Sabbath Bread

In her book, Mudhouse Sabbath*, Lauren Winner writes about how the Sabbath shapes the entire week. In Exodus, God tells us to remember the Sabbath. And in Deuteronomy, we are told to observe the Sabbath. Winner says that, for Jews, the first half of the week is spent remembering the preceding Sabbath while the second half is spent preparing for or observing the Sabbath to come.

We have three kids all under eight years old. Like everyone says, the time flies! We cannot believe how quickly it goes, yet meeting their daily physical needs can still be draining. And those physical needs do not seem to take a break for remembrance or observance of a special day of the week.

I have been a part of a Bible study for the past five years where we intensely study a different book of the Bible each year. One of the recurring personal lessons for me has been about the Sabbath. I have noticed it repeated throughout the Old and New Testament as a command, not just a good idea. So we have been trying to incorporate observance of the Sabbath into our home, even with young children whose needs do not stop on Sundays.

For a year or so, Nancy Sleeth and I were able to meet to talk and walk through the roads and park of our small town. Now, Nancy lives a bit further away so our walks are sporadic and I miss her. But whenever I get a chance to be with her, we usually quickly gravitate to the topics of children, the Sabbath, food or a combination of all three—which I consider to all be areas of her expertise. I love any chance to dialog with her on some specifics of keeping the Sabbath with our family.

Nancy has encouraged us to make the Sabbath “look different” from the rest of the week. Using that idea we have adopted a bit of a Sunday routine that begins with Sabbath Bread. I partially got the idea from Nancy’s Jewish heritage of challah bread made the day before the Sabbath. Our version of Sabbath Bread is a simple whole wheat bread recipe that I turn into a loaf of cinnamon-raisin swirl bread. I typically make it during the second part of the week as a way to prepare for or observe the Sabbath.

On Saturday night we leave the bread on the counter in a bag. We also set out some butter. A few times I have made a special cream cheese icing to spread on the bread. Yum! Now that our oldest is such a great reader, we can leave notes for her to read to her brothers. We remind them about the Sabbath Bread for breakfast, ask them to help each other and to put their dirty plates in the sink. (Since it is Sunday, they do not have to put their dishes in the dishwasher—another attempt for Sundays to “look different.”) Sometimes this intentional difference has even allowed us to sleep in past 7am—a small miracle!

Many weeks, we even have a few slices of Sabbath Bread left for Monday’s breakfast serving as a tangible reminder of the day before—remembering our Sabbath. While we are still practicing new ways to make the Sabbath “look different” from the rest of our week, Sabbath Bread has been a good starting point for our family.

Here is a link to the recipe that I use most often. I adapt the recipe to make two loaves at a time with one being for sandwiches. The other becomes the cinnamon-raisin loaf that is our Sabbath Bread. I generally use all whole wheat bread flour from a local mill for all the flours used in the recipe.

By Bethany Barker
*(Winner, Lauren F. Mudhouse Sabbath Paraclete Press. 2003. pp. 1–13)

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