I Bought a Challah

at 10:43 PM

I bought a challah on Friday.

I bought a challah on Friday because Friday night begins Shabbat -- the Jewish Sabbath. Because it is one of the kosher foods a Jew needs to celebrate Shabbat. Because I am a Jew.

I bought a challah on Friday.

I bought a challah on Friday, like the four Jews shopping at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. They were held hostage in that supermarket. They were killed in that supermarket.

A journalist, who spoke to their killer reported, "He was targeting Jews."

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I bought a challah on Friday.

I bought a challah at Grand Bakery, a kosher bakery in Oakland.  I could have bought one at Trader Joes. But I wanted to be in a store that said "kosher" and 'We're Open" right there on its plate glass window.

I bought a challah on Friday.

I bought a challah on Friday from Bob, the owner of Grand Bakery. He told me about anti-Jewish remarks he'd heard in a bar nearby. I told him about the time someone leaned out of a passing car, on Grand Avenue, and shouted, "Watch out Jew-boy!" Bob had been watching the news all morning. How he looked at his wife and said, "I hope all this doesn't give anyone over here a crazy idea."

Chas v'chalilah. God forbid.

I bought a challah on Friday.

I bought a challah on Friday, and it had a golden crust, and it smelled wonderful. Tonight there are four Jews who will never smell another challah.

I bought a challah on Friday. Because I'm a Jew, and live as a Jew, and -- no matter what -- will die as a Jew. Because the Torah demands that we reject the curse, reject death. That we embrace blessing, choose life. Because, like a challah baking to perfection, Jews defy gravity. We rise. Despite generations of persecution and violence -- we rise.

I bought a challah on Friday. May the Holy Blessed One let me do it next Friday. May the ugly stench of gun-powder and smoke and hate be broken, finally, by the delicate smell of freshly-baked bread.

With a Perspective, I'm Rabbi Mike Rothbaum.

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Mike Rothbaum is rabbi/educator at Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville. He lives in Oakland.

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