(Photo/Wikimedia-Przemysław Wierzbowski CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo/Wikimedia-Przemysław Wierzbowski CC BY-SA 4.0)

A rose is a rose — unless it’s a challah

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My friends are all busy making plans for New Year’s Eve. But not me. I’m still savoring this year’s Jewish New Year, which was made especially sweet thanks to my non-Jewish husband.

I had been feeling under the weather for a few days, and so was behind the curve in my holiday meal preparations. Come the morning of the Rosh Hashanah, I made a mad dash to the market for matzah ball soup ingredients, the entrée and, of course, challah.

Arriving at 8:15 a.m., I headed straight to the bakery section. No challah.

“Sorry, ma’am. None came in on the truck.”

He recognized it was no small deal, but said there was nothing he could do. He acknowledged my plight and wished me a happy holiday. The end.

The end for him, but not for me.

As an East Bay resident who relocated to Reno last year, I wasn’t sure where to turn, so I called one of the city’s fanciest bakeries, a European-named bakery. The woman who answered the phone thought “challah” was my last name. As for the bread, “Never heard of it.”

No challah for Rosh Hashanah? Unthinkable. I hadn’t started out that day thinking I’d score a round challah, and I had no illusions about securing a raisin challah, but no challah at all? This was a crisis.

Now, I am not generally one for public displays of emotion, but there in aisle 7 of Whole Foods, I burst into tears.

Then I called my husband to relate the challah catastrophe. No, that’s not accurate. I said he was to blame for the crisis because he had “forced” me to move to this challah-forsaken hick town, his beloved childhood home. Then, I declared, a la the Blues Brothers, I was off on a “mission from God,” intent to search market by market for challah.

So began my challah hunt. At the next market, I was greeted by a look of polite puzzlement by a bakery staffer who had never heard of challah. This was my third strike out. How could people not know of challah? Why wasn’t our tribe represented in the culinary aisles of Reno’s markets and bakeries?

Trudging to the car, my phone rang. My husband announced in triumph, “I’ve found one! Come home. I’ll pick it up.”

Yes, after placing eight calls, Jon had reached a wholesale bakery, a supplier to area hotels. The person answering the phone took pity on my hard-pressed husband, working so hard to please me. The kind sales representative put him on hold and ran out to a truck pulling out of the driveway, en route to making the last delivery of the day, to reclaim a challah. She even told Jon that saving a challah for him was a mitzvah. He, in turn, told her she probably saved the marriage, as well.

Jon returned like a proud papa, cradling the precious, golden-braided bundle in his arms. He had the biggest smile on his face, pleased to have secured the bread. Proud to prove that “The Biggest Little City in the World” was worldly enough to provide challah — even at the last minute.

I have received dozens of bouquets of roses from this man through the decades of our marriage. Also candy, jewelry and a host of delightful other gifts.

But this challah was the sweetest, most loving gift of all.

The little crisis happened on Jon’s busiest workday of the week, a Monday, when his schedule is so packed with meetings and clients that he often doesn’t get a lunch break. For a conscientious workaholic like Jon to disrupt his work day was no small matter.

It’s no wonder that my father called Jon a gutte neshuma, a good soul.

As for me, I’m quoting Shakespeare and his fair Juliet who said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

In my case, that applies to both this year’s challah and my sweet husband, whom I adore more and more every day, every year.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, this year, 5783, is the year I’m going to learn how to make challah.

Karen Galatz
Karen Galatz

Karen Galatz is an award-winning journalist who loves to make women and men "of a certain age" laugh, think and feel. In addition to The Matzo Chronicles, Karen is the author of Muddling through Middle Age, a weekly humor blog. She can be reached at [email protected].