June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Connecting With Shabbos, One Carving at a Time

For many years, my wife, Lisa, and I have had a hand-painted floral wooden Shabbos and Yom Tov challah cutting board with a clear plastic top that the loaves actually sit on. It’s the rectangular plastic that protects the painted blue, red and yellow board itself.

We’ve had the cutting board for many of our nearly 40 years of marriage.

One of my post-Shabbos jobs is to wash off the cutting board, both the plastic and wood.

On a recent Sunday, I was washing the plastic cutting board top when I held it up to the kitchen window’s natural light to make sure I had cleaned off any leftover particles of crumbs.

Instead, though, I saw something that reached its way like a laser beam to my heart. And it had been sitting there in plain view for years of holy Shabbosim, yet I never saw it until that moment.

There, on this cutting board, were countless number of carving marks, or places where our challah knife cut through the bread. If that cutting board could only tell stories. It’s been the center of our table from the time our two daughters were children. They learned to say Hamotzi over this cutting board. Through those years we have had challah covers made by the girls from their school art classes. Now a challah cover made by a grandson adorns the board.

The smells of warm food, the chatter of family and friends, the divrei Torah spoken while the cutting board and challah sat as the table’s centerpiece.

That cutting board and its marks are like a journal telling the story of our family. At some times, it was an EKG measuring the heartbeat of our Jewish lives. We got to know our sons-in-law over the board. We got to celebrate the births of grandchildren, the memory of some beloved family members and memorable meals with many wonderful friends.

It’s been there for us to hear our prayers and zemirot. It’s heard many wonderful, mostly happy, but sometimes sad stories of our family.

So instead of mere cutting marks, I look at the cutting board now as a palette that has recorded each moment of a family filled with beautiful, Jewish memories.

If my wife and I hold the cutting board a certain way, we are taught at least two lessons of life.

First, we look through the plastic cutting board and see the symbolism of transparency we hopefully bring before Hashem especially during Shabbos. Hold the board at an angle and we see our reflections. At the end of a busy, hard-working week, it’s appropriate to take a deep breath, thank Hashem for Shabbos and reflect on the week.

Be it plastic covered or wooden or any other material, we all have recorded many years of joy and Jewish continuity. If there’s anyone in need of convincing, go check out your Shabbos and Yom Tov challah boards.

You won’t be surprised to see the spirituality you’ve carved out of life. Some of those carvings come with your own precious family moments. Other carvings were made by your children or if you are so blessed, by your parents and generations who came before you.

Many of us have everything from seforim to cookbooks that we’ve kept as part of our families’ personal continuity. A Shabbos cutting board doesn’t have words.

It has memories, though.

The best part: We get to add to those memories with each carving.

Good Shabbos!

By Phil Jacobs

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