Off the Pulpit

Throw That In The House!

Growing up in my parent’s home, there was only one thing that was permitted to be thrown inside the house — challah. 

Each Friday night after the blessing on the bread, my father would break up parts of the challah and throw it around the table. He began with my mother, who became very adept at snagging her piece. Some memorable catches were executed, as well as some incomprehensible misses. But by that simple gesture we began each Shabbat meal in an atmosphere of joy.

Religious ritual is often solemn. Solemnity has its place. Butsimcha shel mitzvah — the sheer exhilaration of the mitzvoth — can be the most potent of religious experiences. At the end of each Shabbat morning we bring the children up on the Bimah. They get to look out over the congregation and the parents get to see their kids along with all the other children attending the service. Is it a little chaotic? At times. But is it joyful? Always.

Judaism is not only serious when it is straight-faced. Whenever I feel myself getting unnecessarily rigid, I just remember the mischievous twinkle in my father’s eyes during the windup before the Shabbes pitch.