They go and live in new places-relocate, travel, go away to summer camp. They take new jobs, make new friends, marry and raise families. They research new truths, discover the hidden, communicate new insights and create new possibilities. Some even imagine a “Second Life” on the internet.
Judaism suggests another way to experience life by changing focus and entertaining a new perspective. Jewish tradition dedicates time each week for an experience of life that is different from the rest of the week. The Sabbath suggests that we give special attention to the people in our lives.
The ritual that inaugurates this time includes the lighting of candles, the recitation of Kiddush, the blessing on two loaves of challah bread, a blessing for each child and an ode to the woman of the house. This sequence of ritual takes place around the dinner table. Each contributes to changing the ambiance of life- its light and color, its sound and mood, its tastes and awareness, its treasure and the shape of people’s relationship to each other.
There is also at the table a covering over the challah. What is this challah covering? Who put it there? Why is it there?
Already there is the beginning of a conversation. The challah cover is there to keep the flies off … the cover is there to keep the challah warm…the cover is there so that the challah will not feel bad when the wine is blessed first…WHAT?…the cover is there so that the challah, whose blessing obviates other food blessings, will not be humiliated in public when the wine is blessed first…
So there on the table, set for an experience that recognizes the blessing of creation, is a problem, in fact a recognition of many problems. And before we succumb to the usual reactions of arguing, elbowing, kicking under the table, even fighting wars, there is the challah cover and all that it can suggest.
The Museum of ImaJewnation and the JCC of St. Louis invite you to participate in an exhibit, entitled:
Drama on the Shabbat Table/the Role of the Challah Cover
An exhibit of challah covers…a conversation about rivalries
How can we sooth the inevitable hurts?
(What rivalries are inherent in the world and how can we mitigate their hurts?)