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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (Just Knead it!)

Last week our city of Los Angeles – along with many other locations – held the epic   “Great Big Challah Bake.” Many women from all over our city gathered together in a huge room to mix the ingredients of “challah” together (flour, water, salt, sugar, oil, yeast). Together as a group, we each kneaded our dough, and then separate a piece off while making the special blessing. This is considered a “mitzvah” or good deed that Jewish women do each week in preparation for the Shabbos. The purpose of the event was to kick off a weekend called The Shabbos Project. This was the first part of a weekend of togetherness where Jewish families from all walks of life celebrated Shabbat together from Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown.

Although  I don’t make challah every week for Shabbos, I make it often enough.  But something about the experience at that “Great Big Challah Bake” inspired me.

The experience – the kneading – was invigorating. The working with the dough really felt good, somehow better than it ever felt before.

At the Challah Baking gathering with hundreds of other women, I started off with some ingredients that was prepared on a tray. (Shout out to the high school girls in our community who helped with all the preparation!).

I kneaded the mush. Some of the flour was not mixing in properly and it was a bit too gooey. Then, as I mixed more it became more cohesive and smooth, but it was a bit dry. So I added a tiny bit more oil to get it to be just the right moisture. And then I kneaded and mixed, and tossed and turned it.

Then I let it sit and rise. I was chatting with the people at my table and  listening to the inspiring speakers.  When I took a look again, it had risen quite a bit!

I took the dough home, braided it, let it rise again, and baked it. When we  ate it all the next night, it was better than challah I’d made in a long time.


And I recalled my mother telling me back in the day, “You really have to work with the dough. The more you work with it, the better it comes out.” And she’s right. (Didn’t they always tell us, “mother is always right?”)

But seriously, to me this is a huge lesson for life. The kneading and mixing of that dough is an analogy to the situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives.

When I have challenges in life, it’s helpful to work with what I’ve got and try to improve things (rather than complain!). Kind of like manipulating things, trying a creative idea, turning it over in my head, and then just letting it sit for awhile.

Then I turn around and the situation is (often) better.  Hey, everything seems easier – lighter and fluffier – to deal with, braid and then form into a delicious result, after letting things sit for awhile.

Like those small things that I sweat (sometimes): The argument with a spouse, the pain in the foot, the sadness at moving away, the adult child’s poor choice, the difficulty dealing with a colleague, the feeling snubbed by someone, the guilty feeling of saying the wrong thing, and on and on.

How many of these things can be worked with creatively rather than mixing them in the same old way every time?

And how often can we just let the stuff sit and sit until it rises ever so slowly but surely to a higher and lighter texture?

I don’t know. For me, the challah preparation is so much more than an exercise in doing a mitzvah that Jewish women have been doing for centuries. It’s so much more than exercising my fingers and healing my arthritis.

It’s a reminder to me for working through the stuff in our life, without sweating it all. Just work with it. Then let it sit. Rise. And then stick it in that oven to bake.

Sometimes I’m really surprised at the great results.

The 7 Habits of a Successful Zaidy

Mazel Tov! It’s a Zaidy!

What? Am I changing my title? Writing a new book? Having amnesia?

None of the above (yet), actually. I just decided to write about my perception of what it must feel like to be a Zaidy. Of course this is only guess-work, as one can never know what another person is feeling. Yet, still I tend to observe behaviors and patterns. Therefore,  based on my “research” on the various Zaidies (grandfathers) that I have known, I have reached a conclusion.

Here are the 7 habits and theories of successful grandfather-hood.

Disclaimer: The examples below are purely fictional. Any resemblance to a grandfather in a reader or even this blogger’s life, is purely coincidental.  And yes, this disclaimer is absolutely honest and sincere! (notwithstanding previous post “disqualifying disclaimers”)

* Zaidies take pride in their  Zaidy-hood. Just as grandmothers feel happy and proud to be in that new status of doting on her grandchildren, and spoiling them rotten, so do grandfathers. This is quite interesting, especially keeping in mind that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (or is it the other way around? I forget…). But in this case, grandfathers are equally crazy about their grandchildren, and relish the time they have with them – just like their female counterpart, the Bubby.

*A Zaidy has no qualms about being or feeling old. Unlike the Bubby, who likes to remain young and cool, the Zaidy is not interested in that sort of thing. In fact, the Zaidy ages quite UNgracefully in his role as Grandfather. He gets white hairs, wrinkles on his forehead and a pot belly, faster than one can shout the words, “Mazel Tov!” at the bris or kiddush for his first grandchild.

*A Zaidy has zero patience for diapering his grandchildren. If he was the kind to diaper his own kids when they were small, consider those skills completely forgotten. Once he puts his official Zaidy cap on, he loses all abilities to place velcro over plastic of the diaper. Finished. Kaput. Done. Don’t expect it and all members of the family will be happy.

*The best way to get a Zaidy to relax is to put a grandchild on his lap. Even if the Zaidy is eating lunch on Shabbos, or doing work at his desk during the week, or otherwise occupied, he will be most agreeable to having a small child interrupt his activity and will smile, coo and wink at that child.

*Zaidies love telling stories of their own childhood to all who listen. Good listeners often include the grandchildren. This penchant for storytelling begins around when the moms and dads of said children leave the kids with the Zaidy for babysitting. Said children are to be found on Zaidy’s lap when parents return,  well taken care of, well-storied, and well educated. No comment on the status of the cleanliness of clothes or mess in the home.

*Zaidies love to teach, to instruct, and to pass on skills. Whatever skills their own children resisted are given a “second chance” to be integrated into the next generation’s psyche. So for example, if Zaidy’s own children hated astronomy, Zaidy has another chance with his grandchildren, and he buys his first grandson a telescope at the first opportunity.

*Zaidies get quieter as they get older. The more talkative the Bubbies get, the quieter the Zaidy’s become.

There you have it – The 7 Habits of Successful Zaidy-hood. (and of course the old adage that “all  generalizations are false”… applies here – for those who find this post highly generalized!)

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