This past Friday I made challah for Shabbat. For whatever reason I found the bread making process very spiritual. It struck me that by making bread I was participating in a tradition that was thousands of years old. And I don’t just mean as part of the Jewish tradition, although that was an important aspect because of the type of bread I was baking. But making bread is a human tradition probably older than the Jewish people itself.
I finished baking the bread a little before I began cooking and setting the table for dinner. And then it struck me that our celebrations of Shabbat utilize the things that distinguish human beings from the other animals: fire, wine, bread, and speech (and to some extent family). How many humans did it take to figure out how to tame fire? How many to discover the fermentation of alcohol? How many to perfect the bread making process? How many to create and maintain the internet that provided my challah recipe? Etc.
Shabbat is a time to reflect on our connections: to our families, to the Jewish people, to humanity, and to nature. Our rituals and symbols remind us of our unity with all life and with the entire history of humanity. They are a celebration of humanity and all that we’ve achieved and can achieve.