Without Bread, There is No Learning: Collaborative Bread Making At MEA.

July 10, 2022

Without Bread, There is No Learning: Collaborative Bread Making At MEA.

May 29, 2023

On the Monday of our MEA journey, bread-making was offered as a creative and collaborative experience, much to the delight of all….

Well, maybe not all.

A few of us…souls who are allowed only supervised visitation with our stoves…panicked. I am one of those people. So, I panicked.

Fortunately, at MEA, panic quickly turns to introspection.

You will discover that for yourself when you visit. Like a Rube Goldberg cartoon where one feeling leads to another, triggers another, and so on until you achieve a life-changing insight or go to lunch. In my case,

I did both.

As I began the breadmaking activity, I recalled that fear is the misuse of the imagination. Could I imagine something different than a deflated mess of dough? How about, instead, a beautiful bread that bespoke the story of my Jewish people. Many call us the people of the book. But we are much more the people of the Bread.

A profound Talmudic statement is: “Without Bread, there is no Torah.”

Torah, in this context, does not mean a religious text or the word of God. It means Learning, Without Bread, there is no learning. A recognition that there is an inspirable connection between body and soul. The first needs sustenance and the second needs learning. But Bread comes first.

A ritual goes with it.

MEA is a stickler for ritual. Teddi, our yoga and meditation teacher, tells us that your morning coffee can be a ritual. In Judaism, all food, especially Bread, is preceded by a prayer of thanks.

At a communal Shabbat dinner, the Rabbi will make the prayer over challah Bread, then break it into pieces, place it in a basket, and pass the basket to each person to give gratitude. Even on Passover, when we do not eat Bread to commemorate the escape from Egypt when there was no time to leaven Bread, we remind ourselves constantly about the absence of Bread. We are a Bread essential tribe.

And now to my MEA bread selection.

Do not get too excited. MEA has no secret Shamanistic recipe (although they have a Shaman, who is also Jewish…just saying.) MEA uses the New York Times simple and foolproof recipe you can find on YouTube. It works. The collaborative element is that each group makes the dough for the one after it, so the Bread identified as yours stands on the shoulders of the group before you and is impacted by the two other compadres on your team.

My choice of Bread commemorates my favorite Holiday, Succoth. Which is the only Holiday I know that has its own app. www.localsukkah.org.

Let me explain.

The story goes that in the 40 years the Jews were wandering around the desert, they ate communally under a portable Sukkah, a lean-to structure made from four tall sticks, and a schach roof...a patchwork of leaves, tumbleweed, anything alive and growing in plant form. Today, we celebrate Succoth around Fall Harvest, and millions commemorate it by eating for seven days under a Sukkah of their own making. (You can buy a Sukkah kit at Home Depot, Walmart or online.) Watch for Sukkahs on high-rise balconies in New York City, in neat tents in Jordan, in Cotswolds’ back yards, or at the center of planned communities.

Everyone… and that means everyone… is welcome to the Sukkah.

Come in, sit, lie down, eat, and sleep. It is all free. Talk to strangers, bring the family. You can enjoy the ritual of shaking a Lulav, the branches of four different plant species, bound together, which you shake in four directions. If you are lucky, they will serve a sweet harvest of Bread. That is what I made for MEA, with cinnamon inside and on top, dried fruits marinated in a mixture of sugar and nutmeg. Want to find a Sukkah and have a bite? There is an app that gives you the address of nearly every Succah in the world, even those along the entire U.S. Interstate Highway System, open to all who show up.

And now the best part

As I was stuffing raisins, cranberries, and prunes (of course prunes) into the Bread, it came to me that we were eighteen in our group…eighteen. The Hebrew word is Chai. The same word for life. In charity, we give in multiples of eighteen, as in “I pledge twice Chai” ($36) or “one hundred Chai” ($1800). At a wedding, the couple is likely to get checks for $180 from a friend or $900 from their rich Uncle Max (who wants to show up his older brother, the father of the groom…but that is also another story.)

So, I garnished the top of the Bread with eighteen pecans… La Chaim, To Life. So, there you had it all: collaboration, creativity, humor, presentation, skill sets, and the element of surprise...like the MEA, itself.

Surprise

My Bread was tasty. In keeping with the spirit of MEA, let us change the Talmudic negative sentence into a positive one:

With Bread, there is learning.

Adriane Berg is the host of the Podcast Generation Bold: The Fountain of Truth About Aging, author, speaker and consultant on boomer and mature lifestyles.

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