheated oven – 190C/170C fan for 27-30 mins, until browned and cooked through.


Leave to cool before tearing into them! |35




© 2020, Challah Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

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