I am a six-strand loaf of braided challah bread,
delivering myself on a silver platter
to the party of life, for social consumption.
Each strand of the loaf is
a different flavor, a distinct essence,
folded together to create me.
Each vital limb combines to create
my beautiful whole, like a mountain range
with twelve variant peaks leading to Sinai.
Each elevation of the braid equals twelve,
bending into valleys and crests that recall the
trials of the tribes of my ancestors.
Here is my recipe.
Strand 1) Plain
What you see is what you get.
I am honest. I am direct and clear.
I mean what I say.
Strand 2) Everything but the Bagel
I am steadfast in everything I do,
in every direction I point myself,
with a ripple effect of aftershocks.
When I walk, my footsteps quake and echo.
A bit of everything, I am abundant.
Strand 3) Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes, Feta, Garlic, and Herbs
I am a complex, multilayered blend
of sweet, smooth, and savory spice.
Prepared with patience, bred by
the struggles and joys of life,
serving humility and wisdom.
Strand 4) Cinnamon and Sugar
I am extra sweet, featuring delicate
subtle nuances, with a crunchy bite.
Infused with spice of our heritage,
I am a comforting flavor
of memory and tradition.
Spice of slavery, spice of Exodus,
fragrance of my lover’s clothes.
Anoint yourself with my oil;
use my recipe to sanctify your soul.
Praise the food of freedom.
Strand 5) Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
I am mouth-watering, full of surprises.
My lovers indulge in me; I indulge in myself.
I sing. I celebrate the songs of Paradise
that echo from the mountaintops.
Strand 6) Za’atar
My flavors are bold and intense,
intelligently textured, refined.
Challah baking is ritual making,
every Shabbat, a dance in thyme.
My lungs expand with
the zesty air of fresh herbs,
the breath of life, the bread of life.
God’s voice in a column of light.
Ignite the fire of my soul.
Take a pinch of me to
blaze in ritual offering.
Inhale the aroma of ascension.
Braid my six diverse strands into one body,
then let me rise up again before baking.
With the bread of ceremony, I will ascend.
All portions united are not
alone from our Creator’s hands.
I will grow with truth of self
as my unique branches begin
to expand into each other,
a tangle of variations on the same me.
My limbs extend to reach Zion.
I grow fruit of wisdom.
I am a Tree of Life, I am Mother.
Each strand is elastic,
intertwining with each other
in a warm woven lover’s embrace.
After baking, I become
one nourishing vibrant loaf
of freedom leavened, of manna manifested
in the image of God.
Allow me to cool before serving.