Challah

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My first-ever handmade challah.

I observe the Shabbat (Sabbath) beginning Sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday. For a long time I have wanted to try baking challah- not that we must have challah on Shabbat it isn’t a commandment. It’s just that I think that a loaf of challah is so beautiful and makes the Shabbat dinner table look so pretty.

There is also a lot of symbolism in challah that I think reminds us of why we observe the Shabbat.

It takes a while to produce a loaf. Bread-baking takes time but that’s ok because I didn’t want it to be a fast activity. I wanted to take my time and savor the process.

Some of the things that I thought about this afternoon while I was preparing my challah:

There are seven basic ingredients is challah: flour, sugar, water, yeast, eggs, oil,  and salt. The number 7 reminds me that we are commanded to rest on the 7th day.

I made my challah into a three strand braid. The three strands reminded me of this scripture:

Ecclesiastes 4:12  And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The number three also reminds me of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

The bread itself reminded me of the command to remember  Yeshua’s sacrifice and resurrection. It also reminded me of the scripture:

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, “It is written: ‘A man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

This particular recipe called for 6 minutes of kneading so I embraced that part of the process and used the time to pray. I think I went a bit over time in kneading. I had a lot to pray about.

I also spent time contemplating the upcoming month of Elul and the 40 day period of repentance and introspection until Yom Kippur- the Day of Atonement.

The table looked so beautiful tonight-so much so that my husband asked many questions. This “loaf of bread” was the catalyst that opened up some very good discussion about faith.

I used to think that participating in rituals like this was not necessary and actually they aren’t. Our salvation isn’t based upon whether or not we bake challah on Shabbat. However, today I found that this task of mixing and kneading and contemplating ….it really enriched my Shabbat. I could see that it gave something to my husband also- who is just in the beginning stages of learning this new faith.

I adhere to the Shabbat, Feast Days and other mitzvot alone here. There are many ways we can observe the Shabbat even if we do not belong to a congregation.

I just read an excellent blog post about observing the Shabbat alone-you can find it HERE.

 

 

Alone but not lonely. On being a part-time hermit.

Something I’ve mulled over for a while now was to write more candidly and openly about life here. So far I’ve only been brave enough to give tid-bits. A glimpse here and there of life here. I guess I always hesitate because I didn’t want it to seem like I was looking for advice or help.

I’m definitely not.

I have several reasons for wanting to blog more candidly  and all of them have to do with the writing craft. I’ll just leave it at that.

On with the post….

Confession: I live the life of a part-time hermit.  I actually thought of starting a blog entitled “The Accidental Hermit” but I’ve never really been successful at starting another blog. I always end up back here.

I didn’t plan on living semi-secluded it just sort of happened upon moving here. Have I tried to broaden my “horizons”? Yes.  Am I unsociable ? Not in the least. Do I enjoy part-time hermitude ? I do now. I actually think it fits me perfectly as I consider myself rather eccentric. My husband agrees.

I’ve come to accept the way things are and I’m content now.

I wonder about how many other foreigners find themselves “accidental” hermits in Japan. I doubt that I am alone. It’s just…Japan. It’s an awesome country, really. I love living here. I can completely understand how they have managed to isolate themselves from “outsiders” for so long. In general, and this opinion is only based upon MY personal experience as a middle-aged foreign female with no children living in Japan– I’d say that most indigenous in these parts do not exhibit the willingness to get to know others who are different (as in foreign). They don’t even carry on casual conversations with each other.

They aren’t unfriendly, actually. But it doesn’t seem like genuine friendliness it’s more like curiosity about a stranger in their midst. Taking the time to cultivate a real friendship seems to be rare. In six years I have found two that have actually gone beyond the curiosity stage. But not very far beyond.

I mused about this fact as I was standing in line at gate 14c in Atlanta waiting for my flight to Nashville. We were a small group of passengers waiting for “zone 2” to board. We didn’t know one-another but in that good ole’ American way we struck up a conversation standing there in line. It just really hit me–that never happens in Japan. Strangers do not just strike up conversations with each-other. My husband and I have talked about this fact many times.

Becoming a part-time hermit in Japan wasn’t really that difficult. Since it’s such a big part of my life I thought-why not start blogging about it? Might be interesting for some to read about.

More from the PT Hermitage later.

PT= part-time