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Ida Ackerman The Art of Shabbos
At my grandmother's kitchen table, the braid of challah is draped with an embroidered white cloth. My grandmother covers her head, lights the candles and rolls her hands three times in the fragrant, bright air over the flames. She prays in God's light.
My grandfather in his black felt fedora and clean white shirt, gray stubble scraped raw for Shabbos, breaks off a corner of the challah, sprinkles the soft flesh with salt and thanks God for our bread.
He takes a bite and passes the blessed bread to my grandmother who takes her bite and passes the rest, the largest piece to me, her blond American granddaughter.
They are smiling, expectant, waiting, "Eat Mammele, eat God's bread."
After the Shabbos candles were lit to celebrate life, my grandmother would light the Yahrzeit candles by the sink.
A private ceremony for her beloved dead, as she lit a candle for a member of her family. She would cry, then wipe her eyes with her apron, shrug her shoulders and return to me at the table with an embarrassed smile. These Yahrzeit glasses, when their wax was exhausted, became my grandmother's water and tea glasses.
"Always drink tea from a glass, then you can see how strong the flavor and how beautiful the color."
And because I was a child, and liked sweets, my grandmother would take out the strings of rock candy and drape a crystal in my glass. "Drink, Mammele, drink your tea while it is hot."
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