I bet a lot of Israeli women are baking today. Mixing, kneading, stooping to slide trays into the oven, cramming the goods into the freezer. Are they all cheerful, energetic Jewish mamas, or are some of them tired, like me? Damnably hot weather to be turning the oven on. And the flies at this time of year – they burst forth out of thin air and zoom around the kitchen, threatening my freshly baked lovelies with bacterial feet. I dance a frantic jig and wave a towel around, but they only buzz on. I wonder: would make one tiny bit of difference to the ecology, if all the flies in the world were to suddenly drop dead? I like that notion…they’d better stay off my baked stuff in the meantime. Today, it was challah and lekach. Tomorrow, carrot cake. After carrot cake – the world. The hands of my mind’s clock point to the sieve and the mixing bowl, not to meditation and prayer.
In the welter of shopping and cooking, it’s easy to forget what this holiday is about. But my fellow Jews kindly remind me. Anywhere I stand for a few minutes – at the ATM, in line at the supermarket – I hear people blessing each other. May you have a good, sweet year. May you have health and fulfillment. A good year to you and your family. Sometimes it sounds formal – just what people are expected to say before Rosh HaShannah – but most times, those blessings sound sincere.
Well, that was this afternoon, when I was out in the street. Now, I’m hot and grumpy in my kitchen. I’m going to take a break.
I sit down by my open bedroom window. There’s a senior’s club right behind my building, and on Tuesday nights, they hold a sing-along there. A man called Moisheleh comes with his accordion, and leads the folks through an evening of traditional Israeli songs. I hear the singing clearly as I lean out into the warm, humid air. It’s a pleasure to hear how well the grandmothers and grandfathers sing, sometimes in harmony. They’ve been doing this together for a long time. But apparently the evening is winding down over there. I’m sorry to have missed it.
I’m just turning away when Moisheleh starts the final song, a kindergarten tune that falls for clapping, one, two, three. The refrain goes, “Shana tova, shana tova” – a good year. The elderly folk sing and clap and sounded delighted. And I;m delighted, with the song and with them.
So what am I going to put into my baking this year? In case I had forgotten, the old folks have just reminded me again. Put in a little prayer, Mimi. A prayer for a good year, a year sweet as honey and fulfilling as bread.
Please, and thank You, G-d.
Recipes for challah and honeycake next entry.