The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bread of the Jewish Mystical Tradition?

rainbowbrown's picture

Bread of the Jewish Mystical Tradition?

Hi everyone.  I'd like to ask for help in getting some rather odd information.  You see I go to this university called Humboldt State University and this semester I'm in this class called Jewish Mystical Tradition.  Now we have a research assignment due at the end of the semester and I've decided to do mine on bread.  I'll be gathering as much information as I can and putting it into a sort of report format, it will include recipes and discussions on shaping and so on.  Also I'll be making all the breads I discuss and including photographs.  Now bread in relation to Judaism is a pretty easy subject to find information on.  Bread in relation to Jewish Mysticism or Kabbalah is a bit more difficult.  I have Maggie Glezer's _A Blessing of Bread_ and it has offered me a great amount of inspiration for this project.  I'm having some good luck so far finding things to include in my project like symbolic shapes, symbolic ingredients, miztvot and prayers that go along with bread making, but I thought I'd see if anyone here can offer any info of any kind.  If you can offer any knowledge or direct me to any sources it would be much appreciated.  Many thanks.


nbicomputers's picture

now i realy don't know how this would fit but as a small boy a remember that when ever a a family would move into a new home a small bag would be the first thing placed into the home.

it contained a penny - so the family would allways money,  salt  for the spice of life and some bread as they should never go hungry.

i am jewish but thats about as far as it goes 

this class sounds like is not exactly a sleeper sounds like a lot of work

how many credits?

Elagins's picture

18 is the gematria (numerology) equivalent of 'chai' (life). so when we moved to a new home, like Norm's family, my grandmother gave us bread, salt and a little Alka-Seltzer jar (tall, cylindrical) with 18 cents in it, which we kept in the corner of a kitchen cupboard.


PS, I assume you know the tradition of 'taking challah' -- setting a side a small piece of dough before the bread is shaped as a symbolic temple offering and sanctification of the bread?

rainbowbrown's picture

Yep, I've got a good wealth of information and ideas regarding "taking challah", thanks. Gematria is big in Mysticism so I found a shaped challah, yud bet, which is 12 rolls baked together. Its meant to be ripped and it represents the 12 tribes. It's mentioned in A Blessing of Bread. Thanks for your input! Again, very helpful.

rainbowbrown's picture

Thanks for that, I'll look into it.  Its a great class and a fair amount of research related work.  It's actually taught by a rabbi, which is pretty neat.  It's worth 3 units which is the standard for most non-science or math related classes.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Tommi. 

You got my curiosity going. I couldn't find anything exciting in my own library, just lots on superstitions related to bread. Then I did a Google search and found lots. Try searching on " bread jewish mysticism." 

If you come up with anything interesting, I'd like to hear about it.  


Marni's picture


It is traditional to make round challahs (or challot) for Rosh Ha Shannah- the Jewish New Year- symbolic of many things including the circle of life and the calendar's repetitions.  It's sometimes made with small balls baked together as you mentioned.

You might want to think about matzah too as a jewish bread and its mysticism.  I'm not sure where to go with that, but it might add to the project. 


Oldcampcook's picture

As an additional source of information, you might check out the Jewish Food group in Yahoo.  They seem to have a wealth of information and have members from all over the world. 

I lurk there because I find so many of their discussions and recipes fascinating.


bshuval's picture

Such as Sufganiyot (jam filled yeasted doughnuts) that are eaten during Hannukah, and Hamentashen eaten at Purim (Haman's ears, triangular filled cookies/bread; there are two varieties: either with a yeasted dough or with short pastry). 

A sweet, raisin studded Challah is eaten on Rosh Hashana. Also, honey cakes are popular during Rosh Hashana. Cheese cakes (Israeli style, which is much much lighter than the heavy and rich NY style) are eaten on Shavuot (but these are not breads), as are other foods with a high dairy content. 

That said, there are other special breads that I consider "Jewish": Babka, Kranz cake (a yeasted cake, filled with chocolate or other filling. Its shape is interesting: it is often shaped into a long strand that is cut down the middle and twisted, revealing layers of dough and filling), mandelbrot (to me this ties in with Tu Bishvat, where we eat many dried fruits and nuts, and this cookie is chock-full of those). But perhaps I think of these as Jewish because many Israelis are from European descent, and they may not be really Jewish. 

However, the thing that I don't understand is what you mean by "mysticism". This is such a broad term, and I have no idea what you mean by that.  

My bread blog:

KipperCat's picture

Here's a link to the Wiki article on Kaballah, aka Jewish mysticism. 

RFMonaco's picture

Hi bshuval,

Just saw your site and see that you enjoy Origami. Do you design also? I love the intricate ones, ala "King" Lang etal but haven't tried designing yet.


bshuval's picture

But not very prolifically. Maybe two or three models a year.

I don't design complex animals. I design various geometric objects and bowls.

I'm glad to hear that you enjoy origami (and also that you enjoy my blog). I have a few other origami friends that also bake bread.  


My bread blog:

rainbowbrown's picture

Thanks everyone, this has been quite helpful. 

Bob: That'll be a great resource that I hadn't thought about, thanks.

bshuval: The class I'm in is going through its explanation of Jewish mysticism as a style of interpretation of sacred texts and ancient practices of mental acsent, visions and such. Things ultimately relating to the Zohar, I believe, which we haven't gotten to yet. A general name for the whole thing is Kabbalah, I believe, which also hasn't come up yet.  At any rate I'm trying to pick out the relation bread has to it all.  So far mostly its been in the shaping.  And there are some really incredible shapes too.