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Cakes on Shabbat

May 17, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter.  Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 17, 2013.

Cakes on Shabbat

Historian Muki Tzur tells a great story about Shabbat on the secular Kibbutzim in the early years of the Kibbutz Movement in Israel.[1] It was a tradition to serve coffee cakes for breakfast on Shabbat, rather than the typical kibbutz breakfast.  It became a custom for hungry, snack crazed kibbutznicks to break into the kitchen late at night to snack on the cakes that were meant for breakfast. Worried that there might not be any left over for the morning, the industrious kibbutz cooks would hide the cakes on Friday night so the marauders wouldn’t find them. Of course, the hungry kibbutz members would search for the cakes every Friday night, forcing the cooks to find better and better hiding places. Muki, in relating the story, always adds, “I have no idea where the idea of cakes on Shabbat morning came from.”

Little did the kibbutznicks realize that this custom of having cakes on Sabbath morning in the secular and largely non-religious (if not anti-religious) kibbutzim has its roots in the world of the religious Jews! Religious Jews celebrate the Sabbath by making a point of eating three major meals on the Sabbath: Friday Dinner, Saturday Lunch, and “Seuda Slishit” – the third Sabbat meal late Saturday afternoon before sunset and the ushering in of the secular week. According to Jewish Law, a “meal” is described as a repast in which bread is served, and the traditional blessing over bread is said. Notice – breakfast (the meal eaten on rising in the morning before going to the synagogue for the Shabbat morning prayer) doesn’t count as one of those three required meals. THEREFORE, it’s thought inappropriate to eat bread during this meal which is considered nothing more than an early morning snack. How do they eat this meal as a snack rather than a meal. Simple . . . don’t eat bread. In traditional homes, often cakes are served first thing in the morning rather than bread. So . . . the secular kibbutz world appropriated this custom as a nice way to start their day of rest in a Jewish way. The game of hiding the cakes is but a variation on a traditional Jewish custom.

Coming soon: Special foods for Shabbat. If you or your family or community has special food that you eat on Shabbat particularly, let me know! Write me at jhirsh@jccmilwaukee.org

Shabbat Shalom.



[1] The Kibbutz was a communal farm that was a pillar of the early Zionist movement.  Individuals owned little property, shared work, ate meals communally, and received according to their needs.