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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

The Importance of Good Health




Living through the war in Israel has pushed most thoughts of Mom out of my head. I still visit each Friday and even find moments of joy with her, though I sometimes find myself ending visits much earlier than I used to, often rushing home to complete Shabbat preparations I’ve put off for lack of concentration to complete tasks, my mind so filled with stories and images of our country’s sorrow, and worry over my soldier sons.

 

What thrusts its way to the center of my attention is Mom’s health. Two weeks ago when I arrived for my visit, I found Mom asleep in her wheelchair. I jostled her a little to wake her but she wouldn’t wake. I tried again. Mom was in a profound sleep, and though I could see she was breathing, I’d never experienced that with her. I wheeled her to the nurse’s desk, and together we tried to wake her. One of the staff ran a cold cloth along her face; Mom pushed it away in her sleep. They tried giving her something to drink, which she drank in her sleep. I took her outside into the bright sun to no effect. Finally, two aides lifted her from her chair into a standing position and Mom finally woke up.

 

Phew, I thought, Mom is ok. We had a brief conversation and five minutes later, Mom was fast asleep. I came home convinced we’d entered a new phase of the illness that was stealing her away from us. I made Dad visit the next day, just in case. He reported that Mom was doing fine.

 

And there it was, my relief abutting my disappointment. If I could imagine an end for Mom, it would be to slip peacefully and gently into that good night. Not this time, though, and maybe not for a while. Mom is as alert and as talkative as ever.

 

Which brings us to my second health update. What we thought was a cut on Mom’s leg has remained red, raw, and undiagnosed for about a month. We pushed for clarity and Mom was finally taken to a skin doctor. The skin doctor took one look and referred us to a surgeon, diagnosing it as a non-life-threatening malignant tumor. What?! How did the doctor in Mom's nursing home miss this?

 

The surgeon confirmed the diagnosis, adding that if after removal, the incision area was too big to heal by itself, Mom might need a skin graft to cover it. Again, what?!

 

I know that skin grafts can be overwhelmingly painful and hard to heal. I immediately started asking questions about alternative treatments.

 

And here Dad and I clashed in our assessments. On the one hand, we must trust the doctors to know how to handle the situation. On the other, we must be clear that we would prefer Mom not to have a skin graft, especially not for cosmetic reasons. Excising the tumor is a must. How that scar heals, however, is, in my mind, up for debate.

 

We have one more pre-op appointment with the surgeon. I am praying for a good outcome.

 

 

Yes, I’ve been eating well since the war started. No, I have not been recording many of our extraordinarily tasty meals. Instead, in honor of my son and daughter-in-law’s upcoming 10th anniversary, and ten years of this blog (!!), I am reposting my challah recipe with a new, beautiful shape I’ve learned to make.

 

When you make challah every week, you start to sense how the dough will turn out. If you are trying challah for the first time, there are a few tricks you can employ to make sure it turns out well.

 

  1. Adding a little oil to your hands allows you to knead the dough without it sticking.

  2. If it is too sticky, add more flour.

  3. Whole wheat flour needs more water than white flour to become dough. Don’t be shy about adding more than the recipe calls for, but add it in small amounts.

  4. Let the dough rise in a warm place like the top of the refrigerator.

  5. If the dough hasn’t risen much after two hours, knead it, shape it, and when you’re ready to bake it, heat it on the stovetop with the oven set to 200° F or 95° C or bake at a low temp for about 10 minutes before you turn up the oven to 350° F or 180° C.

 

Shapes

My signature Challah is a series of small dough balls placed inside a circular pan. But here’s my new favorite shape: a Magen David or Jewish star. For this shape, take a medium-sized ball of dough and flatten it. Make sure the flat surface is wide enough across so that you can slice three intersecting cuts diagonally and horizontally that meet in the middle. I use a dough cutter so that each incision is of identical length. Make three cuts inside the dough. This will form six flaps or triangles. Take each triangle and fold it up and over the edges of the dough. This creates the star shape. Fill the middle cavity of the star with dough as creatively as you’d like.

 

Challah

1 kilo white or whole wheat flour (~8 cups)

1 cup sugar (can use brown sugar)

1 Tbsp yeast

1 Tbsp salt

1 egg for the dough

1 egg for brushing on top

1½ to 2 cups warm water

½ cup vegetable oil

Sesame seeds

 

Directions

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Make a large indentation in the mixture. Pour warm water, oil, and egg into a bowl. Using your hands, mix until you form a small ball of dough. Lift the dough out of the bowl and knead on a floured surface until the dough becomes uniform and smooth. Place dough back in the bowl and coat with a thin layer of oil. (This is the point at which you take “challah.” See below for more details.) Cover bowl and let rise in a warm location for two hours until dough expands in size. After two hours, knead dough until all air bubbles are gone. Divide and shape dough into braided or rounded challahs. Place on baking sheet (covered with baking paper) and let rise at least another hour in a warm location. Just before baking, brush top of challah with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until bread becomes golden brown.

 

Taking Challah

This is one of the 613 mitzvot, commandments. I learned that if you use between eight and ten cups of flour, you take challah without a blessing. If you double this recipe, take challah with a blessing. The dough is then burned or wrapped in double plastic and thrown away. Much information can be found online about taking challah. I like this site: http://www.secretofchallah.com/50708/When-to-separate-challah

 

Separate a small piece of the dough from the whole and recite the following:

 

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו הלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה

Baruch Atah Adonay Eloheinu Melech Ha'olam Asher Kidshanu B'mitzvotav V'tzivanu L'hafrish Challah

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with his Commandments and commanded us to separate challah (from the dough)

 

 

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