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Grounding Kings and Presidents

By Paula Stern
6/26/2012, 8:06 PM

I'll start off by saying that I really don't understand where some of these titles come from - but what can I do...I'm just the typist here. My brain says to the fingers - type it and they do...so don't blame them, please.

I didn't walk among kings last week, but I certainly walked among presidents, ministers, generals, former generals, and ambassadors. They walked somehow above the rest of us, occasionally stopping to speak to someone here or there. They were hustled in, hustled out. We were the audience, the children - told to stand (as if we did not know); told not to leave our seats for security reasons. We were a bit awed, a bit nervous. They are but men, flesh and blood but when someone like Gabi Ashkenazi stands a short distance away, you hesitate to approach. When Peres comes into the room, your mind fills with questions and you wonder if you should ask. I did approach; I did ask. I pushed myself by reminding myself that I have as much right to share in the sunshine of this world as they do, to question what my country is doing and where it is going. It is the future of my children; I am their mother.

After two full days, I was ready for the quiet that is my home. I woke Friday morning to the task of making challah and as I kneaded the dough, I thought about the week. My success of the day was not measured in international agreements brokered among diplomats and journalists, but on whether my dough would rise and if the bread that would be baked would be sweet enough.

Hours later, the table set, two of my children received their father's blessings and we watched as he cut the bread and gave each of us a piece. It was delicious - this fantastic recipe I got from Lauren months ago. I've changed it a bit - added mostly whole wheat flour, increased the honey by a bit. I braided six strands, which makes a lovely loaf - and we enjoyed it and it was as I was kneading and later as I was eating it that I thought about how we are grounded, as kings and presidents are not.

More than the simple task of making bread is the concept here. We can walk among presidents and kings all week long, but it is only as we ground ourselves on Friday and enter the Sabbath do we approach the True King. These men who spoke have voice but no real power. They do not determine the present and future of Israel, nor do the rockets that hit our land, even on Shabbat. As we entwine the strands of dough, we are entwined with our land, our people, our faith and most of all, with God. It is this act, of preparing the challah and caring for our families that Jewish women have done for centuries, millennium.

All week long, we can forget that. We can listen to politicians suggest that Israel can make peace if is surrenders this, concedes this, gives up that, forgets that. We can listen to academics play with lines on a map wondering if they notice, perhaps, that the line just happens to go through someone's living room, and we can wonder about whether this man's perceived crisis is really more about him than about us. And then we can come home, add yeast and flour, eggs and water and honey and salt, We can watch the dough rise, a promise that Shabbat is coming soon.

And we can bake it, letting the house fill with the most amazing scents. We can thank our married children as they stop by to bring a salad for us, or as they call and wish us a peaceful Shabbat. We put the freshly baked bread on the table, light the Shabbat candles as we close our eyes and pray for peace. No, not the peace of these kings and politicians, but true peace that comes from the heart and in the heart.

And then, as the candles burn and we sit around, we have that first taste of the challah and know we have been truly blessed, truly grounded and truly honored to walk with the King.