It was a busy Tuesday morning in the Jaffe household, and since I prepare early for Shabbos by chatzos, Shabbos was on my mind. I put the ingredients into my mixer for my challah, which I often make ahead for the freezer. As the mixer was doing its thing, I reached for the phone. Mistake number one: When making challah, focus on the challah; let the voice mail get the phone.
On the other end of the phone was what I considered bad news. A project that I had invested a number of months into was ending prematurely, at the potential loss to me of several thousand dollars. Mistake number two: Where did my bitachon go? I got very busy making phone calls and trying to fix the problem.
I got myself so emotionally worked up, I decided to go exercise, to release some of the adrenalin flowing through my body. Then, once I was out of the house, there were some errands to run, and four hours later, I returned to my home to pick up mycomputer and briefcase before leaving for my teaching job at Yeshiva at IDT.
When you walk in the front door of my home, the ground level is all one large room. My kitchen at the back of the room opens up to the dining area, which flows into the living room and my office, all of it within sight of the front door as I stepped into the lobby. From across the room, my challah dough called out to me.
YOU FORGOT ALL ABOUT ME!
Yes, I did. The mixer had stopped mixing hours ago, but the dough in the mixer continued to rise, ballooning out of my mixer to the size of a small beachball. I couldn’t stop laughing, when I wasn’t chiding myself about what kind of a woman are you to forget all about your challah dough?
I was on my way to work with only minutes to spare, so there was no time to bake the dough. I punched it back down into a small enough dough ball to fit into the largest mixing bowl I have, covered it with saran wrap, apologized once again to the dough for neglecting it, and placed it in my spare refrigerator to rise for the rest of the day while I was teaching in yeshiva. I braided and baked the dough that night and hoped that this unplanned experiment in rising would work.
That Shabbos, we enjoyed the best challah I have ever made. Apparently, it forgave me for my neglect, enjoyed it’s extended rising time, and produced for our family a taste of ganeden. Later on that week, I was asked to give over a shiur on the chazzak phone line, (personal story 105#) which I readily agreed to do. Incorporated into my shiur was the story of my rising dough, which I saw as a metaphor for all those times when I am busy at my computer, and one of my children is requesting my attention. I asked the question in my shiur: To what extent to our family members feel they need to act like this dough did in my mixer, rising and getting larger and larger and essentially shouting across the room: “You’ve neglected me!” before we pay attention.
It was the Sunday following my recording of the shiur when I listened to my recorded shiur for the first time, to ensure that I had given over what I wanted to share. At this time, my recently barmitzvahed son was working a few feet away from me on his school book report. The shiur was coming through the speaker phone on my desk, and just as I was telling over the story of the dough rising, Elijah said, “Mommy, can you come here? I need help with my book report.”
I didn’t know how to pause the shiur’srecprdomg, and I didn’t want to have to start listening to it all over again, so I raised my finger signaling one moment, and said to him, “As soon as I finish listening to this shiur.” At that very moment, my words echoed through the speaker phone for all to hear in the Jaffe household: “How often do we focus on our work, or our phone calls, or whatever it is, while our children are trying to get our attention, and they have to rise bigger and louder, like the challah dough, shouting at us, “Pay attention to me.”
My son heard these words, and he calmly said, “Mommy, I think we are having one of those moments right now.”
Oh, yes we were.
Azriela Jaffe is a holocaust memoir writer privately commissioned by families who wish to document the surviving matriarch or patriarch’s life story for future generations. She is the author of 24 books, and also founded the worldwide movement for bringing more kavod into Shabbos by preparing by chatzos on Friday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.azrielajaffe.com