Emor and 12 Challahs

Priestly Vestments – by Laya Crust

This week’s haftarah contains the words of the prophet Ezekiel. He reminds the Cohanim of their responsibilities and describes the clothing they will wear when they serve in the rebuilt Temple of Jerusalem. This painting shows the High Priest in his robes. In the background text are two archeological finds believed to be part of the High Priest’s ceremonial wear. One is a tiny gold bell, the other an ivory pomegranate.

The Torah reading mentions the duties of the Cohanim and rules about ritual purity, marriage, and funerals. The parashah also refers to ceremonial bread. On Shavuoth, “You shall bring from your towns two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of choice flour, baked after leavening, as first-fruits to HaShem.” (Leviticus 23:17) Two chapters later, we read that twelve loaves of bread were baked each week. “You shall take choice flour and bake of it twelve loaves… Place them on the pure table before the Lord in two rows, six to a row… He shall regularly arrange them before the Lord every Sabbath day—it is a commitment for all time on the part of the Israelites.” (Leviticus 24:5, 6, 8)

The painting below shows the special table for the twelve loaves of bread on the left-hand side.

Sacred Vessels- Laya Crust (Golden vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Based on a medieval Spanish illumination from 1299 Perpignan, Aragon.)

Aaron, the High Priest, was responsible for lighting the ceremonial lamps: “Aaron shall set them [the eternal light]… [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord regularly. It is a law for all time throughout the ages.” (Leviticus 24:3). The painting above shows the seven-branched menorah that Aaron lit.

As a Jewish woman who regularly bakes challah and lights candles every Friday night, connecting our weekly Shabbat practices with our biblical text is beautiful. There are interesting traditions about the shape of challahs for different holidays and celebrations like the “shissel challah” after Pesach, the “ladder challah,” the “hand challah,” and more.

Here is a classic challah recipe from Carole Cohen in Skokie, Illinois, that you may enjoy.

Carole’s Challah ……………………..yield: 2 challahs

1 pkg. of yeast……………………….1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup warm water

5 cups flour……………………………..1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil …………………….approx. 1 1/2 cups warm water

Soften the yeast and sugar in 3/4 cup warm water- it should start “bubbling.” Sift together flour and salt. Add oil, yeast mixture, and beaten egg. Mix thoroughly, adding about 1 1/2 cups of warm water for smooth kneading. Knead well. Place in a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let stand for 45 minutes- 1 hour until it doubles in size. Knead again. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough in half. Divide each ball into three pieces, roll into strips, and braid. Place on a large cookie sheet or pan (covered with parchment paper if desired) for 1 hour. Just before baking, brush with diluted egg yolk. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 350o F until golden brown, 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Below is a delightful youtube video. Einat ben Ari demonstrates different ways to braid decorative challahs.

Here is another challah braiding video from “Jewlish.”

We turn our home into a place honouring God and our traditions on Friday nights. In our own small world, we carry on the sanctity of the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat bread, and Shabbat observances.

Have a safe, healthy, and relaxing Shabbat- with delicious challah.

Shabbat Shalom, Laya

News about the upcoming book, ILLUMINATIONS, will be coming soon! The book includes 82 paintings plus commentary created for the haftarot of the year. I can’t wait to share the details with you !!

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