It had been a good few weeks since I had last visited my parents. Things were strained between us, what with their attempts to deal with my new life via long phone conversations alternating between berating me and crying for my soul.
But I finally caved to their requests and pleas to visit, so here I was. Not on a shabbos – I wasn’t ready to go through that rigmarole again. Just a few hours, a nice dinner with my family – that I could do.
On my way out, my mother offered – as she’d become accustomed to doing – to give me all kinds of food from her freezer. I declined. I didn’t need to lug frozen kosher chicken with me back to Manhattan, and I really didn’t think eating properly slaughtered and kashered chicken would have any effect on my soul the way she seemed to hope.
“Oh, wait, one thing I do need to give you.” She went to the freezer and pulled out a bag.
It was a collection of challah slices.
Apparently, my father had been cutting slices of challah for me at every shabbos meal, and my mother had been freezing them.
Bemused, I took the bag and brought it back to my apartment. I didn’t understand the impetus for this practice.
When my siblings left my parents’ house for yeshiva or to move in with their spouses, my parents didn’t continue cutting challah for them. Of course, my siblings were still making or attending shabbos meals where they did get challah, whereas I wasn’t.
But there was no concept of kedusha in the challah, and I had never heard of this idea of saving challah for someone who isn’t at the shabbos table! I couldn’t help the horrible thought: If I had died, would they continue cutting challah for me then, too?
I recognized their desperate attempt to keep up the pretense that I was still connected to Jewish practice. For a moment or two, I thought about eating the challah to honor that.
But then I threw out the bag of sad challah slices.