Dipping Challah in Honey: Celebrate a Sweet First Year of Marriage

Old Honey Pot (6740954363)

When most of us think about Jewish wedding traditions, our thoughts turn to the preparations for and to the day of the wedding itself. But what happens afterwards?

Whether you’ve already been celebrating holidays together, or are just now establishing your shared home life, Jewish tradition marks the first year of marriage in a special way — each week at the Shabbat dinner table.

In many homes, challah, that delicious twisted Sabbath bread, is dipped in salt on the Sabbath eve as a reminder of the Temple service long ago. However, during the first year of marriage a couple can dip their Shabbat challah into honey. Being sweet, the honey celebrates the sweetness and joy of their love and of their new life together.

This tradition of dipping challah in honey takes a page from Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) when everyone dips apples into honey to express their hopes for a good and sweet new year.

I imagine you could adapt this tradition in a number of ways – perhaps, by finding other sweet spreads (Nutella, anyone?) or, after the first year of marriage, by placing a jar of honey next to your challah on the Shabbat closest to your wedding anniversary.

Planning Your Jewish Wedding: What is a Ketubah?

What is a ketubah?  Why should we think about incorporating one into our wedding?  How do we pick one out? 

Originally a ketubah, or Jewish wedding contract, was a legal document that was given by a groom to his bride. It laid out the basic commitments the husband made to his wife, and its original purpose was to provide legal protection to women during marriage and in case of divorce or widowhood.

A traditional illustrated ketubah.

A traditional illustrated ketubah.

As the roles of men and women changed, and marriage became a commitment between two equals, the role of the ketubah has evolved as well.  Today in Reform (and other progressive) Jewish practices, the ketubah is a document that expresses the commitments the wedding couple makes to each other. These commitments might include: honoring and cherishing one another; listening to one another; or acting with love and respect towards one another.

“Above all, choose a ketubah with artwork you love and with words that speak to you, frame it beautifully, and display it proudly in the home you establish together.”

I encourage you to view choosing your ketubah as an opportunity to connect with each other about what matters most.  Take some time some time to discuss what being married means you. What are the commitments you make for each other? What are you hoping as you establish your home together?  How do you plan to care for and live with love towards one another? Use your answers to these questions to pick out a ketubah text that speaks to you and your relationship.

You’ll likely notice that most of the time a ketubah will include artwork.  This is because the ketubah is not meant to be tucked away in a drawer.  It is meant to be hung in the home, as a visible reminder of the loving commitments you make on your wedding day.

If you are asking a rabbi to officiate at your wedding or commitment ceremony, it is a good idea to ask him or her to take a look at the ketubah you’re considering.  She can help make sure that the text of the ketubah is a good fit for you. And, because some of the information that a couple needs to provide is in Hebrew, she can also help guide you in filling it out.

Above all, choose a ketubah with artwork you love and with words that speak to you, frame it beautifully, and display it proudly in the home you establish together.



Mishloach Manot: Packaged Purim Love

Summer camp was a blast. Friends. Swimming Pool. Freedom. And yet… what was one of the most anticipated moments of the day?  Mail time! The counselors would go to the main office and return to the cabin, hopefully with a letter, or better yet, a care package from home. Yes, I might be far away from home.  But I was not forgotten.  Someone cared for me enough, missed me enough, to put together an entire package, box it up, and send it to me.

One of the best parts of Purim is the opportunity to send all the love of a summer camp care package, right in the middle of the year.

All ready to go! These beautiful mishloach manot baskets are for a congregational project run by my friend Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg. What a great idea to build community connection!

All ready to go! These beautiful mishloach manot baskets are for a congregational project run by my friend Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg. What a great idea to build community connection!

These packages are called mishloach manot, which literally means “sending of portions.” Mishloach manot go all the way back to the Bible.  The Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim, commands the Jewish people to observe the days of Purim “as days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22).  The idea behind mishloach manot is to (a) make sure that everyone has something special to eat for Purim and (b) increase the love and connections amongst the members of the community.

Many people enjoy baking special Purim treats for their mishloach manot packages. But this is not required.  Chocolate bars, snack food and other pre-packaged treats are fine too.

You can send mishloach manot to friends in town. Or they can be a great way to reconnect with family and friends across the country. All that is required is your love, care and thoughtfulness!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie Hamataschen: A Southern Twist on an Old Favorite


Last year our pecan tree had a bumper crop (enough to last us into this year as well).  We had bags of them lying in our home, and we were ever in search of new ways to incorporate pecans into our cooking.

As Purim approached, it seemed natural to try them in hamantaschen. Hamantaschen are three-cornered cookies baked in celebration of the Jewish festival of Purim. They are said to resemble either the ears or hat of the villain, Haman, who gets, quite literally, his just desserts by being turned into a pastry.  To pile on the puns, as we eat our hamantaschen, it’s a form of “sweet revenge.”

While hamantaschen are traditionally filled with prune or poppy-seed filling, fruit and chocolate fillings have become popular. For years our family filled the hamantaschen with chocolate chips.  Adding pecans seemed like a natural extension.

Tips for making your own chocolate chip pecan pie hamantaschen:

  • Prepare a cookie-style hamantaschen dough. For years I have relied upon the cookie style recipe published by Gloria Kaufer Green in The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook. It uses vegetable oil.  This has the benefit of making the dough inexpensive and also easy to work with. I always add a teaspoon or so of finely ground lemon or orange zest.
  • Place the dough in the fridge to harden. Don’t rush this step. I like to flatten the dough into several discs before placing them in the fridge, as this makes the rolling out stage easier.
  • Prepare a pecan pie filling, with the addition of chocolate chips. I based mine on a pecan pie filling found in the Joy of Cooking. Half the recipe was sufficient. When given a choice, I used dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup.  The recipe called for toasting the pecans, which I recommend.  I added the pecans to the mixture immediately after I toasted them, which warmed up the filling and made the chocolate chips melt slightly, to a delicious, gooey effect.
  • Prepare the dough to be filled.  Roll out the dough until it is between one-quarter and one-eighth of an inch thick.  Either use a clean, floured surface or place the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Use a three-inch circle cutter (or a drinking glass that is as close to the size as you can get) to cut out as many circles as you can.  Roll extra dough into a ball and  repeat the process until almost all the dough has been turned into circles.
  • Fill and shape your hamantaschen.  Place a teaspoon or so of filling into each circle (don’t overfill!).  Using slightly damp fingers, pinch a top “corner” of the dough. Then, imagining an equilateral triangle, fold up the bottom “side” and pinch the bottom two “corners.”
  • Place on a cookie sheet and bake.  Follow your dough recipe for timing and temperature