Challah: Background information when reading The Souvenir Museum

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Souvenir Museum

by Elizabeth McCracken

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken X
The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2021, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2022, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
Buy This Book

About this Book

Challah

This article relates to The Souvenir Museum

Print Review

Challah loafIn "Birdsong from the Radio," a story in Elizabeth McCracken's collection The Souvenir Museum, the main character fills the void of her missing children by consuming a loaf of challah daily. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread that is usually braided. It can come in many different forms, but it is often made as a soft, fluffy yeast bread, similar in consistency to brioche or Greek tsoureki, that is coated with an egg wash. Some varieties of challah are made with a topping, such as poppy or sesame seeds. 

Bread has been important in Jewish traditions for centuries. The word "challah" refers to the Hebrew word for "portion," and the name comes from a commandment in the Torah to give the first of a bread's dough to God as a gift. Observant bakers will burn a small piece of dough while baking challah to fulfill this offering. While the original bread used in this tradition was a flatbread, likely more similar to what would be recognized as pita bread today, the tradition is carried on in the baking of challah. Additional Romanized variations for "challah" include "hallah," "challot," "khale" and "chałka," among others. 

Challah plays a central role in Jewish observances and rituals. For example, for the meal on the eve of the Sabbath (Friday), two loaves of challah are put on the table. These are a symbolic remembrance of the double portion of manna (food said to have fallen from heaven to the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt) given to the Jewish people by God before the Sabbath to sustain them throughout this day of rest. A blessing over the Challah (the Hamotzi blessing) is recited at the beginning of the meal. The loaves are placed between a tablecloth or cutting board and a special Challah cover to symbolize the dew above and below the manna that preserved it. 

Challah is made in various sizes and shapes. Braided Challahs, which may have three, four, or six strands, are the most common. A common structure is three braids that symbolize truth, peace, and justice; while the twelve humps created by braiding either one large or two small loaves recall the miracle of the 12 loaves, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Round Challah loaves, where there is no beginning and no end, are baked for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to symbolize continuity. Sweet round challahs with honey or raisins symbolize sweetness for the New Year.

Traditional challah loaf, by svetlanabar via Pixabay

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Souvenir Museum. It originally ran in April 2021 and has been updated for the January 2022 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Shadows of Berlin
    Shadows of Berlin
    by David R. Gillham
    David R. Gillham's latest novel, Shadows of Berlin, opens in New York City in 1955. Rachel, a young ...
  • Book Jacket: Trust
    Trust
    by Hernan Diaz
    Hernan Diaz's Trust is a work of fiction that is itself comprised of four very different works ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Not Do That Again
    Let's Not Do That Again
    by Grant Ginder
    We have all dealt with inescapable, insufferable family members at some point, and the ones who say ...
  • Book Jacket: Atomic Anna
    Atomic Anna
    by Rachel Barenbaum
    If you had the opportunity to prevent one of the world's most horrific disasters, would you? What if...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Book Woman's Daughter
by Kim Michele Richardson
A mesmerizing and beautifully rendered tale of strong women, bravery, and resilience.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Metropolis
    by B. A. Shapiro

    "An ingeniously plotted hybrid social/suspense novel. Shapiro hits it out of the park."
    —Shelf Awareness

Who Said...

In youth we run into difficulties. In old age difficulties run into us

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T S's T Limit

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.