Every Friday afternoon, I smuggle a freshly baked challah into my house after I pick it up from a local woman who bakes challot fresh on Friday mornings. . I hide it in my coat and put it on the counter when Isabelle isn’t watching. If she sees it, she will want to eat it. And we have to wait ’til sundown to bless the candles, her, the fruit of the vine, and lastly the challah.
This past Friday we were driving back to Pennsylvania from Washington, DC. I called ahead to Marvelous Market and had them hold a raisin challah for me. Isabelle was napping with my mom in the car when I went in to pick it up. I placed it in the backseat, where it was out of her line of vision, so she wouldn’t see it even if she woke up on the drive home.
But once we got home, I wasn’t thinking about my usual Friday afternoon smuggling-in ritual. Instead, I was thinking about unloading the car and getting ready for dinner quickly. Therefore, Isabelle saw the braided contraband in my hand as I put it on the kitchen island. She cried. I comforted her. She calmed down, but began crying again. Maybe she’s hungry, I thought, as I placed her in her booster seat for an unprecedented before-dinner snack. She didn’t want to eat. In fact, the crying got louder and louder.
“What’s she crying about?” my mom asked me. After all, she had just gotten changed and had been offered a snack. What else is there when you’re two!??!
“I don’t know!”
“Maybe she wants to play,” my mom said.
I took her out of the booster and let her play. However, a few minutes later she was crying again. I lifted her back into the booster and offered another snack. The crying continued.
My husband came home from work and barely got a greeting from Isabelle. Seeing as he hadn’t seen her for over 36 hours since we were in DC, I knew something was up. As he took off his coat it dawned on me. The challah!
“Isabelle, do you want to do Shabbat?” (I hate saying “do Shabbat,” but that seems to be the lingo that’s been used when it comes to talking about the Friday night blessings we do at home before dinnertime.”)
“(Ye)sss!”she said. The crying immediately ceased.
“Oh my G-d!” I exclaimed. “You saw the challah when you came in and you must’ve wanted to do Shabbat this whole time! Do you want to help me get ready for Shabbat?”
“(Ye)sss!” she repeated with a smile.
“Well, let’s go!” I reached out my hand to her as soon as I unbuckled her from her booster seat. “Let’s get ready for Shabbat! Help me get the prayer book,” I said as I led her into the great room. I grabbed it from the shelf and said, “Would you liked to carry it?”
She reached out her hands and said “(Ye)sss!” Said prayer book was a bit heavy, which meant she dropped it. “That’s okay. But when you drop a prayerbook you have to kiss it like this,” I said kissing the spine. “You do.”
She planted a kiss on the prayer book as delicately as I did. I removed the dust jacket — she doesn’t like them — and handed it back to her. “Put it on the island,” I said as she walked into the kitchen holding on to it tightly. She stood on her tippy toes and tried to reach, but couldn’t, so I assisted.
Next we retrieved the candles and Kiddush cup from their places. I found my husband’s kipah and had her hand it to him.
Everyone kept moving. My husband cleaned out the remaining wax from the candlesticks, my mom located the matches, I filled the Kiddush cup. Isabelle watched as we swarmed around the kitchen getting everything ready quickly to keep her happy.
And she was, until I started singing “Shalom Aleichem,” which was a new tradition my husband and I agreed to start right after she turned two. By the fourth verse the crying ceased. While she didn’t cover her eyes to bless the candles, she watched their flames dance. I could tell she was relieved Shabbat, which has become a ritual she holds dear, had arrived. Once she saw the challah in the clear bag, she knew it was time since she usually never sees it (since it hides under a challah cover until we’re ready to bless it). Therefore, crying was the only was she was able to use to tell us that she was ready for Shabbat.
This week, life is back to normal. We’re here in Pennsylvania for the next several Shabbats. Therefore, I will once again smuggle the challah into the house this Friday afternoon.