It has become popular for cooks, professional and home trained, to declare that the secret ingredient in their recipes is “love”. Dahlia Abraham-Klein has, in fact, woven love throughout her book “Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months. I quote:”In the sanctuary of our homes, we are graced with a special capacity to meditate and to converse with God while kneading dough. Love and faith is infused into the challah, which then serves as both physical and spiritual sustenance for our families. We are the bread winners!”
One must read this book carefully. It is far more than a challah cookbook. The erudite and careful way, the author expresses herself forces you to read slowly to try to take in what she is expressing. Dahlia speaks about the fatigue a woman feels in her arms as she kneads the challah; which she recommends as a way to connect ourselves to the generations before electric mixers were invented. Kneading forces us to slow down and enjoy its rhythm which brings about a feeling of peace and mental health. Meditation as a way of “elevating the action” which “brings us closer to God” is discussed in detail- a different meditation and intention for mitzvot for each month.
The author points out that Rosh Chodesh is traditionally a woman’s holiday and so it is a natural time for women to get together and participate in challah baking and contemplation; but she also points out that, in fact, this book can be used as simply a challah cookbook.
Personally, when I received this book in the mail and started to read it, it made me nervous. I don’t see myself as a particularly spiritual person; and I am not a challah baker. I’ve made challah a couple of times; but usually, I’m so swamped with preparing meals for family and guests for Shabbat, that I order in my challah. “Spiritual Kneading”is seductive. It appeals to your intellect, your heart and your soul- and gives you recipes. There are recipes for specific challahs for every new month, for every holiday plus a few basic ones thrown in. Every challah has a specific shape and very detailed directions for forming it. I made the rose shaped challah for Adar Bet and I look forward to making the Cheese Loaf and Three-Ringed Chocolate Challah-just to name a few.
I encourage everyone to buy this book; but you won’t exactly know how to catalog it. Do you place it with Jewish cookbooks, books on bread, or do you slide it in with books that deal with the women’s movement, meditation, or Jewish philosophy? Dahlia Abraham-Klein has created a very special volume that can give the reader even more than the author promises-if you let it.