Shabbat is a special part of the Jewish religion, similar to the Christian tradition of going to church on Sundays. Historically, Jews were expected to fully make it a day of rest to separate it from the normal work week. This means that no work should be done from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. This was challenging back before technology started playing such a large role in our lives, but is even more complicated in today’s day and age. The idea though, is to spend the day with family and friends and in the study of Torah.
Since cooking is work, and therefore something that you are not allowed to do, the traditional food on Shabbat is cholent. Cholent is a mixture of ingredients that can withstand the long cooking time as it needs to be prepared on Friday and left to cook all day Saturday in a oven set on low or on a hotplate turned on before sundown. Typically it is beef, beans, potatoes and vegetables, but can also be made completely vegetarian. Chik Chak Shabbat, by Mara Rockliff, takes the idea of cholent and adds in the beautiful aspect of how people of all cultures can come together.
In this story, the residents in an apartment building enjoy the wonderful smell of cholent wafting in from apartment 5A every Saturday. Each apartment represents a different culture, but every Shabbat they all come together to share a meal and each others’ company. Each family has a different idea about what makes the cholent taste so good – based on the foods that they eat in their own homes.
Goldie, the woman in apartment 5A, explains to her friends and neighbors why the cholent is so important to her. She has wonderful memories as a child of making Shabbat a special time, putting aside all of the things that make your week so busy and instead focusing your attention on the people around you. Rather than rushing around in a hurry, “chik chak,” you take things slowly. Something we all could use a weekly dose of.One Saturday, the smells of cholent are missing from the apartment because Goldie had been too sick on Friday to start it. All of the other families wanted to make sure that Goldie still got to celebrate Shabbat and quickly made foods from their own cultures to share together representing the parts of her cholent that stood out the most to them. “We had to hurry, bring it right away, chik chak!” they explain to her, “[b]ut here we are together.” It wasn’t Goldie’s normal cholent, but with a shining face, she told them all that “it tastes exactly like Shabbat!”
I was so shocked when I found this book in our local library, but it is such a beautiful book that shows how cultures can all share in events together. While we all have our own special traditions, we grow by sharing them together, learning from each other, and realizing that we are not all that different after all. With my love of showing that we are all a big multicultural world that should embrace our similarities and differences, it is no wonder that this book is one of my favorites.