Illustration: Challah After Pesach (Image Credit: Dr. Barry Lynn © 2020)
I am sure that everyone has gotten used to the beautiful weather. In fact, the beautiful weather will continue into late Wednesday. However, a cool front will pass through Wednesday night with the possibility of showers, and then an unusually strong winter-like storm is forecast to move southward Friday and Shabbat. This storm will bring a chill to the air and local showers, as well as the possibility of thunderstorms. Perhaps, the weather will be in the news once again.
While everyone is speaking about the coronavirus (COVID-19), I'd like to bring to your attention a couple of other viruses that are worth mentioning. In fact, they have been with us for quite some time, and there doesn't seem to be a treatment or a vaccine for them.
The first is the virus of hatred. It's called ‘hatrovirus,’ and it's thousands of years old, but an outbreak infected the local Arab inhabitants about 150 years ago. Some people call it "antisemitism" or Jew hatred.
For instance, there has been ongoing coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli Government to fight the pandemic. Yet, the PA Prime Minister still found the time to blame the Jews for the need to cooperate at all. On the other side, Hamas found the time to rededicate a hospital to be used solely for coronavirus patients, despite none being reported in Gaza. Or perhaps they are building a very long attack tunnel under the hospital? In any event, if they set their priorities right, they’ll be sure to ask the Israeli government for ventilators so that tunnel builders can be tended to if needed.
The second is the virus of optimism. This ‘optovirus’ appears to have infected the Israeli leadership (and even many Israelis) at the time of the Oslo Accords (1994), but returned even more virulently after the exit from Gaza. Most recently, Israel arranged for Qatar to again deliver money to Hamas for supposed dispersal to needy families. I assume that these are the folks who would be better at studying at university (if there was one) than building tunnels. In the meantime, watch out for this virus because it causes insanity.
On the other hand, if not for our optimistic nature, who would have thought that the Jewish people could have risen from the ashes of the Holocaust? Quite frankly, the Jewish people must have been "infected" with the ‘optovirus’ back when they decided it was time to leave Egypt.
So in these times, while I am sure that there are many people who missed out on their Passover trips and outings, there was one benefit that should be mentioned. There was a complete lack of pressure to do something. You see, in Israel, we have only one day off a week, and for the religious there are actually no days off. This means that when there is an opportunity to go somewhere, we MUST go somewhere.
It felt relaxing to not have this pressure to go somewhere. It reminds me of Sundays off when I was a kid, where I could decide to do something if I wanted to do something. In the past year, we've actually had three "Sundays Off," or actually three election days.
And why don't we have the actual Sunday off each week — other than due to religious concerns about copying the non-Jewish world's "day of rest”? Or, why don't we have at least one day off a month, e.g, in the week of the beginning of the new month?
It's because the manufacturing association says that the economy (really they) will lose money. Hence, even though we just imagined that we came out of Egypt (again), we're still slaves to the powers that run our economy (and lever the government). Thus, even though we are now supposed to be free men (and women) in our own land, we are actually slaves of sorts.
Of course, I know that these days were also full of stress, and it was really great to read that the government will be "opening up" the economy. Besides getting people back to work, this means that there will be more pollution and more noise, an unfortunate byproduct of a functioning economy.
While there is still time, I suggest that you take a moment and listen to the quiet. You might find that the quiet is filled with song. In fact, this is a great opportunity for even those with a small voice, or even an off tune tweet to find a mate. People have written about a potential baby boom about nine months from now, but one shouldn't overlook all the new young men who just may find their feathered sweetheart — whose voices would have been unheard of in usual circumstances. It would be like what would have happened had I never come to Israel: no blog but especially no kids. So, keep an eye out for those birds.
We just finished Passover, and we're on our way to Shavuot. I had a thought that Passover — while a joyous holiday — is supposed to instill in us a feeling of humility. We eat matza, which is a "bread" baked before it can become leavened, or full of hot air — false pride. In contrast, on Shavuot, when we have received the Torah, which provides us with the rules to live our lives as both religious and good people, we will eat bread. We have a "right" to feel puffed up, so we eat challot. Here's a recipe for the Perfect Challah for you.
Makes one challah and five challah rolls
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tablespoon gluten (or use high gluten white flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
For a bread machine:
If using a bread machine, add the first six ingredients to the machine and then the last ingredients on top. Use the “dough” setting and let rise (usually around 1 1/2 hours total). When removing from the baking dish, use a bit of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.
For a mixer (from Dale Baranowski):
If using a mixer with a dough hook, combine wet ingredients in one bowl and dry ingredients in a second bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the mixer bowl on the bottom, followed by the dry ingredients. Start the mixer with a dough hook and begin timing with the timer when both wet and dry ingredients are combined. Knead with the dough hook for a maximum of seven minutes — no more. The dough should be slightly sticky. If removing the dough for kneading, coat hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking. If kneading by hand do not exceed 10 minutes. Let the dough rise until doubled in size.
For both mixer and bread machine:
Divide the dough into one large challah and five rolls, using roughly 2/3 and 1/3 of the dough respectively. Brush with an egg mixed with oil, and sprinkle on toppings.
Heat your oven to a temperature that is ideal for yeast to propagate. This is about 90°F/30°C, though some say as high as 97.8°F/37°C. Place dough in the oven and let it double in size again (about 30 minutes or so). Preheat the oven and bake at 180°C/356°F for 30 minutes.
To increase the recipe for two challot and some rolls, add one more egg, 1/4 cup more liquid, and about one more cup of flour. Check for consistency. The dough should be firm to the touch, but your finger should be able to indent it, without sticking to the dough.
Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.